So I get asked a lot about my 5 Amazon AWS Certifications and what it took to get them.
Soon after I decided to become an Amazon Web Services (AWS) professional way back in December 2015, I made it a goal to get all five AWS certifications. I planned, studied for and achieved this goal in under one year.
I am writing this article to share my experience with you guys in the hope that this will help some of you who are planning to do the same.
At the point when I made this a goal, there were rumoured to be only 150 all five (or 5/5) AWS Certification holders worldwide. The idea of joining this elite group had great appeal so I set the goal for myself and put a deadline in place.
I decided to set November 2016 as the deadline for getting all five certifications. This date neatly coincided with the annual Amazon Reinvent 2016 conference in Las Vegas.
I started my planning and prep in February so, with only 10 months to do all this, there was a lot to do.
My first stop was aws.amazon.com to find out everything I possibly could about the AWS certifications I was looking to get.
I discovered that Amazon offers a total of five AWS certifications over 2 levels, Associate and Professional. These cover roughly 3 verticals: Architecture, Development and Operations.
Their Associate exams are, 80 minutes long and cost $150 each while their Professional exams are, 170 minutes long and cost $300 each.
The pass/fail requirements are roughly 65+% in order to qualify for certification. Amazon never quite discloses what the exact number is so it’s better to aim for 70+% just to be on the safe side.
Exams are taken at the nearest examination centre in your area. You can register for the exams at the Amazon Certification Portal. While there are no prerequisites for the Associate level exams, you need to have the Associate level certifications in order to take the Professional exams.
With every exam you take, it never takes long to find out your fate. At the end of each exam, the results of are available immediately on the screen – no waiting for results in the mail.
If you pass you will immediately get an email giving you all the details etc. and a link to add your new certification to your LinkedIn profile.
If you don’t pass on your first attempt you have to wait for 2 weeks to the day before you can rebook and reattempt.
You are only allowed 3 attempts per exam per year.
Each Certification is good for a 2 year period and requires recertification after that time.
Now I had all the basic information I needed, the next thing was to decide where and how I was going to learn. I was already holding down a full-time job so it was going to be a mix of self-study and online learning.
My requirements were simple: I wanted the knowledge and I wanted to pass the exams.
After a targeted search and word of mouth feedback, I came up with a final resource shortlist.
Here are the resources I chose to use:
• Amazon AWS: First of all start with reading the Amazon AWS certifications preparation page, then register, register for a FREE AWS account and make sure you take advantage of it. Once you have signed up you will have access to most AWS services for free for a year. In addition, I planned to read all the white papers recommended by the portal and to do a deep dive into the technologies. I really recommend you do the deep dive so you have a detailed understanding of the subject matter. Also, it will serve you well when you have the scenario-based questions in the AWS Professional exams you will take later in the process.
• Acloud.guru: This is a brilliant online learning school that goes straight to the point and gives you everything you need to pass all the exams. They also confirm the required reading, giving loads of tips. You will have access to a vibrant forum where questions are answered pretty quickly (I found this quite useful in preparing). Ryan Kroonenburg from Acloud.guru knows his stuff, so go through each of the modules and do all the exercises.
• Linux Academy : As the name implies, this resource is invaluable in giving you the foundations of what you will need starting with Linux. You will need a basic understanding of Linux to help with some parts of the Amazon AWS Certifications material. Linux Academy also cover AWS in great depth, which will add to your body of knowledge.
• Qwiklabs : This is a great resource that will help you get a feel for a lab environment and how you use the AWS Console etc. They provide pre-defined labs with set goals and objectives where you can practice advanced AWS configuration. I strongly recommend their subscription service ($55 a month) as an alternative to the labs you will be given on Acloud.guru. This gives you unlimited access to all the labs you will need.
• YouTube : I spent quite some time going through the Amazon AWS channel on YouTube. Focus on the deep dive sessions for each of the technologies. They will give you excellent insight. After the second or third views I would change the speed to 1.5x so I could go through the material quickly. This was especially helpful when it came to time for revision.
• Blogs and Internet resources: For tips and guidance. The advice of Adrian Cantrill and Nick Triantafillou was also invaluable in helping me prepare for the exams.
• Get a study buddy or Study group: This was invaluable because I had access to about 8 other people working on Amazon AWS certifications. We held regular study sessions and meet-ups to encourage each other, share materials and tips.
It’s critical that you take preparation for these exams seriously. I set some time aside daily.
You could choose first thing in the morning or in the evenings. I decided to do 2hrs in the morning and 2-4hrs at night to see how much ground I could cover in a shorter time.
I have another post that has a collection of the best books from Amazon that will help too, check it out here.
Based on my personal research and preference, I decided to line up my exams in the following order.
1. Solutions Architect – Associate Level
2. Developer – Associate Level
3. SysOps Administrator – Associate Level
For the Architect and the Developer exams, there is a lot of overlap, so I studied with both of them in mind. I took the exams within a week of each other.
Once that was done I did the Professional exams
1. Solutions Architect – Professional
2. DevOps Engineer – Professional
The professional exams required a lot more focus on the labs and practice with your AWS account. These are more scenario based with multiple correct answers.
Tips for the day of the exam(s):
• Get there early: you may need a few minutes to settle yourself down like I did. If it’s your first time at that location, I would suggest getting there at least 30 mins early in order to get familiar with the building and the classroom in advance.
• Bring your ID: You will be required to bring 2 forms of ID. Photo ID and proof of Name. I used my passport and bank card to sign up for the exam.
• Bring your Access Code: You will get this in an email when you register for your exam.
I started preparing in earnest in Feb 2016. Sitting my first exam in June and successfully passed all the Five AWS Certifications by the end October 2016.
This was a total of ten months altogether. It was a lot of hard work but I believe it was worth it.
I found that the Associate exams are simpler and more direct in the questioning and a lot simpler in structure. The Professional exams, on the other hand, are much more complex and more scenario based on a lot of reading (and re-reading) of the questions required.
To ensure success, you must be prepared to spend some time reading through the questions and scenarios so you can understand clearly what is being asked of you.
I actually failed the DevOps Engineer Professional exam the first time I took it – (I took it again and passed two weeks later). I can tell you that it’s probably the hardest certification exam that Amazon offers. It’s 3 hours full of technical questions that come flying at you one after the other.
I recommend that you prep extra hard for this one.
Good luck with your exams if you have any questions please post in the comments below and I will do my best to answer.