Last week, I've managed to pass my AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam. To be exact, I scored 974 over 1000, where the minimum score needed to pass the exam is 700.
In this article, I would like to share some tips as well as the methods & FREE resources that I have used to study for the AWS Cloud Practitioner exam and passed.
This is the first IT certification that I have taken ever since I graduated from University almost a decade ago. Hence, if you have never taken any certification or exam, you may be able to relate to my experience here.
❗️Do keep in mind that your mileage may vary. What works for me may not work for you.
❗️Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with all the links that I shared in this article.
A) Technical Background
I need to clarify that I did not learn from scratch. I was (un)fortunate enough to be involved in a past client e-Commerce project that needed to be deployed on AWS infrastructure. However, only minimal efforts were carried out in that one-time experience.
It is also due to that experience of not knowing how to work on cloud correctly that led me to discover about AWS Certification paths.
Although having a technical background does help, but there aren't really any background requirements in getting started with AWS.
B) Exam Requirements
This exam is entirely optional. In fact, you could skip this and go straight for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate exam.
However, it's highly recommended that you take the Cloud Practitioner exam first, mainly for two valid reasons:
If you have minimal or no experience in using AWS Cloud services, it is good to familiarise yourself not only with AWS and general cloud computing concept before diving into a much deeper area, but also with how the exam works and the mechanism of the exams. The latter is important if you have been out of school for a very long time, or have never taken any exams before.
The cost for the Cloud Practitioner exam is $100 USD, while the cost for Solutions Architect Associate exam is $150 USD. BUT, whenever you passed ANY exams on AWS, you will be given a 50% voucher for your next exam as part of the certification benefits!
If you do the math, taking both exams will cost you $100 + $75(50%) = $175 USD. But taking only the Solutions Architect Associate exam will already costing you $150 USD. Might as well spend another +$25 to get both certificates. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
C) Physical Notebook for Note Taking
Call me old-fashioned, but a physical notebook still works best for me when it comes to note-taking. The act of writing down actually reinforces the knowledge that you learned.
D) Register For a FREE-tier AWS Console Account
Nothing beats doing when it comes to learning. Please register for a FREE-tier account on AWS so that you can experiment with the AWS Console throughout your learning.
It will cost you nothing in the first year if you are just experimenting.
1. Official Exam Guide
Before you start studying, you need to know the scope of the exam. AWS provides a clear but slightly vague Exam Guide for anyone who planned to take the exam.
Read through it but you don't have to know everything that's mentioned in the guide. You will come back to this guide when you are ready to register for the exam again.
The only thing that's not mentioned in the Exam Guide is that there are 65 questions in the exam. Since they did not mention it in the guide, it means that this could change in the future.
2. Official Digital Classroom Lesson
Sign up for an account on aws.training and enrol yourself in this free Digital Training course:
This AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials course has been updated recently and I found it to be very high quality. According to the course description, this course also helps you prepare for the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam.
The format of the training consists of instructor-led video lessons, text summaries, and an interactive section for knowledge check at the end of each lesson. It is definitely a good starting place to begin your cloud exploration.
This is where I began taking note of key concepts and important learning points in my notebook as well.
After completing this course, you should have a good overview of AWS.
3. freeCodeCamp.org / ExamPro
Watch this video:
This 4-hour video is a must-watch for anyone planning to take and pass the Cloud Practitioner exam. It is a complete course presented by the amazing Andrew Brown(twitter.com/andrewbrown) from ExamPro for FREE.
The video is very concise and packed with all the knowledge you need in passing the exam. It covers the essentials as well as provides hands-on practices on key services. Furthermore, all services are introduced and similar services are carefully compared to make sure you do not confuse with them.
After all, there are more than 140+ services offered by AWS. Therefore, it is crucial that you know what each of them does and the difference from each other.
Pace yourself and do make sure that you continue to do note-taking, or best if you could draw out mindmaps to aid in your understanding and revision later.
4. Whitepapers and Documentations
Here comes the "boring" but one of the most important parts of your study.
a) Please download and read the following Whitepapers from AWS:
b) Please make sure you know by heart on the following topic as well:
The videos might be great as an introductory to AWS & Cloud Computing concepts in general. However, to really learn about the details, this is where you need to dive a little deeper to make sure you get all the specifics right.
Not to mention AWS is constantly evolving, so the videos might miss out some of the latest updates that have been introduced recently.
It is recommended to write a short one-sentence summary in your own words of every single AWS service from the whitepaper in your notebook. This has helped me in making sure I understand what each service do, and to provide a go-to reference point whenever you want to revise on them.
In addition to the whitepapers, you will most likely need to Google to lookup on some key concepts that you want to clarify further. More often than not, you will always land on none other than the AWS Official Documentation page for a particular service itself.
This is where you need to familiarise yourself on navigating and reading the official documentation. I believe you will be depending on the information in the official documentation regularly throughout your cloud journey.
5. AWS Online Conferences & Events
Keep an eye on any online conference organized by AWS. They do not happen often, but I take it as a good medium to break out from reading the whitepapers.
For example, here's the upcoming AWS re:Invent FREE Virtual Conference that you can sign up and watch:
The conferences are usually FREE and presented by AWS technical experts. In the conference, AWS technical experts will explain key features and use cases, share best practices, and walk through technical demos.
Depending on the event, if you managed to attend the sessions live, they might be available to answer your questions one-on-one.
6. Practice Exam Questions
In most Asian education culture, exams are everything. Students are trained to perform well in exams. The best way to excel in your exam is to practise on the exam questions itself.
Therefore, try to search for any FREE practice exam questions you could find on the internet. Many websites actually have exam questions dump with answers from various sources.
a) Here are a few that I've used:
b) Not tried, but seems to be good quality:
c) From official AWS:
GOOD News! As part of the Get AWS Certified Global Challenge, AWS is giving out FREE practice exam voucher to anyone who signs up for the challenge. You may request for a practice exam voucher here:
❗️Offer is valid until 31st December 2020, so make sure you take action immediately.
Again, I cannot stress enough how important is it to practise on exam questions. If you are facing time constraints, this is the only area you should put your effort in to increase your chances in passing the exam.
As soon as you start doing exam questions, you will quickly realise there are still many details in your learnings that you may have missed out. You will also discover common gotchas and edge scenarios that you have never considered before.
For every question that you answered wrongly, please Google about it and make sure you understand the correct answer and why the mistake was made. Read the official documentation if you need to, as it is the source of truth.
7. Cheat Sheet
Once you have done all the above, it is time for a final round of revision before you take the exam.
Your notebook that you have been taking notes with should now be served as a revision guide before you sit for the exam.
In addition, you should also review some of the cheat sheets out there to make sure you have absolutely covered everything that is required to know to pass the exam.
Lastly, it is also a good time to take a look at the Cloud Practitioner Exam Guide again, to make sure you have covered all topics.
Looking For Help
No doubt you will have questions during your studies. If you can't find the answer you need everywhere, you may need to ask someone who has the answer.
For this purpose, you may ask for help from the cloud community on A CLOUD GURU forum:
Very likely, any question that you might have has already been asked and answered by someone else. You just need to search in the forum using the right keyword. If not, just sign up for an account and post your questions there.
Scheduling And Taking The Exam
At this point, you should be confident enough to schedule a date for the exam.
❗️Due to COVID-19 restrictions around the world, AWS allows all exams to be taken through online proctored from your home or office, without having to take them at an exam centre. If you choose so, please be certain of the rules that you need to adhere to.
For your information, I chose to take my exam from home via online proctored managed by PearsonVUE using their OnVUE application which they provided for candidates. I used an Apple MacBook Pro with working webcam & microphone while connected to my home WiFi fibre internet connection to complete the test.
On your exam day, make sure you are well rested the night before and try not to drink too much fluid, as breaks are not allowed throughout the 90 minutes exam session.
While answering the questions, you may not scribble on any notes or paper. However, it is possible to flag a question and return to it at a later time.
Do not spend too much time on a single question. If you get stuck and do not know the answer, select the most likely answer or take a guess, flag it, and move on to the next question.
If you are lucky, another question further down might give you a hint or the answer right out to the previous question that you had trouble figuring out before. The point here is that you should try your best to answer ALL 65 questions. It is not worth to leave any unanswered question.
In my exam, I spent a total of 65 minutes before ending my exam session. During which I had around 10 questions flagged, and managed to review all the questions once more after completing them the first round.
You will know if you have passed or failed immediately upon ending your exam. However, you will only receive the official certification within 5 business days.
That's all I have to share about my experience in preparing and passing the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam.
🙏 Thank you for reading and best of luck in your exam! 🍀 I hope my experience will help you succeed in getting your AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification and beyond. 🚀☁️
- pages.awscloud.com/takethechallenge.html (due date 31 December 2020)