Earlier in the week, I passed my AWS Certified Developer – Associate exam so here’s a quick post about what I studied and the exam experience. Apologies in advance for people who have read my last post and some of the text is repeated but I am writing this for a new reader too.
Like I mentioned in my last post, the blueprint is the most important document you should start from but if you’ve been taking such exams, you’ll know this anyway. I made sure to cover everything it mentioned. Didn’t give too much thought to the percentage of each domain though as knowledge gained from the Solutions Architect – Associate exam covered a fair bit too. I just focused more on the new bits mentioned.
Resources used were not too dissimilar to the last exam so here’s the list:
ACloud Guru Course
ACloud Guru’s AWS Certified Developer – Associate exam course is the first thing I started with, to give my learning a structure and cover most ground initially. It feels a bit patched up at times but that’s due to the guys updating parts of it as they find out something. Overall, it’s a great course and if you’re taking this exam just after Solutions Architect, you’ll be able to skip a lot of it.
Make sure you do all the labs and quiz questions, especially the Mega Quiz in the end, which is just a collection of all previous questions but timed. To be honest, by the time you get to the end, you can probably do it in less than 10 minutes. Also, resist the temptation to do it in the beginning – you don’t want to inadvertently memorise the answer. Wait until you’ve studied.
Hands On Practice
Ensure that you make full use of the Free Tier Account that Amazon provides. Remember: There is no substitute for practice. Now, I know that the exam does not test you on anything practical but by doing the practice, you start to see the logic of why something works (or doesn’t), which does help in the exam. If you’re doing the course mentioned just above, make sure to follow the exercises. Don’t skip them!
Next up for me were the FAQs. I skim read these (as I had already read them for Solutions Architect and just needed to refresh memory): Amazon EC2, Amazon S3, Amazon VPC, Amazon Route 53, Amazon RDS and Amazon SQS. But focussed on the one for DynamoDB. This is the one you really need to know inside out so make sure you do!
This time around, I only re-read the first one in the list below but if this is your first AWS exam, read all three below:
- Architecting for the AWS Cloud: Best Practices
- AWS Security Best Practices, and
- AWS Well-Architected Framework
OK, the last one is probably optional and not strictly required for the exam but a good one to read if you’ll actually be designing AWS environments. It helps to understand what AWS wants you to consider when designing, which could help with the exam too.
That said, if you have to pick one, go for “Architecting for the AWS Cloud:Best Practices“.
I didn’t go for the Practice Exam from Webassessor this time but if you haven’t taken the exam before, it might help. It’s not too expensive at $20 but gives you an idea of what the exam questions might look like.
One thing about scheduling: As soon as you feel slightly confident about your exam, book it. There aren’t many exam centers and choice might not be available for when you want to take the exam, if you leave it too late. For that, you’ll need an account on Webassessor.com and it doesn’t hurt actually to create the login, select the exam and see availability of dates as early as possible. It gives you an idea of dates available (or not) and you may find you need to book sooner, rather than later.
Having choice is also important because you may want to avoid test centers that might be colleges or institutes etc. My first exam wasn’t a great experience but this time, I went somewhere else and it was better. Still a cramped cubical but in a dedicated exam room so no distractions, apart from a few clicks here and there. Ear plugs were also available in this one but then, they weren’t very effective, to be honest!
Exam itself wasn’t too bad. If you’ve studied and practised, then the exam becomes quite easy for you. Fortunately, there weren’t many questions with too much text but you can understand for the ones that did have a fair amount. As long as there aren’t many, I am happy!
Now, I insist you read all the questions and their answers “very carefully”. Sometimes, there are minor differences that can catch you out and you don’t want to be losing points for it. As far as I know, with AWS exams, you don’t get partial marks for a partially correct answer. It’s either right or wrong!
As with all exams, a good idea is not to spend too much time thinking about the answer. I normally select my best answer and if no doubt, I carry on. If some doubt, I mark it for review to come back to it later. I do make sure, however, to select my best answer before moving on, in case I don’t get a chance to return to it. One important thing to remember is that process of elimination works quite well.
This time, I finished answered all questions about 25 minutes advance of the time so went back and reviewed my marked questions. Even though you don’t think at the time, you will sometimes find things that you didn’t pick up on first reading of the questions. This time, I found one question where I initially missed a subtle difference between the provided answers and I am absolutely sure my original selection was incorrect. So, I reiterate: Read both the questions and answers very carefully!
AWS doesn’t tell you what the pass mark is but I felt confident clicking the finish button and I passed with a good score.
- I mentioned the blueprint above. After taking the exam, I think the blueprint does a very good job of faithfully describing what get asked in the exam so make sure you know all that’s mentioned in there.
- Make sure you are able to answer all questions in the Sample Questions pdf correctly and understand why.
- You should know DynamoDB very well so make sure you understand the different key types, which attribute would you make Hash or Sort key (for performance, partitioning or other reasons), throughput calculations, limits etc.
- Also, know the various common API calls.
And that covers it. I think I haven’t left anything important out. If you follow the study advice given above, you should have no issues with the exam.
Hope this helps!