26 Oct 2014

AWS Certification - Knowledge levels and study recommendations required to pass

As I've recently taken a couple of AWS certification exams I thought it might be useful to share my experiences.

I've been working with AWS in production for 4+ years so decided it was time to firm things up and took the ACSA back in August. I did about a months worth of supplemental prep for it, 2-3 hours a day, predominantly using the Linux Academy online syllabus.

I ran through the LA syllabus just the once along with some free questions from Cloud Academy plus an official AWS sample. I took the exam and although I found it more difficult than expected I passed.

I was advised by an already certified colleague that the SysOps exam was harder than the ACSA and going through the syllabus I certainly got that feeling, as such I put in way more study time. This included running through the Linux Academy syllabus not just the once but four times along with 750 scenario based questions from a paid subscription at Cloud Academy, and as before I booked an official AWS sample exam, I also dropped into specific AWS online documentation to flesh out my knowledge. In all I would say I hit 2-3 hours a day again for six weeks but was still apprehensive, however I took the exam and passed it. I'm ASOA Number 317, which if numbered globally like the ACSA makes the current SysOps cert pretty exclusive.

The exam I did indeed find harder than the ACSA, but more so in an ambiguous way which really tested granular product and service knowledge, and although I'd done way more study I only passed with a 3% higher score than I got on the ACSA, had I not put in all the extra work I'm sure I would have crashed out.

The exam format is multiple choice, 55 questions with 80 minutes to complete. You have options to mark any question for review and I followed a process of answering quick questions I was 100% sure of first then filtering back through, and through again, spending more time to assess the scenario based questions and ending up with only a couple of questions narrowed down to two potential answers.
Although there is time for review those 80 minutes go very quickly and it's important to keep an eye on the clock, I submitted with 40 seconds to go for the ASOA.

So, those are my tips and experiences for anyone looking into AWS certification. Basically, study comprehensively and make sure you approach the exam calmly and with method. They don't give them away.

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