AWS Solutions Architect Associate Certification - Everything you need to know
In its official sources, AWS recommends taking the exam when we already have at least one year of experience in working with the platform. Having practical experience is useful, but not essential. If you have already started exploring the AWS cloud, this is a good time to consider whether it is worth starting to prepare for this exam. If you do not have an account with AWS yet, there is no other starting route than registration. AWS offers Free Tier, during which you have the opportunity to use many services at no cost. Solution Architect Associate exam is the best choice to start with the AWS certification route. Its scope is quite wide, but not too detailed. It is also a great way to start your adventure with the cloud. While studying for the exam, you will have a chance to gain and consolidate your knowledge.
Basic information about the exam
At the moment, the current version of the exam is SAA-C02 — available from March 23, 2020. Below is basic technical information related to the exam.
- 65 single and multiple-choice questions
- in the case of multiple-choice questions, we get information on how many correct answers we have to select
- many of the questions are scenario-based. We are put in the role of an architect and we have to choose the most optimal solution
- there are no negative points
- there is no partial point for multiple-choice questions. You have to select all correct answers to get points for the relevant question
- the exam takes 130 minutes — in my opinion, the amount of time is sufficient
- we have the option of using an extra 30 minutes for the exam due to the fact that it is not available in our native language
- obtaining 72% guarantees passing the exam
- the exam is valid for 3 years from the date of passing it. To renew our exam, we must recertify
- passing the exam is possible in two certification bodies PSI and Pearson VUE. Each of these units has its centers in different locations.
- AWS also allows you to pass the exam online
- the cost of the exam is $ 150
Preparation materials for the AWS Solution Architect Associate exam
Below, I have compiled a list of courses and training materials that are noteworthy. Some of them are paid, and some of them are free.
ACG AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate - a complementary course preparing for the exam. Rich in materials, labs, and sample tests.
Whizalabs Practice Test - the largest database of sample questions I have found. We have 8 full mock exams with unique questions. These are not questions from the official AWS exams, but their form perfectly reflects the certification exam. Each of the questions is accompanied by comprehensive explanations to help you understand the issue
FreeCodeCamp video - free 10 hours of YT footage recorded by Andrew Brown. Great material to do a revision before the exam
Digital Cloud cheat sheet - a well-prepared cheat sheet containing key information and tips for the exam. Mandatory to review before certification
AWS-in-bullet-points - an interesting summary of all relevant information from the exam
FAQ of AWS services - often useful when learning, especially when we are looking for detailed information about a service
- Amazon VPC FAQs
- AWS IAM FAQs
- Amazon CloudWatch FAQs
- Amazon EC2 FAQs
- Amazon S3 FAQs
- Amazon RDS FAQs
- Amazon DynamoDB FAQ
Scope of the exam
- Basic VPC components: i.e. Subnets, Routing Tables, Internet Gateway, Egress-Only Gateway
- Network ACLs and Security Groups - use of, differences
- NAT Instance, NAT Gateway
- Bastion hosts
- VPC Flow Logs
- VPC Peering
- CIDR blocks - the ability to calculate them
- Instance types, General Purpose, Memory Optimized, etc. - use of, differences. It is not necessary to know all the instance families.
- Billing models - On-demand, Spot, Reserved - all information about cost optimization
- AMI Images - creation, migration, encryption
- Instance store vs EBS volume
- User data & Instance Metadata
- Elastic Load Balancing - types and their use of
- Placement groups
- Dedicate Host, Dedicate Instance
- IP addresses - private, public, elastic, what happens to them when restarting or terminating instances
- Disk types, eg Provisioned IOPS, Cold HDD - characteristics with technical parameters, use of, differences
- Copying, sharing, and encryption methods
- Which database engine does RDS offer?
- HA, knowledge of the Multi-AZ and Read Replica concepts.
- Aurora - what benefits does it give in relation to the usual RDS
- Managing accounts, users, roles, etc.
- Identity Federation
- Keys for API / CLI
- Storage Classes - Standard, One Zone-IA, Galcier, etc. - characteristics
- What operations are we paying for?
- Operations with eventual consistency and read after write consistency
- Data protection methods - ACL, Bucket policies, IAM policies
- Static Website
- Transfer Acceleration
- DynamoDB properties, scaling, HA, replication
- DynamoDB Streams
- Hosted Zones
- DNS records - CNAM, Address Record, Aliases
- Routing Policies: Simple, Weighted, Failover, etc.
- Audit and Monitoring:
- CloudWatch - logs, metrics, alerts
- AWS Config
- VPC Flow logs
- Concept and application
- Cache Behavior
- Lambda @ Edge
- Other services
- Elastic Beanstalk
- SQS - types of queues, pooling
- API Gateway
- KMS & CloudHMS
- Direct Connect
- Storage Gateway (differences between FG, VG, TG types)
- Database Migration Service
The above list may seem long to you. As a rule, most of the questions are about the core AWS services listed at the top of the list. As for the services listed at the end of the list, be prepared for 1–2 questions about the appropriate service selection for the given scenario.
Practical tips for the AWS SAA exam
- you can come back to any of the exam questions later. Additionally, you can flag a specific question to make it easier for you to find it
- the first time you go through the questions, try not to spend more than 2 minutes per question. If you are unsure of the answer, flag the question and come back to it later
- there is a chance that you will find a clue to some questions in other questions or answers
- try to answer the questions using the method of elimination. It often happens that part of the answer is easy to drop by reducing our choice to 2 options that differ in one detail
- use the full exam time, if you have already answered all questions, use the remaining time to retake the exam from start to finish and do a diligent review
- you may not have any supporting materials, equipment or food with you when you pass the exam at the examination center. The center only provides a sheet of paper and a pen.
- when starting the online exam, you will be asked to show exactly where you are taking the exam. During the exam itself, you will be constantly supervised by a proctor using a camera and microphone
- it is a good idea to log into the application provided by the certification center the day before to test the internet connection and check if the application is working properly
- during the online exam, he must ensure that no one disturbs you in any way. It is unacceptable that any of the household members enter the room where you are taking the exam. There is also a point in the regulations that too much noise from your location (e.g. from the next room or from behind the window) may result at the end of the exam and failure.