10 Step Guide to Passing the AWS Solutions Architect Exam – Best Tips

What the COVID-19 outbreak has taught us is that most jobs are just not safe. There are many startups in Korea that are struggling and the future is unknown. Therefore it would be smart to find an industry that is as recession-proof as possible and become an expert in that field. That field is cloud computing. Becoming a cloud engineer/cloud solutions architect is not easy but it is in high demand. One of the top certifications for cloud engineers is the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Certification. The COVID-19 outbreak in Korea gave me a few months to study and pass the AWS Solutions Architect exam. In this article, I will give you a step by step guide so you can be on your way to getting the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate Certification.

Why Become an AWS Cloud Engineer/Solutions Architect?

Amazon is the leader in the public cloud market. While Google and Microsoft are coming up, Amazon reigns supreme. Amazon has hundreds of consulting partners for AWS. There are Select Partners, Advanced Partners, and Premier Partners. For consulting companies to become an AWS Partner there are requirements for those companies to hire a certain amount of certified AWS solutions architects. Therefore once you get your certification you will become very attractive for these consulting companies that are either already in partnership with AWS or wanting to become a partner. There are also great SaaS Startups in Korea looking for AWS Solutions Architects.

There are many Cloud Consulting Companies in Korea and they are always on the lookout for a certified AWS solutions architect. In addition there are companies all around the world that are looking for Cloud Architects. The average pay in the United States is great (Average Salary $130,000/year) and what is better is that there are even more specialty certifications you can add on to increase your salary in the future.

A little warning before I give you the guide. The AWS Certified Solutions Architect exam is a very hard test. The good news is that you don’t have to ace the test. However, you need to get at least 72% on the exam. In order to do that you will need to put in at least 100 hours. Therefore if you can study around 3 hours a day for a month straight, you can be ready to take the test in a month. The test costs around $200 so it is important you are ready. In addition, if you fail you will only get 2 more chances, or else you will have to wait a year to take it again. If you follow my step by step guide you will be able to pass the test on your first try.

Why Startups in Korea Should Join the AWS Partner Network

When joining the AWS Partner Network (APN) you can become an APN Consulting Partner or APN Technology Partner. Consulting Partners help customers of all types and sizes design, architect, build, migrate, and manage their workloads and applications on AWS. This service will be added to the startup’s existing professional services. Technology Partners provide hardware, connectivity services, or software solutions that are either hosted on or integrated with the AWS Cloud. Whatever you choose your startup will gain visibility with customers through marketing opportunities including co-branded campaigns, joint customer-facing webinars, case studies, event sponsorships, as well as feature placements on the APN Blog and AWS Marketplace. In addition, they offer self-service marketing campaigns that allow you to quickly co-brand and launch solution-based campaigns or engage participating agencies for select marketing services. There are very few AWS Partners in South Korea, this is a great chance to become one of the few and leverage some of the great features of AWS.

10 Steps to Passing your AWS Certified Solutions Architect Exam

1. Watch the free AWS Certified Cloud Practioner Training 2020 – Full Course

I am going to assume that you don’t know anything about AWS or cloud computing. Exam Pro has a free training video that will help you get a nice base understanding of the AWS Cloud Platform. Don’t worry if you don’t understand most of it, as long as you understand 50%, this will give you a nice baseline before you move on to the next step. In my opinion, there is no need to take the AWS Certified Cloud Practioner exam because the AWS Solutions Architect certification which is in higher demand. Remember this is for those looking to become Cloud Engineers. Instead of studying and taking the Cloud Practioner exam just watch this video. For those that do have a general baseline, you can skip this step.

2. Take the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate 2020 Course by A Cloud Guru

A Cloud GuruThis course is 14.5 hours but if you play the video at 1.25 speed you can finish it in around 10 hours. Now, this is not free but you can purchase this course for $60 on Udemy. The great thing about this course is that you will be able to do hands-on labs on the AWS console. These hands-on labs are very important in order for you to pass the exam. This course alone will not allow you to pass the exam. Even though the instructor says that this is the only course you need, it is inaccurate. Just because you can build a custom VPC via memory, it is still not enough to pass the exam. However, this course will bring your cloud overall knowledge to about 60%. If you get your overall cloud knowledge to 100% then you will be able to pass the exam. This does not mean you know 100% about AWS services, this is just a reference to give you a guide to get your ready for the exam.

If you have the money it would be a good idea to check out A Cloud Guru because they are the leaders for the training of AWS certifications. Don’t worry about taking too many notes here, remember this is just to get you to 60%….focus most of your attention on the labs. As far as the 2 free exams A Cloud Guru offers, it is not super important as it is not too close to what the actual AWS exam will look like. So after this course, don’t feel bad if you fail the practice exams.

3. Make FlashCards Using Tutorials Dojo

This step is very important. Right now you should have about a 60% level readiness to take the exam. Getting to 100% means you will most likely get at least 72% on your actual exam. Make sense? Now you need to actually study. First, you will need to make Flashcards. Go to the Tutorials Dojo’s comparison of the AWS Services section. You will make Flashcards for:

  • S3
  • EBS
  • EFS
  • RDS
  • DYNAMODB
  • CLOUDTRAIL
  • CLOUDWATCH
  • SECURITY GROUPS
  • NACL
  • EFS
  • API Gateway
  • ELASTIC BEANSTALK
  • CLOUDFORMATION
  • ELB
  • VPN/DIRECT CONNECT
  • IAM
  • EC2
  • VPC
  • DNS
  • Lambda

This will be 20 Flashcards. There are many more services you will need to learn but these are the major ones. On the back, you need to write the KEYWORDS associated with these services. For example, on the back of S3 write: durable, object, Multi-AZ, etc. Try to limit them to the top 3 keywords. The whole point of this is to associate these keywords with these services. Trust me this will come in handy later. First, make the Flashcards and write the keywords in the back. Take 2-3 days (3 hours a day) to study this so you are able to say the keywords just by looking at the service. This should take you to 65%. Keep them around your desk or in your bag to reference when you need to.

4. Read the AWS Best Practices Well-Architected Framework

AWS Solutions Architect Basically, this is the best practices for cloud-based architectures. It is written by AWS and deals with general design principles, best practices, and pillars for a well-architected framework. It is a little over 80 pages long and is a tough read. But you will come across a lot of services that haven’t fully been covered through the previous videos. Write those down and save it for later. The content is so dense that it will not improve your cloud knowledge too much since most will be difficult to fully understand…reading this should take you to only 68%. However, this framework is important to understanding what AWS is looking for. After you have passed the exam, this document will become very important in your architecture projects.

5. Take the All-in-One AWS Certified Solutions Architect Exam by DolfinEd

DolfinedThis course can also be found on Udemy and it is an 84-hour course. However, it will go deep into AWS services. The reason why this course is vital is that it actually gives you MORE knowledge than you need. Yes, this means that not only will this course cover all that is needed for the AWS Solutions Architect Exam but also give you a little for the professional exam. In addition, after every section, the instructor gives sample questions and breaks down on how to solve each and every question. Now 84 hours is extreme, so I recommend you play the course at 1.25x speed and SKIP the hands-on labs. Don’t get me wrong, the hands-on labs here are great but you already did some hands-on labs from A Cloud Guru. Save the DolfinEd ones for after you pass. Sure if you have the time I would highly recommend doing the hands-on labs before the test but I feel the real value here are the theories covered and the breakdown of how to solve questions.

Skipping the hands-on labs and playing the video 1.25x  should cut down the course from 84 hours to around 40 hours. After taking this course you will be at 78% ready to take the AWS test.

6. Buy the Jon Bonso Practice Tests – Take Test #1

The Jon Bonso Practice test is the closest practice test to the real test. In fact, I would say it is 10% harder than the actual test. Therefore, it is a good indicator of whether you are ready to take the exam. There are 6 tests in total. If you are able to get 72% or over on test #1. I would recommend you book your exam. You are ready. Most likely you will get around 50-60%. The best part about the Jon Bonso practice exam is that he gives you a full breakdown of each and every question. You will be tempted to take the other 5 tests but don’t do it. Save them. This is because each test is different which means if you got 55% for test 1 will you will get 55% for the others as well.

These practice tests are critical to letting you know you are ready. Don’t waste them in one go. If you got a low score, don’t worry, you just need to study more. Take the time to go over every single question and the breakdown. Even for those, you got right. The Jon Bonso Practice Tests come with solutions for each and every question. It tells you WHY a particular answer is correct and why the other 3 are wrong.

7. Do Deep Dives into VPC, S3, EC2, and RDS

There are a lot of free videos on YouTube regarding these services. These 4 services will take up half the exam. Therefore it is vital you understand fully these services inside out. You will need to deep dive into each of them. I would take 4 days and do one day on VPC, another on S3, and so on. Then take the Jon Bonso Test #2 to see where you are at. It is possible you will score lower because there might be topics you have not covered yet. Remember, each Jon Bonso test brings something new. So don’t worry if you constantly get the same score for each practice test. Go over the test and the breakdown. If you get 72% or higher, you are ready and can take the exam. Those that didn’t, your knowledge of the Cloud is probably at 85% test readiness, we need to get it to 100% for you to get at least a 72% on the exam.

8. Do Shallow Dives into AWS Services

AWS ServicesThere will be around 10% strictly on certain AWS services. These services include Kinesis, Global Accelerator, FSx, Redshift, etc. Too many to name here. Now for these, you don’t need a deep understanding. Just understand what they do. I would say you will get around 6-7 questions regarding particular AWS services and what they do. Again don’t deep dive into each and every one of these services. Now take Jon Bonso Test #3. See how you do. If you come across Amazon Services you don’t know just add it to your AWS Services list to study. Go over your test #3 and the breakdowns for each question. Make sure you understand WHY you got it wrong. You should be at 90% now! Almost there!

9. Watch the free AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate 2020 (Pass the Exam!) by ExamPro

free AWS SolutionsThis is a great review video and it is only 10 hours long. The best part is that it has cheat notes to help you pass the exam. Now that you are at a 90% understanding of the cloud, the video will be easy to understand and you will know most of the topic covered. If you watched this video right off the bat you would be completely lost. I would say your level would go to 95% after watching this video. Take the Jon Bonso Test #4. Rinse and repeat. Remember if you pass with 72% or higher than you are ready to take the test. If you score lower, that is fine.

The beauty of these practice tests is that each test covers something different. It is common for people to consistently get 60% on each test. The point here is that you learn something new after taking the test.

10. Take Practice Test #5 and See if you can get 72%

Take the Jon Bonso practice test #5. Did you get 72%? No? Then you should think about purchasing the Whizlabs AWS Certification Training Course. It has over 19 Tests and even has smaller tests strictly for each service like VPC. Now I am putting this last on the list because the Whizlabs tests are super hard. In my opinion, it has a combination of the Professional Exam and the Associate Exam. While a vast majority of the Whizlab questions will NOT be on the associate test, it could show up in the professional so it won’t hurt you too badly. Take the first test only and the test for individual services you are having issues with. The results might be depressing as it is possible you will get under 50%. But it should give you enough info to push your Cloud knowledge to 100% which would mean you should get 72% on the Associate Exam.

You might be wondering if I would advise taking ALL the tests on Whizlabs…I would say no…again a lot of the stuff will not show up on the test and your brain is overloaded as it is…In addition, I would not recommend doing the Whizlabs tests right off the bat because most likely you will get a low score and you will probably lose your confidence.

I would focus on the final test exam on Whizlabs which is close to the actual exam. Take it and go over what you missed. Then take the Final Jon Bonso Test #6. If you get 62% or over. It is worth booking the exam. Remember the actual test is about 10% easier. If you got under 62% on the last Jon Bonso exam after all this, you are still not ready….wtf….I don’t know what else to tell you….

Good luck!