Last week, on the 1st of May, Amazon launched their certification program for people working with AWS. I’d gotten wind that this was coming at some point this year a while back, and had decided I wanted to go for it. In fact, achieving an AWS certification wound up on my goals for the year at Datalynx.
As the 1st was a public holiday here in Switzerland, I took the exam bright and early on the 2nd and… passed! Yay! :D
Afterwards I realised there isn’t a whole lot of guidance material out there yet for anyone who’s looking to take the exam as well, so I thought I’d provide a little run down of the preparation I did, aside from actually working with AWS of course. So, here’s my path to certification;
Take the Training Course
The biggest single investment of both time and money I made was on an actual, official AWS training course. Specifically, I went to the “Architecting on AWS” course.
At present these courses are only available in the US, so I wound up going to San Francisco in February. However if you’re after an AWS certification I’d highly recommend this course. The material was great, there were plenty of hands-on activities, and the instructors were excellent (thanks Chris and Joel!).
Actually speaking to the AWS technical people face-to-face help clarify a lot of things for me and was probably the single most useful step I took toward passing the exam.
Read the Whitepapers
While they can be dry and repetitive, the AWS whitepapers do contain a ton of information which is of use during the exam. The ones I read over the couple of months prior to the exam were (in no particular order);
- Overview of Amazon Web Services
- Architecting for the AWS Cloud: Best Practices
- Overview of Security Processes
- AWS Risk & Compliance Whitepaper
- Creating HIPAA-Compliant Medical Data Applications With AWS
- AWS Security Best Practices
There’s a whole boat load more whitepapers available for AWS here, and I really don’t think you can read too many of them for exam prep!
Watch some Presentations
AWS have a YouTube channel which, once you ignore the highly ignorable marketing stuff and talking heads, is actually stuffed full of very good technical content. I’ve watched a fair few of these video – I find an iPad and Apple TV are great for the longer ones – but I’d call out a couple of good ones in particular;
- Extending Your IT Infrastructure to the AWS Cloud
While it is marketing material, this one is especially good for getting to grips with how AWS sees itself in the context of enterprise/corporate IT.
- AWS Summit 2012 Australia: Stephen E. Schmidt – Security and Privacy in the AWS Cloud
This one is helpful for understanding the AWS security model, from the AWS internal and the customer perspectives. Again, there’s tons and tons of videos on there and I doubt it’s possible to watch too many of them.
Read the Exam Blueprint
Normally this would have come first, however as this only came out the day before I took the exam…
The official exam blueprint provides a good run down of the topics and weightings, and some guidance on the format of the exam. It is of course, essential reading for anyone looking to take the exam!
Last Minute Skim Reading
On the train to Zürich, to actually sit the exam, I also did a final skim through some of the product front pages. Particularly the ones for the various SDKs and scripting tools so I’d have an overview of their differing capabilities in my head. I also flicked through the different EC2 instance types, again so I’d have a snapshot of their differing specs/options to refer to.
Well, get out there and book your exam obviously!
If you’re unsure about which areas you need to focus your study on, I’d suggest taking a punt and sitting the exam. After you’ve finish you get a breakdown of your performance by subject area via email, and personally I always find this to be the best guide on where to study more.
So, good luck if you’re about to sit your exam, and as always, thanks for reading :)