A Study Guide For AWS Certifications

I have passed the official certification of AWS in early years and obtained AWS Solutions Architect Associate, AWS Certified Developer and AWS SysOps System Administrator. In recent years, I have guided many people to pass AWS certifications. This article will show you how to easily pass the three certifications I have mentioned above.

Access to AWS certification exam dumps: https://cciedump.spoto.net/aws-certification.php

Before talking about the certification system of AWS, we can discuss why people want to obtain such certifications. According to the examinees I have contacted, the reasons are summarized as follows

People can enhance their competitiveness through passing the certifications. This is the purpose of most people who apply for the certifications. This passage lists the top 10 certificates in IT field in terms of earning, among which the first one is AWS Solutions Architect. The average annual salary of people with this certificate is 125871 US Dollars. In the field of cloud computing, AWS ranks undoubtedly No.1. In its early days, Alibaba cloud used benchmarking against AWS, and many services were done with reference to AWS. But it also has innovations in the domestic market environment. For example, its cloud shield products have come to the front among major cloud computing manufacturers. AWS has launched similar products later.

The company or its department requires the employee to have a certificate. Now more and more traditional organizations and enterprises embrace cloud technology. According to statistics, nearly 60% of domestic websites are running on Alibaba Cloud. While embracing cloud computing, these enterprises require the IT personnel to master the knowledge and skills related to cloud computing. And obtaining the certifications may thus become a requirement for some employees of the company. In addition, cloud computing is a big market. The major cloud computing vendors all have many partners. AWS is no exception. To become a partner of AWS, there are certain requirements for the number of people who have passed the certifications in the company. This also prompts these partners to ask their employees to obtain certificates.

People can test their skills learning through taking the certification exams. I myself has this purpose. I has been in contact with AWS for nearly five years since 2012 and passed the certification of AWS Solutions Architect Associate in 2013. Later I also passed the AWS Certified Developer certification. Currently, I am actively preparing for AWS Solutions Architect certification.

In fact, no matter what the reason is, I would like to say that we should study AWS with the purpose of mastering the use of AWS services. The certification is just a test of what we master. A colleague who has obtained the certificate of Expert Solution Architect has made such a metaphor: AWS certification is like a lunch box brought by a climber. When he climbs to the top of the mountain, he can enjoy his lunch. But what he can enjoy is not only the lunch, but also the scenery along the way. Lunch is just an attached gift. If you just want to pass the certification with the least effort, you will get half the result with twice the effort.

The AWS certification is mainly divided into three lines: Architecting, Developing and Operations. Each line has two levels: the assistant level and the expert level. Only after passing the assistant level of the certification can we get the corresponding expert level of the certification. The two certifications of the Architecting line are AWS Solutions Architect Associate and AWS Solutions Architect. The two certifications of the Developing line are AWS Certified Developer and Certified DevOps Engineer. The two certifications of the Operations line are AWS Certified System Administrator and Certified DevOps Engineer. That is to say, the expert level of Developing line and Operations line is the same certificate.

For example, if you want to get AWS Solutions Architect, you must pass its assistant level of certification. If you want to get Certified DevOps Engineer, you need to get at least one of the AWS Certified Developer or AWS Certified System Administrator.

In addition, each certificate has a validity period of two years. You can re-certificate it after its expiration date. The cost of re-certification and the number of exam questions are halved. As cloud computing is still under high-speed development, AWS will launch many new cloud services every year and upgrade existing services. In order to prevent your knowledge from getting outdated, it is reasonable to set up a validity period of two years for the certificates.

This book mainly talks about experience for preparing for the three assistant level certifications. Because the scope, the difficulty level and the way of preparation of the expert level certifications are completely different from the assistant level ones, this article will not involve too much with that.

According to my understanding, among the three assistant level certifications, candidates are most likely to apply for AWS Solutions Architect Associate spoto than AWS Certified Developer and AWS Certified System Administrator. Maybe it’s because every IT technician has a dream to be an architect. In fact, according to the author’s exam experience, no matter what kind of Assistant certificate you choose, the preparation for the exam is almost the same. In other words, you can prepare for three certifications with one method. According to the author’s experience, the difficulty level of attaining the three certificates is as follows: AWS Certified Developer < AWS Solutions Architect Associate< AWS Certified System Administrator. In other words, the AWS Certified Developer certification is the easiest, the AWS Solutions Architect Associate certification is a little more difficult, and the AWS Certified System Administrator certification is most difficult.

Each certification has a test guide, which is currently in English only. On the test guide are requirements of AWS knowledge and IT knowledge for personnel who want to get a certificate. You can judge which certificate you are more likely to get according to these requirements.

The site of the test guide for AWS Solutions Architect Associate is: http://awstrainingandcertification.s3.amazonaws.com/production/AWS_certified_solutions_architect_associate_blueprint.pdf.

The site of the test guide for AWS Certified Developer is: http://awstrainingandcertification.s3.amazonaws.com/production/AWS_certified_developer_associate_blueprint.pdf.

The site of the test guide for SysOps System Administrator is: http://awstrainingandcertification.s3.amazonaws.com/production/AWS_certified_sysops_associate_blueprint.pdf.

Let’s take the requirements of the AWS Certified Developer certification as an example to see what kind of ability we need to have in order to obtain the certificate.

AWS knowledge:

Having professional experience in using AWS technology. Having practical experience in using AWS API. Understanding best practices of AWS security, automation and AWS deployment tools. Understanding storage options and its low-level consistency model. Well understanding at least one kind of AWS SDK.

General IT knowledge:

Understanding stateless and loosely coupled distributed applications. Being familiar with RESTful API interface development. Understanding relational and non-relational data. Being familiar with message and queue services

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t met the specified requirements at present. At least you know your own weak points, and can make progress through learning to try again.

At present, both English and Chinese papers are available for assistant level certification exams. This is a good news for students who are not good at English. When the author took the exam, there were only English papers. Assistant level exams include practice exams and formal exams. The practice exam costs 20 US dollars, has 20 questions and takes 30 minutes. Taking the practice exam one time is enough because the exam questions are not changeable.  The formal exam costs 150 US dollars. It can also be purchased in RMB through China Certified Partner, and the cost is 1150 RMB. There are 55 questions in the formal exam and it lasts for 80 minutes.

There are only single-choice questions and multiple-choice questions in AWS certification exams. Multiple-choice questions will clearly tell you that there are more than one correct options. Each assistant level certification has corresponding sample questions as reference for you to be familiar with the exam questions.

Sample questions and explanations of AWS Solutions Architect Associate certification can be referred to on my blog: http://www.huangbowen.net/blog/2014/10/22/aws-cert-sample-question/.

Sample questions and explanations of AWS Certified Developer certification can be referred to on my blog: http://www.huangbowen.net/blog/2016/07/27/aws-developer-exam-sample-questions/.

Sample questions and explanations of AWS SysOps System Administrator certification can be referred to on my blog: http://www.huangbowen.net/blog/2016/08/01/aws-sysops-exam-sample/.

We can use several questions of AWS Solutions Architect associate certification as examples.

1. Amazon Glacier is designed for: (Choose 2 answers)

A. active database storage.

B. infrequently accessed data.

C. data archives.

D. frequently accessed data.

E. cached session data.

This is a typical multiple-choice question. The title clearly tells us that there are two correct options. The correct options are B and C because the official document of AWS describes Glacier as follows:

Amazon Glacier is an extremely low-cost cloud archive storage service that provides secure and durable storage for data archiving and online backup. In order to keep costs low, Amazon Glacier is optimized for data that is infrequently accessed and for which retrieval times of several hours are suitable.

2. Your web application front end consists of multiple EC2 instances behind an Elastic Load Balancer. You configured ELB to perform health checks on these EC2 instances. If an instance fails to pass health checks, which statement will be true?

A. The instance is replaced automatically by the ELB.

B. The instance gets terminated automatically by the ELB.

C. The ELB stops sending traffic to the instance that failed its health check.

D. The instance gets quarantined by the ELB for root cause analysis.

This is a single-choice question. The correct answer is C. Because there is such a description in the official document of AWS:

Elastic Load Balancing ensures that only healthy Amazon EC2 instances receive traffic by detecting unhealthy instances and rerouting traffic across the remaining healthy instances.

There is no detailed score line for the exam. The score line of AWS certification is set according to the results of statistical analysis, which is not fixed. AWS will not release the score line of the exam, as the exam questions and score line may be changed without a notice. In 2013, according to the experience, if the accuracy reaches above 65%, you can pass the exam and get the certification. But in recent years, the proportion has also increased. At present, at least 70% accuracy can ensure that your can get the certificate.

In fact, there is no need to be scared by the requirements of the certification test guide. We may lack some skills at present, but we can master them through learning.

At present, AWS has nearly 100 services, which are divided into 18 categories. It takes a lot of time to master them all. However, if you want to pass the assistant level certifications of AWS, you only need to be familiar with the main services. For other services, you only need to understand their usage scenarios and some application restrictions.

The services I think need to be mastered:

Amazon EC2, Amazon VPC, Amazon S3, Amazon EBS, Amazon RDS, Amazon Dynamo DBE lastic Load Balancing, Amazon Cloud Watch AWS Identity & Access Management, Amazon Simple Queue Service.

The services of which the usage scenarios and application restrictions should be understood:

Amazon Glacier, Amazon Elastic Cache, Amazon Redshift, Amazon Cloud Front, Amazon Route53, AWS Cloud Formation, AWS Config, AWS Cloud Trial, AWS WAF, Amazon Simple Notification Service, Amazon Simple Email Service, AWS Import/Export, AWS connect.

For services that need to proficiently mastered, each of them must be practiced. For those left, if you don’t want to spend too much time, you don’t need to carry out practice, just check the relevant documents.

Please go to register a new account on the official website of aws.amazon.com before beginning your study. Because AWS has a free tier service for new account, including services that are available for free within 12 months from the date of registration, and other services that do not automatically expire after 12 months. All the services I listed above are basically within the scope of AWS free tier service. Take Amazon EC2 for example, within 12 months after the new account is registered, you can enjoy  750 hours monthly of instance usage of Linux, RHEL or SLES t2.micro and 750 hours monthly of instance usage of Windows t2.micro. For example, running one instance for one month or running two instances for half a month is free. Such a free tier service is enough for us to practice. Note that you need to bind your own credit card to your account, otherwise you can’t register successfully.

Note that at present AWS is divided into China region and global region, and the two regions’ accounts are different. There is no free tier service for China accounts. So only registered global accounts can use the free tier service.

At the beginning of learning AWS, you will hear all kinds of abbreviations and it’s easy to get lost. Some of these terms are closely related to AWS services, such as ELB (abbreviation of Elastic Load Balancing service), SQS (abbreviation of Amazon Simple Queue Service), etc. Some are closely related to network security, such as ACL, AAD, SG, MFA, etc. Some are related to application services, such as SOAP, WSDL, WAF, etc. Whenever you see a term you don’t understand, write it down first, and then figure out what it means. As time goes on, there will be fewer and fewer terms you don’t understand. You can check the official term base of AWS to consolidate the terms. The English version can be found on: http://docs.aws.amazon.com/general/latest/gr/glos-chap.html. The Chinese version can be found on: http://docs.aws.amazon.com/zh_ cn/general/latest/gr/glos- chap.html.

To learn AWS, the best choice is of course the official documents of AWS. At present, 80% of the official AWS documents are processed in Chinese. That is to say, students can read Chinese versions if they are not very good at English.

Visit https://aws.amazon.com/cn/products/?nc2=h_ ql_ ny_ GSC and you can see all the services provided by AWS. You can switch languages through the top menu. Take EC2 for example, click Calculation Category and you can see Amazon EC2. Click on the service and go to the Amazon EC2 home page (https://aws.amazon.com/cn/ec2/?p=tile) which lists an introduction of EC2 and its advantages. It is important to learn the content carefully to get a quick understanding of a product and its usage scenarios and advantages.

Click Product Details in the menu to enter another page: https://aws.amazon.com/cn/ec2/details/. Here are not only product details, but also developer resources, FAQs (frequently asked questions), and start guides. If you want to practice using EC2, you can visit https://aws.amazon.com/cn/documentation/ec2/. It provides a guide to the three formats of HTML, PDF and Kindle. You can learn the operation according to the operation steps of the guide.

Each service has a FAQ page, such as the one of EC2: https://aws.amazon.com/cn/ec2/faqs/. The FAQs of each service must be read and mastered, as at least 70 percent of the answers to the exam questions can be found from the FAQs. But it is meaningless to recite these contents simply because it is easy to forget them. It is necessary to understand the meaning of the answers to each question of AWS because it can help to memorize.

The official AWS documents describe each service in great detail, so it has a lot of content and is tiring to read. The white paper of AWS summarizes some best practices and ways of using AWS, and gives the most suitable architecture design for some specific scenarios combined with the characteristics of corresponding services. The site (https://aws.amazon.com/cn/whitepapers/) lists all the white papers of AWS. The key white papers to master are as follows.

Cloud Architecture Design: AWS best practices, best practices of AWS security, Amazon Web Services: security process overview, AWS perfect framework, AWS development and testing on AWS use, AWS backup and recovery method, Amazon Virtual Private Cloud connection option, AWS pricing mechanism.

In addition to practicing operation and reading documents, watching videos is also one way to learn. There are a lot of operation videos to watch on YouTube. In addition, there are a large number of video tutorials on Cloudguru and Linux Academy websites. Cloudguru and Linux Academy both charge users. Linux Academy charges 29 US dollars per month and 228 US dollars per year. Cloudgruru charges according to courses. For example, the course for   the assistant architect certification costs 29 US dollars. In addition, the package service is also provided. The package service for all AWS courses costs 149 US dollars, totally including 7 courses. I used these two websites when I was preparing for the AWS exam. Overall, I feel that the courses of Linux Academy may be more abundant and cheaper. Both sites offer one-stop services. Here you can not only watch the videos to learn, but also practice freely through the AWS resources created, and even  do quantities of simulated questions. Note that the simulated questions in these two websites are easier than the formal exam questions. The simulated question dumps are not big. The question dump of assistant architect certification has only about 300 questions. At that time, I was able to finish 300 questions with only 3 or 4 mistakes.

It takes certain time for an IT worker without experience in using AWS to get the assistant level certification of AWS. But it’s not as long as it seems. I carefully prepared for the first certification for one and a half months. I spent at least 3 hours every day, and finally passed the exam with 65% accuracy. The preparation for the second certification only took more than a week and I spent more than 20 minutes to complete 55 questions with an accuracy of more than 90%. According to my experience, if you don’t have any experience of using AWS and arrange three hours for leaning every day, you can take the exam after three months at most.  There are about 10 services that need to be mastered. If you learn one every three days, it takes 30 days. And there are about 10 services that need to be understood. If you learn one every two days, it takes 22 days. In the month left, you can read the white paper, do experiments to strengthen your understanding, do exercises on the website and get over your weak points.

Every time you learn a service, you need to combine hands-on practice with document reading. In particular, you must understand the specific meaning of each option when operating on the AWS administrative console. Generally, official documents will offer the specific meanings. In addition, the documents will also contain content that is not available through practice. For example, a personal account can only open up to 20 EC2. If you want to open more, you need to make an application. The default time to live for messages in SQS message queue is 14 days. The minimum object stored in S3 can be 0KB. All of these are likely to be part of the exam content.

I suggest that every time you learn a service, you should take notes. As the saying goes, writing down notes makes your learning more efficient. In this way, you can avoid forgetting what you have learned when you learn something new. The notes can be reviewed from time to time.

Visit https://www.aws.training/certification?src=cert-prep where you can make an appointment to take a practice exam or a formal exam. The practice exam can be taken directly on the Internet. But you need to the corresponding exam site for the formal exam. At present, there are exam sites in Chengdu, Chongqing, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Changsha, Dalian, Jinan, Nanjing, Qingdao, Shenzhen, Suzhou, Wuhan, Xi’an, Xiamen, Zhengzhou and other cities in China. You can take the exam on Monday or Friday. Generally, you need to sign up one week in advance.

When you take the formal exam, you need to bring personal valid papers such as ID card, passport, household register and so on. There is a separate room for you only with a computer is provided by the exam organization. I have taken several exams in Chengdu. The network on Chengdu is a little bit poor. After finishing a question, it takes several seconds to enter the next one. Although the timer pauses when the page is refreshed, it has a great impact on the rhythm of answering questions. You can only bring pens and draft paper to the exam. You can’t take any electronic equipment. Things like mobile phones should be kept outside. After finishing your paper, you can hand in it in advance or wait until it is automatically submitted. After you have finished the paper, you will immediately know your scores and whether you pass the exam or not.

The formal exam requires you to answer 55 questions within 80 minutes. Each question should take less than 2 minutes, so time is very tight. Since all the questions are multiple-choice questions, there is a trick that you draw the following table on a piece of A4 paper.

Each question is a line. Mark X for the option that is absolutely wrong, O for the one that is correct, and “?” for the one that is uncertain. This helps to sort out ideas. And when you go back to check the answers, you can narrow the scope and improve the accuracy.

I’ve written so much that I want to give a summary quickly.

Preparation roadmap:

Register an AWS account first, read the exam outline and sample questions of each certification, check the common questions page of AWS, and learn the services listed above in turn according to the official website documents. The first type of service requires a lot of practical operations which is not a must for the second type of services. For the second type, you need to read the documents.  View the common questions page of each service, and read the AWS white papers, especially those listed above. If you buy Cloudguru or Linux Academy services, you can take the practice exam provided by the website for many times and strive for an accuracy higher than 95% of questions in the dump. Then you can take the exam.

To be fair, the value of AWS certifications is relatively high. Because its exam questions (especially the expert level exam questions) are comprehensive. Remote knowledge points will not be tested. The exam contents are all about problems that people encounter in the actual use. In particular, I learned how to combine the services provided by cloud computing with designing the architecture in various practical scenarios during the preparation for the certification of Expert Solutions Architect. My architecture design ability has been greatly improved.

Was it worth reading? Let us know.