In the September of 2020, I decided to work towards the AWS developer associate exam. I wanted to use the opportunity to not only learn about AWS more but also to compare it with GCP, which I'd been using for the past 2 years. I ended up scoring 916 out of 1000 when I gave my exam in December of the same year. I created this guide to help those who are wondering whether they should pursue this certification as well as those who are actively preparing for it.
Why should you take this exam?
- Cloud technology is being used everywhere and I'm sure you don't need any convincing on this. AWS is one of the leading cloud platforms and the path towards these certifications involves learning how to use this platform optimally. This, I believe, is the most important reason you should pursue this certification as it'll teach you how to use AWS effectively, and adopt best-practices so that you're better prepared, once you do start working on the platform
- It's a skill that's high in demand. The knowledge that you'll gain during the preparation will make you an important asset of any team that runs it's infrastructure on AWS.
- You'll be able to experiment. For me, the most enjoyable way to learn a technology is to make projects with it. I love developing with code and I find it especially fun to be able to architect my projects in multiple ways. Be it using a serverless architecture instead of traditional auto-scaling instances to using serverless containers and serverless databases. The variations of your architecture are only limited by your imagination (and what is possible with current technology). This also means that you can learn first-hand, the advantages and disadvantages of the various architectures. This knowledge is invaluable and only comes with experience and experimentation.
With the reasons to take this exam out of the way, I'll now focus on how you can prepare for this exam and what you should expect. I'll split up the tips to what will be common for all associate level exams and one that is specific to the developer associate exam. Let's begin.
What will you need?
- A dedicated course
- A dedicated course that walks you over the various things that you need to understand about AWS. There are plenty of courses on various education websites like the ones I've listed below that will help you understand the intricacies in a step by step fashion. Note that these courses are not sponsoring this post in any way and that I'm recommending them based on my own experience.
- You don't necessarily need a course and can do away with free training from AWS training. You could also learn from both an instructor led course and also from AWS training for more clarity.
- An AWS account
- Having an AWS account to practice the things that you learn, will significantly increase your understanding of AWS. Concepts like IAM, roles, policy generation, VPC, etc. are best understood when you interact with them on the AWS console (or CLI). I'll strongly advise you to practice creating resources, manage their permissions and terminate them to understand their lifecycle. This will also help when you learn about concepts like CloudFormation or SAM that allow you to manage infrastructure with code.
- Preparation plan
- I prepared for a month and half before I gave my exam. I had to manage my learning along with my full-time job which was not particularly easy. Motivating yourself to read up more or watch a video after a busy workday is hard. But I'd advise you to persist and learn continuously. If you don't have prior experience with cloud or AWS, you should may end up needing more time for individual concepts to sink in. The services on AWS are abstracted to make it convenient for developers to operate but they also offer a lot of flexibility, which can only be utilised by developers who take the time to study them in detail.
- Make a list of the topics that are relevant for your exam and make sure that you're learning about them on a continuous basis during your preparation. For AWS Developer Associate exam, make sure that you spend enough time on the topics mentioned in the exam guide.
What to expect during the exam?
- Exam mode - Online/Examination centre:
- When I gave my exam, covid-19 restrictions made me choose the online version of the exam, where I could give the exam from the comfort of my home. The exam experience will be different for you considering whether you go for the examination centre vs online exam. I can however, share my experience of the exam, that I took from my home
- The online examination is a proctored exam. This means that at the start of your exam, your proctor will ask you to show your desk and surroundings. Throughout the exam, the proctor monitors you to make sure that you're able to give exam properly and to ensure that there are no malpractice incidents. A stable internet connection and a webcam is a must for online exam. I tried to make sure that everything was in order but I still ended up facing a few problems during my exam
- First, the exam application that I had to install on my machine, failed to clear the system checks. This was because of my MacOS (Big-sur() and the application expecting previous versions of macOS. To resolve this, I had to dig out an old windows machine and install the exam software on it.
- Second, in the middle of the test, there was a hiccup in my internet connection. The window of my exam session terminated for a minute, and I panicked. Fortunately, my exam proctor helped me restore the session and I could go back to solving the questions within a minute.
- If you're opting for the online mode of exam, ensure that you have power backup (in case you're not using a laptop) and a very stable internet connection. The policies regarding misconduct are severe and may lead to your exam getting cancelled. You should ensure that your room is quiet as well, to avoid any potential issues with your exam.
- Be prepared for scenario based questions. Though some questions will be fact based, answering which will depend on your memory, a lot of questions will be scenario based and the choices may be confusing. Hence, while going through your preparation, make sure that you study the topics in detail and practice what you learn.
- Multiple answer questions will tell you how many answers are correct. If in a questions, 2 answers are correct, the question will specify that 2 answers are correct out of the n number of choices. This helps narrow down the answers for these types of questions.
- Keep an eye on the remaining time. If there are questions that are taking too much time, you can flag them and come back to them later. This technique is effective in avoiding time constraints towards the end of your exam.
Well, if you've made it till here, I hope this guide will prove useful to you in some way. Do remember to read the latest official exam guide as the exam instructions may change. With this advice, I wish you the best of luck! Thank you for reading.