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Kaye Alvarado for AWS Community Builders

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The AWS DevOps Professional Exam is Exhausting! And Why You Don't Want To Repeat It

I've joined the AWS Community Builders program this year (2022), and as you know, it comes with a number of swags and freebies. One of them is a promotional voucher for either an AWS Professional or Specialty certificate. That's $300 dollars worth of voucher for you!

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Last year, I've already cleared the Cloud Practitioner certificate and all three associate level exams, so I was pretty confident to go for pro next. Last week, I finally took the AWS DevOps Professional exam (after a year of preparation) and it was the most exhausting thing I ever did for a while. Below are some tips I can provide with this year-long experience!

1. All tips from lower level certificates still apply!

Here is an article I wrote when I passed my first AWS Exam -- Solutions Architect - Associate. All tips I listed here still apply in terms of preparation!

2. Actual experience beats theory

Why are you even getting AWS certificates? Is it just to add a number to the number of certificates that you cleared? No, this will not work at all in the professional level. The reason why it took me a year of review was that I felt that the real value of this exam will come to me when I truly understand the concepts based on how I'm using the lectures in my actual job.

The timing was right and my team in Asurion provided me some experience in designing architectures and deploying both infrastructure and code with pipelines. This made me grasp the concepts easier (even knowledge of git and the standard git-flow was a big help!)

3. Study to understand, not to memorize

I guess this third tip (from my previous article) still holds very true. This is the first preparation where I took practice exams exactly once -- and only for the purpose of gauging my understanding of the questions. I was answering based on how I understood the concepts, and not by repeating the exam after having read the explanation.

Day before my exam, I got a 65% (a fail) in the practice exam. But this was relatively higher than all my first attempts before (where I was getting 20% below). I am then 100% certain that I understood at least 65% of the exam, even without having gone through the exam before. I didn't re-attempt the same practice exam but just reviewed some more notes.

4. Take the Exam as Multiple Sprints, not one full Marathon

I had an extra 30 minutes in my actual exam because of the ESL benefit (total of 210 minutes). The exam had 75 questions. Since the exam is more than 3 hours, I divided the items into 3 (1-25, 26-50, 51-75), and allocated 70 minutes for each section. It would be exhausting to track one exam, so I treated it as sections where I took a quick 10 minute break in between each section.

Let me tell you, my brain felt like it's burning throughout the exam, so the breaks will definitely help keep you on momentum. The first 10 questions were difficult, but I just kept thinking that I don't want to repeat this exhausting exam again, so I gave each question my best analysis and effort.

This is also the first time where I had to go to the comfort room as the test center was set to a low temperature, and I realized I have to keep myself in my best while answering each question -- so take that much needed break in between!

5. Flag with Caution!

In the previous AWS exams that I took, the "mark with flag" was actually a very helpful tool for you to go back to questions where you are unsure of the answer, and have a chance to update your answer. I was doing this again in this exam.

The only difference is, when I got to the end, I realized I only had 5 minutes remaining, so I can't go back to all my 25 flagged items! LOL! This was fine I guess as I didn't go to the next question without giving my best answer in my first run.

The professional level exam of AWS is certainly one of the most rewarding certifications I've ever achieved as I felt it was a true testament of what I was doing in my role for the whole year. Passing it meant I understood best practices, and know what services to use, and when to use them for each DevOps scenario -- and all the stuff I implemented this year were based on this knowledge.

Special thanks to AWS Hero Raphael Quisumbing who gave me the certification voucher for being an active member of the AWS community. I realized that the voucher provided to me by the Community Builders program is still free for me to use until first quarter next year. I'm excited to continue to grow with AWS as I answer my "what's next?".

Top comments (2)

dvddpl profile image
Davide de Paolis • Edited

congrats. I am currently studying for solutions architect associate and must say it's already no easy feat.
despite so many years in the industry and lots of experience with serverless, there are still so many things I don't know...

Study to understand, not to memorize

that's great advice. the certificate might look good on the résumé but if you end up just memorising the answers what's the gain?
better take 1,month longer but having solid skills

deeheber profile image
Danielle Heberling

Congratulations on passing the exam. 🚀