I’ve never cared too much about certificates. yet I passed AWS exams. Why? How to prepare? How to pass? How to pay only 50% for the exam?
I answer all this and more in this post.
AWS offers 12 certificates. They come in four categories, covering different areas of AWS and varying in difficulty.
The Foundational, Associate, and Professional-level certificates build learning paths for Architects and Engineers. They cover a broad spectrum of AWS services and solutions built on AWS. Specialty certificates focus on particular areas and go into much detail on services in scope.
If you are a “tech” person – don’t take the Cloud Practitioner – Foundational exam. It is very abstract, requiring just a knowledge of what the cloud is, its advantages, concepts, and the purpose of core services. However, it may be a proper exam for Sales, Marketing, or Agile people from your organization, helping them understand the technology the Engineers are working with.
There is no required order for taking the exams. You don’t need Associate certifications to pursue Professional ones.
Nonetheless, I suggest starting with the Associate level exam first. Which one? The one that matches your expertise and practical experience the most. The scope and expected knowledge for each exam is listed on the AWS Certification pages.
As you can see in the illustration above, the Foundational-level exam is the cheapest – it costs “only” 100 USD. The Associate-level exams cost 150 USD, and the Professional and Specialty – 300 USD.
However, you can pay only 50% of it! After you pass an exam, you get a voucher with a 50% discount for the next one. So, as long as you prepare well to pass it on the first try, you can pay half the price of all the exams after the first.
All certificates are valid for three years. Then, to keep it active, you must either re-take the exam or achieve a higher-level certification. The connection lines in the above illustration show which certificates prolong which. You can keep the Cloud Practitioner – Foundational certificate active by achieving any Associate-level certificate.
The DevOps Engineer – Professional extends the validity of both the Developer and SysOps Administrator from the Associate level. And Solution Architect – Associate can be prolonged by passing the Solution Architect – Professional exam.
Everyone can have different reasons for getting certified. I will list mine.
Firstly, for me, getting certified is a great way to learn. The exam scope pushes me to learn about services and features I may not have used and dive deeper into the ones I know. And always at least part of this knowledge comes in handy in my daily work.
In my opinion, AWS exams are valuable for being close to real-life problems. So after preparing for it, you are left with practical learnings.
Another argument for getting certified, is to boost your professional profile and CV, thus opening doors to interviews or promotions. So while it’s not my most significant reason, it’s certainly valid. And if you can get your current employer to pay for the learning and getting certified, which can considerably help you in case of looking for another company in the next three years – that’s a great deal.
I always rely on those three parts for learning for AWS Certificate exams:
- practical experience,
- certificate course,
- solving practice tests.
The first one, practical experience, is not to be underestimated. The more hands-on experience you have with the services you are questioned about, the better. While you can learn everything in theory and pass the exam, I strongly advise against it. Getting at least some experience in core services for the given certificate will make learning and taking the exam much easier.
That leads us to the next part – courses. I recommend AWSome TownHall courses . While I’m generally not a fan of video courses, that’s the best, most comprehensive way to go through the exam’s scope and get the condensed knowledge I found.
But don’t just watch. Active learning is much more effective!
And finally – solving practice tests. It’s a great learning technique – it forces your brain to work on problems and figure out the answer actively. It works even if you don’t answer correctly but check the right solution with justification afterward.
You register and take the exam through one of the testing companies, Pearson VUE or PSI. From January 1, 2023, only Pearson VUE.
You can take the exam at a local testing center or online. However, if you have a testing center nearby – go there. I took two exams online, and my experience was poor. First, you waste time installing testing software that monitors everything and often requires disabling any antivirus you have. Then you spend more time preparing your room and taking photos of it. And when you are finally ready to start, the software crashes. And then, for the next 30 minutes, you are trying to contact the support and make it work, stressing out about the technical issues on top of the exam itself. And it’s not just my experience, but my colleagues as well. So, if you can, go to the local testing center.
Sadly, you won’t get the results right after you finish the exam. You must wait up to 24 hours. Usually, the first thing you get is a notification from Credly about a new badge issued to you (if you passed) and, several hours later, an official email from AWS Training and Certification.
AWS offers certifications that prove your knowledge on several levels and in distinct areas.
Getting AWS Certified is a good way to deepen your AWS knowledge and prove that knowledge to your (current or future) employer and customers. But it does not replace the hands-on experience. Quite the contrary – it will be much easier to pass an exam having at least some practical experience in the area first.
It’s best to start with an Associate-level certificate. Then continue with Specialty or Professional, depending on your area of expertise.
AWS exams are not trivial, so you must prepare accordingly. I recommend three learning methods in conjunction: getting practical experience in the area, going through a certificate course, and solving practice tests.
And finally, you can take the exam at the online or local test center. If available, I recommend the first option as it’s perversely and often less time-consuming.
PS. Do you have any tips and tricks for the AWS exams yourself? Please share in the comments!