On a path to AWS Certification - Part One. My experience of becoming AWS Certified Cloud practitioner

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The goal of this article is to provide a very basic overview of AWS Certification Program, give a few reasons why you should get one and share my experience on a way of becoming AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner.

Table of contents:

Few reasons to be AWS Certified

First of all, let me start with a few reasons why it's worth to be AWS Certified:

  • AWS is the market leader in cloud computing according to Gartner research group. It was expanding exponentially over the past few years and continue to grow today at a very high speed.
  • AWS Certificates are within the TOP 10 of the most valuable IT Certificates today
  • AWS Certified folks are much-needed. Demand is growing with a higher level of certification
  • Compare to certification from other industries, they're affordable.

As for me, another main benefit of AWS Certificates is extensive knowledge on topics such as building highly-scalable and fault-tolerant web applications, establishing best security/compliance practices and speeding up your development process. I also like that most of the architectural principles learned while studying for the exam are applicable in non-AWS environments and can be used in the day-to-day development lifecycle.

High-level overview of Certification Roadmap

After a small motivational introduction, let's take a closer look at the diagram which represents levels of AWS certifications:

Image Credit - AWS Certification

In the very beginning of the roadmap there is AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner –°ertification which is located on the "Foundational" level (to be more correct, AWS names it as "Foundational Role-based Certification"). It is one of the most newest Certifications compare to the other ones and is the only one which represents AWS Foundational Role. Higher in the chain there is Associate Role which is followed by Professional. In addition to mentioned roles, there're specialty exams which validate advanced knowledge in corresponding technical areas.

With regard to requirements, AWS also removed the necessity of having previous level certificates:

In October 2018, we removed pre-requisites to give candidates more flexibility. Candidates are no longer required to have an Associate certification before pursuing Professional certification, and they are no longer required to have Cloud Practitioner or Associate certification before pursuing Specialty certification.

All certifications details are in-depth covered on the official AWS Certification Page. This guide will help you to decide which certification path to take based on your background, present position and personal goals.

Nevertheless, recommended (but not required) way is to obtain Cloud Practitioner Certificate as a pre-requisite before going to Associate, Professional or Specialty exams. It also intended for people working in Sales, Marketing, Finance, C-Level executives and other related professions. Personally, I think it's very challenging for people from non-tech field to pass the exam, since it does contain very tech-related and scenario based questions around APIs, Networks, Databases, etc. Questions themselves aren't difficult, but I think in order to answer a question such as

Is it true that DynamoDB supports compound primary keys?

you should have some sort of knowledge around databases. Sidenote: the answer is yes.

My experience of becoming AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner

Having a false impression that this exam is for IT-related professions, I had an idea that it would be very easy to pass taking into account that I already had more than a year of hands-on AWS experience. As a reference, this article as well as the entire site is on S3 and distributed via CloudFront. Even before attempting Cloud Practitioner I already run out of free tier. Returning to the topic, before going and register an exam date I decided to double check the exam blueprint and take a look at some of the sample questions. That where I realized I delude myself on this matter and started to google to find resources and courses on that subject. Here's list of resources will help you to prepare for the exam:

Resources list

  • ACloudGuru is an undeniable leader in modern cloud certification training. In addition to the extensive collection of videos where instructor (Ryan Kroonenburng) explains like "I'm a 5 years old approach" they have a great collection of quizzes and exam simulators for each level that is really helpful while preparing to your exam.
  • AWS has their own online and classroom training. Personally, I didn't look at them while preparing for AWS Cloud Practitioner exam, but will probably take a look before going to the next exams.
  • AWS Whitepapers. It's hard to believe that people pass the exam without reading them. 90% of questions are from whitepapers. The best place to find them is on the AWS Cloud Practitioner exam overview page ("AWS Whitepapers" section).
  • As a supplementary, Whizlabs resource provides exam simulator with a lot of questions that will set you in the mood for the exam. If you're wondering "Why would you buy whizlabs quizzes, since ACloudGuru" already has many", I would say that they cover different topics. I also felt like Whizlabs simulator has more "scenario based" questions, whereas ACG more theoretical. Update: there's a thread on reddit claims that Whizlabs stole questions from multiple sources. My personal opinion is that they're still valuable without going into the politics of question sources.

All of those resources are optional and none of them are required. Do some other research, find the ones which feel more beneficial to you and use them.

Overall impression

The overall impression is that the exam is not a breeze. Even though, there are basic questions about S3, CloudFront, EC2, etc. that can boost your confidence, there are plenty of others that made me nervious.

My Recommendations for AWS Cloud Practitioner:

  • Remember which services fall into which category (e.g. VPC, Route 53 are part of "Networking and Content Delivery", Cloud Watch and Cloud Config are part of "Management Tools", etc.). This is in the whitepaper.
  • Get more detailed understanding and capabilities of Databases: DynamoDB, RDS, Aurora.
  • Have a good understanding of CloudTrail. Very important service, but I felt it's not covered enough on ACG
  • Obviously, S3, Glacier, CloudFront, EC2. However, they're so widely covered on ACG that I wouldn't worry about them too much
  • Calculators / TCO
  • Have a good understanding of shared responsibility model

How I learned:

  • Watched Ryan Course, took notes of all of his lectures. After finishing the course, got back to those notes and learned from them. Lectures give a very good basic understanding, but not enough to pass the exam.
  • Read the whitepapers, took notes from them.
  • Took all the quizzes from ACG, plus exam simulators.
  • Kept doing Exam Simulators multiple times until got close to 100%.

What's next?

This was my journey to obtain first AWS certificate and I'm on my way to get AWS Certified Solutions Architect. As you can see it takes some work to get there, but might be rewarding in the end. If you're ready to start, take a look at ACloudGuru, AWS Training, Udemy and Whizlabs and also feel free ping me here.