This exam was by far the hardest exam I have ever taken! There is no comparison.
Let me explain exactly why: I took the exam remotely, so there is a rule that you can't leave your seat and you always have to sit visibly in front of your laptop so the proctor can see you. Here was my problem. I had to pee! After about 60 minutes into the exam, I had to go to the toilet urgently. And I mean urgently!
It was so bad that I seriously thought about peeing in my pants. When I told this story to my best friend, he just said: it's your own fault. Since you can choose the place yourself, why don't you just pick the toilet?
So right away I can give you the tip that you should pee before the exam! No joke.
If you read my post about my journey to becoming a Cloud Practitioner: Why? Then what are you doing here? Go on over there and read it first.
In a nutshell, I started with 0 knowledge of the cloud and earned my Cloud Practitioner certification within a month.
From Cloud Practitioner to Solution Architect Associate
Again, the note: I did the SAA-C03 certification. So the contents for later certifications can change. Always pay attention to the version of your exam.
I focused on 3 sources for this certification: Udemy, Skillbuilder, and the documentation. Whereas Udemy and Skillbuilder made up 90% of my time.
Even if I repeat myself here, this strategy is simply fantastic!
- First pass: Choose what you know
Go through the whole test and answer every question, that you know
- Second pass: Process of elimination
Rule out all answers that are incorrect and choose the correct one
You don't get a penalty for wrong answers, so just guess. An unanswered question is counted as a wrong one, so guess if you just don't know.
- Review all answers before submitting!
Extra 30 Minutes
For all non-native English speakers, there is a possibility for you to get 30 extra minutes on the exam. Just follow the instructions here.
Here is an overview of my costs for this certification:
- ca. 80€ for the exam itself
- 130€ Udemy course
- 60€ Skillbuilder Subscription for two months
All in all 270€. But it is also possible to do it cheaper.
Attentive readers will now ask themselves why my exam only cost 80€ and not 150. Vouchers! If you have already taken other exams, in my case the Cloud Practitioner, you get a 50% voucher on your next exam. So use your vouchers!
I also didn't have to pay anything for the Udemy course itself, but it was well worth the money. I'd surely would spent it on that course. So if you have the opportunity, I can recommend this course. Which course, you ask? I'll show you exactly below because you always have to read everything diligently. Not only my post but also the questions in the exam ;)
With the Skillbuilder Subscription, there is also the possibility to play Cloud Quest for the Solution Architect. That's what I did.
As always, it makes sense for me to first have a baseline of how good I am. So I directly took a test exam. Failed. 650 points were my first result. I have to say it was better than expected, but probably more lucky guessing than really knowing anything.
The course with the exams is:
Exam Prep: AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate
You can find it on Skillbuilder (Subscription required).
The third step was to go into the AWS Skillbuilder, the Solutions Architect Learning Plan course. That's a big one! 64 courses, approx. 102 hours of learning material. I did about 80% of that.
The reason is that some things there tend to be repetitive and go deeper than necessary for the exam. Which is actually great, but I also wanted to have passed the exam by the end of December. Courage to the gap (an old german saying, which means it is ok to have knowledge gaps going into an exam).
Time for Udemy! I went through Stephan Maarek's course.
Yes indeed, I have watched AND completed a Udemy course from start to finish. Maybe it was because I did not buy it myself 🤔
Anyway, it's worth the money. You get everything you need to know here and some tips on the exam itself.
I only watched the hands-on because they were included in detail in the labs from the Skillbuilder Learning Plan.
All in all, you get an excellent source for this certification.
As a final step, I studied for the exams from the Skillbuilder and the Udemy course. My strategy here was to take the SAA-C02, SAA-C03 exams and the sample exam from the Udemy course once a day, 3 days before my exam.
The cool thing about all the exams, you see where you have weaknesses and can revisit the topics accordingly.
One day before the exam, I also did all the little quizzes from the Udemy course in one. That was also helpful to recall everything once again.
Again, here is my list of recommendations for what I would make differently now that I passed the exam.
Visit the toilet before the exam! I mean it, you really don't want to be in the same situation as me, where you need to pee really hard and have 15 questions ahead of you. Go pee!
30 minutes extra
Like I've said, get those extra 30 minutes extra. I certainly didn't need them, because I was in a rush. But you will be smarter than me.
The Skillbuilder subscription is definitely worth it. I'm not a fan of the labs, to be honest, the reason is that you get a step-by-step guide and really don't need to do it on your own. It could've been a video as well. The treasure of that subscription is somewhere else. The test-exams. You get three test exams with similar questions to the real exam. This alone is worth the money. Make sure to pass all of those exams with at least 900 points.
Udemy / Youtube
The price for Stephans course is definitely something to consider, but it is worth the money. You get a one-stop-shop solution for the exam + a test exam. If you got the money, I can recommend this course a lot.
If you are tight on your budget, there is a free (and also great) alternative by Andrew Brown: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ia-UEYYR44s
AWS itself says you should take the exam after one year of practical experience has shown that it is also possible to take it significantly earlier and pass.
You have to be aware that you have to do this intensively. You need to know the different services and also what the best practices are. Especially IAM, VPCs, and CloudFront. I definitely recommend the Cloud Practitioner as a base, as everything builds on that.
Take as much time as you need to prepare. Learn learn learn. Be sure of all topics and review all topics before the exam. Skillbuilder courses often cover topics in more depth than you need to know for the exam. I still recommend taking this knowledge with you, because it will be relevant for upcoming exams.
You can do it! If you have further questions, write me on Twitter.