03 June 2020

Tips and guidance to prepare for AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification

tips to prepare for AWS certified cloud practitioner

I finished my AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification a month back. 
While super stoked, as I shared this news, quite a few folks asked about the resources I went over while preparing for the exam.
Now, that led me to write this post and sharing my experience as I did go through a lot of content for this base level certification.
The good-  In the AWS ecosystem is that they are focusing on democratizing knowledge. 
There is significant documentation, explanations, diagrams, and resources available all over AWS's site and blog. 
Also, since AWS is a hot cake in the market, there are hordes of videos and other 3rd party training available on every subject and all levels.
The bad- some times it can get overwhelming.
So, in this article, I will share with you the materials you can use to prepare yourself for the exam, some of the highly recommended whitepapers, how much time to allocate to prepare, and some other exam tips. Read on!

Preparing yourself for the exam

Here are some of the training sessions I took towards my preparations. All of these should be available in the AWS training dashboard/transcripts.
  1. The Second edition of AWS Cloud Essentials - approx 6 hrs https://www.aws.training/Details/Curriculum?id=27076
  2. AWS Business Professional. (Digital) - approx 3.5 hrs
You could also take similar pieces of training and courses on Udemy, AcloudGuru, or LinuxAcadamy

After this, I began munching on some of the key whitepapers from AWS. these whitepapers, go into much more depth of the architecture, the mindset behind how the AWS cloud has been set up, their stringent and all-around focus on security, continuous improvement mindset of operational excellence and much more.

Recommended Whitepapers to consider

Here are some of the whitepapers which were quite helpful.
  1. AWS overview: http://bit.ly/2uFGGlc
  2. AWS pricing models: http://bit.ly/2SLq2sh
  3. Architecture considerations: http://bit.ly/2OTIqxN
  4. Whitepapers library: https://go.aws/2SG7yJu
Apart from my work where we are involved with building world-class Data lake solutions on AWS stack, personally, I spent some time in the past year working through the management console of AWS, and understanding the actual workings on setting up VPCs, public and private subnets, adding EC2 instances, creating simple S3 buckets, spinning EMR clusters and basically playing around with other services. 

That helps in getting familiar with nuances as well.

Side note- If you read about Amazon as a company, a lot of the leadership and operational principles are inherited by AWS. I have lately read 3 different books where I read those principles. Links to a few of those at the bottom.

Familiarize yourself with as many services as you, by use cases. Look at the list of services that amazon and counting every day.

Should you take Practice Tests?

 I took the practice test(FREE) available at AWS's certification site. 
On a colleague's recommendation also, I took the FREE ver of the test available with Whizlabs. Click here
The answer is -Depends.
if you are a beginner in this space, its good to take the practice tests which make you aware of your level and what to expect. If you are someone who has been working in AWS for more than a year, hands-on I would still recommend you taking those practice tests.
I would absolutely recommend a 'No' for those who have been working with AWS for more than 4-5 years, hands-on, and are fairly confident that in their roles they touch the breadth of AWS services as well.

How much time is required for preparation?

Having spent some time with AWS in the past 1 year, I time-boxed myself for taking this test for 1 week and read most of the content through that. This time box can differ from person to person. I was generally studying a few hours every week to finish off the training material and then on two days dedicate a couple of hours to take practice tests.

Few Key Tips

  1. The training material which I referred to above on AWS's site is not enough to take the test. I learned that after I went through a Whizlab's test and spoke to a colleague. AWS's training doesn't go into all the new services and sub-services which keep launching over time. The actual test checks you on those. hence, make sure to keep yourself abreast by hovering through newly launched services on AWS and at least knowing what they do.
  2. The test is also offered in a proctored mode which enables you to take it from home or office meeting room. However, there is quite a bit of setup which needs to be done. I felt it would have been easier for me to just take the test at one of the test locations. However taking it from office or home, enables you to take the test sooner. So, be prepared to clean up and agree to a lot of specific asks in where and how the test is conducted.

Let's summarize

Overall, I strongly believe

"Its not where you reach that matters, but what you become in the process of getting there"

Taking the test got me into a regiment of drilling down into the services and more than the certification, help me gain additional learnings.
Nevertheless, I am stoked and eyeing another certification in a few months from now.
I hope this helps you!  If it does, write in the comments section below and let me know, or give me a quick shout out on my twitter account isaurabhmittal

Some reference books to read:
  1. Think like Amazon - https://amzn.to/2SMBmnR
  2. The Bezos letter - another great book on the various letters and notes written by Jeff Bezos https://amzn.to/39FLK82

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