My experience of AWS Certified Data Analytics – Specialty certificate

I recently appeared for AWS Certified Data Analytics – Specialty exam and was able to clear it in my first attempt. In this post I have shared my experience with the exam and the preparation required for it.

Preparation for AWS Certificate

I tend to keep preparation for AWS Certificate into two phases.

  • Courses – Online courses that cover the topics end to end
  • Practice Exams – Simulation of certificate with relevant questions for practice.

Online Course

When I started preparing for this certificate many online portals like acloudguru, linuxacademy does not have dedicated courses for this certificate. Though BigData Speciality courses were available and it has good overlap with the new Data Analytics Certificate.

So I started my preparation with courses on BigData Speciality certificate. However it was also clear to me that I will wait for few more months before dedicated course for this certificate is available.

After few months I could find "AWS Certified Data Analytics Specialty 2021 – Hands On!" course on Udemy by Frank & Stephane. I bought this one in Nov 2020 and decided that I will keep it as my primary course refresher.

I went through the course material quickly at the speed of 1.5-2 in my first attempt. It helped me in identifying the topics included in the certificate and also the topics which will need more attention.

Something which worked in favor of me was my technical background. I have been working on Data & Analytics projects past 10+ years. And also have worked on multiple AWS services like Redshift, EMR, Athena, Glue etc in the past projects. 2 topics which required more attention for me were Elasticsearch & Kinesis.

In the second run of the course I covered it at speed of 1-1.5 and saw few slides multiple times for the topics which were new to me. I did not make any hand-written notes this time. May be because I was pretty comfortable with the topics.

I did not invest dedicated time to the course. Primarily because my project tasks were keeping me busy and also I gave good 5-6 months to myself for this certificate completion. Hence I was taking it lightly and going slow.

Practice Exam

Once I was very comfortable with the online course , next step was to work with practice exams. For this I bought "AWS Certified Data Analytics Specialty Practice Exams" on Udemy by Jon Bonso. I bought this course in Feb 2021.

This is one of the best practice exam available over the internet and I will highly encourage you to go through it once. The questions are relevant and give good feeling of actual exam.

Once I covered all the practice exam I was confident to appear for the certificate exam.

Booking the Certificate Exam

Once ready I went to AWS certificate website and booked PSI Test Center near my home for Data Analytics certificate. The slot was booked for Apr 2021. However due to surge in Covid-19 cases, I re-scheduled it May 2021 and then eventually cancelled it. Considering the spike in Covid cases in India, I did not find it safe to travel and visit test centre for the exam.

Reason why I booked test centre was I wanted to focus on certificate exam only and not on setting-up the home for online exam. But once I cancelled it I knew now I have to take it from home.

First thing I did is I bought a UPS for my internet modem router. This was really required because if there is power failure my modem shuts down and I lose the internet. So I wanted to cover this problem first.

Next I booked the certificate again in July 2021 but this time with Online Proctored Pearson option. Also I picked the time slot of afternoon so that even if there is power failure I will have some daylight in my room. I have already given one certificate online and have shared my experience with home-setup for Pearson online exam here.

One week before Exam

I started preparing for this exam in Nov 2020 and was appearing for exam in July 2021. It is way more than sufficient time for this exam however I never had dedicated time for study. So it was on-off during this 6 months. Also in the last 6 months there were new topics added to the certificate exam. So I have to cover those new topics as well. On Monday, I decided to appear for this exam and on Tuesday I booked online exam for Friday same week. So I had 4 days to do final preparation.

I decided to take one day off on Thursday from my office for preparation. I went through few slides in the online course. Most important slides were related with integration between different aws services. Once that is done I re-appeared for the practice exams. Good thing about these online courses is the creator keeps on updating it as and when changes happen to certificate exams. So I find new questions and new slides in the courses to cover as well.

Exam Day

On the exam day, I did not login into Udemy. I was confident about the exam. I login into Pearson exam 30 mins before schedule time and in next 10 mins all formalities were done. Started my exam and was able to complete it in 2.5 hours. The exam was really well formatted into different sections.

The integration between different AWS services is really important. You should know how to handle real-time ,near real-time and batch data and how to process it. What all AWS services should be used and how to pass data between these services is very important.

Should you appear for this exam ?

The answer depends on your objective. If you already are in Data & Analytics space with AWS exposure then you must give it a try. It will not only add a certificate badge to your profile but the knowledge will complement your profile very well too.
If you are new to AWS cloud however have Data & Analytics background then I will recommend going for Associate Architect certificate level first. This will help you in understanding core services in AWS.
If you are new to Data & Analytics then I will not recommend to take this one. The reason being is you have to understand the concepts first and then to support those concepts you will need AWS services. So this certificate should be level 2 for you.

Conclusion

To conclude this post I will say I really enjoyed preparing for this one. The main reason is I could relate to most of the AWS services covered as part of this certificate. Also I am using many of the services as part of my day to day job. This really helped me in quickly getting comfortable to the topics covered in exam. I actually enjoyed the journey of this certificate more than the final certificate itself.

What's next ?

After completing my AWS Data Analytics Certification I see two options for me in AWS Certifications – Database Speciality and Architect Professional.
However I am also considering non-technical certifications like project or product management at this time as well. The reason being is I have worked as Individual contributor primarily over the last 12+ years. I did play some roles which require people management and vendor management in the past. But now I am considering full fledged project management roles as well. I will share update in next few weeks about what I decided and what am I going to do about it.

Hope my experience helps you in determining how to prepare for this one and whether this certificate is for you.

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