I recently appeared for AWS Certified Solutions Architect (Associate) exam and cleared it comfortably. I would like to share my experience and journey so far which may help you if you are preparing for it too. So let's begin this post by sharing my background.
My technical background
I basically am a Datawarehouse consultant who has expertise in ETL development. I am highly proficient in writing SQL queries on various platforms like Teradata, Oracle, Netezza and even Hive & Spark. I did work on Redshift but it was limited hands-on experience.
Switching to AWS
So switching to AWS services is not very challenging especially if you are targeting Migration to Cloud projects. There is lot of information available online and official AWS developer guides should be your first pick. I generally follow this approach whenever I learn any new AWS service like Redshift or Glue. Also please do consider hands-on labs while learning any AWS service. No book or pdf can teach you what hands-on project can so consider doing labs often to build some confidence before you actually work on any project.
Thought of AWS Certificate
When I switched to AWS, my obvious choice was to explore Redshift & Glue because of comfort level I already have with Datawarehouse & ETL concepts. And very soon I realised AWS is so much more than just these two services. Unlike my existing professional experience, where I stick to a single technology like working on Teradata for 10+ years or on Spark for 5+ years I wish to experience multiple services which AWS offers. So I started learning more & more about different services available and how to use them in different situations. I just can't cover all the AWS services as it is ever growing at rapid pace. However I can limit to some important ones. This approach is exactly how AWS Associate certificate came into picture.I could have hand-picked few AWS services and then would have started learning about it all by myself. But it would have taken so much time and definitely was not measurable in terms of learning curve. So best option I saw was to appear for AWS Solutions Architect (Associate) exam. This would have covered all important services and also clearing the exam one can validate the learning.
Preparation for AWS Certificate
I started my preparation with Linux Academy. The course is 50+ hours long and some videos I watched multiple times to build understanding of concepts. Since I have primarily worked as SQL developer , some concepts of networking and administration required extra time. After spending 3-4 hours daily, I switched to "acloudguru" after couple of weeks which has 20+ hours of videos. So I decided to complete videos on acloudguru first. Also one must consider that it is not easy to sit with headphones on for 3-4 hours every day on laptops. Gradually you get used to it but till then it will be a fight to just sit and listen. So it took me ~1.5 months to complete video tutorials on acloudguru & linux academy with labs.
Now when I was going for full length exams on these two portals I was getting less than 70% which made me nervous. So I sign up for Whizlabs and tried the full length practice papers in it. Whizlabs has 8 Full length practice exams which give you feeling of actual exam. I was getting anywhere between 65%-85% in practice exams. The best part is it gives you very good description when you select wrong answers. This helps in learning topics right away.
One week before exam
I was only doing practice exam on Whizlabs/acloudguru/LinuxAcademy one week before the exam. And I could feel the confidence which was evident in the scores I was getting. I was consistently getting above 90% even for some exams which I attempted for first time. Also I knew few topics which I was not very comfortable with like ECS, Dockers, FSx so I read some online posts on it. I also refer to few github resources where people have shared their preparation notes. It was really helpful as quick refresher. Also please consider rule of elimination to pick the right answer when you are not sure about correct answer. This technique may take some time but it is the second best strategy to answer correctly.
Preparing for Online Exam
Due to Covid-19, all the test centres are closed. So I register for online exam via Pearson. Before the exam , you may want to run a system test which checks microphone, internet speed & webcam of your laptop. Also to sit for 2 hours and give exam is not something I do every day. So sitting for 2 hours also need some practice. Try to give practice exam in the same room you intent to use for online exam.
I picked exam slot in late evening because it was a working day and my office work also take some good time. First thing I did in the morning was complete "final" practice exam on whizlabs. I score above 90% in it. Then I started working for my office tasks. 1 hour before the exam , I stopped working on my office tasks and took some rest. The exam begins 30 mins before the schedule time. So in this time you can take photos of yourself, your government ID, front-back-left-right photos of your workstation and upload to the weblink shared on the portal. Once you are done, you have to wait for online proctor to come and release your exam. For me , this process took around 15 mins.
I started my exam confidently , moving to next questions quickly. One of the reason was I was taking exam from my home and we do get frequent power cuts which could have restarted internet modem. So my strategy was to quickly cover all 65 questions and then come back in second round for review. However when I was at question 16, I saw "loading" gif on screen and then "Connection lost" prompt on screen. I was little confused because I was sure internet was not the problem. After waiting for 15 mins, I was not sure what to do and was about to give up on exam due to technical challenges. To my surprise, the internet issue was resolved and I got the VOIP call from proctor and she confirmed relaunching my exam and it resumed from the point of failure. With very much distracted mind I resumed my exam, followed the same strategy of completing all 65 questions quickly and then re-visiting all questions later. I completed my exam with almost 45 minutes left and I could see "PASS" as the result. Next day, I got the badge and certificate from AWS.
What's next ?
After passing my first AWS exam, I am motivated to take another one quickly in next 3-4 months. Data Analytics speciality is something which I can related to my day to day job however machine learning is something which I find interesting. So I will pick one of these two and shall appear for next certificate exam in next quarter.
Hope my experience help you guys too.