7 Nov 2019
Guidelines to crack the AWS Certified Solution Architect – Associate Examination
Vishal Gupta
#Latest Blogs | 7 min read
Guidelines to crack the AWS Certified Solution Architect – Associate Examination
#Latest Blogs
Vishal Gupta

Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Solutions Architect – Associate Examination has created quite a buzz among technical experts. These guidelines are for anyone planning on writing and acquiring an associate certification. After some hard work and a lot of dedication, I managed to pass this examination and contented to ideate my observation and help budding AWS architects who wanted to get certified. This exam is intended for individuals who perform a solutions architect role; and have one or more years of hands-on experience designing available, cost-efficient, fault-tolerant, and scalable distributed systems on AWS.


From February 2018, AWS had announced a new pattern of examination for the first level of its AWS Certified Solutions Architect, Associate. Previously, 55 questions had to be completed in 80 minutes; while now, candidates are required to attempt 65 questions in 130 minutes.


Skills Gained After the Certification:


  • Demonstrate knowledge of how to architect and deploy secure and robust applications on AWS technologies.
  • Define a solution using architectural design principles based on customer requirements.
  • Provide implementation guidance based on best practices to the organization throughout the life cycle of a project.


Things to Know Before Getting Certified: 


  • Hands-on experience using compute, networking, storage, and database AWS services.
  • Hands-on experience with AWS deployment and management services.
  • Ability to identify and define technical requirements for an AWS-based application.
  • Ability to identify which AWS services meet a given technical requirement.
  • Knowledge of recommended best practices to build secure and reliable applications on the AWS platform.
  • Understand the basic architectural principles of building on the AWS Cloud.
  • Understand the AWS global infrastructure.
  • Understand network technologies as they relate to AWS.
  • Understand the security features and tools that AWS provides and how they relate to traditional services.


Exam Summary of AWS Solutions Architect — Associate SAA-C01:


  • AWS has updated the exam concepts from the focus being on individual services to building more scalable, highly available, cost-effective, resilient, and operational effective architecture.
  • Although, most of the services covered by the old exam are the same; there are few new additions like API Gateway, Lambda, ECS, and Aurora.
  • Candidates are required to cover the following topics:
    • Compute: In this section, most of the questions are coming from AMI, EC2, EBS, Elastic IP, ENI, Elastic.
    • Container Service, Elastic Beanstalk, Application/Network Load Balancing, Lambda, and AWS Fargate.
    • Database: RDS, Amazon Aurora, DynamoDB, Elastic Cache, Redshift, and AWS Database Migration Service.
    • Networking & Content Delivery: Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) [Subnet, Security Group, Network Access Control List, Internet Gateway, and NAT Gateway], VPC Peering & Endpoint, Route53, API Gateway, VPC Flow Log, and AWS Direct Connect.
    • Storage: Simple Storage Service (S3) [Standard, Standard IA, OneZone IA, and RRS], Glacier, Snowball, Storage Gateway (file, volume, and tape), and EFS.
    • Media Services: Elastic Transcoder and Kinesis Video Streams.
    • Analytics: Athena, EMR, Elasticsearch Service, Kinesis.
    • Management Tools: CloudWatch, AWS Auto Scaling, AWS Cloud Formation, CloudTrail, OpsWorks, Systems Manager, Trusted Advisor, and AWS Config.
    • Security, Identity & Compliance: IAM, Cognito, AWS Organization, Amazon Guard Duty, Amazon Inspector, Amazon Macie, Amazon Certificate Manager, and Amazon KMS.
    • Application Integration: Simple Notification Service, Simple Queue Service, and Amazon SWF.


Practice Test


As with any other exam, completing practice tests is extremely necessary and probably the most important part of your preparation for this certification. The practice exam tests both your knowledge and time management skills. Furthermore, during the time of the actual exam, you will be able to complete it in a shorter time frame. Below is a list of practice exams:

  • Udemy AWS Solutions Architect — Associate SAA-C01 Practice Exams – Practice these papers twice because the exam scenario is almost the same as the sample papers in Udemy.
  • Braincert AWS Solutions Architect — Associate SAA-C01 Practice Exams – These provide extensive scenario based questions.
  • Whizlabs AWS Certified Solutions Architect – These papers are relatively easier than Braincert and Udemy. But extra practice won’t hurt anyone.
  • Sign up with AWS for the Free Tier account. This provides a lot of free services, which are more than enough to get a head start. Be sure to decommission services beyond the free limits, preventing any surprises.


AWS Extra Reads:


  • AWS Well-Architectured Framework Whitepaper
  • AWS Exam Guide
  • AWS Cheat Sheets


Where to Focus your Time?


Pose a question to yourself on, how much of the Solutions Architect — Associate exam connects with your current or previous work experience? This will give you an idea of where to focus your time to learn new topics.
About 60 percent of the Solutions Architect — Associate Exam focuses on Designing Solutions. If you work in Solutions Design or Architecture, or if your role includes these responsibilities, these topics, concepts, and services may already be familiar to you.

Another 30 percent of the Solutions Architect – Associate Exam concentrates on security and troubleshooting. This might be familiar to those with an IT or System Administrator background.
The remaining 10 percent focuses on deployment and implementation, which may be familiar to developers or programmers. However, the Solutions Architect — Associate Exam focuses mainly on infrastructure.

Ultimately, where you decide to focus your time and how much time you spend depends on you. The best approach to our Learning Path is to delve deeply into any unfamiliar territory. Watch and rewatch the videos. Take your time in each of the Hands-on Labs to get comfortable with the different services in AWS.

It is difficult to say how much each candidate has to spend preparing for this exam. Therefore, you will need to consider your areas of expertise and how they relate to this certification. Finally, if you already have AWS experience, you can use 60 hours of study as a starting point and adjust your strategy from there. The best approach takes the best practices and advice from many sources and is tailored to fit your experience, goals, and schedule.


Hit Submit Only If You are Sure


Once you click submit on an answer, you can’t change it. Instead, you can skip questions and come back to them later once you are ready. However, if you have selected an option, you can’t skip to another question until you have cleared that option.


Cancellation/ Reschedule Policy


Cancellation or rescheduling is free if you have over 48 hours to go for the exam. Within 48 hours and a day before the exam, you can reschedule or cancel for 60 USD. In my opinion, I strongly suggest booking the exam first, you can reschedule it later if you can’t make it or feel like you are not prepared. This will give you a tangible goal to work towards, which will prevent procrastination.


Tips and Tricks


  • Complete as many practice papers as possible.
  • Understand the questions and use the process of elimination to select the correct answer.
  • Go over the incorrectly answered questions in your practice test and know where you went wrong. You can jot down the reasons in your study guide and review it before your exam.
  • Timing is critical, therefore aim to spend about 1–1.5 min per question.
  • Gain some hands-on experience by experimenting with free-tier services.
  • Collate and work on the pillars and services you are weak in, separately. You can also try sectional tests for these.
  • For every question, determine the business goal and pillar (from the well-architected framework) that are to be satisfied. There may be other distracting information but ensure to choose an answer that satisfies these goals.
  • Review the complete paper once you are done.
  • Flag the questions which you doubt and make sure to visit these questions once again before you submit the exam.


Good luck!

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