AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate

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This blog post is to kick off my journey in completing the AWS Solutions Architect Associate Certification. I currently plan on taking 3 months during my full-time job to prepare for the exam. I will use this post to outline what resources I plan on using and will try to come back and up this as this changes.

A little background on my experience, I am a senior software engineer and technical lead on several projects. I have spent the past year working with a couple of different apps that have been deployed to AWS. I first started with setting up a Postgres database in RDS, then got authentication working with Cognito. We set up our Jenkins server on an EC2 instance and first deployed our apps there. We run our apps in Docker containers so we were able to take advantage of ECR to store our images and ECS to deploy them in different clusters. I got pretty familiar with security groups and load balancers for handling access issues and traffic. CloudWatch has been awesome for monitoring all our applications and aggregating logs. In all, I have been exposed to a good chunk of AWS services and have deployed to dev, staging, and production environments.

I plan to follow a very similar plan I found on Reddit:

  1. Go through the entire ACG video course. In order to help me digest the content, I plan on writing up some additional blog posts on topics I review
  2. Read through AWS Well-Architected whitepapers
  3. Go through and take Jon Bonso exams
  4. Go back through the correct/incorrect answers from Bonso tests and take notes
  5. Take the AWS practice exam
  6. Take the exam!

I plan on watching ~2 hours of videos a week which would allow me to finish the ACG video course in ~8 weeks. I am not sure if I need to take all the labs, but I will find out! That may affect my timeline. Then I plan on spending ~4 weeks going through the whitepapers and taking practice exams.

Update (1)

When I first started this course it was 14.5 hours and now it is more than 22 hours! Between the added hours and aggressive timelines at work, it has taken me longer than expected to finish this course. I also did try to get this done a little sooner by averaging 30-60 mins a night ~5 days a week. Ultimately, it took me about 9 weeks.

Lo and behold I have finished this weekend! I was able to take advantage of the High Availability (HA) topics and S3 to make sure major improvements to the current architecture in my ongoing projects. Therefore, It has been very worth it!

I plan on using the next couple of weeks to take practice exams and read through some AWS Whitepapers. All in, it will be about 3 months to study, prepare, and take the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate exam. I will keep you updated!

Update (2) I Passed!

I officially passed my SAA-CO2!! I just wanted to take a moment to thank TutorialsDojo & Jon Bonso! I could not have done it without you! You have put together the highest quality exams to prepare me for the real deal. You have built a great community has always been very responsive!

I took the ACG course and then spent the rest of my time taking these exams and using the 30 question review feature. I spent 2-4 hours on each test. I took the exam then the next day I would go through every answer to take notes and read answers and documentation on every question. I only retook two practice tests that I did not pass.

I highly highly recommend joining both Adrian Cantrill - techstudyslack.com and Tutorial Dojo's slack channels! I learned a lot from being on these channels! People are constantly asking great questions and there are some really great cloud engineers on there! It's a great community.

Here are some study tips:

  • Lots of autoscaling group questions, understand this topic very well!
  • RDS, Mutli-AZ vs Read Replica
  • ELB (classic vs network vs app)
  • SQS (visibility timeout) FIFO, priorities
  • Kinesis, firehose vs datastream. know what targets are available
  • Lambda + API Gateway, when to use throttling
  • IPv4 vs IPv6
  • Lots of S3 question with classes and cost, S3 Lifecycle rules, Glacier, vs Glacier Deep Archive, know which classes have lifecycle restraints
  • NACL vs Security Groups
  • Dynamo DB use cases
  • Elastic cache uses cases, Redis vs Memached
  • NAT Gateway vs NAT Instance
  • VPC Gateway Endpoint - which services use this and how to set this up
  • Direct Connect components
  • Lots of VPN questions, Site to Site, VPN Hub, Transit Gateway
  • AWS Cloudtrail
  • Diff EC2 classes (compute vs memory etc) I did not see the HDD(cold) vs SDD(general) etc questions that come up a lot on the practice
  • File Gateway types
  • Aurora Serverless
  • IAM policies - how to construct them and know what they do
  • IAM Roles when to use them? are they global?
  • A lot of which file system to use (EBS, EFS, Storage Gateway, File Gateway),
  • Spot Instances, in terms of cost and termination
  • AWS Config - how it can be used, useful for tagging resources

Comments (2)

Andrew Brown's photo

Good luck on your cloud journey.

AWS is introducing Exam Lab questions on all associate exams, so it is important to get experience with the AWS Console and AWS CLI.

I recommend after studying a topic in the console attempting to do everything from the CLI. You can do most of this from AWS CloudShell.

Sandboxes are great to help you get exposure to AWS services, its important to run scenarios on your own to gain experience when no guardrails in place. I will never forget to set billing alarms and budgets after my first billing mishap.

Remember to not leave too much time between your practice exams and the real exam.

Phillip Ninan's photo

Thanks for the great advice!

I actually took the exam several months ago and just migrated this post from my old blog. I just made a second update.

I agree that getting comfortable with the CLI is very useful and practical. I was lucky enough to be doing some of the job work while I studied so I was able to apply a lot of what I was learning. This helped me understand the material very well.

Yes, I forgot to set up billing alarms and ended up with a $30 bill for one month.

I think I took the exam like a day or two after taking my last practice exam. I did take like 2-3 days off at one point towards the end. I needed to clear my head before wrapping up my review. You kind of start to get tunnel vision at some point.