Passing the AWS Solutions Architect Professional without breaking your bank

This will just be a short post on how I passed the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional (SAP-C01) exam with a score of 873/1000. I will share some exam tips at the end.

Disclaimer: What worked for me might not work for you. Please assess and adjust your strategy accordingly.


Prerequisite (preferrably)

Before embarking on studying for the exam, I had a decent amount of hands on experience in AWS stemming from personal projects and work. On the official certification page, AWS recommends “Two or more years of hands-on experience designing and deploying cloud architecture on AWS”. Personally, I think a minimum of one year hands-on experience really helps.

Tinkering with your personal projects or implementing production enterprise architecture on AWS will allow you to experience the nuances, choices and anti-patterns of configuring AWS. When it comes to this monster of an exam, these little details matter.

I have to also mention that I have cleared the SA Associate and Developer Associate prior to the SA Pro.


Prep Materials

As much as possible, I did not want to spend loads of money just to prepare for a certification. Bang for buck is definitely one of my top criteria in choosing the prep materials for this exam. I will list them chronologically, in the order which I have used them during my preparation.

Stephane Maarek’s Course on Udemy

Stephane Maarek

Link to the course on Udemy.

Since using Stephane Maarek’s course to pass the AWS Certified Developer Associate exam, I have come to appreciate the value for money he provides. Does he have the best quality materials compared to some of the big MOOCs like A Cloud Guru and Linux Academy? Probably not.

From the moment I caught wind of Stephane developing the SA Pro course, I held off starting my exam study until his course was launched. I was probably one of the first few who bought the course, and it costed me around USD11. Incredible value.

I watched through all his lectures once, usually spending a couple of hours a day. The presentation slides are downloadable, and over the course of my study, I would read through the entire content at least 3 times over.

Tutorial Dojo’s (Jon Bonso) Practice Exams

Jon Bonso

Link to the course on Udemy.

This is a highly-recommended material that I have gotten to know of when studying for the Developer Associate exam. I purchased this course at Udemy at around the same price as Stephane’s course.

In my opinion, the true value of Jon Bonso’s course comes from his comprehensive explanation of the most obscure details hiding in the darkest corners of an AWS service. However, I have to say that the practice questions are not a good reference to how difficult the actual exam will be.

I started on the practice exams right after watching through Stephane’s video lectures once. I scored above 85 at my first attempts of the 4 practice exams.

Official AWS study materials

The official AWS study materials include:

All of the above materials are free except for the practice exam. If you have passed another AWS certification exam prior to this, you would have gotten a free practice exam voucher which can be used here.

Honestly, these materials are not much of a help. But since they are essentially free, I went through them once. I looked through the recommended whitepapers for topics that I felt I was weaker at.

At this point, I booked my exam appointment and was reading through Stephane and Tutorials Dojo’s materials again until the final day.


Exam Tips

Time management is the single most important aspect of this exam. The SA Pro exam consists of many questions that are a few paragraphs long, and options that have multiple sentences. Even with the additional 30 minutes accommodation, I still find myself finishing the exam almost as the time runs out.

A personal tip is to flag the long questions and go back to them later. If you find yourself stuck on a question for too long, flag it and move on. Always glance at the time left and quickly judge if you have enough. You should aim to be halfway done with around 100 minutes remaining, which would give you just enough time to review your flagged questions.

I find myself using the process of elimination for majority of the choices given. Sometimes, when I spot certain keywords in the options that are very obviously wrong, I will eliminate them completely and focus on the rest of the options. Process of elimination allows you to save a bit of time for the questions with lengthy options.

Lastly, please do not drink too much water prior to the exam. You do not have time for toilet breaks, and holding your bladder messes with your concentration.


Final Words

If you are taking the exam at a test center, remember to adhere to the safety precautions in place. Stay safe during this pandemic. Good luck to you!

4 comments

  1. Amazing details Zenkai. Wondering if Solutions architect professional would be good or Devops Engineer professional would be good as recently I have received my certification of AWS certified Developer associate course. Your response is requested for me to focus for next exam of either of these two. Let me know?

    Thanks
    Sourya

    1. I think it really depends on your career path. If you’re a software developer, DevOps Pro makes more sense. Otherwise, SA Pro will be the more generic option for you.

  2. This is great! I think we have a similar study plan, and I am excited to try it with the SA Pro. I too use the Stephane course + Jon Bonso practice exams, and find that combo to be very efficient. I also agree that it help to read through Stephane’s slides 3 time before taking the exam (that is my strategy as well). Thanks for your notes!

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