AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional Exam Experience

A belated update on my exam experience, recently I have had a lot on personally and professionally so have not had a chance to update this blog.  During that manic time I spent a lot of my free time working away at my AWS Certified Solution Architect – Professional exam.  Over the last 2 years, cloud and in particular AWS, has been the area I have been wanting to focus on.  I have setup a local user group and have been able to focus on AWS in my day job working with customers, your even reading this blog on AWS as I dive right in.

I have completed the three associate exams but to me they feel like the old Microsoft MCP or even the VMware VCP exam, good to learn a topic at a high level but they can turn into just a fact learning exercise.  Plus there is a lot of overlap in each associate exam.  The professional exam is lot more about understanding the services and how they interact with each other.  Still multiple questions but a lot more emphasis on a scenario and choosing a solution to match that scenario.  I would say its similar to the VCAP design exams that call on learned knowledge but also on real world experience / use cases.

The exam format is multiple questions with 80 questions, you get 3 hours to answer them which isnt a lot as each question takes a little while to fully grasp the design scenario.  Time management is critical, read the question more than once if your like me that tend to skim read half the question and jump to a conclusion.  Pro Tip: look for exactly what they are asking first then read the scenario.

In terms of time, I worked out a study schedule that worked for me over a two month period.  That may vary for you depending on experience and ability to learn new things.

Study material 

  • Whitepapers, whitepapers, WHITEPAPERS!! download and read all available whitepapers, the exam blueprint does link some of the important one but read all you can.  Pro Tip: where possible, read the use cases in the white papers and anti-patterns as these help you know when to pick a service for a particular scenario
  • Hands on! – theres no substitute for hands on, if you are hands on in your day job you will already have a good advantage.  The questions dont require any hands on configuration knowledge but it certainty helps and from hands on experience you will naturally know what services work together to match the scenario.
  • Linux Academy – they have a great CSA Pro course, albeit a few years out of date it still meets a lot of the blue print.  Its lacking some info around Cognito so make sure you use other material as well.  They have some great nested labs where you can lab out each section and save paying from your own account.
  • A Cloud Guru – a common platform for people to pass their associates, a very good resource.  I find ACG really hone in on the facts to pass the exam but lack a little on the practice, that may work well for a lot people but for me and for the Pro exam, I used this with the other material.
  • Partner Network – if you work for a AWS partner, they have some great partner training that is free, use it.  They also do a Pro readiness day that run through each section of the blueprint and show some old, retired, questions to get you in that mind set of thinking about the scenario.  There were a lot of AWS SA’s on the course as well.
  • I found useful for some of the scenarios on that site.
  • Practice with CloudFormation deploying out your own examples.
  • Official practice exam, its 40 USD but it gives a real world example of the exam available from AWS.

Depending on your experience, the exam can be tough but if you put the work in its doable.  I found the process rewarding and I would recommend it to anyone working in that field.

Whates next for me?  Im starting to look at GCP for comparison so watch this space but I will be looking to do the DevOps Pro exam as my next AWS cert in the new year.


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