AWS Cloud Practitioner Exam: The Experience

Who has two thumbs and passed the AWS Cloud Practioner Exam?

This Guy!

It was a nerve-racking experience for quite a few reasons:

  1. It has been over a decade since I have taken any IT exams.
  2. I am an all-around anxious person, hence the binge-drinking.1
  3. I admittedly do not have a lot of hands-on experience with AWS.
  4. I am a busy dude. I have a podcast (shameless plug), this blog (DOY!), my reading (becuz I am like . . . smart and stuff), my drum lessons (my COVID hobby). Also, I have a full time jorb.

For the record, I did talk about my overall strategy for studying and passing IT exams. I used it to pass this one, so I guess I still got it?

In fact, I want to also thank my beautiful wife for giving me the time I needed to study, especially during the last 3 weeks while I locked myself into my office every evening and night as I honed out the last of my studies.

What You Should Expect and Not Expect

One thing I don’t think I mentioned in my post on studying and passing exams, is don’t try to outsmart the test: Assume you will be tested on everything. It’s 65 questions, 15 of which don’t count, some of which are weighted differently, and you have to get at least a 70%.

The way these exams work is that there is a pool of x number of questions (usually, like, a lot and stuff), which is to say that no single test taker will get the same set of questions.

This is, of course, purposeful.

I say this because I have heard people lament the fact that they spent hours studying an AWS Service and then they don’t get a question on it: “Man I spent hours on labs on ________________ and I didn’t get one single question on it!”

Well, just remember that you don’t know what questions you will get, so even though you studied something you didn’t get a question on, it was worth it because a different, “roll of the dice” from the pool of questions may have included multiple questions on that thing you spent so much time on . . . . and may have even meant the difference between passing and failing!

Additionally, if you are new to AWS, the test is broad in scope and deep in some areas, therefore if you are new, this is not something you can bang out in a weekend. There are some items you can focus in on that I will list later in this post, but, as an example, there are 64 different services listed on the Exam Guide. In fact, there were a few services thrown at me that I didn’t see anywhere in my studies. That may be purposeful too, because if you know enough about each service, you can usually use the process of elimination to figure it out.

Areas of Focus: Everything+

Here are a few tips and tricks, outside of what I mention in my aforementioned study strategies. These are all things I can tell you, because like all IT exams, it’s a no-no to disclose certain things, like, oh, I don’t know, word-for-word brain dumps of questions, and the like, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you’re a lazy douchebag you should probably leave now. I am just going to give you some things to concentrate on from the exam guide. And my disclaimer here is that everything in the exam guide is important, but there are some items that, if you know them, will grant you some easy wins on the exam, but a word of caution – this does not mean that just focusing on these you will pass: what I am saying is that you need to know these items like the back of your hand:

  1. Read and understand everything about, “The Benefits of AWS Cloud”.
  2. Read and understand everything about, “AWS Cloud Economics”.
  3. Read and understand the AWS Well-Architected Framework documentation.
  4. Know the AWS Shared Responsibility Model.
  5. Know the various Support Levels and what every Tier offers.
  6. Know the AWS Global Infrastructure.
  7. Core Services like EC2, S3, Networking (VPCs), and Database Services.
  8. Billing and Pricing.
  9. Different methods for estimating Cost.

Approved Study Materials

Here is what I used. Some of which I had access to from the benefits I have where I work, so some of what follows are not necessarily free, but are all AWS-approved resources for passing the exam. These are meant to be used with my aforementioned how to on passing exams:

  1. The AWS Cloud Practitioner Exam Guide from AWS.
  2. The AWS Cloud Practitioner Study Guide by Ben Piper and David Clinton. I actually read this twice, once at the beginning of my studies and once at the end as a review, cover-to-cover.
  3. AWS Cloud Practioner Essentials Course – A good intro, especially if you are new to AWS.
  4. ACloudGuru’s AWS Cloud Practioner Course – The advantage here is that it is more detailed and has labs.
  5. Qwiklabs – Qwiklabs offers hands-on experience with AWS, especially with things like DynamoDB and services that are “more advanced” to setup and use.
  6. AWS Free Tier – Sign up for your own AWS account, and use it for learning. Never setup an EC2 instance? You can do it for free and learn it straight from the source. Not to mention other things like Amazon Lambda, and so on. Nothing beats doing it for-realsies!
  7. Approved AWS Sample Exam Questions.

I hope this helps and happy test-taking!

Questions? Hit me up on twitter @RussianLitGuy or email me at bryansullins@thinkingoutcloud.org. I would love to hear from you.

1 FYI, possible future employers, any references to alcohol consumption of any kind is a running inside joke here at TOC.

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