Yesterday I took the new 2019 version of the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Professional exam – roughly 2 weeks after it was launched in February.
….click on the "Read More" link to see my journey
My initial incentive to do the exam was in November 2018, when I realised my Associate certification was going to expire in May 2019 – I decided to have a go at upgrading this to Professional.
I had already joined A Cloud Guru, and when Scott Pletcher’s 2019 Beta course came out, I decided to take it. After completing this excellent course, I then took the new A Cloud Guru practice exam for AWS CSA Pro which is also very good. It consists of 85 questions in 220 minutes, based on the Beta version of the new exam.
On the first attempt, I scored 59%, after reviewing all the answers and explanations, I repeated the test, and this time achieved 87% - though some of that was memorizing!
I also went through the A Cloud Guru AWS Certification Prep Guide which I can highly recommend - even though I ignored some very good advice during the exam!
I created a few “labs” to get hands-on experience of some AWS services I was less familiar with, including AWS Organizations, Service Control Policies, Service Catalog, Systems Manager, Directory Services and Amazon Workspaces.
The new AWS CSA Pro practice exam
I then paid $40 to do the new AWS practice exam for the 2019 AWS CSA Pro (and later realised I could have redeemed a voucher for it from my certification account …)
This was 20 questions in 60 minutes which is a generous 3 minutes per question. I felt I did well, and then received the emailed result saying that I got 30%! Yes, 30%, little better than picking answers at random!
At that point I (fleetingly) thought about giving up, but then decided to continue, as I found it hard to believe the emailed result was correct.
Fortunately, following advice from the A Cloud Guru AWS Certification Prep Guide, I had taken screenshots of every question and answer in the practice exam, and I used that for a detailed analysis of every question, not only looking at the “correct” answer but also why the other answers were wrong. The result – 80%.
Shortly after this I noticed in my Certification Account, that although the practice exam doesn’t include a breakdown to download, under “recent activity” it said “Passed” – which is consistent with my 80% assessment.
I actually found this process very useful from a learning perspective – nevertheless I’ve raised it as a support call with AWS Certification so that they can check out the apparent discrepancy.
Scott’s course – a second time … and going through the end of section quizzes until I got 90% +. I also took the A Cloud Guru AWS CSA Associate level practice exam.
AWS changes to the certification process
Some great news from AWS – recertifications are now only needed every 3 years instead of 2. This meant that my original motivation for doing the exam was no longer valid, as my Associate certification would be valid for another year.
But by now I had firmly decided to do it anyway.
Then I received a $150 discount offer from AWS Certifications if I took the new exam before the end of February – which prompted me to stop hesitating and actually book a date.
The new AWS CSA Pro Exam
The exam. I started well, but I made the rookie mistake of not checking how many questions there were, and I had assumed it would be 60 questions in 180 minutes in line with the timing per question of the practice exam.
When I got to question 50, I realized there were 75 questions in 180 minutes, and I only had approximately 30 minutes to do the last 25 questions! I somehow finished the last question with 30 seconds to go, and no time to review any of my answers.
Needless to say, this is completely contrary to the very good advice in the A Cloud Guru AWS Certification Prep Guide, to break down the time and set targets for achieving 20, 40, 60 questions etc!
All the questions were scenario based, most had 4 choices of which 1 was correct. Some questions had 5 choices and you have to pick 2 or 3. In most cases where you’re asked to pick 2 answers, they both make up part of the overall solution.
As you’d expect from an Architect exam, the questions are on architecture rather than detailed implementation, however you do need to know what the various AWS service offerings are, how they can be combined together, their strengths and limitations.
This is a list of most of the topics which came up:
Looking at the list above, it seems like virtually every AWS service was included somewhere – apart from a few new ones like Robomaker and Ground Station.
The result – I wasn’t at all sure after my poor time management, rushed questions at the end and no time for review. However, I was very happy when I pressed the End Exam button and received the “passed” message, and even more pleased today when I received the result of 84% compared with a 75% pass rate.
Many thanks to A Cloud Guru for their great courses, and especially Scott for his excellent new AWS CSA Pro course and practice exam.
Paul Schwarzenberger is a Cloud Security Architect and DevSecOps specialist