AWS Step-by-Step

What You Need to Know About AWS Certification, Part 2

Once you have decided on a certification that you want to pursue, the first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with the basic exam format.

In Part 1 of series, I talked about the various AWS certification paths. In this article, I want to change my focus a bit and talk about some of the resources that can help you prepare for an AWS certification exam.

Once you have decided on a certification that you want to pursue, the first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with the basic exam format. Clicking on any one of the certification exams takes you to a screen containing an exam overview. In addition to covering the number of questions and the exam cost, the screen also provides some information about the general skills that are needed to take the exam. For example, you might need to be familiar with both the AWS Management Console and the AWS Command Line Interface. Likewise, the screen might tell you that you need to know how AWS networking works, or perhaps how the security services work.

This same screen also contains a link you can use to download an exam guide and some sample questions. The exam guide provides much more detailed information about what you can expect to see on the exam. This guide lists several different skill areas (which Amazon refers to as domains) along with a detailed bulleted list for each. In the case of the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam, for example, the first domain is Cloud Concepts. One of the items that is listed within that domain is that you must be able to define the benefits of the AWS cloud as they relate to things like security, reliability and high availability. You also need to be familiar with things like a right-sized infrastructure and the benefits of automation (among many other things).

The practice questions are a representative sampling of questions resembling those that might be found on the exam. Even though there probably aren't enough practice questions to help you thoroughly prepare for the exam, the questions are useful from the standpoint that they can help familiarize you with the exam format. You can also use the sample questions to get a feel for the exam's level of difficulty.

The lower portion of the page contains several other resources related to the exam. This might include practice questions or training materials, or perhaps other resources.

The important thing to know about the exam preparation process is that there are additional study materials that are available in other locations. When you log into the AWS console, for example, the Welcome to AWS window that is displayed on the Console Home screen contains a Training and Certification link. Clicking on this link takes you to the Training and Certification page where you will find information about both digital training and classroom training. If you scroll down, however, you will find a section titled Learn About AWS by Role or Solution. Clicking on any of the listed roles or solutions will take you to free, on-demand training resources.

At first glance, it would appear that Amazon is only giving you a light sampling of on-demand courses. If you look at Figure 1,  however, there are two things that are worth paying attention to. First, take a look at the length of the courses. Each of the three courses that is listed on the screen is an hour or more in length.

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The other thing that I wanted to point out in the screen capture above is the link that appears just beneath the courses that are listed. If you click on the Browse Free Digital Training link, you are taken to a library of free AWS courses. As of right now, there are a total of 3,431 courses in the library. However, these courses are in a variety of languages. If you use the filter to display only courses in English, the number of available courses right now is 563.

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You can find more educational resources on the AWS Skill Builder Website. At least some of the courses featured on the site are free (and may be duplicates of the courses shown in the figure above). Other courses require a Skill Builder subscription. Subscriptions currently cost $29 per month or $299 per year. Besides the free content that is available to anyone, a paid subscription will get you access to AWS Builder labs, official practice exams, exam prep courses and more. It is worth noting that AWS places limits on some of these resources. For instance, subscribers receive a total of three exam prep courses.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 21-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.