How To Study For AWS Certifications

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One of the most frequently asked questions by our students is “How do I study for the an AWS exam?” and “Which exam should I take?” Here I hope to help create some clarity around the AWS exams and the best way to prepare for exams. In our next post I’ll talk about which exam you should take. After all do SysAdmins need to take the developer cert? (The answer to that is yes, but this is a teaser for our next post). At the Linux Academy we have crafted a pretty unique prep course for each one of these exams. We know that everyone learns differently and personally I’m a strong believer that to truly “learn” a concept not just “memorize questions to pass an exam” you need more than one learning method and you need to practice, hands on in a real environment.

Our courses and study material train you on the concepts–what we don’t provide is an exam dump of questions. Instead we teach you the concepts so you can easily pass job interviews, manage AWS environments, and of course pass the exam. One of the best parts of our Associate Level AWS courses is we assume no prior AWS experience and provide enough training material and explanation that we have had tremendous exam success rates for students who have taken our CSA course and passed the certification. In fact, I will say that all students who prepared for at least 2 weeks passed the CSA exam on their first try. AWS exams are tough; you can’t just watch videos and take the exam. You must practice, study the concepts, read the white papers, and go through the LinuxAcademy AWS practice exams. I know, you’re waiting for the magic formula to prepare for the exams, and below I’m going to give it to you. However, I’m going to explain the magic formula as it relates to the Linux Academy courses. You can take this formula and modify it for your own. However, we have made it so easy for beginners and even seasoned pros to come in, take the course, and pass the CSA exam, that almost ALL of those who pass do it in less than one month and using only the Linux Academy courses!

The AWS exam blueprint provided for the certifications will only tell you what services are covered, not what parts of each service is covered for an exam. You don’t want to waste time on developer parts of EC2 while taking the SysOps or CSA course do you? No, fortunately we’ve broken all of that out for you in our courses. In fact for the Certified Solutions Architect exam you need to focus on architecting applications. Specifically around elasticity, fault tolerance, and high-availability as it relates to running Apps on Amazon Web Services. The SysOps exam focuses a lot on, well of course, system operations. Troubleshooting, networking, backups, and performance. As a certified Sysops administrator it’s your job to be able to manage systems, maximize performance between your on-premise network and your AWS cloud. To be able to troubleshoot any issues as they relate to services managed in your cloud, know how to configure and manage your AWS applications for high availability and performance.  For any certification you should know how the services covered by the exam can interact with each other. For example, how can we use CloudWatch to monitor different services? How can CloudWatch be used to add elasticity to our environments?

Let’s get to the magic formula for passing the exam

  1. Study the proper material for the specific exam
  2. Practice “hands on” in a real AWS environment
  3. Read the white papers
  4. Know the essentials, such as security and storage
  5. Quiz your knowledge and discover your weaknesses
  6. Go back and study your weakest concepts, practice, and test again
  7. Spend more than a week studying for the exam

That seems like a lot of work!

It is, if you’re going it alone! Don’t worry, we have developed a custom learning platform to help you easily implement this magic formula without even realizing you’re doing it! Let me explain it a little bit more.

Study the proper material for the specific exam

As I mentioned above, you don’t want to study developer concepts for a Sysops exam. Or Sysops concepts for an Architect exam. The Associate level exams generally have the same services. But the scope and weight at which they touch each service is different for each exam. S3 is covered in all exams but different parts of it are covered in each exam. Our Linux Academy courses break apart and provide training on just the required material for each certification. You won’t spend time learning something that is not covered in the specific exam you’re preparing for.

Practice hands on in a real environment

This can be challenging if you do not have access to AWS. Fortunately AWS provides a lot of their services under the free tier. But what if they don’t? Well first off, I’d like to say that all of our training videos are essentially lab videos. We are working through the actual tasks on AWS while learning at the same time. If you follow along in your AWS environment and do everything we do you will be getting the required hands-on experience needed in order to pass the exams. But what if I don’t have access to AWS? NO PROBLEM! We recently launched our Live Lab!™ service. This allows you to use our AWS labs to follow the videos. We also provide scenario paced self-paced AWS labs. This means that while you’re taking the course in the course syllabus you might come across a Live Lab™ which will walk you through specific tasks in AWS, essentially, giving you the required hands-on experience to learn AWS. Does this cost extra? NO! It’s included as part of the monthly subscription at LinuxAcademy.com.

Study Guide

As part of the Linux Academy AWS courses we provide “required reading” in the syllabus. This links to all the suggested white papers for reading and provides a downloadable custom study guide for the certifications. Arguably our study guides are actually too detailed!

Quiz your knowledge

We all learn differently; some students want to learn by taking quizzes and studying what they got wrong. Other students want to learn by doing everything else first and then testing their knowledge. You’ll be happy to know that the Linux Academy courses provide over 200 practice exam questions. We are even in the process of a major quiz system upgrade that’s going to have A LOT of new features to help you study, just by taking quizzes! (Another teaser for an upcoming blog).

Seriously you need to study or you won’t pass

Like Gandalf says above “study or you shall not pass.” This is 100% true, if you want to pass the exam, be a valuable team member that knows AWS, or get a job you need to learn to actually use AWS. You won’t find just a list of exam questions you can memorize to just pass the exam. Here at the Linux Academy we truly want to train you to use AWS, not just be awesome at answering exam questions (which you will be after the training). These are tough exams and you can’t just spend three days studying. Out of all our students who reported taking the CSA 100% of them who spent at least two weeks preparing for the exam, and asking us Linux Academy instructors questions PASSED.

Help from instructors

I know you came here looking for a magic formula to pass the exam, and we gave it to you. But we also told you about how we’ve packaged that magic formula to make it easy to pass. Well let’s say you have questions? Want to make sure you’re ready to take the exam before you go? Need help with a concept? Or just want to chat? Well, that’s what the Linux Academy instructors are available for. We answer questions 7 days a week and do not have office hours (kinda crazy but we love helping our students and want to always be available!). Seriously, all that and access to ALL our training courses for as little as $29/month!

Ask students for their advice on taking the exam

Don’t take it from me, I can spend all day telling you how to pass the exam, talking about AWS (I just love AWS!) and even saying we have a great course to prepare you. But I can admit I’m a little biased! Inside the academy you can talk on our members-only forum and ask some of the students how they studied and prepared for the exams. Whenever someone passes we always celebrate it on the community and those users LOVE to share their experiences!

Conclusion

At the end of the day, preparing for an exam is tough. If you’re a seasoned AWS pro you already have a leg up. If you are a beginner to AWS I’d highly suggest trying out the Linux Academy courses. Even if you choose to study on your own, and we are ok with that, that formula of steps above is a magic formula for passing the exam. We believe in learning and practicing and believe me when I say you will be more richly rewarded for learning the concepts than just searching for exam answers. No matter what you do, we wish you luck on your certification studying and always feel free to tweet me a what’s up? at @stephenscloud or @linuxacademyCOM while you’re studying!

You can also view our LinuxAcademy.com student success stories by reviewing some of the posts in our community. Take a look at the results here.”

Stephen Smith

Stephen Smith is a Systems Infrastructure Security Engineer with over 16 years of architecting experience. He has been with Linux Academy since the beginning and teaches courses on Linux, AWS, Azure, and OpenStack. Stephen's passion is OpenStack and holds many certifications and is very active within the OpenStack Foundation's community.