Skip to main content

6 tips for passing AWS Certifications: the day of

Posted on May 17, 2019 by Christophe LimpalairChristophe Limpalair

You’re getting close to the day of your AWS Certification exam, and you’re starting to wonder what the exam is like…

  • Will I have enough time to answer all of the questions?
  • What happens when I get to the testing center?
  • What can I do to maximize my odds of passing while I’m taking the exam?
  • …and probably a dozen other questions

Let’s answer these questions with 6 tips for passing AWS Certifications, and let’s do it as if it were the day of the exam.

The day of the exam

Tip #1: Remember that this is only an exam and it’s OK if you don’t pass.

Everyone fails exams at one point or another, and there’s no shame in that. You can always go back and take it again if you fail it the first time, and then you’ll be able to focus on the areas you were weak in.

Tip #2: Give yourself plenty of time to arrive at the testing center.

Being late adds unnecessary stress, and stress is your enemy when it comes to passing exams.

If you are going to the exam first thing in the morning, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to go through your morning routine, and leave so that you arrive at least 15 minutes early.

If you’re going straight from work, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to relax and get there on time. Leave any problems from work behind as you walk out of the building and put your exam face on.

I personally recommend taking the exam in the morning for a number of reasons:

  1. My mind is fresh in the morning
  2. Lunch makes me drowsy
  3. There are too many distractions during the day, which fill my head with confusing thoughts and reduce my ability to focus

It’s usually easier to focus in the morning since you haven’t had all kinds of distractions yet, you just woke up from a (hopefully) good night’s sleep, and you haven’t eaten food that makes you feel like you need a nap.

To each their own, though, so pick the time you think is best.

Whatever you end up doing, make sure you arrive at least 15 minutes early. Before you can go in the testing room, you’ll need to sign some paperwork and empty your pockets. They want to make absolutely sure that you don’t have any cheat sheets or electronics of any kind.

While you take the exam:

Tip #3: Use the sheets of paper they provide to do this…

Before you walk into the testing room, they will provide you with a few sheets of paper. Use them to write facts, ideas, or thoughts down.

Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, write it down. Don’t use your mental capacity to remember things, instead, write it down so you can free your mind to focus on the question and answers.

Tip #4: Don’t spend too much time on questions you can’t answer quickly.

If you get stuck on a question, don’t spend more than a minute or two trying to answer it. Instead, mark it for later review, and go back to it once you’ve blown through all of the low hanging fruit. This helps for a few reasons:

  • It ensures you have plenty of time to knock out all of the questions you’re sure about
  • It doesn’t bog down your mind with confusion and a lot of unnecessary information
  • Answering other questions might give you the answer to another question
  • Read the question and the answers very carefully

Knowing that you didn’t maximize how many correct answers you could’ve gotten because you ran out of time trying to answer the difficult ones is extremely frustrating and, in this case, unnecessary.

By “marking questions for review,” you can get an overview of the questions you haven’t answered (or want to go back and check) before you hit submit. Use that to your advantage. If you can’t solve a question after reading it carefully, or if you get to a question and you have no idea what it’s asking, mark it for review and move forward. This will help maximize your time.

Tip #5: Pay close attention to what the question is asking and look for traps.

There could be a one or two-word difference in the question or answer which completely change the answer. That’s right, the answers themselves can actually help you figure out what the question is asking sometimes. Let me explain:

In some cases, you might read a question and come up with the best answer in your head before you even read the list of answers. However, as you start reading the answers, you realize that none of the options provide that “best” answer you came up with in your head. So what do you do?

First, re-read the question to make sure you didn’t miss an important detail because reading the answers can make you interpret the question in a slightly different way which fits the answers better. If you haven’t missed a detail, it’s time to start thinking about the answer which best answers the question – even if you know for a fact that it doesn’t follow best practices.

Wait, what?!? Shouldn’t it follow best practices? Yes, it should, but sometimes and available answers don’t include the “textbook” best practice. Instead, they throw in traps to make sure you truly understand the inner workings of AWS, and that you’ve read the restrictions the question is operating under.

Let me illustrate with a different example. Let’s say that you’re reading a question which has to do with data storage and deliverability. Naturally, you might first think of durability and availability. However, hidden in the paragraph of text, the question states that you should focus more on performance and cost-effectiveness than durability and availability. In the answers, though, there are options that seem to fit both durability & availability, and performance, but not cost-effectiveness; whereas another option offers both performance and cost-effectiveness but not durability and availability. In this example, it would be wrong if you went with the first option because you’re not satisfying the requirements.

Again – read very carefully. If you don’t read carefully, you will likely miss easy questions…and that’s just silly.

Tip #6: Stay focused.

It’s very easy to lose concentration (especially with professional or specialty level exams which are 3 hours long), but this will eat up a lot of your time and it will take you out of the zone you need to be in. If you find your mind wondering, rein it back in. Don’t waste time thinking about what you’re going to eat for dinner that day. You can figure that out once you exit the building.

Edit: One of our students who passed all 5 non-specialty certifications had a couple of tips to share in order to help you stay focused.

Having already spent a considerable amount of time in front of the screen for the preparation, I found myself literally losing my sight when I sat in front of the examination center monitor. I used some breathing and stretching techniques to get back into session.

Here are some breathing and stretching techniques you can try.

You got this!

Don’t forget, this is an exam you can take multiple times. Don’t worry if you fail it the first time – you will know what to focus on the next time you take it.

Good luck, and have fun!


Image of Frederique
7 months ago

Very good tips. Three addittions:
– I always go to the toilet before sitting an exam (you don’t want stress about this during the exam). For long during exams, don’t drink too much coffee before the exam.
– Choose your exam center: when you had bad experiences with one testing center (very small room, or very noisy one), then choose another one next time.
– Many AWS exams handle partly the same topics. It is wise to do them directly after eachother, instead of leaving much time between two exams.

Good luck!


Image of LauraArguijo
6 months ago

Awesome tips Frederique! Thank you for sharing, I think other students will appreciate it! 🙂

Image of Virtusian
7 months ago

Need to start with AWS solutions architect – assoc certification preparation, which is the basic milestone in AWS. No prior experience in this area. Pls advise how to plan and start the study, given very busy office schedule.

Image of LauraArguijo
6 months ago

Hello, thank you for reaching out. You are correct, it is a basic milestone. The AWS CSA is often the starting point for many individuals (and organizations looking to have certified experts on staff). I suggest that you take sometime to read this blog on how to choose AWS Certification For You. I also recommend that the first thing to do is to join our Slack Community for support on any training. Additionally I will provide the link to our blog here for our main tips on how to pass AWS certifications.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *