I am working on a project for work that requires cloud infrastructure. Having only dabbled in cloud tech in the past (things like postgres in AWS relational database service), I needed to start training to get up to speed quickly. To verify that the training is working I am also taking the exams to get certified. First on the list is the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner. This was not necessary, as you can move straight to the associate level certifications, but I started with the free course for the cloud practitioner to learn enough to know if AWS was the cloud platform we would want to use for our project. Deciding that AWS has the most mature community and support docs, as well as being ubiquitous in the geospatial community, we decided that I would move forward with AWS as our main cloud provider. The following is how I became an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner.
Free AWS Training
I started with the AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials (Second Edition) course on aws.training because it was a free introduction to what AWS offers. It was useful in deciding to use AWS for the project but alone is not in-depth enough to pass the exam.
AWS Technical Essentials
Thinking that I was going to go the route Certified Developer I signed up for the in-person AWS Technical Essentials course. I thought the best way to get there was to follow the learning path on the official AWS training website (see below); but after the technical essentials course I realized that the class was mostly just an instructor reading off a slide deck and the labs were easy enough that even the slowest person will still finish in the alloted time.
During the course, I also realized that the developer route may not really be want I need to succeed in our project, at least not at first. More important would be to pursue the Solutions Architect certification which provides a broad comprehension of the AWS ecosystem. So after taking the technical essentials course, instead of moving forward with the Developing on AWS course I decided to look into the Solutions Architect path. Although, now that I know how the official courses are run, I am skeptical of paying $2,100 for the 3-day Architecting on AWS course; meaning I suspect that the course is not enough to pass the exam.
Not wanting to pay $2,100 for a class that would not live up to it’s price tag, I decided to look into self-paced learning. A Cloud Guru came up a lot in older posts, but in mid 2019 when this was written, the opinion of many is that it is not staying up to date. Alternatively, Linux Academy has a near cult following on r/AWScertifications and is seen as a silent powerhouse of up-to-date AWS training materials. LA also provides live labs integrated into their courses so that you can practice the concepts you are leaning about in a real AWS console, just like the QwikLabs that you use in the official in-person courses. I say a silent powerhouse because they seem to spend very little on advertising. Perhaps that is why they have more up-to-date content, spending money on course development rather than ads. Either way, I decided to go with Linux Academy, and so far I have been very happy with it.
Before starting to study for the Solutions Architect exam I decided that I should first take the Cloud Practitioners exam to verify my knowledge thus far. Now armed with a LA account, I signed up for the exam two days out. The first thing I did to study for the Cloud Practitioner exam was to take all the labs and quizzes in the LA AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner course. I used the quizzes to inform what lessons I should view to fill in any knowledge gaps after the official online Cloud Practitioner Essentials training and in-person Technical Essentials course. It turns out there was quite a bit of missing pieces.
After finishing the course on LA I had one final ace up my sleeve: practice exams. Knowing that people highly recommend Jon Bonso’s practice exams for the Solutions Architect and DevOps certifications, I looked for Cloud Practitioner exam. Unfortunately, Jon Bonso has not made a practice exam for the Cloud Practitioner certification, but I found the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Practice Exams 2019 from Digital Cloud Training to be well rated, so I gave them a shot.
Many reviews state that the practice exams are significantly harder than the actual exam, but in my experience it was only sightly harder. For reference, the LA final quiz was much easier and likely would not have prepared me sufficiently for the exam. By taking the practice exams in training mode you can see the correct answer after each question. This helps reinforce the correct answer immediately, as well as a brief explanation. I was able to answer several questions on the actual exam solely because I saw something similar on the practice exam that never showed up in any of my earlier training, granted I did not watch all of the lessons provided in the LA course because I thought they would be redundant given the official courses I took.
I ended up passing the exam, woot! I did not score are high as I would like with an 887/1000 and 700 being a passing score, but that may be a testament to the fact that I did not take the whole LA course nor did I have much AWS experience before studying for this exam. I also did not study very hard for this exam thinking it would be much easier given the feedback from others. What this experience has taught me is that I should be much more thorough in studying for the next exam and perhaps I should wait until I have 6-12 months of real-world experience before taking the next exam.
When I take the next exams I will try to write up a “How I Passed the AWS _______ Exam”. Those will be linked below when they are up. Until then, if you have any questions on my experience with the AWS Cloud Practitioner exam, find me on my socials at the bottom.