How to pass the AWS Developer Associate certification exam
Some strategic tips to make your life easier
As AWS is becoming more important in my job, I wanted to update my knowledge on it a bit, in particular with regards to developing on AWS. My overall impression is that nothing beats hands-on project work, but what I like about AWS certifications is that they are almost exclusively scenario based. They really force you to reflect on how the different services interact well.
While I recently worked a lot with AWS lambda, SAM, S3, and ECR I have spent very little time on other services (such as RDS or AWS Gateway). They started to become blind spots in my AWS knowledge and so I looked for a way to fill these gaps. It seems to me that Amazon did a great job in crafting the certification exams: The developer associate really covers the entire ground for developing applications on AWS. Any blind spot you have now should be removed (at least to some degree) after passing the exam. There is plenty of training material online available, both from AWS and other providers. I like the Udemy course by Stephane Marek. It is cheap and covers all the material required for the exam. You can probably pass the exam by just following the class, though I would not recommend it ;). I didn’t pay much attention to the services I have worked with in the past. For other services, however, the lectures did help and the tutorials even more so. There are also practice exams available on Udemy. If you never took an AWS certification exam before it might not hurt to do those, to get a feeling for the exam and question style.
There are some other great guides on how medium on how to pass the certification, like the one by Javin Paul and the one by Bhargav Bachina. They explain in some detail what to expect in the exam and what learning material is available. Rather than repeating what is stated there already, I will close with some more strategic hints for the exam. Maybe they help you? Let me know 😏
Don’t study by heart
There were a few questions on the exam where you really had to remember a certain number. I don’t exactly recall what it was (something on RDS and IOPS, I think) and I probably got that question wrong. That’s okay. Given the rarity of such questions, I don’t think you would be well advised to remember every detail. Moreover, those could change quickly. As a rule of thumb, anything that you would google in real life is probably not worth studying by heart. Yes, this way you will miss a question or two, but that’s worth it.
Eliminate incorrect answers first
The more tricky questions seemed to be the ones that use a service that you are not super familiar with or use a service in a way that you are not super familiar with. I sometimes found it easier to eliminate options that certainly were incorrect. Watch out for keywords in the question. If a serverless solution is required this drastically limits the potential solutions. If a solution needs to scale automatically any manual intervention suggested in an answer points to an incorrect answer.
There are no trick questions
Well, that might not be quite true. But in the four exams that I took so far, I did not encounter any trick questions (or maybe they tricked me?). It seemed that most/all questions are rather straightforward. If you eliminate (even partially) incorrect answers and are left with more than one plausible choice focus on the one that fits best. The hint is usually provided in the last sentence. It could read “The company has a limited budget for this project”. So, pick the cheapest alternative.
Patterns in answers
I found that many questions and their multi-choice answers follow a certain pattern. Consider for example the following question:
Your team lead ask you to implement a serverless solution to host a REST API that authenticated users can use to submit data which is processed and stored in S3. Users should be able to use their existing social media accounts (facebook, gmail,…) to authenticate. The solution should be implemented with minimal operational cost.
A) Use API Gateway to provide a REST API. Use Amazon Cognito user pools for authentication and Amazon Cognito identity pools for authorization
B) Use EC2 to host a custom API gateway software that offers a REST API. Use Amazon Cognito user pools for authentication and Amazon Cognito identity pools for authorization
C) Use API Gateway to provide a REST API. Use Amazon Cognito identity pools for authentication and Amazon Cognito user pools for authorization
D) Use EC2 to host a custom API gateway software that offers a REST API. Use Amazon Cognito identity pools for authentication and Amazon Cognito user pools for authorization.
First, note that this is a lot of text to read. But the answers are actually quite similar and just some key phrases are exchanged. First, we can eliminate B) and D) since EC2 is not a serverless service. Next, we know that cognito user pools allow authentication via Social media identities while cognitio identity pools are used to provide authorization so A) must be correct.
Get another 30mins
If you are not an English native speaker, you can get an additional 30mins on your exam. See the steps here. Time has not been the problem for me, so I never did it, but if reading comprehension is the bottleneck for you this is a great tool.
Get a 50% discount
For any AWS certification that you achieve, you get a 50% discount on your next one. The associate certifications are priced at $150, while the cloud practitioner exam is only $100. If you pass the practitioner exam (which you easily should if you are preparing for an associate one), you can use the voucher to effectively pay $100+50%$150 = $175 for both exams. If you ever for a specialty exam (priced at $300) it is even more rewarding.
So there you have it. I hope this helps you pass the AWS Developer exam :-)