10 Tips to Prepare for an AWS certification (#awsexamprep)
Are you wondering how to prepare for an AWS certification to upskill your knowledge and advance your career?
Published Jan 16, 2024
Are you wondering how to prepare for an AWS certification to upskill your knowledge and advance your career? Well, today is a great time to start your exam preparation, earn an AWS Certification, and get real-world hands-on experience too.
When I started my AWS journey in 2018, I was a newbie who did not even understand the fundamentals. I remember sitting in my car in October 2018 after I had passed the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam, and thinking I can now do anything. But I quickly found out that’s not true. When I started the AWS Certified Developer - Associate training course, I quickly realized how much I still don’t know and need to learn. Actually, each time I start new training, I again realize how much I still do not know. I have earned 11 AWS Certifications and was able to change careers from an administrative assistant to a Senior Exam Prep Curriculum Developer on the AWS Exam Prep team.
I am a huge fan of AWS Certifications because they helped me change my life. And the truth is that you can also change your life, meet your goals, progress or change your career, and more. All you need is the right preparation strategy, consistent learning before and after your exam, and remember #neverstoplearning.
Let’s talk about my favorite tips to help you get certified and crush those goals!
Tip #1: #neverstoplearning and hungry eyes. AWS is constantly adding new services, features, and tools. And to learn all the things, you have to read, study, and learn daily to stay current.
For the second part of Tip #1, you may be asking, Julie, what are hungry eyes? Well, it is the desire and actions to change your life, meet a goal, change your career, and so on. When I started my AWS journey, I was determined to change my life and career to ensure I could give my daughters the ability to live their best lives and ensure I could pay for their college. They were my inspiration to become consistent in training to meet my goals. Hungry eyes is the determination and commitment to accomplish a goal.
Tip #2: Training is personal. Everyone has a different background, experience, and learning style, so you need to find the training that works for you. If you’re not sure where to start your certification journey, you can use the AWS Certification Pathways guide to plan your AWS Certification journey to meet your career goals.
AWS does not require that you take any specific prep ahead of a certification exam, but to help you prepare, AWS Certification has a dedicated exam prep page in AWS Skill Builder that organizes available AWS Exam Prep resources into a 4-step path. AWS Skill Builder is our online learning platform that has digital training courses, self-paced labs, game-based learning, and more. And each Exam Prep page has both free and subscription training products created by the AWS Exam Prep team.
Tip #3: Review the exam guide. Before studying for any certification, I recommend reviewing the exam guide for the certification you are preparing for. Each AWS certification exam has its own dedicated page where you can learn more about the certifications and AWS resources that can help you prepare with a link to the exam guide. The exam guide provides details about each exam domain and the task statements list “knowledge of” and “skills needed” for the content covered in the exam.
Tip # 4: Choose your training wisely. Remember (Tip #2) training is personal? The training you choose must work for your learning style but also your background and experience. Also, you need to trust that the content is accurate, has the needed depth for the content covered in the certification exam, and is up to date. It is almost impossible to create updated AWS training because of how frequently we update our products and service. But from my experience, the content creators that are active in the community daily have the most updated and accurate content. So, another part of choosing your training carefully is to support those creating content in the AWS community and those who are participating in our community daily.
Another part of Tip #4 is the level of training you need for your experience and background. If you are a newbie, you probably need an AWS training course that covers AWS fundamentals such as “what is cloud computing” and “what is AWS”, along with fundamentals for networking, security, databases, encryption, and more, #fundamentalsmatter. For a mid-level engineer, a course covering the fundamentals might be a great refresher or might cover fundamentals under a domain that you need to understand for the exam and for the real world. And for a senior-level engineer, you might have the needed background and experience and just want a course to help you pass the certification.
Also ensure you read AWS documentation. AWS provides free documentation such as AWS Documentation, AWS FAQs, and AWS Whitepapers that are amazing to help you prepare and get more depth in areas identified as skill gaps.
After you choose your training course, ensure you understand the content covered as you complete the course. And remember to take the time to understand the needed fundamentals for the certification. Even if your end goal is to get certified, it's understanding the fundamentals and the content that will be most useful during your exam, but also during your interviews, and on the job daily.
Tip #5: Network and be active in the AWS community. As you interact with others in the community, you will dive deeper into your own learning. You will learn from others who have achieved the goals you are working toward and help others who are on a similar path achieve their goals. When you follow the AWS community, you will see others achieving certifications, getting new jobs, and changing careers, which is inspiring and will help motivate you with your own goals (which ties back to Tip #1 to have hungry eyes).
Tip #6: Add your training to your calendar. Schedule your training and create a plan. When my daughters were younger, I always used to take my training in the mornings with my coffee. Find a time that works for your schedule and your family. Here is a bonus Tip for Tip #6. Do your best to not skip your scheduled training. Each day or when you have your training scheduled, sit down and give yourself at least 10 minutes to study. If after 10 minutes you still do not feel like studying, walk away. There were many days, even with my training scheduled on my calendar, that I did not feel like training. However, most days I completed 10 minutes or more. And here is a bonus Tip for our bonus Tip, add your training to your laptop, phone, tablet, and so on. That makes it easy to access, which makes it more likely that you will pull up the training and complete your 10 minutes.
Tip #7: Complete your chosen AWS training course at least two times. For each exam preparation I have completed, when I start my training course for the second time, I always find things I missed during the first time through the course. And remember, you can adjust the video playback speed of digital training videos when you complete the training course for the second time. You can play faster on the content you are confident in and slower on the content where you have identified skill gaps.
Tip #8: Add a project. For hands-on experience, I recommend building projects in your own AWS account as you complete your training course. For example, for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate exam, you might build a highly available web application along with the course instructor. When I am preparing for an AWS exam, I have always included a project in my exam preparation. During my prep for the AWS Certified Machine Learning - Specialty exam, I built a recommendation engine for the A Cloud Guru platform with Kesha Williams. To gain hands-on experience, you can also use AWS Builder Labs, AWS CloudQuest, and AWS Jams. Hands-on experience is a great way to dive deeper and reduce any skill gaps. #usewhatyoulearn
Tip #9: Identify skill gaps and assess your readiness. After you complete your AWS training course, your projects, and feel confident in the knowledge you’ve gained, you can assess your readiness and identify skill gaps with the exam prep courses on AWS Skill Builder, AWS Builder Labs, and the official AWS practice exams. Practice exam questions help to further identify skill gaps and determine your readiness to take the exam.
Your goal here should be to understand why the incorrect answers to practice exam questions are not the best choice answers, and why the best choice answer was the best choice for the scenario, use cases, or requirements in the question. Here is another bonus Tip for Tip #9, ensure you understand what the question is asking. Do not add in information from your experience. Instead, take the question as it is presented, and then choose the best choice answer from the available answer options.
And here is another bonus Tip for Tip #9,**** choose your practice exams wisely. Not all practice exams have the correct answers marked as the correct answer. And when you are new or learning a new domain, you don’t know what you don’t know. So, you need to ensure that the training you choose is technically correct and updated too.
Tip #10: Be kind to yourself. There will be days you do not train, and that is okay. We all have other things that are important and sometimes take priority. But we can add in a habit of believing in ourselves. Understand you are going to deal with imposter syndrome and understand that the more you learn, the more you just do not know. This is called the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
If you need help, guidance, or have questions, please reach out. I am available and active in the AWS community daily. If you are on LinkedIn, I am @julielkins - Senior Exam Prep Curriculum Developer and on twitter I am @JulieAElkins.