Amazon introduced the AWS Cloud Practitioner certification to provide an entry, high-level certification in the AWS certification track. Specifically, the AWS Cloud Practitioner certification was released with the expectation that the entire AWS sales staff could pass it and would all benefit from a common foundation of knowledge. In addition to sales staff the AWS Cloud Practitioner certification is also targeted at middle to upper management. This will allow them to know the basic services and support that AWS offers so they can help guide their organizations towards the best choices for them.
Although this isn’t pointed directly at “in the trenches techies” I found that it was a great place to start my AWS training. I was tasked with earning my AWS Solutions Architect – Associate certification and stumbled across the Cloud Practitioner certification while exploring study resources for my SA – Associate. My theory was that the Cloud Practitioner training and studying would lay the foundation for my SA – Associate. And, although there would be overlap between the two certifications I felt that repeating some content would help drive it home and make up for the lack of real-world hands on experience. So my next step was putting together a learning and studying plan.
Learning & Studying
I reached out to several colleagues and asked them where I should begin. Surprisingly, they all instantly said A Cloud Guru. A Cloud Guru is an online training service that specializes in anything related to cloud, including AWS, Azure and Google Cloud. Amazingly, the entire A Cloud Guru platform is built on AWS and is completely serverless. It was nice to see someone practice what they preach!
So, I signed up for an “all you can eat” membership at a whopping $29/month (by far the cheapest IT training I’ve ever encountered). Since I like to be extra careful I decided it was worth the time to warm up with the Intro to AWS course. This is entirely optional, but I found that it was relatively worthwhile if you’re new to cloud computing.
After completing that course I moved directly into their Cloud Practitioner course which is roughly 5 hours long. This course involved a fair amount of lecture in the beginning but then we got into some labs. It also seemed like it was fairly up to date and accurate. Before I knew it I was hosting a load balanced, highly available WordPress site on AWS. Between this and the overview of the plethora of services that AWS offers I started to get really excited about the possibilities! So, I poked my way through various services and tried to find a real or fake use for each of them so I could expose myself to them. This isn’t really necessary but it helped keep me interested and re-enforced what I had learned. The next step was how to prepare for the exam.
Exam Prep Tips
- Make sure you actively participate and complete all of the A Cloud Guru labs in the two courses. Don’t just watch Ryan complete them.
- Think of real world applications where you could practice the labs further. For example, I moved a personal website to S3 and re-architected another site to run on AWS behind a load balancer.
- Take notes throughout the courses. I found it helpful to break them down by topic (i.e. EC2, Storage, Databases etc.)
- Read the Certification Blueprint & complete the (free) sample exam questions from Amazon – https://aws.amazon.com/certification/certified-cloud-practitioner/
- Read the Architecting for the Cloud whitepaper from Amazon.
- Study the default and custom backup options for RDS and DynamoDB. A Cloud Guru doesn’t touch on those subjects but there were numerous exam questions pertaining to them.
- Purchase and practice the Udemy practice exams. These questions were much more difficult and more accurately reflected real-world exam questions.
- The AWS practice exams aren’t recommended as they don’t contain many questions and you aren’t told which questions you answered incorrectly.
- Somewhere around 55 multiple-choice questions
- 90 minutes to complete the exam
- Ability to flag questions and return to them later in the exam
- No notes or access to electronics
All of the questions I faced were very high level and mostly fair. Very few, if any went into deep technical detail. A lot of them were scenario-based questions on the following topics:
- Choosing the most appropriate solution or service.
- AWS support options and the differences between them.
- Consolidated billing.
- Regions vs. availability zones.
- Moving data into and out of the cloud (Glacier, S3 etc.)
- What a specific AWS service is used for.
- The different types of instances (on-demand, spot, reserved, dedicated) and the pricing models.
- The differences, availability and durability of S3 storage (S3, S3-IA, RRS & Glacier).
- The different types of databases (RDS, Aurora, DynamoDB etc.)
- What Trusted Advisor is and when to use it.
- The shared responsibility model.
You will find out if you’ve passed or failed immediately. However, it will take up to three business days for you to receive you score and breakdown.
If you’re a SysAdmin looking to dip your toes into AWS, or you would just like to add some Certs to your resume, this is a good place to start. If you have any questions, or would like some advice, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.