AWS Solutions Architect – Professional certification

Last week I took and passed the AWS Solutions Architect – Professional certification. As to be expected, this is a challenging exam that assumes detailed familiarity with the AWS cloud. However, it is also a very satisfying exam precisely because it goes in depth.

The difficulty is not conceptual, in that the questions reflect the knowledge a computer scientist ought to have; that is, given enough time each question can be answered with strong familiarity with the AWS cloud domains: compute, databases, storage and – especially – networking. The challenge of the exam is twofold: the questions are detail oriented; for example, that Router 53 requires a Type A record for a CloudFormation distribution, but a CNAME record for RDS. And, as there are 75 questions and 3 hours, each question can take at most 2 min and 15 sec. It takes me about 1.5 min to read the question and the answers carefully, and so 45 sec are left to make a decision where one answer is perhaps the outlier, but the other 3 answers are all correct, except that one of them is ideal give the phrasing of the question (e.g., optimize cost or performance efficiency). The point is that the exam tests in depth familiarity with a wide range of services.

How to study for this exam? I am interested, professionally, in the process of exam preparation. I looked briefly at an array of online courses related to this certification: Udemy, TutorialsDojo, O’Reilly, Cantrill and A Cloud Guru. I am impressed by the quality of the materials: videos, slides, tutorials, labs, practice exams. Unfortunately, I was able to set aside very little time to prepare for this exam, and watching long videos was not an option. I preferred to read white papers and AWS console documentation.

One of my favorite books in Computer Science is an old classic: An Introduction to Programming in Emacs Lisp, by Robert J. Chassell. This is such an enjoyable text; yet, the author admits that one of the reviewers of that book wrote the following:

I prefer to learn from reference manuals. I “dive into” each paragraph, and “come up for air” between paragraphs.

I find myself in the same place now, where I have to regularly absorb vast amounts of information, and I prefer succinct presentations without pedagogical aids; just the essential material to be ingested quickly without distractions. That is how I prepared for this exam, using the AWS white papers and other technical documentation.

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