Recertified My AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional Certification Until December 2024

Passed AWS Certified DevOps Engineer - Professional Exam

Two weeks ago, I recertified my AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional certification for three more years by passing the exam with an 847/1000 score. It is one of the most valued certifications in IT and definitely the broadest and challenging exam on AWS. You need to have sufficient hands-on experience, a good understanding of how AWS services work, and knowledge of AWS best practices to do well on this exam.

Now, let me share my experiences with you if you also plan to take the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional exam soon.

The exam structure

As in my previous post about my AWS Certified DevOps Engineer - Professional recertification, let me give you brief information about the exam structure. If you have not taken a professional-level exam before, it may help you understand the exam structure.

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional exam is 75 questions with 180 minutes duration. If English is not your native language like me, you can request an extra 30 minutes. Especially for this exam, this extra time is really helpful to understand the questions well. There are only slight differences between choices, so you may need to read the questions multiple times.

There were multi-choice questions where you picked one answer from four choices. Besides, some questions were multiple-response, requiring you to select two or three answers together out of five or six options. But those multiple answers were not alternatives to each other to achieve something on AWS. They were needed to be made together to achieve the expected outcome in the question.

You can flag a question and come back later to review it. As you are not panelized for your wrong answers, it makes sense to answer them even if you are unsure. Besides, you do not have to be sure of the correct answer 100%. Sometimes, other answers have nonsense things, just to confuse you. For example, it may talk about a service to do something, but that service may not offer that feature in any way, not even close. If you know AWS services generally well enough, eliminating those ridiculous options may lead you to the correct answer. However, this again requires sufficient experience on AWS.

How did I prepare?

First of all, I do not believe in memorizing things to pass an exam. For me, the most straightforward and less stressful way is knowing the topics well. So I cannot provide you any shortcut for this.

I regard my certification preparation periods as a chance to reinforce my knowledge. I revisit the AWS whitepapers, especially the ones related to the Well-Architected Framework. I read new technical papers and view the previous re:Invent videos that I missed. Besides, I research the new services hands-on and often update my AWS environments by applying them directly.

So these are some of the things I did to pass the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional exam:

  • I watched the free, 4-hour training of AWS Training & Certification. I did not join any third-party courses.

  • I read lots of AWS whitepapers:
  • When there is a service that I thought it would be better to get deep dive into, I watched Re:Invent 2019 videos on Youtube and made hands-on examples by applying directly. For example, I created a new organization for my AWS accounts to apply the features. For the videos, I especially found AWS KMS related videos very helpful for understanding how KMS works. The whitepapers above also include some Youtube links in their references sections.

  • I solved some practice exams but did not find them to match the exam difficulty. The exam was much harder than the questions there. So I will not recommend any practice exams on the market at this time, unfortunately. But you can still use them as guidance.

  • I did not take the official AWS practice exams, too. Those exams only have ten questions, and they hardly provide any guidance. But if it is your first exam, they may help you get used to the exam style.

  • Of course, all my previous works on AWS helped me as a general preparation. I already had a deep understanding of DevOps services on AWS. Before the exam, I already had active AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional and AWS Certified DevOps Engineer - Professional certifications for three years. So my cumulative AWS experience also helped me significantly.

Of course, you can watch online courses and solve practice exams to prepare. They will still guide you. All work you do to prepare for the exam will help you in some way. But your primary method should be learning AWS Well-Architected Framework well. I think the exam relies on it. It also makes sense because the exam verifies that you are a competent AWS solutions architect and know the AWS best practices.

What about the exam content?

I passed my first AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional exam almost three years ago, in 2018. You can find my experiences at that time in my Happy to Pass AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional and Hold All 5 Core AWS Certifications blog post. Although there was some mapping content, the new version’s content was very different than the previous one.

There were standard reliability and scalability questions with EC2 Auto Scaling, RDS, Load Balancing, Route 53. But RTO and RPO focus was not as much as in the AWS Certified DevOps Engineer - Professional exam. However, there were a few questions about them, too. But the key focus was on multi-account and hybrid architectures.

You need to know AWS Organizations well

If you have seen the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional exam blueprint, you already know that organizational complexity is one of the areas included. I can verify that this was also the case during the exam. There were many questions about establishing a multi-account structure using AWS Organizations. Some questions were also related to its cost management features.

Interestingly, I have also seen descriptions with multi-account architectures in some scenarios, but actually, the main focus was not about organizations. For instance, it was about architecting backups, but a multi-account scenario was added to the description just to confuse you. If you have taken an AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional exam before, you would understand what I am saying better. In most questions, there are lots of wording not related to the question directly. They only set the scene for the real question.

So, please be sure to create a multi-account architecture using AWS organizations before taking the exam. I solved questions about service control policies (SCPs), too. You should know that SCPs do not provide access. They only enable or disable services on the member accounts or organizational units.

Hybrid networking and storage solutions are also important

If you will take the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional exam, you need to know hybrid networking services well, even if you do not have a chance to use it. For example, Direct Connect is the service that establishes a dedicated connection between AWS and your on-premises network. It is costly and difficult to build for most of us as it require to create a physical connection through a network provider. So I do not have a chance to try it. However, to pass the exam, you need to understand how it works. Also, using Direct Connect Gateways to reach multiple AWS regions with a single Direct Connect connection was among the questions. You may also be asked about backup solutions for Direct Connect.

Transit Gateways, establishing a shared VPC between multiple accounts, Gateway Load Balancer and Network Load Balancer services were all among the topics.

You should know how AWS Key Management Service and S3 encryption works before the exam. There were many questions involving encryption. Of course, using temporary credentials, AWS Single Sign-on, identity federation were all among the topics. I remember some questions with Active Directory solutions, which may be considered among hybrid architectures, too.

You should also understand in what way Amazon GuardDuty, Amazon Inspector, AWS Shield and AWS WAF services may help you to increase your security posture. Besides, the hybrid network services and organizations discussed above have security focused topics as well.

Some overlapping content with AWS Certified DevOps Engineer - Professional

As AWS Certified Solitons Architect - Professional certification verifies your knowledge in the most comprehensive way on AWS, it would be wrong not to expect some overlapping content with the AWS Certified DevOps Engineer - Professional exam. You should still know to automate your deployments with AWS Developer Tools ( AWS CodePipeline, AWS CodeCommit, AWS CodeBuild, AWS CodeDeploy ) and infrastructure provisioning with AWS CloudFormation. There were also a few questions with AWS Systems Manager, Amazon CloudWatch, EventBridge and Service Catalog.

In both exams, you have to know how to architect reliable and highly-available architectures using Amazon EC2 Auto Scaling, Elastic Load Balancing, Amazon RDS and DynamoDB. Aurora’s global database and multi-master architectures, global DynamoDB tables are also included. For analytics solutions, both exams contain questions involving Amazon Kinesis, AWS Glue, Amazon Athena and QuickSight. Of course, AWS Lambda and AWS API Gateway are also important topics.

My online proctoring experience with Pearson Vue

As my previous one, I took my AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional exam with online proctoring from Pearson Vue. This time, I did not have any connection issues. The only problem was the small font on my large external monitor. They should align their Mac application for larger screens.

By the way, you can take the exam with your external monitor but it has to be your only monitor. Your laptop’s lid should be closed. You cannot take the exam with multiple monitors opened at the same time. The proctor may not know this requirement well, but it is written on the exam guides. Please kindly explain this to him or her.

Conclusion

The last months of 2021 was my recertification period for the Professional-level AWS certifications. I am happy to pass both exams with confident scores. I got 847 for AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional and 943 for AWS Certified DevOps Engineer - Professional. But even if you pass them slightly with 750 scores, it does not matter, you are AWS certified. I hope my experiences will help you in some way while preparing your exam.

By the way, my AWS CodePipeline and AWS CloudFormation courses on the DevOps domain, may also help you solve the questions involving these services more comfortably. I do not aim for certification in them, instead, I try to help you understand them well. Please let me repeat: If you know your domain well, all exams get easier and less stressful.

Please find the coupon links special to this blog for my AWS CodePipeline and AWS CloudFormation courses on our courses page.

Thanks for reading!

Emre Yilmaz

Independent AWS Consultant & Founder @ Shikisoft

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