AWS certified. My journey and exam tips

“To learn, to learn and to learn” – Vladimir Lenin

Learning new stuff is fun as long as you apply correct principles.

To study for AWS Certification I’ve applied same principles as for spoken language studies. There 3 pillars

1. Have S.M.A.R.T goal

S.M.A.R.T goal is:

Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
Assignable – specify who will do it.
Realistic – state the results that can be achieved realistically, given available resources.
Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

For me, it was “get AWS certification in three months”. I find it difficult to study for an extended period in my personal time without a specific goal. Getting a certification might be one of the goals, other could be building something, following course exercises or contributing to open-source projects

2. Repetition

”Repetitio est mater studiorum” (engl. “Repetition is the mother of learning”)

Another cheesy phrase use-it-or-lose-it applies to memory too. Professor and creator of probably the best language learning system even defined periods for repetitions which should be done in following intervals: 5 seconds, 25 seconds, 2 minutes, 10 minutes, 1 hour, 5 hours, 1 day, 5 days, 25 days, 4 months, and 2 years (Pimsleur, 1967).

Repetition also means that you need to make time for studying daily.

3. Proper notes

Note taking should stimulate your thinking. For example, a note “S3 bucket name allows lowercase letters, digits, dots and dashes“don’t involve your recall capabilities. Rather you’d use a flashcard with a question “What are S3 allowed characters?” with an answer on another side “lowercase letters, digits, dots and dashes“. Latter example would take slightly longer to produce and review but as a side effect you’d remember much better. I got used to this habit even while listening to talks I constantly ask myself “Was it new and useful to me?” if the answer is yes, then add this as a note form. I found this so useful, I even developed my small app to add notes and sync them.

My steps to get certified

Watched videos of AWS course while taking notes as flashcard type. Meanwhile, signed up for an exam. Later did practise quizzes and added more notes. I was studying my flashcards daily to recall subject I learned recently. In order to have even more fun, I developed my our apps on AWS. Finally went to the exam and passed.

Exam tips

For preparation, I used acloudguru course and practise exam. They’re good but not perfect. Below are points I missed from courses/practises:

  • CloudFormation is an important topic to score you easy points. Just review few templates and research what each field is used for
  • The exam doesn’t require you to memorize numbers by heart. As long as you roughly know the number it’s fine. For example, exam question was to calculate DynamoDB Provisioned Throughput for given requirements. Given answers were something like this 2, 20, 200 or 2000 which varies a lot! So you’d need only to roughly have an idea about formulas and numbers.
  • More focus on DynamoD, indexes and sort keys
  • I got tricky question whatever a user can change the role of EC2. AWS recently changed to allow this but I wasn’t sure whatever they updated the questions.
  • I miserably failed on IAM questions which I’d definitely need to review. One of them being proper identification with web identity federation
  • Roughly remember common API calls for developer exam for example ReceiveMessageWaitTimeSeconds is to enable long-pooling
  • I got few questions regarding S3 optimisation but I knew nothing about it. Read this blog post more about it In summary, add a random md5 prefix to a name of an item to store items in different partitions
  • Read up a bit about ElastiCache
  • Note that ProvisionedThroughputExceededException is not just for a table but also for global indexes

This is it, good luck with your studies!


Pimsleur, Paul (February 1967). “A Memory Schedule”. The Modern Language Journal. Blackwell Publishing. 51 (2): 73–75