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How to Pass AWS Solution Architect Associate Quickly

You know, Asians are good at exam.


Yesterday, I successfully passed AWS Solution Architecture Associate (SAA-C03) exam. As an intermediate level certificate, the certificate is valuable but also challenge for graduates or new comers of cloud computing fields. In this post, I will introduce:

  • my thoughts about the exam
  • how I prepare the exam
  • other important things that you need to know about the exam

Know the Exam

What it is

In my opinion, SAA-C03 includes various AWS services, examining the candidate to leverage them to design secure, high-performance, resilient and cost-effective solutions for different scenarios. The exam focus more on width rather than depth, which means you need to know many services of AWS and their use cases, but no much requirement about technical details. If you have no idea about AWS services, I highly recommend you to watch this video to form basic understanding of AWS products.

Exam Spec

The exam is consist of 65 multiple choice questions, and questions may have single or multiple selections. To be noticed, every question will tell you how many correct options it has, while questions with multiple selection value more than others and there is no points for any partial correct selection, so please be careful when you face them. Since all questions are multiple choice questions, making sure that you answer all of them even you don’t know the correct answers. Later on, I will teach you how to guess the correct option when you have no idea.

The exam period is 130 minutes. If English is not your primary language, you can apply for extra 30 minutes when you book the exam so that you will have 160 minutes for 65 questions. However, questions of SAA-C03 always provide a background story making both the question and option long, unless your reading speed is good, your time won’t be that adequate. As a non-native speaker, sometimes I have to read the same sentence for couple of times to understand it, if you have the same condition, no worries.

How I Prepare

In this section, I will introduce how I made my plan for learning. Everyone has their own approach and my plan is just for reference, so you can adjust your plan based on your pace.

The Range of the Exam

Obviously, the first step is to figure out the range of knowledge points. In the appendix part of the official exam guide, it has listed all services might appear in the exam. By the way, I also highly recommend you to read the full exam guide to acquire more details about the exam. The appendix is 5 pages long, including 123 kinds of services spanning 16 fields. To clarify which services of them should be focused on, I referred outlines of the two most reputative paid online courses – Cantril and Stephane. Fortunately, they post their outline to public, so for this step, no charge required.

Which Parts are Important

The principle is pretty clear and simple:

  • If a service has been introduced by both courses, you should know its purpose, usage and use case.
  • If a service has only been introduced by one of them, you should know its purpose.
  • If a service hasn’t been introduced by any of them, you can ignore it for now.

I have made an Excel to organize them, feel free to use it: SAA.xlsx.

Learning Materials

My learning materials are quite simple: the mock test and the cheatsheet from Tutorial Dojo.

My suggestion is to do the mock tests directly, following the order below:

Topic Based -> Section Based -> Review Based -> Timed Mode -> Final

At first, there must be a lot of things you don’t know, but the only thing you need to do on this stage is to check the explanation and the cheatsheet frequently and carefully. After you finished the Review Based part, you should have mastered around 90% of concepts that will appear in the real exam. Don’t be panic or anxious during the preparation, just take your time, trust me, that’s how I made it. Making sure that you can get 80+ from each questionnaire to get in next stage.

Before the Exam

Once you finished all instructions above, congrats, you are almost ready to take the test. To be perfectly safe, you need to take a tiny quiz from official sample questions before booking your test. If you can get 80+ in this stage as well, you are ready to go.

What if I don’t Understand Options

Although you thought that you are fully prepared, it’s inevitable that you still have no idea for several questions in the exam. Here, I am going to share some guess tips that I used. They are only helpful when you have no idea, and it can lead to wrong answer.

  • Cost-effective, simple application and elasticity required, then Lambda is preferred.
  • When you can accomplish the goal of the question using multiple way, manual operation is never the option.
  • Aurora can do everything that RDS can do, so Aurora is preferred unless cost-sensitive.
  • This test is for solution architect, X-RAY is not preferred (but in DVA-C02, it’s preferred).
  • Persistent data is never stored in EBS/EFS.
  • Choose FSx for Windows when you see the keyword Windows/SMB/Active Directory.

Just try your best, I hope you can get the ideal grade you want, :)

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