AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Exam Study Path
The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam or AWS CCP is the easiest to achieve among the different AWS certification exams. This certification covers most, if not all, fundamental knowledge that one should know when venturing into the Cloud. Although the CCP course is the basic of basics of AWS, it is still crucial that you properly learn and understand these concepts, and the reason why AWS offers a certification for it.
The AWS CCP course intends to provide practitioners a fundamental understanding of the AWS Cloud without having to dive deep into the technicalities. This includes the AWS Global Infrastructure, best practices in using AWS Cloud, pricing models, technical support options, and many more. It is why AWS recommends taking the AWS CCP exam first before attempting the other, more difficult certifications. You can view the complete details and guidelines for the certification exam here.
What to review
There are a number of things one should primarily study to pass the exam. Listing them down, they are:
1. The AWS Cloud Services
Currently, AWS offers more than 160+ services and products to their customers. Each one has a specific purpose for a specific need, and is used during specific situations. And every year, the list grows larger and more complex. You don’t have to memorize every single service and function to pass the exam (although that would be amazing if you did!). What’s important is that you familiarize yourself on the more commonly used services such as those under compute, storage, databases, security, networking and content delivery, management and governance, and a few others. To quickly view over the different categories, you may visit this link.
To help you get started with familiarizing these services, AWS offers a whitepaper which contains an overview of the different AWS services along with their definitions and use cases. It is also important to know what cloud computing introduces into the industry, and how the AWS Global Infrastructure is set up to help you maximize the capabilities of cloud computing. Aside from questions on the different services, questions about Regions and Availability Zones commonly pop up in the exam as well.
Lastly, try to familiarize yourself with the AWS Management Console. You can easily create an account in AWS, or use Qwiklabs for this purpose. The Management Console contains some services that are not enumerated under any category (such as the health dashboards, different AWS Regions, resource groups), and can sometimes come up in the exam as well.
2. Best Practices when Architecting for the Cloud
This section is what I consider to be the most important to study for, and in most cases, also comprises the bulk of the CCP exam. As a cloud practitioner, it is expected of you to know what are the best practices for using AWS. The Cloud is different from an on-premises environment in many ways. Some traditional principles of architecting systems can be applied in the Cloud, while some are not suitable at all. Knowing which ones fit best with your business requirements is key in creating a well-architected infrastructure.
Under this section, you should focus on reading the contents of this whitepaper. The best practices are essentially the ways you can take advantage of AWS Cloud’s strengths. Points such as how to decouple your application to control points of failure and knowing when to apply scalability and elasticity over cost management and vice versa are the typical scenarios that one commonly encounters when architecting in the cloud. Knowing how to properly build your systems in AWS also means being aware of the services and features that AWS offers to you.
Another good optional read is the AWS Well-Architected Framework whitepaper. This paper complements well with this section, since it elaborates on the different pillars that make up a well-architected system. Reading through the design principles and core services of each pillar will help you connect the dots between the best practices and AWS services. Lastly, you can visit this site to gather more information and view additional content for your review of this section.
3. Security in the Cloud
Security in the AWS Cloud is another major part of your CCP Exam. Since you will be launching your applications and storing your data in a foreign service, securing them should be your priority. Luckily, AWS has already defined which security aspect will be their responsibility, and which will be yours, through the Shared Responsibility Model.
The primary resource that you should be studying for this section is this whitepaper. The AWS Security Best Practices whitepaper discusses the many ways you can secure your applications and services. I suggest you thoroughly review the following:
1) Data encryption at rest and in transit (EBS, S3, EC2, RDS, etc)
2) Identity and Access Management (IAM)
3) VPC and Application Network Security (security groups, ACLs, etc)
4) Monitoring and Logging of your Infrastructure (Cloudwatch, cloudtrail, etc)
5) AWS Compliance Programs
4. AWS Pricing Model
One of the advantages of using Cloud is having on-demand capacity provisioning. Therefore, it is also crucial for you to understand the provider’s pricing model. AWS charges you in multiple ways. There is no exact model that applies to all, since different AWS services have their own cost plans. However, AWS has three fundamental drivers of cost that usually apply to any kind of service. They are:
- Compute cost
- Storage cost
- Outbound data transfer cost
Detailed information about each of these costs can be seen in this whitepaper, which also serves as your main study material for this section.
Aside from on-demand capacity provisioning, AWS also offers you the option to reserve capacity. With reserved capacity, you pay the total cost of the service depending on the plan you requested. If you select the one (1) year reservation plan, then you promise to pay AWS the cost of the service, as if it were running for a full year. The same concept applies for the three (3) year term. Reserved capacity is cheaper than on-demand capacity if you expect your applications to be running continuously for a long period. The applied discount grows larger as well depending on your upfront payment. This way, you can save up to 75 percent over equivalent capacity purchased in an on-demand model. You can learn more about reserved capacity in the whitepaper.
The purpose of studying cost and pricing models is to help you optimize your costs in AWS. They provide a great tool which you can use to calculate expected monthly costs, known as The Simple Monthly Calculator. Another great tool that AWS offers is the AWS Total Cost of Ownership Calculator, which helps you compare the cost of your applications in an on-premises hosting environment to AWS. This is accompanied by a whitepaper that you should also read. Note that the CCP exam frequently asks scenarios where you’d have to optimize your costs.
5. AWS Support Plans
AWS offers four types of support plans: Basic, Developer, Business, and Enterprise. It is important to know how each support plan differs from one another. With that said, this webpage will serve as your primary study material. You might miss the subtle details if you don’t read each support plan properly, so be sure to take note of these details.
In tandem with learning the AWS Support Plans is studying AWS Trusted Advisor. AWS Trusted Advisor is a tool that offers best practice checks and recommendations across five categories: cost optimization, security, fault tolerance, performance, and service limits. You do not need to memorize each check in AWS Trusted Advisor, though browsing through them is an advantage.
How to review
As with any exam, the very first step is always the same – KNOWING WHAT TO STUDY. Although we have already enumerated them in the previous section of this article, I highly suggest you go over the AWS CCP Exam Guide again and see the exam contents.
AWS already has a vast number of (free!) resources available for you to prepare for the exam. There is not really an exact set of AWS services or concepts that I can share, since the CCP exam changes every so often. However, what doesn’t change every so often is the exam coverage and study materials. I recommend that you write down your own notes throughout your review, so that when exam day draws near, you can quickly skim through them instead of reading everything again. If you are the type of person that learns faster through visualization and application, go ahead and open an AWS Console of your own.
Since taking AWS CCP is your goal, I will assume that you have little to zero knowledge of AWS. Hence, I suggest you first read Overview of Amazon Web Services whitepaper, and gain a good understanding of the different AWS concepts and services. This is the longest one out of the 5 whitepapers, so be sure to take your time with it. Understanding this whitepaper will make it easier for you to grasp the next parts of this review. Be sure to take down notes as you read through the document. Terminologies and enumerated items are clues for determining which kinds of information are important. For every concept you encounter, there will almost always be a corresponding AWS documentation available that goes into further detail on that concept. And as a reminder, you don’t need to memorize every single AWS service and function out there. Rather, focus on the services that are more commonly used by the industry. You can check out the amazing Tutorials Dojo cheat sheets to supplement your review for this section.
After you have studied the overview, the whitepaper The Total Cost of (Non) Ownership of Web Applications in the Cloud is a good follow-up. Here you can quickly read through the whole thing since this paper is not very concept heavy. It also lists down many scenarios that compares AWS from traditional setups. You should read and understand these scenarios since there is a high chance you’ll encounter a similar type of question in the exam.
At this point, we are basically finishing all the short whitepapers that discuss the services and features in AWS. Therefore, I recommend reading the whitepaper How Pricing Works next before proceeding to the heavy stuff such as best practices. The AWS CCP exam frequently throws out tricky questions about pricing, TCO and cost optimization. It is in your best interest to be comfortable with AWS Pricing Plans. Know in general how prices of AWS services compare with one another i.e. EFS is more expensive than EBS, EBS is more expensive than S3. But be extra careful in answering questions that ask for the most cost effective solution. Always prioritize utility over pricing, since there might be a choice in the question where it is the cheapest solution, but is not appropriate for the scenario’s needs. When unsure which is cheaper, use the cost calculators provided to you by AWS, or search for the pricing in the services’ FAQ or on this website.
Once you’ve reached this point of the review, it would be a great idea to go over everything you’ve learned so far, and make sure that your notes are filled with important information. AWS provides a free, online virtual course called AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials which you can take to better prepare yourself for the AWS CCP exam. This course contains a set of video lectures that cover every whitepaper you’ve read so far in your review, and is also a good transition to the next whitepaper on AWS Security. You are not required to sit through these video lectures since they contain the same content as the whitepapers. Although doing so will help you compress all the information you’ve studied so far, and at the same time, you can double check if you have missed anything important in your notes.
Assuming that you’ve taken the video course above, you should now have an idea of AWS Security and how to implement it. If you didn’t watch the video course, then that is fine as well, since the AWS Security Best Practices whitepaper discusses the same thing. For AWS Security, familiarize yourself with the Shared Responsibility Model. This frequently comes up in the AWS CCP exam. Next is to study how you can protect your data in and going out of AWS. Different services have different encryption methods and protocols. Third, familiarize yourself with network level security and subnet level security. There are many ways you can secure your VPC and the services inside it. Know the differences between nACLs and security groups. Fourth, be comfortable with IAM. It is a very important service in AWS security, and will surely come up in your exam. Focus on concepts of IAM users, groups, policies and roles. Lastly, be aware of AWS monitoring and logging features such as CloudTrail and CloudWatch Logs. Understand how the two services differ, and during what situations they are used. To supplement your review on AWS services under security, go check out these handy Tutorials Dojo cheat sheets.
The last whitepaper you need to review is the AWS Best Practices whitepaper. The material nicely wraps up all the AWS services, products, features, and pricing that you’ve learned. It is very important to understand what the best practices are, since scenario questions in the exam always revolve around these topics. The whitepaper provides detailed explanations and examples on how to implement them in your infrastructure, so be prepared for a lot of concepts. It will also be very helpful if you have a Management Console ready to help you visualize what is being discussed in this paper along your review. Try to remember all of the design principles by heart, and imagine situations where you can apply them.
After reading through all the whitepapers, the last section of your review is the AWS Support Plans. This is a quick browse of a webpage, and shouldn’t take you long in studying. Take note of what support plans are available, and how they differ from each other. There might be questions in the exam that ask which support plan offers some specific service.
High Quality Video Courses on Udemy
There are a few top rated AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner video courses on Udemy that you can check out as well, which can complement your exam preparations especially if you are the type of person who can learn better through visual courses instead of reading long whitepapers:
- AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner by Linux Academy
- AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner 2019 by Zeal Vora
- AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner by Alan Rodrigues
Once you have finished studying all the aforementioned sections, it is time to validate your knowledge. You can try answering the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Sample Exam found in the exam guide, or purchase the actual practice exam (Exam Code CLF-P01) in the AWS Training website. A few days before your exam, you can choose to reread all the whitepapers or rewatch the video lectures, or you can simply study the reviewer you made. Since the AWS CCP is not meant to be technical, the exam itself should be straightforward.
What to expect from the exam
There are two types of questions on the examination:
- Multiple-choice: Has one correct response and three incorrect responses (distractors).
- Multiple-response: Has two or more correct responses out of five or more options.
Distractors, or incorrect answers, are response options that an examinee with incomplete knowledge or skill would likely choose. However, they are generally plausible responses that fit in the content area defined by the test objective.
Unanswered questions are scored as incorrect; there is no penalty for guessing.
Majority of questions are usually scenario based. Some will ask you to identify a specific service or concept. While others will ask you to select multiple responses that fit the given requirements. No matter the style of the question, as long as you understand what is being asked, then you will do fine.
Your examination may include unscored items that are placed on the test by AWS to gather statistical information. These items are not identified on the form and do not affect your score.
The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner (CLF-C01) examination is a pass or fail exam. Your results for the examination are reported as a scaled score from 100 through 1000, with a minimum passing score of 700. Right after the exam, you will immediately know whether you passed or you failed. And in the succeeding business days, you should receive your complete results with the score breakdown (and hopefully the certificate too).
A few more tips:
- Be sure to get proper sleep the night before, and don’t be lazy in preparing for the exam. If you feel that you aren’t ready enough, you can just reschedule your exam.
- Come early to the exam venue so that you have time to handle mishaps if there are any.
- Read the exam questions properly, but don’t spend too much time on a question you don’t know the answer to. You can always go back to it after you answer the rest.
- Keep your reviewer if you plan on taking other AWS certifications in the future. It will be handy for sure.
- And be sure to visit the Tutorials Dojo website to see the latest offerings for AWS reviewers, cheat sheets and other guides.
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