AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional Exam Study Path
Few years ago, before you can take the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Professional (or SA Pro for short) exam, you would first have to pass the associate level exam of this track. This is to ensure that you have sufficient knowledge and understanding on architecting in AWS, before tackling the more difficult certification. In October 2018, AWS removed this ruling so that there are no more prerequisites for taking the Professional level exams. You now have the freedom to directly pursue this certification if you wish to.
This certification is truly a levelled-up version of the AWS Solutions Architect Associate certification. It examines your capability to create well-architected solutions in AWS, but on a grander scale and with more difficult requirements. Because of this, we recommend that you go through our exam preparation guide for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate and even the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner if you have not done so yet. They contain very important materials such as review materials that will be crucial for passing the exam.
Whitepapers, FAQs, AWS Documentation, Re:Invent videos, forums, labs, virtual courses and personal experiences are what you will need to pass the exam. Since the SA Pro is one of the most difficult AWS certification exams out there, you have to prepare yourself with every study material you can get your hands on. To learn more details regarding your exam, go through this AWS exam blueprint as it discusses the various domains they will test you on.
AWS has a digital course called Exam Readiness: AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional, which is a short video lecture that discusses what to expect on the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional exam. It should sufficiently provide an overview of the different concepts and practices that you’ll need to know about. Each topic in the course will also contain a short quiz right after you finish its lecture to help you lock in the important information.
For whitepapers, aside from the ones listed down in our SA Associate and Cloud Practitioner exam guide, you should also study the following:
- Securing Data at Rest with Encryption
- Web Application Hosting in the AWS Cloud
- Migrating AWS Resources to a New Region
- Practicing Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery on AWS Accelerating Software Delivery with DevOps
- Microservices on AWS
- AWS Security Best Practices
- AWS Well-Architected Framework
- Architecting for the Cloud AWS Best Practices
- Amazon Web Services: Overview of Security Processes
- Using Amazon Web Services for Disaster Recovery
- AWS Architecture Center architecture whitepapers
The instructor-led classroom called “Advanced Architecting on AWS” should also provide additional information on how to implement the concepts and best practices that you have learned from whitepapers and other forms of documentation. Be sure to check it out.
AWS Services to Focus On
Generally, as a soon-to-be AWS Certified SA Pro, you should have a thorough understanding of every service and feature in AWS. But for the purpose of this review, give more attention on the following services since they are common topics in the SA Pro exams:
- AWS Organizations – Know how to create organizational units (OUs), service control policies (SCPs), and any additional parameters in AWS Organizations. Different SCP from IAM policies. Read how you can save on costs by enabling consolidated billing in your organizations.
- AWS Server Migration Services – Study the different ways to migrate on-premises servers to the AWS Cloud. Also study how you can perform the migration in a secure and reliable manner.
- AWS Serverless Application Model – The AWS SAM has a syntax of its own. Study the syntax and how AWS SAM is used to deploy serverless applications through code. Know the relationship of SAM and CloudFormation.
- AWS EC2 Systems Manager – The responsibilities of an SA Pro involves a lot of automation. Study the different features under Systems Manager and how each feature can automate EC2-related processes. It is also important to know how you can troubleshoot EC2 issues using Systems Manager.
- AWS CI/CD – Study the different CI/CD tools in AWS, from function to features to implementation. It would be very helpful if you can create your own CI/CD pipeline as well using the services below.
- AWS Service Catalog – This service is also part of the automation toolkit in AWS. Study how you can create and manage portfolios of approved services in service catalog, and how you can integrate these with other technologies such as AWS Organizations.
- AWS Direct Connect – Direct Connect is known to commonly pop up in the exam. You should have a deep understanding of this service. VPCs and networks are highly important topics that you need to study for.
We expect that you already have vast knowledge on the AWS services that a Solutions Architect commonly use, such as those listed in our SA Associate review guide. It is also not enough to just know the service and its features. You should also have a good understanding on how to integrate these services with one another to build large-scale infrastructures and applications. It’s why it is generally recommended to have hands-on experience managing and operating systems on AWS.
High Quality Video Courses on Udemy
There are a few top rated AWS Certified Solutions Architect Professional 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 Solutions Architect – Professional 2019 by DolfinEd
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional 2019 by Zeal Vora
Validate Your Knowledge
After your review, you should take some practice tests to measure your preparedness for the real exam. AWS offers a sample practice test for free which you can find here. You can also opt to buy the longer AWS sample practice test at aws.training, and use the discount coupon you received from any previously taken certification exams. Be aware though that the sample practice tests do not mimic the difficulty of the real SA Pro exam. You should not rely solely on them to gauge your preparedness. It is better to take more practice tests to fully understand if you are prepared to pass the certification exam.
Fortunately, Tutorials Dojo also offers a great set of practice questions for you to take here. It is kept updated by the creators to ensure that the questions match what you’ll be expecting in the real exam. The practice tests will help fill in any important details that you might have missed or skipped in your review.
In general, what you should have learned from your review are the following:
- Features and use cases of the AWS services
- AWS networking, security, billing and account management
- The AWS CLI, APIs and SDKs
- Automation, migration planning, and troubleshooting
- The best practices in designing solutions in the AWS Cloud
All these factors are essentially the domains of your certification exam. It is because of this difficult hurdle that AWS Certified Solutions Architect Professionals are highly respected in the industry. They are capable of architecting ingenious solutions that solve customer problems in the AWS. They are also constantly improving themselves by learning all the new services and features that AWS produces each year to make sure that they can provide the best solutions to their customers. Let this challenge be your motivation to dream high and strive further in your career as a Solutions Architect!
Some notes regarding your exam
The SA Professional exam questions always ask for highly available, fault tolerant, cost-effective and secure solutions. Be sure to understand the choices provided to you, and verify that they have accurate explanations. Some choices are very misleading such that they seem to be the most natural answer to the question, but actually contain incorrect information, such as the incorrect use of a service. Always place accuracy above all else.
When unsure of which options are correct in a multi-select question, try to eliminate some of the choices that you believe are false. This will help narrow down the feasible answers to that question. The same goes for multiple choice type questions. Be extra careful as well when selecting the number of answers you submit.
Since an SA Professional has responsibilities in creating large-scale architectures, be wary of the different ways AWS services can be integrated with one another. Common combinations include:
- Lambda, API Gateway, SNS, and DynamoDB
- EC2, EBS/EFS/Elasticache, Auto Scaling, ELB, and SQS
- S3, Cloudfront, WAF
- S3, Kinesis
- On-premises servers with Direct Connect/VPN/VPC Endpoints
- Organizations, SSO, IAM roles, Config, and Service Catalog
- Mobile apps with Cognito, API Gateway, and DynamoDB
Lastly, be on the lookout for “key terms” that will help you realize the answer faster. Words such as millisecond latency, serverless, managed, highly available, most cost effective, fault tolerant, mobile, streaming, object storage, archival, polling, push notifications, etc are commonly seen in the exam. Time management is very important when taking AWS certification exams, so be sure to monitor the time you consume for each question.
AWS Certified Solutions Architect is consistently among the top paying IT certifications in the world, considering that Amazon Web Services is the leading cloud services platform with almost 50% market share! Earn over $150,000 per year with an AWS certification!
Subscribe to our newsletter for more helpful AWS training notes and blogs like this and answer as many AWS practice exams as you can. 🙂