My AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate SOA-C02 BETA Exam Experience in 2021

I took the BETA version of the new AWS Certified SysOps Administrator SOA-C02 exam last week via the Pearson Vue online proctoring. There are a lot of recently-introduced features and services that showed up in this new version which you should be aware of. There is also a new Exam Labs section in the test, which is unique among the other existing AWS certifications. If you’re planning to take this exam soon, read on.

Quick History of the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate Exam

Amazon Web Services (AWS) began its Global Certification Program in 2013 to allow IT Professionals around the world to prove their AWS expertise to their current and future employers. The first official exam that Amazon released was the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification followed by two role-based certifications: Systems Operations (SysOps) Administrator and Developer Associate, a year after. Amazon usually updates its certification exams to cover the new features and services on the AWS platform and remove obsolete information from its content.

In 2018, a new version of the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate was released with an exam code of SOA-C01. The exam is composed of multiple-choice (one correct answer and three incorrect options) and multiple-response (two correct answers out of five options) questions. Due to the rapid pace of changes in the AWS platform, Amazon will release yet another version of this exam in the 3rd quarter of 2021. A beta version of the exam is commonly offered first before releasing the official updated version.

The new AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate SOA-C02 beta exam can be taken from February 16 to March 26, 2021. The current version SOA-C01 will remain available throughout the beta phase of the new exam. The beta exam is available to anyone at a discounted rate of 75 USD with a time limit of 3 hours and 20 minutes. This is a chance to acquire the official AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate certification for less before the price inflates to about 150 USD when the official version has been publicly released. Take note that you have to wait for about 90 days for you to get your results so don’t worry if you don’t see a result right after you completed the exam.

My SOA-C02 Exam Experience

I scheduled my SysOps BETA exam at 8 in the morning. The night before, I run the required systems tests for the OnVUE application to ensure that I don’t run into any technical issues. I also prepared my IDs and removed any clutters from my room. At exactly 7:30 AM, I logged in to my AWS Certification account to start my exam and to get the access code for the OnVUE app. The process includes taking photos of your desk around the room (front, back, sides) and your unexpired ID using your phone. After that, you should be all set!

One thing that I noticed is the new “Queue” number feature in the OnVue app. When I had my AWS online exam almost a year ago, I am only presented with a screen that just tells me to wait. Now, there is a piece of information on the screen that shows how far am I in the queue. The proctor showed up and asked me to show my wrists (to make sure that I don’t wear any smartwatch) and move around my laptop to inspect any materials near my workstation. I started my exam around 7:45 AM, a few minutes earlier than my schedule.

I got a total of 54 multiple-choice/multiple-response questions and 3 Exam Labs. There were a lot of new features and services included, such as AWS Compute Optimizer, RDS Proxy, AWS Backup, and many others. The new topics covered exactly mirror the items mentioned in the official AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate (SOA-C02) Exam Guide, so make sure that you review this document before taking the test. The other AWS Exam Guides don’t have a list of AWS services that will be in the scope of the exam but not this one. It’s almost like the format in an Azure exam skills outline (the equivalent of the AWS Exam Guide), where the relevant services are enumerated.

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Exam Labs – The Latest Addition in the Ever-Evolving World of AWS Certifications

For the first time ever, Amazon will introduce a new Exam Labs section in its certification exams. Seems like Amazon is following Microsoft Azure’s exam format which also has this same question type. After the multiple-choice/multiple-response questions, you will be presented with 3 different exam labs where you are assigned to complete several tasks for each lab. On the left-hand side of the screen, a Windows-based virtual machine will be shown that allows you to access the AWS Management Console via a web browser — which seems like a Windows Remote Desktop connection. On the other side, you will see a list of tasks that you have to complete.

It is not possible for you to return to a prior exam lab once you completed it so make sure that you satisfy all the tasks before moving on to the next item. It’s recommended that you allocate 20 minutes for each exam lab (or a full hour to complete all 3 labs). You have to prepare well since this section reflects a whopping 23% of your entire exam.

Still curious about what’s different in the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate SOA-C02 new exam version? Check out this short video clip from our Co-instructor, Wayne, who recently took the new SysOps SOA-C02 beta exam:

Final Thoughts

As mentioned above, the new features and services covered are already mentioned in the official AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate (SOA-C02) Exam Guide. You simply need to open that document and head on to Page 3 and 4 to view the list of AWS features and services that you need to review. The same document also shows the various domains and their corresponding exam weights. The 3 major domains are:

  • Domain 1: Monitoring, Logging, and Remediation – 20%

  • Domain 3: Deployment, Provisioning, and Automation – 18%

  • Domain 5: Networking and Content Delivery – 18%

Focus on these and all of the topics mentioned under them. You should understand the difference between the two seemingly similar AWS services (e.g. Redis vs Memcached, AWS Secrets Manager vs AWS Systems Manager Parameter Store et cetera). I also noticed a substantial amount of scenarios that mention specific CloudWatch metric names and IAM JSON policy elements so brush up on these before you take the exam.

The Tutorials Dojo team will begin a series of updates to the question bank of our existing AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate Practice Exams. Stay tuned for more updates.

– Jon Bonso
Co-Founder @ Tutorials Dojo

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