A few weeks ago I took a couple exams and passed them both. One was the AWS Cloud Practitioner exam. This is the entry level AWS certification that teaches students how Amazon Web Services works, the services offered, and the pricing and billing concepts. AWS suggests people with 6 months of experience with AWS should attempt this course, but honestly that could probably be less.
I have been working in IT since 2002 and as a systems administrator since 2004 with heavy emphasis on web support and infrastructure. I have a deep level of knowledge on all sorts of concepts that helped digest and understand AWS offerings pretty quickly. But, other than maybe a singular hands-on workshop a few years ago, I’ve really not been hands-on or actively knowledgeable about AWS at all beyond hearing about insecure S3 buckets and this Lambda serverless craze. And really, my lack of knowledge has probably been around not having personal time to dive hard into it, and also until recently not having worked for a company that adopted anything cloud-based.
And that brings me to my motivations, which foremost includes the business I work for going hard into cloud adoption in the next couple years. Also, as I get older and technologies come and go, I do feel the need to remain current, or at least conversant with current stuff. And I really felt like there were two places I could improve and grow a lot: application security and cloud (AWS) security. So, to tackle the latter topic, I’d decided to soft-scope some AWS studying into the second half of 2019.
I opted to start with AWS Cloud Practitioner mainly due to the fact that I really didn’t think I knew AWS enough to pass that exam if I had taken it 6 months ago. And that would have been true! There’s zero chance I would have passed, and likely not even gotten anything but the concepts/benefits of cloud-computing correct. The goal is to go further, so this cert is just a stepping stone into AWS.
For study, I followed a pretty quick timeline lasting only about a month. I had planned to take a little bit longer when I was less sure about the scope of the material, but in my timeline I built in a review period where I would drop other ideas and tasks if I felt like things were progressing well and I had overestimated the exam depth. That was a good idea, as I ended up finishing the exam in something like 20 minutes with a 957/1000 score, and saved several additional weeks of work and study.
I first signed up for a 7-day trial at ACloud.Guru. I had read that they’re a great training resource, but maybe could go deeper into some topics and best consumed alongside a second resource. So I started there. I then cancelled my account on day 6, so I really spent no money on this step.
I took Introduction to AWS (1 hour), AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner 2019 (5 hours), AWS Certification Prep Guide (2.5 hours), and as a bonus to myself, the Mastering the AWS Well-Architected Framework course (4.5 hours). Most of this was pretty good, with the clear standout of the Well-Architected Framework course which was excellent, and easily digested due to my background. Still, I didn’t feel completely prepared for the exam. It’s hard to tell for sure, but I suspect I may have been a lot closer to the passing cut off if I had just done these courses.
I also started working through the Udemy “course” AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Practice Exams 2019 by Neal Davis which I purchased when it was on sale for $20. These are 6 practice exams and probably ate up about 10-12 hours of effort to take and review them. I highly recommend going through these practice exams. The only caveat is that these exams are decently harder than the real exam I took. But, that’s a good thing! I scored around 76-86% on these.
I also have a Linux Academy subscription already, so I augmented my studies with a newer course AWS Cloud Practitioner (CLF-C01) by Tia Williams (11 hours) . There are also some labs scattered in here, which, while very much just follow the instructions and click things, was nice to get some hands-on time for me, since I really haven’t had any. Also, note how this course is much longer than the one from ACloud.Guru. In my estimation, had I stopped and not done this Linux Academy course, I’m not sure I would have passed the exam; it would have been close!
I also made a couple Coggle mindmaps during my studies to keep track of the groups of concepts and services. This was a wonderful idea I found mentioned on another blog review of the course. ( https://www.shanebart.com/aws-cloud-practitioner/ )
As a last step, I took a few hours to breeze through actual material from AWS, namely the Overview of Amazon Web Services, Architecting for the Cloud: AWS Best Practices, and How AWS Pricing Works whitepapers.
As I said, I had more things planned, but I suspected this is more than enough to pass the exam, and apparently I was correct!
Moving forward, I plan to do more cloud studying before the end of the year. Next, I’d like to read the materials for and pass the CCSK certification. I will then start preparing for the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate exam and start doing some AWS projects. My ultimate goal is to earn the Security Specialty in early 2020 and maybe the CCSP later in 2020 as well. I’m still being a little aggressive here, but I think this is doable and a little less pressuring like lots of my other heavy technical studies in the past few years.
I would also say that unless someone is comfortable discussing the various services in AWS, the benefits of the cloud, the pricing structure of AWS, and the support offerings, this cert is a good and pretty inexpensive (in time and money) option to get started. Otherwise, for others with comfort in the above topics, it may be worthwhile to just dive into one of the Associate level tracks.