I passed the AWS SA Pro - time management was the biggest hurdle

I passed the AWS SA Pro - time management was the biggest hurdle

After I completed the 3-hour long exam, to say I was tired is an understatement. I was totally worn out! On top of that, I didn't receive the PASS / FAIL preliminary evaluation that typically appears on the screen at the end of every AWS exam I have taken.

Experience counts

When AWS recommends the exam for candidates with 2+ years of hands-on experience building solutions on their cloud, they aren't kidding. The exam tests your competence over very practical scenarios without a lot of time to think through the options. There is far more depth to the scenarios here than at the associate level.

There are a lot of areas here that are outside the solutions architect-associate level. For example, knowledge of designing a hybrid architecture by integrating AD and other third-party IDPs with AWS Direct Connect or VPN.

In my current role at work, I have been involved in managing hundreds of AWS accounts for a large client. I used AWS Organizations, Control tower, and SCPs for account management tasks, vending and governing accounts at scale. I used IaC and CICD tools for remediating changes across environments and building / replicating environments.

Exam areas

My knowledge from taking the SysOps Administrator and Developer associate exams were useful as several concepts were within the scope of the AWS SA Pro exam.

CloudWatch (Logs, metrics, events etc), SSM, Config, Secrets Manager, Service Catalog

Additional topics, which I totally enjoyed being tested on were migration tools and services:

Data and application migration services such as AWS DataSync, AWS Transfer Family, AWS Snow Family, S3 Transfer Acceleration, AWS Application Discovery Service, AWS Application Migration Service, AWS Server Migration Service

AWS provides an exam guide that lists all services and tools in the scope of this exam: https://d1.awsstatic.com/training-and-certification/docs-sa-pro/AWS-Certified-Solutions-Architect-Professional_Exam-Guide.pdf

Study plan

I used the Acloudguru course which was free through my workplace subscription. Other recommended courses include Adrian Cantril and Stephan Maarek’s courses.

Practice tests

I used Tutorials dojo practice exams and Acloudguru practice exams.

It was important to take my time with the practice exams. I worked through the problems multiple times. I reviewed the correct answers to understand them as well as know why the incorrect answer options are incorrect. Another thing that helped was learning how to quickly eliminate obviously incorrect answer options and deciding on the remaining options; which best answers the question.

White papers

I highly recommend reading the AWS whitepapers. https://aws.amazon.com/whitepapers

Time management

Managing my time for this exam was crucial. There were 75 questions that had to be completed within 180 minutes, so roughly 2 mins per question. The questions, as well as the answer options, can be very wordy. There were several questions along with their answer choices that I had to reread multiple times to understand the finer details. Spending more time than allotted for each question, I ran out of time with 7 questions left to complete.

Exam day

Took my exam online with PearsonVue. I checked in for my exam about 10 minutes earlier than scheduled. There were 12 people waiting in line. I waited an additional 30 mins before my proctor was available.

After the long exam, I took the closing survey and was anxious about my results. To further increase my anxiousness the PASS / FAIL preliminary evaluation did not appear. Only the standard notice that says AWS will evaluate results against compliance and policies and that the process can take up to 5 working days. This was unusual from my experience taking other AWS certifications with PearsonVue. At this point, I thought I failed.

Early the next morning, I received my digital badge from Credly and an email from certmetrics congratulating me on passing my SA Pro exams! I hope my experience will be valuable to you.