[AWS] How to tackle with the AWS Certified Developer Associate Level?

I attended the AWS Certified Developer – Associate exam on 4th March 2016, and eventually got this certification. I would like to tell you what the AWS Certified Developer – Associate is, and how I prepared for the examination.

What is AWS Certified Developer – Associate?

AWS Certified Developer – Associate is one of the AWS Certifications. AWS offers three categories of certification: Solutions Architect, SysOps Administrator and Developer. Each of these is currently available on an Associate or Professional level. Right now, there are five exams in total, since one exam covers both the Developer and SysOps Administrator on the Professional Level.

The AWS Certified Developer – Associate exam validates technical expertise in developing and maintaining applications on the AWS platform. Exam concepts you should understand for this exam include:

  • Picking the right AWS services for the application
  • Leveraging AWS SDKs to interact with AWS services from your application
  • Writing code that optimises performance of AWS services used by your application
  • Code-level application security (IAM roles, credentials, encryption, etc.)

No matter what the exams are, the exams are written with multiple-choice and multiple- answer questions. Associate Level exams include 55 questions and are allotted 80 minutes.

How to prepare for the exam?

First of all, you should read the Exam guide. This is an important document which tells you:

  1. the exam’s objective
  2. a detailed description of the skills, experience and knowledge that candidates are expected to have going into the exam, both AWS- specific and general IT
  3. a partial list of AWS-provided documentation and available training courses which are helpful in preparing for the exam
  4. an explanation of the types of questions on the exam
  5. a breakdown of all the topics included in the exam’s content.

Second, through this exam guide, you should know what kind of official documents you have to read:

  1. Whitepapers
  2. AWS Documentation

In addition, there are some useful official resources you can use:

  1. Instructional videos and labs
  2. AWS Architecture Center
  3. Hands-on labs (not free)
  4. Sample quesions

You can also register a practice exam through Kryterion. Associate practice exams require you to complete 20 questions within a 30 minute period and cost USD 20 for one time only.

However, after you visit above links, I BELIEVE you will be confused just like me. There is really TOO MUCH information TO read. To be honest, I was struggling with these documents for more than one month. I even printed most of these documents and read them, then I found it was not efficient at all.

It really makes no sense, when I read these documents, I think.

Even though I want to get this certification by myself rather than through the third party training providers, finally I decided to use them. These third party training providers save my time although I need to pay the bill.

I’ve tried three third party training providers, one was CloudAcademy, another was Udemy, and the last one was LinuxAcademy. They all have various resources such as videos, hand-on labs, and quizzes. There are differences between them:

  1. Cloud Academy has 7 days free trial.
  2. They have different pricing. Linux Academy ($29USD per month) is cheaper than Cloud Academy ($59USD per month).
  3. They have different categorised courses.
  4. There is no hands-on lab in Udemy. It means you need to prepare AWS account on your own. But it’s cheaper than others ($24USD for your first course on Udemy, and you can access it in lifetime).
  5. If you are not satisfied with any training course in Udemy, you can request a refund within 30 days.

Personally, I signed up for a 7 days free trial account on CloudAcademy. And I also signed up for an account on Udemy as well as registering the course (I got a coupon, so it just cost me $15USD). After 7 days free trial, I stopped using CloudAcademy, and signed up for an account on LinuxAcademy for monthly plan. I finished the course (AWS Certified Developer – Associate Level) step by step as well as requested a refund from Udemy within 10 days.

In my experience, CloudAcademy is useful if you want to learn one specific part of AWS. But if you are preparing for the certification, LinuxAcademy is may much better. Because it has structured learning plans, you just follow the course step by step. Udemy is not bad, however its resources are fewer than LinuxAcademy.

By the way, there is no subtitle embedding the videos of LinuxAcademy. Although it is may inconvenience for some people who are not native English speakers, I think it is a good way to practice English listening.

Last but not least, whether you would like to use third party training courses or not, it’s up to you. Please DO NOT think I advise you to use any of these training courses. I just want to share my experience.

Attend the Exam

Once you decide to attend the exam, you can register the exam through the Kryterion website. Please make sure that you meet the criteria for the certification level you are attempting, because the registration fee for an Associate Exam is USD 150 and a Professional Exam is USD 300. Is it not cheap, right?

After paying for the exam, you will be provided with a Test Taker Authorisation Code which must be provided to the proctor at the exam. Besides your Test Taker Authorization Code, when you go to take your exam, you will also be required to provide the Exam Proctor two forms of identification. One must be a photo Government issued ID. Secondary identification may be a credit card, bank debit card, or employee identification card.

Please note that during the exam check-in process, you will be asked to turn out exterior pockets (on jackets, jeans, slacks, etc.) to verify that the pockets are either empty or that they do not contain any prohibited items. Additionally, external eyewear will be inspected to ensure that it is not technology-enabled.

Immediately after completing your exam you will receive your exam results on-screen. AWS does not publish exam passing scores because exam questions and passing scores are subject to change without notice. (Someone says the minimum passing score is 65%)

If you fail an exam, you can retake the exam up to three times within one year from the date of your first attempt. There has to be a 30 day interval in- between exam attempts, and the full exam fee must be paid each time.

Good luck!

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