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  • Exam tips/experiences

  • kung

    June 14, 2020 at 2:28 pm

    Last Friday I did my SA pro exam…and I (surprisingly) passed, with a score of 873.

    Surprisingly, as I didn’t expect it upon hitting the ‘End test’ button…it was though!

    I was also rather nervous, only when half way through and still on time schedule, plus having a bit given up already to pass, I relaxed a bit…

    Luckily I had the extra ESL 30 minutes, which I needed…finished 10 min before time was up (i.e. 180+30=210 minutes, thus 3:30 hour available for 75 questions…), then reviewed (and changed) only a few of the 10 questions I had marked for review, and 30 seconds before the end I submitted totally exhausted.
    (to my defence, I’m not the youngest anymore, and if you grow older, things tend to go a bit slower)
    -> If you can request for this English Second Language accommodation, I would surely do it (do this before scheduling your exam).

    What was the main challenge?

    Not so much long worded questions/scenarios, but mainly many long worded -very similar- answers of 4-5 sentences, which easily leads you to doubt about what the correct answer should be….

    It’s a lot about reading comprehension and a bit of speed reading….
    You could ask how much are these really valuable business skills in the real world?
    Of course understanding the customer requirements is very important, but in real life you can normally clarify things in multiple sessions…
    like you can come to the best solution iterative (and with help of Google/the aws docs)…
    it’s not that you have only 2 minutes to come up with the best solution without further asking or checking things….

    Anyway, back to the long worded -very similar- answers.

    Often no use to read them through in detail, as when you are at the 2nd line of the 2nd answer, you already forgot what the 1st answer was in detail.

    Thus only scan them through:
    – what is the main difference?
    – can some questions be grouped together (have same solution strategy? and does that strategy makes sense?, regularly there were 2 groups, but not always)
    and most importantly:
    – are there any errors in the answer, so that you can discard that option right away

    The free AWS Exam readiness course helps a bit in how to approach the exam (https://www.aws.training/Details/eLearning?id=34737)

    I also had a few situations where I didn’t like -or it wouldn’t be my natural approach to solve it that way- any one of the presented answer options….asking myself ‘what is all this?!’
    and a few ones were upon reading the scenario I had the idea ‘I know how to solve this’ (by using this or that product, e.g. CloudWatch Logs), but upon checking the answers that product didn’t feature at all….(again a ‘what?!’)

    Then experience and intuition starts playing a big role I guess.

    Back to the questions:

    Not that long worded overall, but regularly including a 4-5 point bullet lists, add 2-3 sentences on top/below, and you are still at many sentences.

    Above all however, often with many different requirements mentioned (like 4-5), which culminate in the end in a question like which of the options below is ‘the most cheapest’, ‘has the least impact’, ‘is the fastest to implement’ etc. AND fulfils all of customers requirements…

    What have I seen?

    A lot of the whole portfolio…(in random grouping below)
    – Many questions that had a Direct Connect (gateway/vpn) component and/or CloudFront in it
    – ECS and Fargate (often!)
    – the CI/CD products, Amplify, Elastic Beanstalk
    – Cloudformation, OpsWorks, SSM
    – Organizations/SCP
    – Budgets, Cost explorer
    – Migrations (SMS/DMS/VM Import/Export /Snowball etc.)
    – allmost all databases came along (Aurora, Postgresql, Documentdb, mysql, sql server, redshift, dynamodb)
    – EMR (knowing the related eco-system doesn’t hurt)
    – Transcribe, Workspaces, Rekognition
    – Glue, Athena, Batch, ElasticSearch, Kinesis, Cognito, Route53, Lambda
    – EC2, ELB, ASG, S3, CloudWatch, SQS, CloudTrail, Config, VPC, EBS/EFS
    Not much about security (IAM etc.) actually.

    There was only thing that took me a bit by surprise, but I forgot what is was… 🙁
    Unfortunately there were not many ‘easy’ questions which just asked for 1 product…

    How are the practice exams I did compared to the real one?

    – Dojo:

    Earlier in a related thread (Complexity/challenge level of SA pro quiz questions?) I mentioned I thought the Dojo questions were not so challenging (after seeing half of them); upon having done all timed tests -and thus seeing all questions-, I have to rectify this partly, as more challenging/wordy ones popped up only later/in the 2nd half

    Nevertheless I personally found the real exam more challenging! Mainly because of the long worded -very similar- answers. These don’t feature that often in Dojo’s question bank, or with rather easy to guess which ones are wrong

    Also Dojo’s questions are mostly like only 2 requirements to deal with (+ cheapest/fastest etc.), where the real exam had mainly 4-5 requirements to deal with simultaneously.

    However the Dojo’s questions ‘spread’ is quite good, maybe just need a bit more focus on ECS/Fargate/Direct Connect.
    I hope the Dojo team can enhance their question bank a bit? The explanations & forum responses are of course outstanding!

    – AWS practice exam: real exam is way more challenging

    – An Indian test provider: most of it is a similar challenge as the real exam, where I want to note that a substantial part of that challenge/complexity comes from the not very precise wording of the questions and answers…which makes you guessing…

    – ACG: real exam is easier (actually ACG exam is way over the top), the quizzes are a bit to simple though (as also focus on one area mainly)

    – internet exams: many questions with similar scenarios as the real exam can be found, but the possible answers are often formulated very brief/with mistakes (and there is often no consensus what the correct solution/answer is), so the real exam is still more challenging (and is also mostly with different answer options!)

    How did I prepare?

    Besides having/building practical experience, I started with the ACG theory, quizzes and labs + AWS whitepapers and some videos.
    Then continued with the Indian test provider tests; that didn’t go that well though (~65-70% max score). Above was in about 2-3 months in the evening hours/weekend end of last year.
    As I had some other things then, I let it rest a bit.
    Then Covid-19 hit, and as I had more time again, I ventured into getting my missing associate level certificates first, this to strengthen basic understanding and details, especially from the areas I had lesser exposure in.

    So in April/May I did the ACG theory/quizzes/labs/exam, some more whitepapers, and the Dojo tests, for developer and sysops + security (sa associate I had done already earlier).
    Got the certificates successfully, and last 3 weeks I only did the Dojo / Indian provider + ACG/AWS + some internet exams test exams for the SA pro.

    Obviously learning from all the mistakes made (writing my own brief notes), and reading up more in the official docs + trying a bit.

    I do advise that practical experience is very important -as it’s much easier to recall that-, but obviously in real life you won’t be exposed to everything, and not everything can be practised in a lab setting (think of Direct Connect or Organizations)

    But do any labs you can lay your hand on to strengthen your understanding I suggest if you have the time.

    Hope this helps a bit for the ones that are still preparing.


  • TutorialsDojo-Support

    June 15, 2020 at 8:43 am

    Congratulations and thank you for sharing some insights about the actual exam. We are honored to have been part of your AWS journey and happy to see that you found our content useful. All the best on your future certification tests! 🙂

    Joy @ Tutorials Dojo

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