How to pass the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam?

AWS Cloud Practitioner

I recently had the opportunity to take the AWS Certified Cloud Practioner exam – and I actually Passed! Although I had to agree to the terms and conditions of the exam and promised to not to share the exam questions, no one actually asked me to keep a low profile about the structure, topics, etc. So let me start from the beginning.

… that all started with the Big Bang!

Our company had that awesome idea to migrate all the infrastructure to the Cloud!

First of all, it’s very fancy when you can tell your clients, investors, etc that you’re already “in the Cloud”.

Second, moving your infrastructure to the Cloud has an awful lot of benefits! I don’t want to list them all, and this isn’t a study material either, so let me just note down some of them:

  • You can access as much or as little capacity as you need and dynamically scale to meet actual demand
  • You can deploy your application to the AWS Region that best meets your requirements, customer base, compliance, etc while you’re reducing the latency to end users as well
  • AWS has lots of managed services which lower the operational complexity and cost
  • AWS Cloud provides governance capabilities that enable continuous monitoring of configuration changes to your IT resources
  • The “pay-as-you-go” pricing model

The “pay-as-you-go” pricing model

Since our company moved to the Cloud, it was obvious, that we (~ not just the OPS guys) should know more about AWS, how it works, the basic services that it offers, pricing model or how to solve some simple tasks. Although this exam is not mandatory for us but is  “highly recommended” –  I decided to take it and started to study and prepare for the exam.

Study materials

If you search for the “AWS Cloud Practitioner” term in Google, you’ll find a lot of material, sources where you can learn from. There are some very good resources out there and some which are completely useless. Also, there are lots of videos on Youtube, courses on Udemy or forums on Reddit, Quora, etc. so you should definitely filter out the ones that give you the best and most useful material.

How to start?

  1. Although it’s not mandatory, I’d highly suggest starting with the Official training from Amazon. Most of these video courses are completely free (and not even long!) and you can get a basic understanding of the Cloud, architecture, web services.
  2. Whitepapers. Always read the whitepapers, so you can connect the dots and you’ll get a deeper understanding, more background information and suddenly all the pieces of that puzzle will make sense. There are hundreds of whitepapers there, and obviously, you don’t need to read them all. The most important ones are the following ones:
    1. Overview of Amazon Web Services
    2. AWS Storage Services Overview
    3. AWS Well-Architected Framework
    4. Introduction to AWS Security
    5. AWS Security Best Practices
    6. Architecting for the Cloud: AWS Best Practices
    7. How AWS Pricing Works
    8. The Total Cost of (Non) Ownership of Web Applications in the Cloud
    9. Compare AWS Support Plans
  3. A Cloud Guru. This is optional though. Our company bought the license, so we had access to their eLearning platform and were able to watch the videos and try out the “Sample Exam Questions” as well. Is it worth to buy the course there? If you ask me… well, maybe not. They’ll actually go through the whitepapers and will explain the stuff from it, but if you read the papers carefully, you don’t really need the course 😉

If you studied carefully, using these resources, you’re ready for the exam.

Prepare for the AWS Cloud Practitioner exam!

If you want to gain more confidence and test your knowledge, there are some Udemy courses, which can help you. They don’t really contain the questions from the official AWS exam, but the structure of the Udemy exams (and the questions) is very similar to the official one, so it’s worth to give them a try.

Tip: there are Sales on Udemy almost every week, so you don’t even need to pay the full price for them 😉

How was my exam?

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, unfortunately, I cannot share the exam questions with you (frankly speaking, can’t even remember all of them), but I can give you some hints on what to focus on, which topics/services popped up in my exam (note, that others might have different experience, topics):

General

  • Advantages of Cloud Computing, why would a small/middle size company think about moving to Cloud
  • You should know the differences between Region, Availability Zone, and Edge Location
  • Design Principles: seriously, you should know all of them
  • How to remove the single point of Failure, which techniques/solutions you can use

Pricing

  • How to optimize for the cost?
  • Pricing Policies
  • Select the FREE AWS services
  • Support plans
  • How are the following services priced: S3, EC2, RDS, CloudFront
  • Consolidated billing, Organizations, responsibilities of the Account Owner
  • Cost Explorer, AWS Billing and Cost Management, AWS Cost and Usage Report
  • AWS Calculators: Simply monthly calculator, the total cost of ownership calculator

Services

  • S3: tiers / Storage classes, the difference between them, which of them is the best for the described scenario, etc.
  • CloudFront, basic terms (origin, distribution, Edge Locations)
  • EC2: What is the most important feature of it, what is the pricing model for it, what are Security/Placement groups
  • EBS: how can you use it, what kind of volume types you can choose from, pricing model
  • Elastic Load Balancer: what is it, why you should use the Application Load Balancer when to use the Network Load Balancer
  • DynamoDB: main benefits of using it, what are Global tables, when to use DynamoDB and when Aurora
  • Aurora: you should know how much faster is Aurora than MySQL 😀
  • Redshift: In which scenario would you use it, why is it better for BI than Aurora or DynamoDB, how to make it “cheaper”
  • Auto Scaling: Which products/services can offer you auto-scaling?
  • Route53: How is it connected with DNS, how to use it in a disaster recovery situation
  • Elastic Beanstalk: Which languages does it support, why is it better than EC2, price
  • Compare Elastic Beanstalk with LightSail
  • CloudFormation: why and when to use it, what are the main benefits, what is the _only_ mandatory field that simply has to be in the template
  • CloudWatch: when to use it, how it can be integrated with SQS or SNS, how to monitor the CPU utilization
  • Cloudtrail & AWS Trusted Advisor
  • Identity Access Management (IAM)! What can you do here, why is it so important, how can you access it, what are users, groups, roles, and policies? What is the main difference between roles and users?
  • Tagging and Resource Groups: what is the biggest benefit of using tags/resource groups
  • Security: AWS WAF, AWS Shield, AWS Compliance, AWS Inspector
  • And many questions about Amazon VPC, VPN, net gateways, subnets, NACL.

Conclusion

I know, it’s quite a huge list with all those topics, but you shouldn’t underestimate the exam questions, some of them are really tricky. Like when you have to choose the _biggest_ advantage of using CloudWatch (and all the listed options are actually very-very big advantages) or when you have to choose the _cheapest_ solution for storing the images in the Cloud, etc. Pay attention to details and take your time. You have 90 minutes for 65 questions, so the time is more than enough. Also, you can mark/flag the questions where you’re unsure about the answer and get back to them later, so there’s no need to panic. You can go through the exam questions in 30-40 minutes (if you’re well prepared) and you’ll still have enough time to review your flagged questions.

What can I say? Good luck and let us know how well you scored at the exam! 🙂

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