AWS Cloud Practitioner Training – What to Expect in the Exam

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Last year Amazon Web Services exceeded $7 billion in fourth-quarter revenue, a jump of over 45% from the year before. With growth as exceptional as this, demand for cloud engineers is understandably increasing at a rapid rate.

Training and certification are a great way to get started in the cloud world and with typical salaries exceeding $100k p/a there has been a huge uptake in training in recent years. To get a job in a competitive market you need to be able to differentiate yourself and gaining several AWS certifications is a sensible way to get started.

Many aspiring cloud engineers will start their learning path by taking the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam. This exam is the foundational level in the AWS training program and is a good first step on your path to cloud mastery.

In this article I want to explore the AWS Cloud Practitioner Training path in more detail so you can get an idea of what to expect in the exam. I will discuss the recommended training, experience and practice that you should undertake before sitting the exam.

NOW AVAILABLE: Are you ready to try out some practice questions? Try our free AWS Practice Test

The AWS Exam Blueprint

As a foundational level exam, the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner is intended for individuals who have the ability to, in Amazon’s words, “effectively demonstrate an overall understanding of the AWS Cloud”. This certification is fairly generic and does not assess the skills required for specific job roles such as Developers, Sysops Administrators and Solutions Architects.

AWS recommend you have a minimum of 6 months experience with the AWS Cloud. However, this does not need to be experience in a technical job role. Exposure to the AWS Cloud in a managerial, sales, purchasing or financial position is also acceptable.

The exam includes 65 questions and has a time limit of 90 minutes. You need to score a minimum of 700 out of 1000 points to pass the exam.

The question format of the exam is multiple-choice (one correct response from four options) and multiple-response (two correct responses from five options).

As you’ll see from the example questions later in this article, the questions are fairly straightforward and not scenario based like in other exams such as the Associate and Professional level certifications.

In the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam blueprint, it is stated that the exam validates an examinee’s ability to:

  • Define what the AWS Cloud is and the basic global infrastructure
  • Describe basic AWS Cloud architectural principles
  • Describe the AWS Cloud value proposition
  • Describe key services on the AWS platform and their common use cases(for example, compute and analytics)
  • Describe basic security and compliance aspects of the AWS platform and the shared security model
  • Define the billing, account management, and pricing models
  • Identify sources of documentation or technical assistance (for example, whitepapers or support tickets)
  • Describe basic/core characteristics of deploying and operating in the AWS Cloud

Throughout the rest of this article, we’ll explore these knowledge requirements in more detail, and I’ll try to give you a clear idea of what to expect in the exam.

Domains, objectives and examples

The knowledge required is organized into four test “domains”. Within each test domain there are several objectives that broadly describe the knowledge and experience expected to pass the exam.

Test Domain 1: Cloud Concepts

This domain makes up 28% of the exam and includes the following three objectives:

  • 1.1 Define the AWS Cloud and its value proposition
  • 1.2 Identify aspects of AWS Cloud economics
  • 1.3 List the different cloud architecture design principles

What you need to know

You should be able to describe the benefits of public cloud services and be able to define what types of services are available on AWS (think IaaS, PaaS, SaaS).  Make sure you understand the 6 advantages of cloud:

  1. Trade capital expense for variable expense
  2. Benefit from massive economies of scale
  3. Stop guessing about capacity
  4. Increase speed and agility
  5. Stop spending money running and maintaining data centers
  6. Go global in minutes

You need to know how cloud is beneficial from a financial perspective and should understand the difference between CAPEX and OPEX – this relates to item 1 in the list above.

You should understand the design principles of creating cloud architectures, this includes loose coupling, scaling (vertically and horizontally), bootstrapping and automation, to name just a few.

The AWS blog article “The 5 Pillars of the Well-Architected Framework” is essential reading, as is the whitepaper “Architecting for the Cloud: Best Practices”.

Example questions

Question: Which feature of AWS allows you to deploy a new application for which the requirements may change over time?

  1. Elasticity
  2. Fault tolerance
  3. Disposable resources
  4. High availability

Answer: 1, elasticity allows you to deploy your application without worrying about whether it will need more or less resources in the future. With elasticity, the infrastructure can scale on-demand

Question: What advantages do you get from using the AWS cloud? (choose 2)

  1. Trade capital expense for variable expense
  2. Stop guessing about capacity
  3. Increased capital expenditure
  4. Gain greater control of the infrastructure layer
  5. Comply with all local security compliance programs

Answer: 1+2, with public cloud services such as AWS you can pay on a variable (OPEX) basis for the resources you use and scale on-demand, so you never need to guess how much resources you need to deploy.

Resources

Test Domain 2: Security

This domain makes up 24% of the exam and includes the following four objectives:

  • 2.1 Define the AWS Shared Responsibility mode
  • 2.2 Define AWS Cloud security and compliance concepts
  • 2.3 Identify AWS access management capabilities
  • 2.4 Identify resources for security support

What you need to know

You should understand the AWS shared responsibility model which defines who is responsible for different aspects of the technology stack from the data centre through to servers, firewall rules and data encryption.

AWS provide tools and services for implementing security, assessing your security position, and generating alerts and compliance reports. You need to understand these services and tools well enough to describe their usage and benefits. This includes services such as KMS, CloudTrail and AWS Artifact.

You also need to understand the services that are used for authentication, authorization and access management. This includes services such as AWS IAM, and Amazon Cognito, and the usage of access keys, key pairs and signed URLs.

Support services include real-time insights through AWS Trusted Advisor and proactive support and advocacy with a Technical Account Manager (TAM). Make sure you know which support packages include a TAM.

Example questions

Question: Under the AWS shared responsibility model what is the customer responsible for? (choose 2)

  1. Physical security of the data center
  2. Replacement and disposal of disk drives
  3. Configuration of security groups
  4. Patch management of infrastructure
  5. Encryption of customer data

Answer: 3+5, AWS are responsible for items such as the physical security of the DC, replacement of old disk drives, and patch management of the infrastructure whereas customers are responsible for items such as configuring security groups, network ACLs, patching their operating systems and encrypting their data.

Question: Which AWS service is used to enable multi-factor authentication?

  1. Amazon STS
  2. AWS IAM
  3. Amazon EC2
  4. AWS KMS

Answer: 2, IAM is used to securely control individual and group access to AWS resources and can be used to manage multi-factor authentication.

Resources

 Test Domain 3: Technology

This domain makes up 36% of the exam and includes the following four objectives:

  • 3.1 Define methods of deploying and operating in the AWS Cloud
  • 3.2 Define the AWS global infrastructure
  • 3.3 Identify the core AWS services
  • 3.4 Identify resources for technology support

What you need to know

You need to understand the core AWS services and what they are used for. You typically don’t need a deep level of knowledge of the specifics of a service but do need to understand its purpose, benefits and use cases.

Core services include EC2, ECS, Lambda, LightSail, EBS, EFS, S3, RDS, DynamoDB, RedShift, ElastiCache, Elastic Load Balancing, Auto Scaling, CloudFront, Route 53, CloudWatch, CloudTrail, and SNS.

You should understand the underlying global infrastructure that makes up the AWS Cloud. This includes regions, availability zones, and edge locations. Make sure you understand which services are globally or regionally defined.

You should also know the customer configurable building blocks of cloud services including VPCs, and subnets, and connectivity options such as Internet Gateways, VPN and Direct Connect. Also, ensure you know the difference between NAT Instances and NAT Gateways and the relative benefits of each service.

Example questions

Question: What are the advantages of Availability Zones? (choose 2)

  1. They allow regional disaster recovery
  2. They provide fault isolation
  3. They enable the caching of data for faster delivery to end users
  4. They are connected by low-latency network connections
  5. They enable you to connect your on-premises networks to AWS to form a hybrid cloud

Answer: 3+4, both Amazon EC2 and Amazon S3 are managed at a regional level. Note: Amazon S3 is a global namespace but you still create your buckets within a region.

Question: Which AWS support plans provide support via email, chat and phone? (choose 2)

  1. Basic
  2. Business
  3. Developer
  4. Global
  5. Enterprise

Answer: 2+5, only the business and enterprise plans provide support via email, chat and phone.

Resources

 Test Domain 4: Billing and Pricing

This domain makes up 12% of the exam and includes the following three objectives:

  • 4.1 Compare and contrast the various pricing models for AWS
  • 4.2 Recognize the various account structures in relation to AWS billing and pricing
  • 4.3 Identify resources available for billing support

What you need to know

Most services on AWS are offered on a pay per use basis, but there are also options to reduce price by locking in to 1- or 3-year contracts with various options for payment. You need to understand these models and which services they apply to.

Make sure you understand what AWS charges you for and what is free of charge. For instance, inbound data transfer is free whereas outbound data transfer typically incurs costs.

Some services such as VPC, CloudFormation, and IAM are free but the resources you create with them may not be. You need to understand where costs may be incurred.

AWS accounts can be organized into Organizations for centralized management of policies and consolidated billing. You need to understand the various accounts structures and the benefits and use cases for implementing them.

For instance, you might want separate account structures to manage different policies for production and non-production resources, or you might implement consolidated billing to take advantage of volume discounts.

For billing support, you need to know the services and tools available to you and what levels of support you can get from AWS support plans.

Tools include AWS Cost Explorer, AWS Simple Monthly Calculator, and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) calculator.

Example questions

Question: What are two ways an AWS customer can reduce their monthly spend? (choose 2)

  1. Turn off resources that are not being used
  2. Use more power efficient instance types
  3. Reserve capacity where suitable
  4. Be efficient with usage of Security Groups
  5. Reduce the amount of data ingress charges

Answer: 1+3, turning off resources that are not used can reduce spend. You can also use reserved instances to reduce the monthly spend at the expense of having to lock into a 1 or 3-year contract – good for stable workloads.

Question: A company would like to maximize their potential volume and RI discounts across multiple accounts and also apply service control policies on member accounts. What can they use gain these benefits?

  1. AWS Budgets
  2. AWS Cost Explorer
  3. AWS IAM
  4. AWS Organizations

Answer: 4, AWS Organizations enables you to create groups of AWS accounts and then centrally manage policies across those accounts. AWS Organizations provides consolidated billing in both feature sets, which allows you set up a single payment method in the organization’s master account and still receive an invoice for individual activity in each member account. Volume pricing discounts can be applied to resources.

Resources

Free AWS Practice Test

Check out the quality of our questions and test your knowledge with this free sample exam. Includes 12 questions from multiple knowledge areas and you have 15 minutes to complete (pass mark is 70%).

Want to get access to more questions like this? Make sure you’re ready to ace your exam with the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Practice Exams. Over 500 questions are available in our question pool, enrol now.

AWS Cloud Practitioner Training

If you’re new to AWS, or cloud computing in general, and this is a bit overwhelming, fear not as there are some excellent and economical options for training.

The best way to get started is to head over to the aws.training website. AWS provide a number of free online courses including the “AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials” course that are a great way to learn the fundamentals of the AWS Cloud.

However, I would like to note that many of our students have reported that the training on the aws.training website is not enough to pass the exam so you will need to find additional training resources.

Another learning tool is our Training Notes on the Digital Cloud Training website which provide a deeper level of detail for all test domains of the Cloud Practitioner exam. Get access here.

New Course Logo CCP FinalAt Digital Cloud Training we also offer AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Practice Exams which are designed to be representative of the question format and difficulty of the actual AWS exam. These are a great way not just of assessing your readiness,  but also for learning the concepts as we provide detailed explanations and reference links for every question. But don’t leave it until the last minutes, get started with AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Practice Exams early so you can ensure you’re on track.

Last but not least, make sure you get access to the AWS Cloud platform and start learning through practice. AWS provide a free-tier that you can use to spin up many services without incurring any costs. Get yourself signed up and start learning the fun way!