AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate Exam – How Hard is it?

AWS SysOps Exam

How hard is the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate?

The AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate certification has a reputation for being the hardest of the associate level certifications in Amazon Web Services’ certification programs. But how difficult is it really?

The thing about the AWS SysOps Administrator exam is it focusses on exam scenarios that cover deployment and operational aspects of AWS services. This means it can be a bit tricky for those who don’t have on-the-job experience. There’s also a lot more coverage of monitoring, auditing and managing resources, as well as troubleshooting issues.

If you work with AWS services regularly then that will make the exam significantly easier. I also recommend that my students take at least one of the other associate level certification first – either the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate or the AWS Certified Developer Associate.

Is it worth getting?

Click the image above to watch this video and learn more about Neal’s thoughts on why it’s worth getting the AWS SysOps Administrator Associate

Some students skip the SysOps Associate as they don’t work in a systems operations role so they assume it’s not that useful. I would argue that it’s a valuable certification to gain for a couple of reasons:

  1. Firstly, it’s considered to be harder and fewer people have it on their resumes, so it does provide a bit of differentiation.
  2. Secondly, if you’re already doing the other associate level certifications, due to the amount of overlap (see below), you’ll already be most of the way there – so it’s definitely worth a bit of extra effort.

Are there any pre-requisites?

There are no pre-requisites for taking the exam. However, as I mentioned above I recommend taking another associate level certification first or having equivalent industry experience. Taking another associate level certification course first will provide you with a broader understanding of AWS services and more hands-on experience (assuming you follow along with the labs).

What topics are covered?

There are seven domains in the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate exam guide:

Domain 1: Monitoring and Reporting

  • 1.1 Create and maintain metrics and alarms utilizing AWS monitoring services
  • 1.2 Recognize and differentiate performance and availability metrics
  • 1.3 Perform the steps necessary to remediate based on performance and availability metrics

Domain 2: High Availability

  • 2.1 Implement scalability and elasticity based on use case
  • 2.2 Recognize and differentiate highly available and resilient environments on AWS

Domain 3: Deployment and Provisioning

  • 3.1 Identify and execute steps required to provision cloud resources
  • 3.2 Identify and remediate deployment issues

Domain 4: Storage and Data Management

  • 4.1 Create and manage data retention
  • 4.2 Identify and implement data protection, encryption, and capacity planning needs

Domain 5: Security and Compliance

  • 5.1 Implement and manage security policies on AWS
  • 5.2 Implement access controls when using AWS
  • 5.3 Differentiate between the roles and responsibility within the shared responsibility model

Domain 6: Networking

  • 6.1 Apply AWS networking features
  • 6.2 Implement connectivity services of AWS
  • 6.3 Gather and interpret relevant information for network troubleshooting

Domain 7: Automation and Optimization

  • 7.1 Use AWS services and features to manage and assess resource utilization
  • 7.2 Employ cost-optimization strategies for efficient resource utilization
  • 7.3 Automate manual or repeatable process to minimize management overhead

How much overlap is there with other associate level certifications?

There’s a lot of overlap between all of the associate-level certifications. The core set of services are very similar to the AWS Solutions Architect Associate and AWS Developer Associate. As you can see from the domains from the exam guide above there are some differences in the objectives of the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator being more geared towards deployment, management and operational activities.

In addition to different objectives, there are some services covered in more detail, including:

  • AWS Systems Manager (lots of coverage of inventory, patching, software management, etc.)
  • AWS CloudFormation (at least compared to the AWS Solutions Architect Associate)
  • Amazon ElastiCache (more focus on deployment types)
  • AWS Config (for compliance)
  • Amazon CloudWatch (lots of coverage of performance monitoring, events, logs, etc.)
  • AWS IAM (more geared towards understanding IAM policies)
  • AWS Organizations (know your SCPs!)
  • AWS Cost management tools (fairly light coverage but more than the other associates: Cost Explorer, Cost and Usage Report, AWS Budgets)

What are the exam questions like?

Here’s a couple of resources you can use to check out the format of the exam questions:

  1. You can find 20 FREE AWS Certified SysOps Administrator questions here
  2. You can find some example exam scenarios with solutions here

The exam scenarios are extracted from many common scenarios that students have seen come up on the exam so they’re a really useful resource to gain an understanding of the types of questions you’ll see on the exam. This can also really help you in knowing what you need to learn to prepare yourself.

How long will it take?

As I stated earlier in the article, I do recommend taking at least one of the other associate-level certifications first. If you do that then you’ll already be 60-80% of the way there. I’d recommend putting aside an additional 2-3 weeks to prepare and you should be good to go for the SOA-C01 exam.

How can you best prepare?

So, you’re excited to get started with the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate certification and wondering what resources are out there to help you. Let’s start with the free options. Go to this page to find links to various free resources including cheat sheets, practice questions, blog articles, YouTube videos, and AWS documentation.

For the full training experience though, your best bet (in our opinion 🙂 ) are the following training courses:

Download your FREE Study Plan to successfully prepare for your AWS SysOps Administrator Associate in 21 days.

The AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate is a great certification to get on your CV so I hope you’re excited to get started and looking forward to hearing about your exam success!

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