AWS Developer Associate Exam – My Experience, Feedback and Tips

Home » AWS Certification » AWS Developer Associate Exam – My Experience, Feedback and Tips
AWS Developer Associate Exam – My Experience, Feedback and Tips

A couple of weeks ago I passed the AWS Certified Developer Associate (DVA-C01) exam on my first attempt. This was the second time I took this exam having previously become AWS Developer Associate certified about 4 years ago. The exam has definitely changed since then. In the old exam with the knowledge from the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate and a few more things facts around Amazon DynamoDB you could easily pass the exam. The current exam is definitely much more developer focussed with questions testing your knowledge of Developer Tools, development best practices, and understanding of code samples.

With that being said, I still don’t believe you need a strong background in development to pass this exam. Indeed, my background is more around Enterprise Solutions Architecture than development and I actually found the exam slightly easier than the SAA-C02 I took recently. You will need to understand some basic code samples such as JSON code, config files, and IAM policy documents but they’re pretty easy to understand. With the right AWS Developer training, this is an achievable certification no matter your background.

In this blog article, I want to break down the exam blueprint, provide some feedback from my exam experience, and share some tips on how best to prepare for this exam. Of course, there is a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that all exam-takers must agree to that prevents me from sharing details of the content of the exam. What I’m going to do instead, is tell you about my general experience. I’ll also provide some tips for what you need to study if you’re planning to take the AWS Certified Developer Associate (DVA-C01)  exam.

Click the image above to watch this video and learn more about Neal’s AWS Developer Associate Exam Experience from our YouTube channel

About the Exam


  • Name: AWS Certified Developer Associate (DVA-C01)
  • Length: 65 questions
  • Time: 130 minutes
  • Pass mark: 720 points from 1000 points

There are two types of questions on the examination:

  • Multiple-choice: Has one correct response and three incorrect responses (distractors)
  • Multiple-response: Has two or more correct responses out of five or more options (I only saw 4 of these from 65 questions)

The AWS Certified Developer Associate (DVA-C01) Exam Guide

AWS Developer Associate Exam Guide

What to study?

Here’s a list of services with some key topics I think you need to study before you sit the exam. There’s a big focus on serverless application development, so make sure you know the first few services below extremely well. I’ve already written comprehensive training notes (cheat sheets) for all of these topics and more and will provide links to get you straight to the details.

Listed in order of importance (the first 5 services made up over 50% of my exam)

AWS Lambda (10-15% of the exam)

  • Invocation types
  • Using notifications and event source mappings
  • Concurrency and throttling
  • X-Ray and Amazon SQS DLQs
  • Versions and aliases
  • Blue/green deployment
  • Packaging and deployment
  • VPC connections (with Internet/NAT GW)
  • Lambda as ELB target
  • Dependencies
  • Environment variables (inc. encrypting them)

Click here for our exam-specific AWS Lambda Cheat Sheet

Amazon DynamoDB (10% of the exam)

  • Scans vs queries (and the APIs, parameters you can use)
  • Local and Global Secondary indexes
  • Calculating Read Capacity Units (RCUs) and Write Capacity Units (WCUs)
  • Performance / optimization  best practices
  • Use cases (e.g. session state, key/value data store, scalability)
  • DynamoDB Streams
  • Use in serverless app with Lambda and API Gateway
  • DynamoDB Accelerator (DAX) use cases

Click here for our exam-specific Amazon DynamoDB Cheat Sheet

Amazon API Gateway (8-10% of the exam)

  • Lambda / IAM / Cognito authorizers
  • Invalidation of cache
  • Integration types: proxy vs custom / AWS vs HTTP
  • Caching
  • Import / export OpenAPI Swagger specifications
  • Stage variables
  • Performance metrics

Click here for our exam-specific Amazon API Gateway Cheat Sheet

AWS Cognito (7-8% of the exam)

  • User pools vs Identity pools
  • Unauthenticated identities
  • AWS Cognito Sync
  • Using MFA with Cognito
  • Web identity federation

Click here for our exam-specific AWS Cognito Cheat Sheet

Amazon S3 (7-8% of the exam)

  • Encryption – make sure you understand S3 encryption very well for the exam!
  • S3 Transfer Acceleration
  • Versioning
  • Copying data
  • Lifecycle rules

Click here for our exam-specific Amazon S3 Cheat Sheet

Amazon Identity and Access Management (IAM)

  • IAM policies and roles
  • Cross account access
  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA)
  • API calls
  • IAM Roles with EC2 (instance profiles)
  • Access keys vs roles
  • IAM best practices
  • Federation

Click here for our exam-specific Amazon IAM Cheat Sheet

Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS)

  • Shared storage between containers
  • Single vs multi-docker environments
  • Uploading / downloading images with ECR
  • Placement strategies (e.g. spread, binpack, random etc.)
  • Port mappings
  • Defining task definitions
  • IAM Roles for Tasks

Click here for our exam-specific Amazon ECS Cheat Sheet

Amazon Elastic Beanstalk

  • Deployment policies and blue/green
  • .ebextensions and config file usage
  • Updating deployments
  • Worker vs web tier
  • Deployment, packaging and files, code, commands used
  • Use cases

Click here for our exam-specific Amazon Elastic Beanstalk Cheat Sheet

AWS CloudFormation

  • CloudFormation template anatomy (e.g. mappings, outputs, parameters, etc.)
  • Packaging and deployment including commands used
  • AWS Serverless Application Model (SAM)

Click here for our exam-specific AWS CloudFormation Cheat Sheet

Amazon CloudWatch

  • Monitoring application logs
  • Trigger scheduled Lambda invocation
  • Custom metrics
  • Metric resolution

Click here for our exam-specific Amazon CloudWatch Cheat Sheet

Developer Tools – CodeCommit, CodeBuild, CodeDeploy, CodePipeline, CodeStar

  • Know how each tool fits into the CI/CD pipeline
  • Various files used such as appspec.yml, buildspec.yml etc.
  • Process for packaging and deployment
  • Deployment types with CodeDeploy including different destination services (e.g. Lambda, ECS, EC2)
  • Manual approvals with CodePipeline

Click here for our exam-specific AWS Developer Tools Cheat Sheets

Amazon CloudFront

  • Viewer vs origin protocol policies
  • Lambda@Edge use cases
  • Invalidate cache
  • Signed URLs / cookies

Click here for our exam-specific Amazon CloudFront Cheat Sheet


  • X-Ray daemon, installing and configuring
  • Lambda with X-Ray
  • Use cases / benefits
  • Inclusion in Elastic Beanstalk environment
  • Annotations vs segments vs subsegments vs metadata
  • API calls
  • Port used (UDP 2000)

Click here for our exam-specific AWS X-Ray Cheat Sheet

Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS)

  • Standard queues, FIFO, DLQ, delay queue
  • Decoupling applications use cases
  • Event source mapping to Lambda
  • Visibility timeout
  • Short polling vs long polling

Click here for our exam-specific Amazon SQS Cheat Sheet

Amazon ElastiCache

  • Use cases (caching and session state)
  • In-memory data store
  • Services it sits in front of (e.g. Amazon RDS)
  • Comparison against DynamoDB DAX
  • Lazy loading vs Write Through Caching
  • Memcached vs Redis

Click here for our exam-specific Amazon ElastiCache Cheat Sheet

Amazon Step Functions

  • Step Functions state machines
  • Using to coordinate multiple Lambda function invocations

Click here for our exam-specific Amazon Step Functions Cheat Sheet

SSM Parameter Store

  • Storing credentials
  • Rotation (application needs to do it) – comparison with secrets manager (which handles rotation automatically)

Click here for our exam-specific AWS SSM Parameter Store Cheat Sheet

Other Services you may see

The list above isn’t comprehensive and you may find other services on your exam. I suggest that if possible you should come into this exam having done the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate first as that will give you enough knowledge on some of the additional services that may come up on your exam.

Additional services you should be familiar with include: Amazon EC2, Amazon Elastic Load Balancing, Amazon EC2 Auto Scaling, Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS), AWS KMS, Amazon CloudTrail, AWS Organizations, Amazon Simple Workflow Service (SWF), and Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC).

AWS Certified Developer Associate TrainingPreparation Resources

Check out the AWS training courses from Digital Cloud Training for the AWS Certified Developer Associate (DVA-C01) exam. Our ultimate training package includes:

  • Instructor-led video course that covers every detail you need to know to successfully pass your exam whether you’re an AWS newbie or an experienced practitioner.
  • Practice test course that come with highly detailed explanations and reference links. These practice questions are the closest to anything out there! I studied from hundreds of questions from multiple popular courses and having taken the exam – I guarantee ours are the closest to the real exam than anything out there.
  • Comprehensive and exam-specific training notes (PDF) that are more than just a cheat sheet. We provide hundreds of pages of detailed facts. These facts are exam-specific, they’re not just the general facts some other providers give you. We’ve gone to great lengths to give you exactly the facts you need to know to pass the exam.

Related posts: