AWS Certified Solutions Architect Exam Tips

AWS regularly update their exams with new questions and over time, new services and features creep into the AWS exam question bank. That’s why as an instructor I find it important to periodically retake exams to find out what’s changed and make sure my courses are aligned and up-to-date.

I recently retook the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate (SAA-C02) exam as it had been several months since I last took the exam. I often hear rumors that the question bank has changed considerably and that many new services are being tested on.

This is partly true; the questions were definitely new to me with just a few questions that I recognized from previous exams (there was even a question I remember first seeing on the SAA-C01 exam).

However, the services and features included in the test were mostly the core services that you would normally expect to find with a focus on Amazon EC2 (especially pricing options), Amazon EC2 Auto Scaling Groups, Elastic Load Balancers, high availability architectures, Amazon RDS, Amazon Aurora, Amazon S3, Amazon EBS, Amazon EFS, VPC Endpoints/PrivateLink, Amazon SQS and SNS, Amazon VPC etc.

These services are core to the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate exam, so you need to know them very well whenever you take your exam. So what about the differences? There really weren’t any big surprises, nothing completely new to the exam and nothing that isn’t already covered in our video and practice test courses. Of course, I can’t share the details of the questions I received, but here are some tips to help you study based on what I saw.

Click the image above to watch Neal’s video on the latest SAA-C02 exam updates from our youtube channel

Tips for studying

This is not an exhaustive list of what you need to study. Of course, the core elements described above require lots of attention – but keep in mind that this is just a list of some of the services and features I think are being emphasized a lot lately (this is collated from not just my experience but feedback from thousands of my students).

Storage Gateway – lots of questions – but all easy! You just need to know the basics of each type of storage gateway and you’ll nail it. Make sure you understand the different types of storage gateway: volume, file, and tape and know when to deploy each type and how they are deployed (general architecture).

Scheduled scaling policies for ASG – this has been coming up a lot for ages now in both the SAA-C01 and the SAA-C02 versions of the exam. You just need to be sure you understand when to use each type of ASG scaling policy and you’ll be fine.

IAM roles for EC2/ECS – know when to use roles and why it’s a security best practice; ensure you’re clear on how to implement with least privilege.

AWS Direct Connect (DX)/Transit Gateway – understand the use cases, benefits and deployment models. Also, be sure you understand how to deploy encryption over a DX connection.

AWS DataSync – AWS like to test your knowledge of how to migrate into AWS so be sure you understand the various tools at your disposal. This includes DataSync, Snowball, DMS and SMS.

Kinesis Data Streams – Understand the use cases (streaming data), the benefits (serverless, elastic), and the deployment options (e.g. where data can be loaded to, processed, analyzed etc.)

AWS WAF – The AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF) comes up on lots of different AWS Certification exams these days. AWS are obviously keen to make sure it’s being considered in security architectures. Make sure you understand what it does and how it can be deployed (what services it integrates with, e.g. CloudFront, ALB, API Gateway).

Amazon FSx – Another popular topic on the SAA-C02! Make sure you know the different options with FSx (Lustre and FSx for Windows File Server), when to use it, and where data gets loaded to.

MFA delete – Easy stuff but comes up quite a lot. You need to understand why you would use MFA delete (protect S3 objects from accidental deletion) and what’s required to implement it (versioning).

Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) also came up in one question. The only surprise – as I haven’t seen it mentioned for a while. In that case, understand what service you can use to remain cloud agnostic.

Course Updates

I currently have two courses for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate (SAA-C02) exam: a video course and a practice test course. Everything you need to know to score an exam pass is already included in these courses and in our FREE online cheat sheets. Indeed, we have countless student successes on this exam every week.

New updates will be made over the coming weeks with some new videos and new practice questions. Note that I am also adding some orientation videos for the new console. Though the new console changes are mostly cosmetic, for a few services they are more considerable – so I’ll be adding updates to cover those changes.

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