How I Passed the AWS CSAA Exam
Just passed the AWS Certified Solutions Architect (AWS CSAA) exam today with a score of 895 and thought I’d share how I prepared for those who are looking to tackle the exam as well.
I started with little cloud experience. I had only created a super small EC2 instance as part of a project I did for grad school awhile back, but other than that I had zero knowledge of what I was doing.
A Cloud Guru was my first pass at the exam’s content. A Cloud Guru was really helpful to understand the core concepts that the exam expected you to know, but was lacking in the finer details and breadth of the AWS services.
As such, it was nowhere near enough to prepare me for the certification exam so I started to look around for practice exams that gave me a good idea on what topics I needed to study more. That’s when a good friend pointed me toward a set of practice exams created by Jon Bonso and team.
These practice exams were great. They weren’t a brain dump of exam questions, but they helped me to identify weaknesses I had and where I needed to study more. After every practice exam I took, I would review both the questions I got right and the questions I got wrong.
For the questions I got right, I would make sure the mental model of how I got there was correct. This was easily verified since each question in the practice exams has a thorough explanation of why a particular answer was right or wrong.
For the questions I got wrong, I would review the explanation and additionally look up the FAQs and developer docs in AWS to learn more about the service or services related to the question.
Overall, I did almost two complete passes through the Jon Bonso practice exams. Below were my scores:
I should also mention that I’m a big fan of active recall. So as I was going through the A Cloud Guru videos and practice exams, I created flash cards in Anki to help me remember the details of particular services, as well as give me quick scenarios that forced my mind to think about the pros and cons of a particular architecture. This helped a lot. In the end, I created a total of 307 cards.
Lastly, I made sure to actually try to implement what I learned. I ended up creating a script that automatically trained a machine learning model on some data, then deployed that model via a CloudFormation template that automatically spun up a new endpoint in API Gateway with Lambda executing the predictive model. It was a good exercise in putting together all the services, roles, and policies involved in doing such a project.
Overall I think the exam was at the right level of difficulty and what I did above really helped prepare me for it.