Descent into cloud madness: 12 AWS certifications in 6 weeks
This morning I passed the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam (CLF-C01) to earn my final remaining AWS certification. I’m not the first to accomplish this feat—earning all twelve of the available AWS cloud certifications—but I may have been the fastest. In total, I spent forty-one days—a little less than six weeks—preparing for and taking the twelve required tests.
Below, I’ll answer some of the common questions I’ve received and share some tips in hopes that I might inspire others to dive deeper into the depths of AWS for fun and profit.
I initially knocked out the three associate level exams during a week in July of last year. Six months later, I got the itch to dive back into these and see how quickly I could collect them all.
Here’s the final timeline:
- July 23, 2020: AWS Certified Solutions Architect — Associate
- July 24, 2020: AWS Certified Developer — Associate
- July 28, 2020: AWS Certified SysOps Administrator — Associate
- January 23, 2021: AWS Certified Security — Specialty
- January 27, 2021: AWS Certified Database — Specialty
- January 30, 2021: AWS Certified Data Analytics — Specialty
- February 3, 2021: AWS Certified Machine Learning — Specialty
- February 11, 2021: AWS Certified Advanced Networking — Specialty
- February 17, 2021: AWS Certified DevOps Engineer — Professional
- February 19, 2021: AWS Certified Solutions Architect — Professional
- February 23, 2021: AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder — Specialty
- February 24, 2021: AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
Why put myself through this knowledge gauntlet? There were several reasons:
- My employer, BriteCore, covers the exam fees, in part because they’re reimbursed (in the form of AWS credits) through the AWS Partner Network. (Check with your employer to see if they’d offer the same!)
- You can take all of these exams from the comfort of your home!
- AWS is one of my very favorite things in this world. Learning more about AWS services never feels like a chore, even when it involves hours at a time consuming video content at 2x speed.
- I genuinely enjoy taking tests. 🤓 Yeah, I know. I’ll see myself out.
The resources you leverage for study can make a huge impact on your comfort level heading into an exam. I’ve used some fantastic free and paid materials over these six weeks, and some less-than-fantastic ones as well.
Generally, there are two buckets of study materials: guided courses and practice tests. I recommend settling on a single guided course per certification, as it can be overwhelming if you’re staring at 40+ hours of content spread across multiple courses.
Paid resources I purchased:
- https://acloudguru.com/ (or ACG as we call it in the biz 😅): this was the only resource I used for the three associate-level exams. I also used it to pass my Security, Database, Data Analytics and Machine Learning specialty exams. Unfortunately, the Database course wasn’t great, in my opinion. It lacked the recaps and test tips found in the other courses, and I generally felt unprepared for that exam.
- AWS Certified Advanced Networking Official Study Guide: I purchased the official study guide for Advanced Networking as I heard glowing reviews. It was excellent. This particular exam was daunting for me, as I don’t have a background in networking. For that reason, I also used…
- https://tutorialsdojo.com/: Jon Bonso’s practice tests are the cream of the crop. They’re an excellent approximation of exam difficulty and also serve as a study guide, as he gives in depth summaries for each question that you answer. I used TD for all the rest of my exams, starting with Advanced Networking. Highly recommended.
- Stephane Maarek’s courses on Udemy: I took Stephane’s courses for both of the professional exams and they were fantastic. I wish I had found him earlier. He’s a great instructor and the information density is perfect, in my opinion.
- Official practice exams (with free practice exam vouchers from earning prior certifications): these were, on average, more difficult than the actual exams, for me. They also don’t help much in filling knowledge gaps, as you don’t get a very detailed report after completing the exam. They’re also only twenty questions.
Free resources I took advantage of:
- AWS certification portal: click on each of certification badges to access that exam’s page which has the exam guide and sample questions. Always answer the ten sample questions and review the answers; these questions are exactly what you can expect on the real thing and are a great gauge of where you’re at.
- Exam readiness training: AWS also provides free exam readiness training for each of the certifications (click “Take free digital training” in the “Take Exam Readiness training” section). These vary in usefulness, but they’re free and have a lot of information in them. The only exam I highly recommend this for is the Advanced Networking specialty.
Overall, I enjoyed this journey immensely. A steady stream of learning objectives and the pressure of test days made for an intense six weeks that I’ll look back on fondly.
I do have one suggestion for the AWS training team. These exams skew pretty heavily towards legacy and hybrid architectures, which makes sense, I suppose. However, I’d love to see an exam focused on modern day web and “serverless” infrastructure. After taking twelve AWS exams, I didn’t answer a single question around AppSync, for instance, which is a shame.
My final (and most important) piece of advice for anyone on the AWS certification path: book the exam! There’s nothing that can hone your focus like a looming deadline. Pick a date that makes you comfortable, and then move it up until you’re not. You’ll be amazed at what you’re capable of with a proper nudge! 🚀
If this post inspired you to take your next step, I’d love to hear about it! You can follow me on Twitter where I’ll be sharing more certification tips and resources!