How I Studied for AWS SA Associate Exam

I am a proud Cisco CCIE which took me years to achieve, this at one point was the cornerstone of most if not all IT certifications. It is still extremely valuable today, as all knowledge is, acquiring and the path to getting there at the end is where the value lies.

So why a cloud certification then? Why AWS? The answer to the first question is simple enough. Being in the consulting area, four (4) out of five (5) conversations about data center, applications, networking, and any sort of IT technology involves cloud. Whether you believe it is the right thing or not, it’s not really the point. To understand and provide value you must know or be familiar. I’ve been doing “cloud” for a while, the certification is just a re-assertion of knowledge and a personal test. The Professional Level ones are next for me as new challenges. To answer the second question is also simple, AWS is the undisputed market leader. Best? Right for every instance? Maybe, maybe not (this is not an opinion piece ;) ), but it’s where most cloud conversations start.

Study Material

I used both A Cloud Guru and LinuxAcademy as they both provide great material. If you pick one, I’d go for A Cloud Guru for AWS specific training. Where LinuxAcademy favors for now is, they have multi-cloud training and hands-on labs as part of their Learning Paths. I say don’t choose if you can afford the yearly subscription and do both (not a paid advertisement).

I also have a subscription to Safari Books Online and read through some of the chapters, in the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Official Study Guide where I felt there were gaps in the video training.

Read through the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate Exam Blueprint and make sure you cover everything in it.


Perhaps the most important part of any study plan is getting hands-on experience. This is easier than ever now in the world of cloud computing. Get yourself an AWS account, there’s free-tier eligible things for just about most services for a full year after signing up.

Create VPCs, EC2 instances, play around with Cloudformation, ELB (Elastic Load Balancing), auto-scaling groups, and even Route53 (not free). If your company can provide an account with spending limits, then that’s the route you take. Do, however, play around in your own environment, not much you can really break if at all.

Scheduling the Exam

This part is straightforward, just create an AWS certification account and schedule your exam. There are tons of guides on getting this done. I scheduled my exam about two (2) weeks out from where I felt ready. Gave my self some time to refresh, test a few more scenarios, and simply rehash most things. Do take the free practice questions, and quizzes offered by the training partners. I didn’t actually take a full practice exam, but plenty of quizzes on specific sections.

Last Note

I am planning on continuing and doing the professional level certifications (both of them). Then moving on to Microsoft Azure as it’s another main player and quite frankly Azure offers an amazing solution as well for many workloads. Ultimately, what would benefit your customers, and/or company is being skilled in multi-cloud environments. Identifying where a benefit to your customer on one vs the other is why they trust us.

I am not abandoning the CCIE or my networking roots, mainly augmenting them with skills that will benefit my career and those I try to help, lead and guide.