Are you interested in becoming an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner but worried about your lack of experience with AWS? Don’t worry, I was in the same boat! But with the right resources and some dedication, passing the exam is achievable. In this blog post, I will share how I passed the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam on the first try with no AWS experience.
First, let’s talk about the exam itself. The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam is designed to test your foundational knowledge and understanding of the AWS Cloud. It consists of 65 multiple-choice and multiple-response questions and 90 minutes in which to answer them. Usually, these types of questions ask you to select two answers from a list of five responses. To pass the exam, you need a score of 700 out of 1000. Unfortunately, AWS makes it a little hard to know how many questions you need to answer correctly in order to pass. Wrong answers affect your score negatively. 15 of the questions are “test” questions for AWS, which means they won’t count towards your final score. My suggestion is to aim for more than 50 correct responses.
The exam is divided into four domains: Cloud Concepts, Security and Compliance, Technology, and Billing and Pricing. Cloud Concepts covers the basics of cloud computing and AWS services. Some of the more important concepts here are the benefits of cloud computing as well as the six pillars of the “AWS Well-Architected Framework”. Security and Compliance tests your knowledge of security best practices in AWS including the “AWS Shared Responsibility Model”.
Technology covers a range of AWS services, including compute, storage, databases, and networking. This is probably the most difficult domain to cover as AWS has over two hundred services they offer. While you don’t need to know all of them in detail, you do need to be familiar with at least a hundred of these various services and know how they might benefit an AWS customer. Finally, Billing and Pricing tests your understanding of AWS pricing models and cost management. This includes knowing what sort of cost benefit a company can receive by moving to AWS as well as which AWS tools and services allow users to track and forecast spending within AWS.
Now, let’s talk about the resources that I found most helpful in preparing for the exam. Firstly, the Cloud Essentials Learning Plan (offered for free on the AWS Skill Builder) is a great starting point for individuals who are new to AWS and cloud computing. The content is designed to be accessible and engaging, with clear explanations and real-world examples. It’s also flexible, allowing learners to complete the courses and labs at their own pace, on their own schedule. The engaging videos and courses cover most of the content on the exam.
While it’s not a super deep dive into any concepts, it’s the perfect introduction to the major AWS technologies and ideas. While I found all of the content very helpful, I did not feel confident in my ability to pass the exam after going through the complete learning plan (the phrase, “a mile wide, an inch deep” comes to mind). I supplemented the learning plan by participating in a number of AWS live training sessions (these are also offered for free). While it was nice to have an instructor for these sessions to interact with, they really didn’t dive any deeper into the content than the Cloud Essential Learning Plan did.
Another resource I used was AWS CloudQuest. AWS CloudQuest is an RPG-style video game that teaches you the basics of AWS. An interesting feature of AWS CloudQuest is that the various “missions” within the game actually involve you logging into a real (but temporary) AWS account and provisioning actual AWS resources as you would for a client. This is great for getting hands-on experience with the technology, but it’s not great for exam prep as many of the questions on the exam are more theoretical or about larger concepts such as the “Well-Architected Framework”. Also a quick note from a pseudo-gamer, the gaming experience isn’t very good (poor graphics, clunky controls), but it’s still worth checking out if you have the time.
Finally, the “Ultimate AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner – 2023” Udemy course offered by Stephane Maarek and accompanying practice tests were my go-to resource for exam preparation. The course content is detailed and organized, covering everything you need to know for the exam. It includes almost 15 hours of lecture videos as well as a full practice test for you to take.
There is also a second Udemy “course” that consists of six additional practice tests (no lectures or other content). The practice tests are essential for passing the actual exam. While not word-for-word replicas of the questions on the actual exam, they are very similar. They give you a great sense of what the actual exam questions are like. I took them repeatedly until I was consistently scoring 80% or higher on each practice test. If you can pass these practice tests, you will pass the actual exam. These two resources were by far and away the best exam prep I did.
On the day of the exam, I was a bit nervous, but overall, the experience was positive. The exam is proctored at home using the Pearson VUE software. AWS recommends that you log in to the software 30 minutes ahead of your scheduled exam time. I can confirm this is definitely something you should do. The setup for the test can take almost 20 minutes alone. Sidenote: I had a small technical issue, but it was dealt with easily by the Pearson staff.
The setup includes the software running tests on your computer to make sure your camera, microphone, and speakers are working. Additionally, you must upload photos of your identification and desk setup. The test is closed book and nothing is allowed within an arm’s reach of your desk. If you talk or leave your desk the proctor can fail you immediately with no refund. The software also locks you out of any other applications or browser windows on your computer during the test.
My exam-taking strategy was fairly standard. I went through all the questions first and answered the ones I knew for sure. Then, I went back and answered the ones that I needed to think about more. Thankfully, the testing software allows you to flag individual questions for review once you get to the end of the test. Upon completing the first pass of the test, I used the flagging feature to carefully review the questions I was less sure of.
Once I had answered the questions I flagged the first time through, I reviewed all of the questions and my answers one last time before submitting the exam. After submitting the exam, AWS has you fill out a small survey on your experience. Then you get your results. In my case, the result was PASS! My final score was 822 (well over the threshold of 700 needed to pass the exam).
Unfortunately, AWS doesn’t allow you to see which questions you got right or wrong. I would have liked to know what I missed, but knowing I passed is enough. From beginning to end, the entire process of passing the exam took about four months to complete. This was mainly due to the fact that I was studying for this on the side while still doing client and project work. If passing the exam was your only focus you could conceivably pass the exam with about a month’s worth of work.
Passing the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam with no AWS experience is achievable with the right resources and some dedication. The Udemy course and practice tests were by far the best tool for exam preparation. On the day of the exam, be sure to have a solid exam-taking strategy in place. This is to help you stay calm and focused. Hopefully with these tips, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner!
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