Study pointers for AWS certification exams

In 2015 I took it upon myself to pass all five of the AWS certification exams. For me it was a way to expand my breadth of knowledge of some primary AWS services.  I saw it as a structured, measured studying regime to follow on nights and weekends.  Not for everyone, but for me, I feel the AWS domain knowledge gained was well worth the time and expense.

Since passing all the exams, I have been asked a few times how I approached studying for the exams (I studied on my own, no boot camps).  So here is was worked for me:

  • If you haven't already, create a new AWS account so you are eligible for free tier. Use this for your studying in order to save some money.
  • Read all the mentioned white papers, twice. Once at the start of your study effort, then again about 3/4's into your effort. This will help make connections to what is covered in the white paper and what you've studied in other sources.
  • Read all relevant product FAQ page's (Cloudformation, IAM, EC2, etc). The FAQ's are full of well answered questions about the capabilities of the products (which is what the exam is right?)
  • Get as much experience using the products as possible. Nothing beats real experience. Build hello world applications, deploy them, create Cloudformation templates for them, etc. Read all the help links in the AWS Console while doing all this. If the product's "Getting Started" docs have some sort of "build this" tutorial, do it, don't just read it, but actually go through the steps.
  • Take the practice exam. Use this exam as a focussing aid. Research each question until you are confident you have the correct answer. This will help deepen your knowledge of the of the topic the question is concerned with and then aid your answers to related questions on the actual exam. Use the percentage breakdown of your practice exam results to determine where you need to study more. e.g. if you score low in "Security" double your efforts in reviewing AWS security topics.
  • Be well rested for the exams, no late night cramming the night before. These are long exams (170min for the DevOps Professional exam).  A well rested brain is a requirement.

Hope this helps others looking to take one or more of the exams.  Let me know what study habits worked for yourself.