Considerations in Preparation for AWS Certification Exams
In the current landscape of software engineering and development, it is increasingly crucial to become a certified expert in cloud computing platforms. For companies, the added benefits of having Cloud Certified Developers and Engineers in-house include increased agility to quickly and securely host applications, greater flexibility in building new solutions, access to vast computing infrastructure, scalability based on demand, and high-level security. (Source: AWS)
At SpinDance there has been an internal initiative to obtain certifications through AWS Training and Certification, a learning platform provided by AWS. As the name suggests, AWS provides various types of certifications for its cloud service offerings and some training material that may help candidates obtain said certifications. Though there are a plethora of educational resources available through AWS’ Training and Certification platform, there is also no shortage of 3rd-party training and informational materials specific to each AWS certification/exam as well. I’d like to compare and contrast training resources that I utilized in my preparation for the AWS certifications obtained to date.
The SpinDance Philosophy on Training
Training Resources to Consider
- AWS Training and Certification
- Udemy Courses: AWS Certified [Certification Name] by Stephane Maarek
- Udemy: Practice Exams by Stephane Maarek
AWS Training and Certification
For many of the certifications that AWS offers it provides training material to prepare those interested in obtaining a given certification for the correlated exam. Their training material consists of videos, literature, slide decks, etc. Naturally, it seems to be frequently updated with current cloud offerings as the AWS ecosystem evolves.
The training is offered in 15 different languages, and it seems to be fairly comprehensive as they relate to the corresponding exam. Amazon uses creative and understandable analogies coupled with illustrative animations to help explain some of the more convoluted parts of the inner workings of their ever-increasing list of cloud services. This is helpful in giving even those less technically inclined a deep understanding of how a service operates ‘under the hood’.
In most aspects, I found Amazon’s provided training to be sufficient. But, one thing I think would have really helped better my understanding of topics and services discussed would have been hands-on activity.
Stephane Maarek’s AWS Certified [Certification Name]
Stephane Maarek is a consultant and software developer, and a teacher offering educational material across a variety of different platforms like YouTube, Udemy, Medium, etc. He offers 40-some paid-for courses through Udemy that cover topics related to a variety of AWS certifications exams. Each course can typically be purchased during sales for about 12-15 $USD and will include roughly 10-15 hours of pre-recorded lecture material, module quizzes, and hands-on activities. He keeps all of his courses up-to-date with the latest information from Amazon. Udemy also prominently displays the ‘last updated at’ date for each listing. Audio for the courses offered by Stephane is generally only available in English. Udemy provides auto-generated captions in a handful of languages as well.
Despite the general production quality not being as high as the videos produced by Amazon, I didn’t find it to be so low that it became a distraction or that it reduced the course’s value. In fact, most of the discussions around services and topics felt more informative and in-depth, in terms of how to use a given service than the associated AWS lecture videos. I enjoyed going through the hands-on activities Stephane includes in every module. There’s nothing like digging in and going through the motions required by each step in the process of standing up name-that-service.
If the detailed lecture videos, module quizzes, and hands-on activities aren’t enough to sway you, each certification exam prep course also comes with one practice exam. In my experience I found the practice exam to be highly representative of the actual exam given by AWS, (less the proctor, of course). It also includes a performance review after you have completed the exam. In the review, Udemy allows you to see which questions you answered correctly and Stephane provides an explanation for each choice and why it was either correct or incorrect in the context of the question.
Stephane Maarek’s Practice Exams | AWS Certified [Certification Name]
Stephane also offers listings that include sets of approximately five timed practice exams via Udemy. The exams can be purchased for about the same price as the previously mentioned course. And, just like the exam included with the video lectures, they are all highly representative of the official proctored certification exams given by Amazon.
Amazon also provides practice questions, some are offered free of charge however in some cases they require payment. A helpful part of the alternatives available through Udemy is the review section. There are other instructors like Stephane with similar listings. Similar to the exam included with the previously discussed all-inclusive courses, the sets of practice exams include a review section that starts after you have completed each of the individual five practice exams and includes detailed explanations of the question and each available choice.
Note: In addition to that, in my experience, Amazon also doesn’t provide you with any sort of review post-completing any of the practice questions.
Personally, I found the practice exams to be extremely helpful especially in preparation for the official exam. Helpful not only for review but also because the content and likeness seemed to have a higher correlation with the actual exam than even the practice questions that AWS provided and for nearly the same cost. For any future certification exams I may take, without any doubt or hesitation, I will be purchasing a set of practice exams in preparation.
Before opting for any of the paid-for options, I think that it’s important to consider what types of training you typically excel the most through and what helps you the most when it comes to retaining information. If you’re able to take notes while listening to short video lectures coupled with some light reading, then it’s likely that the training provided by Amazon might be sufficient for the more basic certifications that they offer.
However, if you’re the type of person that requires some hands-on activities and going through each step manually or if you simply desire a more detailed explanation in some areas, in my opinion, you could probably stand to benefit from seeking out the type of training offered in Stephane’s training courses in lieu of the previous option.
In hindsight, after taking the Cloud Practitioner Exam (CLF-C01), I would highly recommend any or all of the sources mentioned. But, overall what I found to be the most beneficial in preparing for the type of content and questions given by Amazon in the actual certification exam (and relieving some of the inevitable test anxiety), was the practice exam sets available through Udemy. I found that the questions were very similar in not only wording and context to the exam questions but also in the level of difficulty and I found the number of questions per topic to be fairly comparable as well.
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About the Author
Derrik Fleming, has been a Software Engineer at SpinDance since 2021 and has 4 years of experience in software and web application development. When he’s not writing code or developing amazing apps, he enjoys spending time with his family, playing frisbee golf, reading, and music. Connect with Derrik