My Experience with the AWS Solutions Architect Pro (AWS-PSA) Exam

By | 2017-01-15

It took me 2 times to pass this test and I have to say, it is a very difficult and rather sneaky exam 😉

To start off, this is the progression of study material that I used, in order:

  1. Watched the excellent acloud.guru video series.
  2. Read all of the whitepapers in the recommended reading list as prescribed by the exam blueprint. I had already read the ones covered in the AWS-ASA exam.
  3. Took the practice exam (and scored a 33%). I subsequently reviewed all of the questions (I screencapped as I was taking the exam to log my answers) and determined as best I could where I had gone wrong.
  4. Watched about 60% of the Linuxacademy video series (why only 60%?  More on this shortly).
  5. Worked with customers to vet AWS solutions in their environments.

At this point, I had felt fairly confident in my knowledge and scheduled the exam. On December 5th I took the exam for the first time and failed with a 61%. Needless to say, this was disheartening as I thought that I had a good grasp of the material. I took about a week break, then redoubled my efforts in the following ways:

  1. I completed watching the Linux Academy series. It was at this point that I realized that the Linux Academy videos were far more of a deep dive than I had previously given it credit for. The way the material is present is rather… dry… so there were nuances that I missed as the speaker will drop some extremely relevant piece of information on you almost as an aside. You have to pay very close attention to every word. Now, you might be saying “no duh Chris”, but for me it was harder than it sounds primarily because of the dry delivery. Additional note: the labs are fantastic, do them multiple times if you feel that you need to cement items in which you feel uncertain.  All that being said, I *LOVE* Linux Academy!  I signed up for the “New Years Special” and got an entire year of content.  Between this resource, Acloud.guru and Pluralsight…  I’ve got just about every technology that I could potentially need to learn covered.
  2. I then created/watched this youtube playlist comprising of the re:Invent seminars pertinent to the exam
  3. I then re-watched the Linux Academy series one more time. I recommend doing this AND the exam at the end of the lessons a few times. This will cement the concepts and allow you to find any weak spots in your knowledge base.
  4. Then I went through the QwikLabs course for SA – Pro. These labs are ok, but a) they weren’t as good as Linux Academy and b) one of the labs in the series is missing.
  5. Speaking of weak spots – it is essential that you go through the documents for each of the technologies for the exam. Not just the FAQs, but the product details, developer resources, etc… Basically work your way down the left hand column and absorb as much as you can. The dev stuff isn’t as pertinent, but even there you’ll pick up good bits of data.

You need to know each product backwards and forwards. Not just what a technology CAN do, but also what it CANNOT do. When you look at the solutions to a question, you have to quickly discard answers not just based upon “this is the best solution” but also “this isn’t the best solution, but it’s better than the other 3”. Not only that, but you’ll see a solution that looks great, but the last piece at the end will be something that the technology selected simply cannot do, nullifying the entire question.

All in all, I’d say I’ve spent the better part of 3 months preparing for the exam. Working with customers to help them vet AWS technologies certainly helped as I was exposed to real world use cases along with skull sweat and book learnin’. Do all of this and you’ll get one of these:

Leave a comment below if you have any questions or need help!

8 thoughts on “My Experience with the AWS Solutions Architect Pro (AWS-PSA) Exam

  1. Robert Holmgren

    Congratulations and thanks for sharing some great study guidelines. I’d also add that I’m finding the Linux Academy note cards useful tools in learning the required materials that push you beyond the multiple choice elimination process.

    Reply
    1. chrisfwilliams Post author

      Good point Robert, I didn’t use the cards that much, but they are also an excellent resource.

      Reply
  2. venu

    Great Post! and thanks for putting in your certification prepare mode experience

    Reply
    1. chrisfwilliams Post author

      You’re welcome Venu, I hope it helps you in your studies.

      Reply
  3. Hari Srinivas

    Thanks for sharing this awesome Notes Chris..!! Really wonderful..!! This would help us a lot to achieve AWS Certification.. Cheers.

    Reply
  4. Seamus Owens

    Chris – not sure how I found this site, but used your posts here and passed AWS SA PRO on Monday. Appreciate what you’ve done here! Linux Academy made all the difference for me.

    Reply

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