Passing the Associate Certified Solutions Architect (CSA) exam was one of the top recommendations I received on how to get more technical depth with AWS services, along with getting hands-on experience. Here I'll walk through how I prepared for the exam.
The time it takes to prepare for the CSA varies depending on your AWS experience. I studied off and on for about a year, including passing my Certified Cloud Practitioner exam, and then studied intently for about two months ahead of the Associate CSA.
These are the steps I took studying for the certification. Not everything on this list is essential by any means, but I hope it's helpful to know what resources are out there!
- Take the Cloud Practitioner Essentials training
- Make an AWS account and explore the console
- Take the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam
- Read/skim the official CSA Study Guide
- Read a few AWS whitepapers
- Study with Linux Academy or A Cloud Guru
- Follow AWS tutorials for core services
- Take the Exam Readiness or Architecting on AWS trainings
- Take a practice test
- Take the Associate CSA exam
1. Take the Cloud Practitioner Essentials training
This is a free, online training course that covers the 100-level basics of AWS. This is my go-to recommendation for anyone that is interested in learning about AWS and wants to get a foundational understanding of cloud computing and AWS services.
2. Make an AWS account and explore the console
Make your own AWS account! One of the most helpful things for me has been getting out of training content and getting into the console to build something for myself. Making something that takes some creativity makes what I'm learning stick with me. I started out by creating static websites - essentially a website that just displays the contents of an HTML file. This only takes two services - S3 to store the HTML file and Route 53 for the domain name and website URL.
3. Take the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam
At this point, you should feel ready to take the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam. You can now take the exam from home - I wish that had been the case when I drove 3 hours to a flight school for a testing center! #dedication
4. Read/skim the official CSA study guide
I found the official study guide very useful, but more detailed than I could take in in its entirety. I read several chapters on services I was less versed in, like VPCs and RDS. There are also great practice questions and exams as part of the guide.
5. Read a few AWS whitepapers
Whitepapers are another good resource for getting caught up on specific topics. Here are a few that I read:
6. Study with Linux Academy or A Cloud Guru
I used Linux Academy to help add some structure to what I was learning and hone in on the most important pieces of information. I made my own study guide following along with the Linux Academy videos and referring to the official study guide or researching things I wanted to understand better.
I personally haven't used A Cloud Guru, but I've heard good things from people who have!
7. Follow AWS tutorials for core services
Get deeper into AWS services. These are some of the activities to try out at this point. For the Associate CSA exam, it's fine to just have experience deploying AWS resources by hand through the AWS console, as opposed to using the command line interface.
8. Take the Exam Readiness or Architecting on AWS trainings
The Exam Readiness course is either virtual (2 hours, free) or in a classroom (4 hours, paid). This course covers exam prep in detail, such as the the exam blueprint and types of questions to expect.
The Architecting on AWS course is paid, 3-day classroom course that covers the fundamentals and best practices of building on AWS. I took this one (it's free for AWS employees), which wasn't strictly test prep but helped me deepen my understanding of the concepts.
9. Take a practice test
I highly recommend a practice test. In my experience, AWS test questions are most often written to test your understanding of the concepts rather than rote memorization. I didn't find any other test prep services that did this as well. Here are some example questions. Create an AWS certifications account to sign up for a practice test.
10. Take the Associate CSA exam
Best of luck!