Thursday, May 3, 2018

AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate (February 2018) Exam Experience

I passed the AWS-SAA February 2018 version on the 30th April 2018. It is my first AWS and PSI exam I have sit. My score was 882/100 and I had around ~60-70 mins left after completing all the 65 questions, so I still had plenty of time to review all of the questions. If you do the math, it took me a minute per question to answer them and I've still got another minute per question for reviews.

Below are the sections and % of scored item:
  • Section 1.0: Design Resilient Architectures 34%
  • Section 2.0: Define Performant Architectures 24%
  • Section 3.0: Specify Secure Applications and Architectures 26%
  • Section 4.0: Design Cost-Optimized Architectures 10%
  • Section 5.0: Define Operationally-Excellent Architectures 6%
Ryan's ACG course ( and Elias' Pluralsight course ( are awesome! The courses helped me from knowing nothing to passing the exam. I have also attended the AWS Certification Exam Readiness Workshop: AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate ( which is really helpful for me to understand and prepare for the exam.

Lastly, all of the exam experiences sharing on the ACG discussion forum is extremely helpful for me to prepare 1 week before the exam I have also compiled all the exam experiences on the new exam from ACG here: for easier reading. Hopefully, this would be useful for the community.

So, here are the topics on my exam:
  • Redshift, make sure you understand the use cases, limitations, security, availability, durability, backup and restore. Ryan has covered Redshift for the exam pretty well, the FAQ ( is also a great additional material. Make sure you understand this as I think I've got 5 or 6 questions around Redshift
  • API Gateway, I couldn't remember exactly the details but make sure you understand the use cases and how it works in high-level as I think I have multiple scenario questions that have API gateway as one of the options in the answer.
  • ECS, understand what is the use cases, what's the benefit of ECS compare to other AWS solutions and when to use ECS
  • ELB, I've got multiple questions that have ELB as an option even specific i.e. one option use Application Load Balancer and other option use Classic Load Balancer, so make sure you understand what are the differences between the two and when to use it
  • CloudWatch and CloudTrail, understand the capabilities, things you can do with the solution and when to use
  • Kinesis, understand the use cases and when to use it
  • AWS Cognito was one of the options
  • EBS, you may need to remember the throughput/IOPS/volume size as I've got questions on the use cases, which one is the best option to choose for a particular scenario with a specific throughput/IOPS/volume requirements. Read the FAQ ( I think almost all of the topics in the FAQ i.e. performance, snapshots, encryption except billing & metering are in my exam
  • EFS, I think I've got 1-2 questions around EFS use cases and when to use
  • S3, heaps of questions around S3 and mostly are also covered in the FAQ i.e. storage classes, availability, security, durability, data protection, transfer acceleration, lifecycle management, CRR
  • SQS vs SNS, use cases and when to use
  • VPC, as Ryan mentioned you need to understand VPC inside out, how to setup, what's the default setup, security options in VPC i.e. Security Group vs NACL. On your lab practice, I think it is worthwhile everytime you set up an AWS solution let say EC2, S3, Lambda or anything, think about how do you apply security of access from and to that AWS solution, do you use Security Group or NACL or IAM, think of a real-world scenario with multi AWS solutions even with external non-AWS solution such as on-prem device. Understand all components that made up VPC including but not limited to NAT Gateway/Instance, IGW, VPC endpoint
  • I think there was a Lambda question but I'm not too sure
  • Databases, RDS, DynamoDB, Elasticache. Understand the differences, when to use, available options as this will help you to understand what are the options to improve an existing setup when there is a bottleneck in the performance. Understand the availability, multi-AZ/region setup, reliability, backup and restore, how to scale. Don't forget to read the FAQs
  • Can't remember what other topics are but I think I've got multiple questions about a scenario on multi AWS solutions i.e. an existing setup using Route53, ELB, EC2, RDS and we need to understand what is wrong with the setup or how to improve the setup
Hopefully, my exam experience will be useful for anyone preparing for the exam!

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