I have just passed the AWS Certified Solution Architect Associate. This topic will share the learning journey to take the AWS Solution Architect Associate (AWSSA-A). I hope that it will help you to pass the examination with minimal efforts and time, but still keep the high quality. I expect that we are here not only for passing the exam, but also gain the know-how to apply in real situation.

I have 2 weeks of learning. It is really really challenge for me when I have to focus 100% my time and effort to transform my knowledge and take the exam successfully. I will share my background and strategies to win this journey.

Let me share my background and why I just need 2 weeks of learning.

I graduated with IT background and learnt CCNP (A Cisco certification program), this really help me to have network knowledge to under the IP package and how it is travel between networks/subnet. I also did develop to demonstrate the TCP/UDP protocol (HTTP and DHCP) to understand how the message to be enveloped. In generally, I have network and software background. To be honest, SAA is not much challenge and just a beginning (You should reach professional level). Everything you need is focus on the learning course and your full time till getting the certificate.

FOCUS = Follow One Course Until Success

Personally, I think you need around 100-150 hours for learning to gain enough knowledge for the exam, it depends your backgrounds. I hope with this share, you can minimize the learning curve. Let’s do the best and get the best.

What is AWSSA-A?

I wrote this post on Jan 2020. At this point of time, AWS introduced 3 levels of certification (Foundational, Associate, and Professional) and 3 career paths (Solution Architect, DevOps and Specialty). You should check on AWS website for latest update on the certification, they can change time by time.

For the Associate level, AWS has 3 target objects: Solution Architect, SysOps, and Developer. Depend on your base and objective, you can choose which path for the examination. AWS doesn’t limit your path, it means you can take SA exam and SysOps Exam and Developer Exam as long as you can have enough knowledge for the exam.

Tips: The knowledge for SysOps, Developer and Solution Architect Associate are not so different. If you gained one associate certification, it is much more easier to gain the 2nd certification.

Now, we will focus on AWS Solution Architect Associate only. During the implementation process the servers on AWS cloud, AWS SAA will help you to understand the AWS services, their benefits, how to design the good architect based on AWS best practice and concepts. AWS SAA also guide you what you should do and should not do.

AWS SAA covers a huge knowledge, almost scenario based questions. If you have zero knowledge about AWS or basic infrastructure, it will cost you more time to understand and know how to apply it in the real world.

AWS SAA focus more on widely knowledge, not deep dive in core services. So, it is helpful for the beginners. Personally, just make sure you take the time for learning enough, and you will pass the exam.


  1. General knowledge about AWS
  2. Best practice in system design
  3. Improve your CV, income (maybe)…
  4. Help to level up your company in the AWS competency (APN)
  5. AWS is biggest cloud platform with over 47% market size (Microsoft Azure has around 17% market size)

It will have more benefits and useful when:

  1. How to secure your network by using security group, NACL, Application secure…
  2. Why your web application cannot access Internet even you had a NAT deployment on the public subnet
  3. Build a giant application by using Auto Scaling and Load Balancer
  4. Optimize the organization cost
  5. Understand and advise using S3 life cycle to reduce cost
  6. Scale in and Scale out a thousand machine in a few minutes without any bidding or procurement process (this can take you a month if you process with traditional approach).

In generally, investment on yourself is never lose. And cloud transformation is a hot trend from now to future.

Examination Structure

First of all, the AWS examination will be updated based on the real situation (new updates, new product, new services, new policy). So, the information on the internet will change everyday (maybe). I recommend that you will check the latest info on AWS website and the content outline.

Now is Jan 2020:

  • Total questions: 65 questions (single choice and multiple choices)
  • Duration: 130 minutes (average 2 minutes per question).

Tips: If you are not a native speaker in English, you can request to have more 30 minutes on the exam. But, please request it before register to take the exam.

The pass score should be above 72% (720/1000). So, I recommend that your score should be above 75% for the practices.

I need around 80 minutes to complete the exam. So, time is not an issue. Just make sure that you are ready before taking the exam or it will cost your money.

Exam Preparation

Assume that you already have some basic understanding on infrastructure services and have daily job to get familiar with AWS. AWS provided free tier for practicing, so you can learn it with $0. I recommend that you will do some practices with VPC, Security Group, NACL, NAT, Auto scaling at least. There is much question in these topics.


  1. Free Resources:
    1. AWS fundamentals by Coursera
      1. Provide basic understanding and fundamentals for beginners
      2. Beautiful teacher, soft voice.
    2. FAQs for core services: VPC, RDS (Relational Database Service), EC2, EBS (Elastic Block Store), S3, IAM (Identity and Access Management) seize 10% of the questions in the exam.
    3. Understand Lambda by Coursera
  2. Cheap Resources:
    1. AWS Solution Architect Associate by DolphinED
      1. Fee ~$40
      2. Very detail on the AWS services. This course transformed me and provided over enough knowledge to win this exam.
      3. Provide the detail service, hands on, tips and tricks
      4. Highly recommend if you can read the Solution Architect Associate Study Guide book in parallel
      5. Take the notes in a notebook during learning for better understanding and memorial.
    2. Book: AWS certified solution architect official study guide
      1. > 500 pages
      2. Read this book and complete all the quiz with score is above 75%. You can be ready for the exam.
    3. AWS Solution Architect Exam Practice Questions by Jon Bonso
      1. Fee 10$
      2. Understand exam structure and under pressure during exam.

Review before taking the exam

  1. Review by using Study notes
  2. Review by using mind maps

Schedule an exam

  1. If you are not a native speaker, you can request a 30 extra minutes for the exam. AWS will automatically add the extension in each upcoming exam. (You should do this even time is not an issue).
  2. Schedule offline testing center. You have to schedule the exam one day in advance at least.
  3. Carry your personal license (passport, bank card, governance ID…)
  4. 100% computer test based.

Exam day

  1. I went to the testing center before 30 minutes without having lunch. I was really really hungry. I recommend that you should not follow me and pick the exam too late. I choose to take the exam in the last working day of the center or I have to wait one more month. So, I took the risk.
  2. You had to appear in the testing center at least 15 minutes before the exam time for check in with your passport / Gov ID and bank card.
  3. They will capture your information and understand the testing policy. You have to deposit your watch, mobile phone…
  4. There is a beautiful lady capture my picture


  1. You should register a free tier account to practice on AWS cloud
  2. If you need more practices, you can register an account on qwiklabs.com for the purpose.
  3. Learn on video first and read the book later for better understanding.
  4. Please keep in mind that AWS wants to promote their properties such as: Aurora, DynamoDB, Redshift, S3, Kinesis, Lambda, SQS (Simple Queue Service), CloudFront, KMS all the time.
  5. Deep dive on EC2, Instance store vs EBS (Elastic Block Store), OLAP vs OLTP
  6. Encryption scenario of S3, RDS (Relational Database Service), EBS (Elastic Block Store), and snapshots
  7. Learn AWS well architected Framework. It is good for exam and real world.
  8. Flagging for the unsure answers and review it later.
  9. It is not exam duration time story, it is how you prepare for the exam story.

Good luck and have fun!


  1. http://mistwire.com/2016/05/aws-certified-solutions-architect-associate-study-notes/
  2. https://www.awslagi.com/
  3. https://quizlet.com/194513754/aws-certified-solutions-architect-associate-practice-questions-flash-cards/
  4. https://medium.com/@franktran/how-to-succeed-in-aws-certified-solutions-architect-associate-exam-8a30344347f