How to Prepare for the AWS SysOps Admin Exam

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is — by a wide margin — the leading public cloud offering in the market. For that reason, the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate certification is one of the hottest cloud certifications you can get.

At the same time, passing the certification exam is not a cakewalk — it’s widely considered to be a challenge. However, if you do your homework and are well-prepared, you should be able to clear the hurdle and reap the benefits of becoming certified.

Here are some tips on how to study for this Amazon Web Services certification exam.

1. Look at Amazon’s Exam Blueprint

Before you set out for any destination, it’s helpful to know how you’re going to get there. So, your first step should be to review Amazon’s AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate Level Exam Blueprint. This document describes the goals of the exam as well as the experience, general IT, and AWS knowledge that you’re expected to have.

It also outlines the seven domains covered by the exam with the content expectations for each:

  • Monitoring and Metrics
  • High Availability
  • Analysis
  • Deployment and Provisioning
  • Data Management
  • Security
  • Networking.

On a side note: CBT Nuggets trainer Anthony Sequeira planned his AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate course using the exam blueprint as a guide.

2. Learn the AWS Lingo

Whether you already have AWS experience or not, it will help to build up your knowledge of the platform and its applications. Check out Amazon’s AWS Cloud Computing Whitepapers. They’ll give you an overview of AWS services as a whole, as well as provide drill downs into topics such as storage solutions, fault tolerance, security best practices, and multi-tier architectures. You can also learn about the AWS pricing model and how organizations can use AWS to drive their businesses.

3. Get AWS Experience (If Possible)

Amazon expects that candidates for the exam will have 1-2 years of operational experience as a systems administrator, in addition to at least one year of hands-on experience with AWS.

If you don’t have on-the-job AWS admin experience, we have some suggestions as to how you can get hands-on with the platform. See the section Build an AWS Environment below. It’s not ideal, but it may be your only entry point if you’re trying to bootstrap yourself into an AWS job.

4. Learn the Essentials, Then the Details

For most IT professionals, Amazon’s whitepapers will allow you to talk the AWS talk and prepare you to take a deeper dive into the services. For that, we suggest that you take advantage of training from the CBT Nuggets AWS experts.

Start with Ben Finkel’s AWS: Technical Essentials course. Ben will give you an overview of AWS and its component services, arming you with both the fundamentals as well as Amazon’s vendor-specific spin. AWS has a wide range of capabilities, so even if you don’t use a service on a regular basis, you’ll still need to know what everything does.

Once you’ve got the basics, you can move on to Anthony Sequeira’s new AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate course. This one is designed to help prepare you to take the certification exam. You’ll need plenty of hands-on work before you’ll be ready to sit for the exam. Which leads us to our next tip.

5. Build an AWS Environment

If you have taken any of our other certification preparation courses, you’ll know that practical application of what you’ve learned is key to certification success. AWS is no different.

In the AWS SysOps Administrator course, Anthony explains how you can set up your own AWS lab environment using Amazon’s AWS Free Tier. As its name suggests, Free Tier provides free access so that you can get hands-on experience with the Amazon Web Services platform and services such as Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Amazon Cloud Directory, and Amazon RDS.

6. Practice. Practice. Practice.

During the course, you’ll use your AWS environment for lab exercises to reinforce what you’re learning. Once the course is complete, consider whether you should take the plunge and sign up for the certification exam.

Are you truly ready? The exam is not cheap at $150. Unless you have a pressing need for certification, we suggest that you spend some time getting as much hands-on practice as you can. Amazon recommends a qwikLABS Quest, a set of lab exercises designed specifically for the SysOps Administrator – Associate exam. It’ll cost you to get the exercises, but less than the $150 you’d waste if you fail the exam.

As you keep practicing, don’t forget other resources, including Amazon’s extensive set of AWS Documentation and Product and Technical FAQs, which will help you track down answers to tricky practice questions.

7. Think You’re Ready?

You think you’re ready for the certification exam? Okay, let’s see. Just set up your AWS Certification Account and schedule a practice test. It’s worth the $20 fee to take an online practice exam in a timed environment to see how much you actually know.

Ace the practice exam and there’s a good chance — but no guarantees (smiley face) — that you’ll pass the actual exam and become an AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate.

Wrapping Up

AWS is the 800-pound gorilla in the public cloud space and AWS certification is one of the hottest tickets on the market. AWS Certified SysOps Administrators are in great demand in corporations and AWS solution providers.

While the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate certification exam is certainly not easy, if you follow our preparation tips, you’ll stand a good chance of earning your certification.

Best of luck on your journey to becoming AWS certified. Let us know whether our preparation tips helped you.

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