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My Thoughts On AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional

Thanks to lock-down due to Covid-19 and my consequent inability to get my laptop repaired to replace the motherboard, I started to prepare for SAP-C01 on an ad-hoc basis to begin with. Heck, I got to wait even for a new customized laptop. 

A couple of days back, I took the exam online via PearsonVue and managed to clear it with a score of 840/1000. And that means I got 16% of the questions wrong which translates to 12/75 questions. Ouch, that hurts!...okay, I was just kidding, I didn't prepare with the intent of scoring 100%.

I'd like to share my experience of taking the exam just so you are better prepared to clear it.

My Thoughts About The Exam And Tips To Help You Prepare Better

  • The exam covers a wide gamut of AWS services.
  • The real exam might dominate of a few set of services and/or types of questions - call it your luck:
    • In my case, I was wondering if I was taking an Advance Networking Specialty exam, when I saw one question of the other hitting on topics in the realm of AWS Networking.
    • Most of my exam questions are relatively lengthier that those that I had got in my Associate exams. I got quite a few truly length questions with answer options being verbose as well.
  • The exam questions IMHO, tests your
    • Knowledge (running through a course and learning materials help you get it)
    • Experience (being hands-on help you gain it)
    • Alertness to key words or phrases (knowing the intent of the question. Often if not always, it is the business context like most cost effective, quickly achieve)
    • Application of both knowledge and experience (there are questions that would demand this from you to crack the right answer)
    • Ability to crack the trick
  • The exam surely is a race against time.
    • There are questions and answer options that lengthy enough to make you read to eat away your time.
    • And then there are questions that are tricky, that will make you pause, re-read to infer right, re-read to capture the determining key-words/phrases; thus killing your time.
    • I also got a question or two that tested my memory/knowledge. Doing ad-hoc preparation made me scratch my head trying to recollect what I am supposed to know for the exam.
  • Why double the time of Associates exam when the number of questions aren't doubled? In Associates exam the questions test you on one service. In Professional exam, the questions (most of them, in my experience) test on the combination of at least 2 services. Double the trouble calls for doubling the exam time and tripling your exhaustion. 
  • I don't think there is any AWS course that covers it all in good breadth and depth to the extent that you can score 100% on this exam. That is not to discourage you from purchasing any course, but to urge you to widen your horizons of learning resources.
  • Also please bear in mind to know the last updated date of the exam. This is important because you may get one/two dated exam questions / options, if you are little unlucky. Take SAP-C01 exam for instance, which was last updated in Feb 2019. In April 30 of 2019, AWS announced, "Direct Connect Support for AWS Transit Gateway". You may be updated with this knowledge that could hurt your answering right should you get a question that was based on the fact prior to this announcement; I call it times when Theory trumps Practice.  
  • Personally, I would recommend AWS Re:Invent videos on Youtube. I love it and guess you too will.
  • Enjoy your preparation even if it is somewhat haphazard like how I did. The more you enjoy during your preparation, the better it would be equip yourself during the exam. 
  • Don't take the exam without going through the mock tests, if you are like me. To me, mock tests help in getting into what I would call "The Exam Mode". When you attempt mock tests and review the answers that you got wrong, there will be several occasions making you wonder, "How did I get this thing wrong?", "OMG, I made a wrong inference from the question", "Damn, I missed the key word that determines the right option from what I chose", etc. Ideally, try to sit through 3-hours continuously during your mocks. I confess that I tried but couldn't sit through for some reason or the other. Nevertheless, it improved my mind-stamina to sit throughout the real exam.
  • Until the world discovers a way out of this Wuhan Virus aka Covid-19 pandemic, you are better of taking up this exam online from your home. Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Safe!!!

Online Proctored Exam Versus Test Center

I personally prefer taking an exam from the test center than the online proctored one from home. The restrictions for later is something that you should be mindful about before opting for it. And these restrictions are typically additional to what you go through while taking the test in a test center. And these additional constraints are:
  • No pen/paper on your desk, should you want to visualize the architecture
  • Isolated room where you are the only person inside
  • Silence. Audible human voices or noisy surroundings could invite the wrath of the proctor to cancel your exam at your expense
  • You can't even have water bottle with you by rule. Your proctor may or may not object to it, though
  • You can't take a break to attend to nature's call
  • You got to remain seated and can't even stand-up from your place by policy. I guess it is that way, to have your face visible always within the recorded streaming video frames, for the proctor to trust your candidature 

Booking For Online Proctored Exam Via PearsonVue

  • If you are a non-native English speaker, don't forget to avail ESL+30 minutes accommodation by requesting for it, before you schedule your examination. This is FREE!!..
  • If you do avail, ESL+30 minutes accommodation, you can't schedule your exam online. You will have do get it done by calling PearsonVue call-center. It is a truly time-consuming process in terms of the wait time, so much so that I would call it a test of your patience.
  • If you have passed an AWS exam, don't forget to avail 50% discount benefit that you can claim from AWS Benefits section in your AWS Certification Account. You may have to share this use-once code to the call-center agent, if you are booking via PearsonVue call-center.
  • The payment is either by way of Voucher Code or by Credit/Debit Card. You will have to share the card details to the agent. Even as much as I hate it, I had no other option. Remember, you can't avail 50% AWS discount if you were to purchase the XVoucher yourself.
  • Because of Covid-19, be prepared for a ridiculously long wait time (it took me more than 4 hours from call connection to transferring the call to AWS exam team of Pearson to transferring the call to invoicing department) should you schedule for your examination by way calling the call center of PearsonVue. This delay should be understandable, given the worldwide pandemic. Keep calm!