How I passed my AWS SAA exam

I finally passed my AWS Solutions Architect Associate (SAA) exam! 🥳

Back in March this year, I sat the SAA-CO1 version of the exam and failed it by 2%~. When I reflect back at how I approached studying for the exam, I have to admit that I didn’t put in as much as I could’ve done. I guess the jump in difficulty from the Cloud Practitioner exam was something I didn’t expect.

I was deflated for a few months, I’m not going to lie. I know that you may be thinking, “Oh, it’s just an exam! It’s whatever!” That’s true, but I had started really getting into Cloud technologies and started to actually see a career in the infrastructure side in tech…so when I failed, my confidence took a bit of a hit in if this area was something I should even focus on.

So, I avoided it for a while. 😂

It wasn’t until I spoke to Temi for Inspiring Figures back in September who inspired me to take part in the #100DaysofCloud challenge. She had completed her #100DaysofCode challenge earlier in the year which inspired me to dedicate some time to learning every single day! So I did.

I decided to give the SAA another go with 30 minutes to an hour each day of dedicated learning. It made a huge difference!

Side note: I had no idea that when I passed and tweeted about it that I would get this much support. 🥰 Thank you everyone!

Today I wanted to share the steps I took to get my SAA. If you’re completely new to AWS, taking the AWS Cloud Practitioner exam might be the first step to getting into the world of AWS! I wrote a blog post about how I passed that one as a complete beginner here.

I hope that this helps y’all on your journey to becoming an AWS SAA!

1. Plan

The best place to start is to organise yourself and plan! Things I thought about before delving in were:

  • Why do I want to do this exam in the first place? This isn’t compulsory but for me, it was something that I needed to remind myself when I lost motivation. Always having a why is important!
  • How long should I be studying for before taking the exam? Planning a target date for your exam can help with focusing your studies.
  • What are the best resources to use/follow? More on this below!

2. Book your exam

You can book your exam any time you want. I didn’t actually book mine straight away, but as soon as I did, it helped re-focus me on my studying and what I was working towards.

Remember that you can always move your exam date whenever you want, so it doesn’t really matter! Get a date in. I actually moved mine forward because I knew I was ready at that point!

3. Studying

There are so many resources out there that you can use to study, but these are the ones that I highly recommend:

  • Stephane Maarek’s Ultimate AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate (SAA) | Udemy
  • Digital Cloud Training with Neal Davis – AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate Hands-On Video Course: Digital Cloud Training
  • Digital Cloud Training with Neal Davis – AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate Training Notes: Digital Cloud Training
  • Once you’re familiar with the concepts and services covered, going through some of them on the AWS Official Documentation can be helpful! It also just helped me understand services more for real-life practice.
  • Similarly, going through specific services’ FAQ can be helpful too!
  • Nothing beats hands-on training to help with concepts that you’re learning! Although these courses have instructors go through them, nothing beats doing it yourself in your free-tier AWS account. I spent a lot of time playing around with creating VPCs from scratch which helped me visualise this during the actual exam when dealing with all the different scenarios.
  • I also joined the #100DaysofCloud discord as well as Digital Cloud Training’s Slack which was great for motivation and having some of my confusion clarified.

4. Practice, practice, practice!

For each practice test that you do, don’t forget to go through the questions that you got wrong and highlight them as areas to look at again. Keep repeating this until you’re clear in your head how the service works and architected in the real world!

The real world — that’s another thing to think about! Although this is in an exam format and one of your main goals no doubt is just to pass it, and that’s great! What helped me though was trying to really train myself into thinking like a Solutions Architect. For each scenario, what answer would I choose if this was real life? 😆

That mindset helped me visualise what I would do for a client or for a project in as my imaginary life as a Solutions Architect. It was pretty fun thinking this way actually 😂

My AWS SAA cert!
My AWS SAA cert!

It has been a long time coming for me, this was one of my goals for 2020 and I’m so glad that I still managed to get it in despite everything going on.

So what’s next? Before jumping into the next cert, I want to focus on improving my understanding on Kubernetes and the world of containers. Learning about EKS and ECS was one of my favourite parts of studying for the SAA! So doing a deep deep dive into these technologies is next on my list.

Best of luck on your journey! You’ve got this. 💪🏼

8 responses to “How I passed my AWS SAA exam”

  1. Congratulations, and thank you for sharing your experience…keep going.,
    What is your next step?!

    1. Thanks so much, Alhusain! 😊 Rest is first and fore-most! Then more learning on k8s and containerisation.

  2. Hey Pauline. I just want to first congratulate you on all your success.

    I dont actually have an IT background but during this pandemic i decided now best to transition. I passed my CCP within 3months of study using Neal’s study videos on Udemy and now im moving straight on to the SAA exam but the at moment it is beating me up.

    Im not sure if this is the right thing to do as the course (Neal’s course on Udemy) provides the knowledge and experience on the console but i dont have the actual work experience. Do you believe i should continue trying to gain my SA cert or try and get a role which can also give me real life work experience.. i look forward to your feedback

    thank you

    1. Hey Charles!

      Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog – I appreciate it! 😊

      Congratulations on passing your CCP and making the move into tech! I think that the SAA exam is valuable if you want to further improve your knowledge on AWS and get a better understanding of software architecture. It is well worth doing in my opinion. Have you tried Stephane’s courses? It’s the best one in my opinion to explain complex concepts. Of course, a bit of real-life experience is always a bonus. My role at work was heavily AWS focused and so it was a fantastic opportunity for me to test what I learnt in real life scenarios!

      Best of luck with it – you’ve got this. 😊

  3. Congratulations🎉🎊 and thanks for this details 😀😀and it’s really helpful🙏

    1. Thanks Rafiya, good luck with your cert journey!

  4. Thanks Pauline, congratulations on your success and your advice. I’m studying AWS too at the moment so it’s all hugely appreciated!


    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to read the post, Adam! I wish you all the best in your AWS Certification journey. Let me know if I can support you with anything at all. ☺️

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