Does A Cloud Guru (ACG) prepare you for the AWS Associate Developer exam?

I thought I was ready for the AWS Associate Developer exam. Then I went into the forums of A Cloud Guru (ACG) and panicked. Reading the forums, you need to know a lot more than what ACG covers, read whitepapers, read FAQs, have tons of hands on experience, etc.

That wasn’t my experience. I can think of a few reasons for this discrepancy.

Target score

If you are aiming to pass, ACG has enough. If you are aiming to get a perfect score, it does not. Luckily, I was aiming for a pass.

Un-scored questions

There are un-scored questions on the exam that Amazon is piloting. By definition, these are likely to be things that are hard/aren’t covered. And this is ok. They aren’t scored. But seeing a question on X, doesn’t even mean X is in scope for the exam.

Scenario Questions

Scenario questions tell a story. Like any good word problem, the are extra words in the question that don’t affect the answer. For example, “Suppose you are working on a Docker application and want to store the source code in a repository. Which do you use?”

Yes, this question mentions Docker. But it isn’t *about* Docker.

Distractor Answers

Similarly to the previous item, an incorrect answer doesn’t mean the question is about that. So if AWS Neptune is an answer, it doesn’t mean the question is about databases, let alone graph databases.

Logic

Sometimes you can figure out a question from what you do know. For example, “Suppose you are building an application with technology Foo and it runs too slow. What can you do to speed it up: a) reduce memory b) add ssl c) add an index d) none of the above”

You should be able to tell that the answer is C without knowing what Foo is. (Which is good because I made it up).

why not to say “it’s easy”; 8 interpretations

I recently took the AWS Practitioner test. When speaking to a number of people who took the exam before me, I heard a lot of “it’s easy.” That simple phrase doesn’t convey much information and has the potential to make people feel bad.

Curious why? Keep reading for the many possible interpretations of “it’s easy”. I’m writing this in the context of a test, but it applies to tasks and skills as well. For example, I find coding “easy”, but many people do not.

Option 1: “It’s Easy; the test covered things I knew”

If someone doesn’t know the material already, he/she will have to study. Which means work and not “easy”.

Option 2: “It’s Easy; there were no trick questions”

Having straightforward questions is definitely easier than trick questions! Saying that conveys more information than “it’s easy”

Option 3: “It’s Easy; the test covered what I studied”

Without knowing what you studied, the listener isn’t likely to have the same experience.

Option 4: “It’s Easy; it’s not technical”

In the case of the AWS Practitioner exam, target candidates include technologists, sales and finance. This means there is a limit to how technical the questions can be. Personally, I like technical questions so non-technical questions aren’t necessarily easier.

Option 5: “It’s Easy; it was mostly memorization”

People vary extensively in their memorization skills. I’m not good at memorizing facts. Understanding things is something I’m good at. Retaining information in a context is also something I’m good at. Remembering random facts, not so much. Which means I’m going to find an exam that focuses on memorization far harder than one that involves coding and rules like the Java certification.

Option 6: “It’s Easy; I forgot how hard it was”

People frequently forget how difficult something seems before they understand or know it. For example, I bet you find it easy to tie your shoes. Now go find a four year old and she if that child finds it easy. This means that an exam is likely to seem easier after the fact. (I *so* wanted to say “it’s easy to forget how difficult…”)

As an author, we constantly need to fight this reason for “it’s easy.” Our readers are unlikely to think everything is easy. We have to remember what it is like to not yet understand the concept.

Option 7: “It’s Easy; I passed”

Sometimes people think that if they can do something, everyone can. Sometimes it comes from how the person views themselves and sometimes from other things. But most exams are set up so not everyone passes. Which doesn’t mean it is “easy” if you passed.

Option 8: “It’s Easy; I want to be seen as smart/knowledgeable”

Sometimes people say something was easy when the person thinks it is hard. The idea is to seem smarter/more knowledgable/more clever in front of others. Like a form of boasting. “Oh, you thought that was hard? I thought it was easy”

In conclusion

There’s at least eight interpretations for what “it’s easy” could mean. So they next time someone asks you how an exam/task/etc is, use more than two words! Conveying actual information will help the person asking. And it will avoid the person feeling bad if it isn’t easy for that individual!

How I recommend studying for the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Exam

Studying for the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Exam? Keep reading for what to expect as Janeice DelVecchio and I share our tips for passing the exam on the first try *and* making the best use of your time. Also see:

 

Official Study Guide/Outline

Amazon has two pages that describe the AWS Cloud Practitioner exam. While they are mostly the same, they link to different versions of the whitepapers they recommend you read!

The current exam page links to the 2018 versions of the whitepapers. (It also links to the study guide pdf that still references the older versions of the whitepapers.) The older exam page links to older whitepapers. The older one also includes a 2012 paper that they no longer recommend. We aren’t 100% sure, but we think Janeice got a question that was covered in the newer versions of the whitepaper and not the older one.

In any case, be sure to read the exam PDF that covers the format and what to expect.

Janeice & Jeanne’s Study Guide

If you only get one thing out of this post, I hope you download this PDF!

Janeice & Jeanne’s AWS Practioner Study Guide

Videos

  • Starting with this unofficial 34 minute video helped us tailor our study. If you prefer learning by reading, skimming our study guide serves the same purpose. If you prefer learning by video, this is a brief one!

Free practice exams

  • Amazon offers 10 questions with the study guide. They represent the easier end of difficulty of questions on the actual exam.
  • Whizlabs offers 20 questions free They also represent the easier end of the questions on the actual exam.

Optional: Whizlab mock exams

Janeice and I both like learning from mock exams. We both recommend Whizlabs ($15 for 3 practice exams) if you do as well. Whizlabs gives you information on the right/wrong answers and groups your score by category as well. It covers about 75% of the topics on the exam.

Personally, I find that actually exercising my brain to think about the material in a sample exam format helps me more than anything else. It also lets me use the questions as a sort of “flash cards.” Finally, as a mock exam author myself, thinking about questions this way, really gets me focused on the key points!

Other resources that we used (tried to incorporate into study guide where possible)

Other resources that exist (but we don’t recommend)

  • Amazon offers a 30 minute online exam for $20. There’s only 20 questions, so that’s a lot of money per question!
  • Udemy mock exams – I bought this for $10. (The price seems to range from $10-15 depending on the discount of the day.) At first, it seemed better than Whizlabs because there were twice as many exams. While the English isn’t great, that didn’t impede learning. The reason for not recommending it is that some of the questions were *way* out of scope for the exam. It’s one thing to ask harder questions to “toughen you up” for the exam. It’s another to distract you by asking about concepts you don’t need to know.
  • ACloudGuru – This is a course with video and quizzes. It’s $100. That’s what the exam costs. I think taking the exam and failing would be a better investment of $100 because at least you’d know what to study! It’s Scott recommends this site heavily. It’s also available for $29/month. There is a 7 day trial. I’d want to save that in case I ever want to take the associate exam though! While I haven’t used this site, it appears better for the associate level where it includes mock exams.