Study Prep
Amazon Web Services

Preparing for the Cloud Practitioner Exam

Reading Time: 6 minutes

If you’re wondering why I took the Cloud Practitioner Exam or if you’re wondering which exam to start with, take at a previous article: How To Get Certified On AWS

I’m happy to report that I recently (Dec 2019) passed the Cloud Practioner Exam with a score of 890 out of 1000. Like anyone taking a test, I was really hoping for a perfect of 1000 out of 1000, but let’s be honest – when it was over, I was just glad I passed.

Of course, a few minutes later, I started wondering what questions did I miss?  Should I go over the material again? After all, the next exams are going to be that much harder.

I remember flagging 6 questions along the way and then reviewing them at the end. A couple I felt confident I had correct but one or two just didn’t click with me. In fact, one of the questions itself seemed off or I was simply missing the context. And then there were one or two others that I really didn’t have any experience with.

Unfortunately, the exam results didn’t provide a break down for the questions or categories that I missed, so I’m at a loss.

When I received my official score (via email), it provided the chart below. It’s only helpful if you completely bomb a category. I guess I didn’t blow a category… that’s good!

My Exam Section Results

That still left me with the question of “what did I miss” and “how many questions did I miss”? From what I can tell online, no one really knows how the questions are weighted. So of the 110 points that I missed, how many questions is that? Are all questions worth the same?

You’re allocated 100 minutes for 65 questions. If you took 1000 / 65, that meant that each question (if weighted the same) was worth 15.384615384615385.

In reality, I’m guessing questions are weighted something like 10, 20 and maybe 30 points apiece. I’m curious if anyone’s score was ever an odd number, to have 5, 15’s or 25’s, etc. Humm???

I completed it in about 55 minutes and then took another 10 minutes to review the questions I flagged. I probably could have taken a bit longer but most of the questions and answers were pretty straight forward. Besides, I like to go with my first instinct unless I flag them for review.

Flag the unknowns

In case your not familiar with the exam software. As you move through each question, you can flag (mark) questions along the way. The top right section of the screen has a little flag icon, you can click it and turn the flag on. It makes it easy to spot a question you want to review later.

The exam software allows you to go back to previous questions and review them at any time. Flagging a question provides a nice visual, which helps locate the ones you’re want to review. At the end of the exam, you can review all the questions, only the flagged, missed / unanswered ones, or any sort of combination.

As I mentioned, I flagged 6 questions that stumped or confused me.  A couple of the questions were worded a little strange and to be honest, one was extremely confusing and I wasn’t quite sure what it was asking.  

To me, it seemed it was lacking any context and used some very vague language when asking the question. I wish I could remember the specific language of the question, but even if I could – I’m not allowed to share it since that’s a violation of the testing policy.

In general, the questions that stumped me were based on VPN’s and the “best” / “most practical”, “efficient” or “effective” way of doing something. I know the basics of the VPN’s but I never really dove into which one would be the “best” for a situation “X”. At this point, it was a guess.

Don’t waste too much time on any one question.

You may find yourself in a situation where you don’t know the answer or perhaps it’s a trick question. When you encounter questions like these, simply flag them for review and move on. If you have a gut instinct, mark the answer. But, don’t waste time on them until later – remember you are on a clock. You can review them at the end.

You may even get lucky and find that another question later in the exam may shed some light on the earlier question. This might make the answer more apparent.

You may not be prepared for every single question or scenario but there is a ton that you can prepare for. This brings me to the most useful advice I can give to anyone taking the exams: experience is powerful!

Experience, Experience, Experience!

I can’t stress experience enough. Yes, you could probably take a couple of courses or watch a few YouTube videos and not touch the AWS services, but you really should create your own AWS account and use the basic services. If the tutorial has a lab/exercise – DO IT!

If you stick to the Free Tier items, you won’t get charged and if you decide to do some of the extra samples you should be able to keep it under $10-$25 in all.

Most of the labs will tell you if you are about to use something that isn’t in the free tier. They may indicate how much it will cost, e.g. you might see something like: “To complete this tutorial, it will probably cost you about $2.00 if you are no longer on the Free Tier” (yep, that’s right two dollars) and that was if you didn’t weren’t on the free tier. Just remember to turn the services off when you are done with the labs!

What does it take to get Certified

Even if you are extremely new to AWS, you can pass the exam, however, you need to put in some time and effort.

So what does it take to prepare for the Cloud Practioner Exam?

Below I’ve outlined the steps you can take to prepare for the Cloud Practitioner Exam.

My Prep List / Exam Cram List

Here’s a list of free resources to help you study for Cloud Practioner Exam

No 1. Videos

I watched several online videos, and I think the FreeCodeCamp.org site has the best free option. You can search YouTube for others, and I’d suggest doing that as well, but I would recommend the following Video as your starting point. It seems to be the most comprehensive.

This one is a 4-hour training guide. If you simply watch the video it will take about 4 hours, however, if you plan to do some of the exercises or attempt to follow along you should allocate some additional time.

If you’re new to AWS, I would suggest attempting each exercise multiple times.

NOTE: I don’t represent FreeCodeCamp.org in any way (I’m just a fan of the service they provide); this video is simply provided here as a resource.

No 2. White Papers:

Yes, white papers are boring and long, but they are also very informative.

Some of the white papers also have Labs / Follow along with tutorials., which makes the white paper appear to be longer than it really is.

In fact, most of the courses are simply rehashing the white papers, but they often miss a few important details. So even if you take the courses, you should at least quickly review the white papers.

You’ll be amazed how quickly you can go through a white paper after you’ve watched the videos. For the most part, it will be a nice review.

I know what you’re saying, you hate reading white papers! Me too. Even if it feels like a review of material I already know, after about 5 minutes in, my eyes start to glaze over and pretty soon I’m half asleep.

But a funny thing happened recently while reading an AWS white paper, I came across a service that wasn’t mentioned in any of the videos I watched, and I had a great idea. Why not listen to them instead!!

Next week I’ll have an article on how to listen to a white paper. Come back for more. If you can’t wait for the post, I’ll give you a hint: Look into the AWS Service called Polly!

This is the official list of White Papers provided by AWS:

AWS Official Certification Prep List

The “Compare AWS Support Plans” is not a white paper but listed as one. You should be familiar with this as well.

Also, for some reason, AWS did not include AWS Well-Architected Framework as a “to read” for the cloud practitioner exam, however, there were a couple of questions on the exam related to this white paper. If you’re a developer or software architect, I expect that you could deduce the correct answers, but either way, you should read it.

I hope you’ve found this useful. If you know of any other high-quality training videos, please let me know and I’ll happily share them here.

Good Luck!

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