On November 15, AWS released the latest version of the AWS Solutions Architect Professional exam (SAP-C02). Given the SAP-C01 has been around since October 2019, it’s no surprise that it was due for a refresh. The older version of the exam is now unavailable, and anyone who wants the certificate has to take the updated SAP-C02.
Understandably, you might be asking “What’s changed?” We decided to put together a quick resource to assist with the change, and cover everything you need to know.
How different is the SAP-C02 from SAP-C01?
Not very different. The SAP-C01 and the SAP-C02 have more similarities than differences. The organizational structure of the exams have basically stayed the same, but the weights have shifted somewhat to reflect an increased focus on architecting in multi-account environments.
At a glance, it appears that they eliminated the “Cost Control” Domain on the exam, but on closer inspection we can see that the task statements associated with this Domain have been distributed across the other Domains.
That’s great news, because it means if you’re studying a course for SAP-C01, the content is going to be still largely in line with the updated version of the exam. That means you’re still getting a great foundation for passing the SAP-C02 exam.
Some additional good news is that the difficulty level and makeup of the exam are also still relatively the same:
- The exam will consist of 75 multiple choice and multiple answer (response) questions.
- There are no short answer questions or any hands-on lab exam scenarios.
- The exam is about 180 minutes long and scored on a scale of 100 – 1000, with a passing score being 750 or above.
- In terms of cost, the exam still costs $300 USD and can be taken either at a facility or remotely.
If you haven’t started studying for your exam, I recommend you do so as soon as possible so you go in fully prepared. While there are no prerequisites for taking the exam, it is highly recommended that you have a firm understanding of the concepts covered on the Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam.
What courses can help me prepare for the SAP-C02?
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate (SAA-C03) Course
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional (SAP-C01) Course
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional course is currently being updated to reflect the changes and additions to the exam. If you take these courses as they are as of the writing of this article (or if you’ve already taken them), you will already be well over 90% of the way there!
Below are some insights and resources to prepare you for that additional 10%.
So what exactly has changed for SAP-C02?
Below, you will see how the domains have changed between the two exams.
- You will notice that the Cost Control domain (12.5% of the SAP-C01 exam) has been removed and the names and weights of the other four domains have been altered somewhat.
- “Design for Organizational Complexity” has been renamed “Design Solutions for Organizational Complexity”, and it has had the largest jump in weight from 12.5% to 26%.
- “Design for New Solutions” now takes up a slightly smaller portion of the exam, moving from 31% to 29%.
- “Migration Planning” has been renamed “Accelerate Workload Migration and Modernization”, and has increased from 15% to 20% of the exam.
- Finally, “Continuous Improvement” has been renamed “Continuous Improvement for Existing Solutions”, and now consists of 25% of the total exam weight rather than 29%.
Because Cost Optimization is a pillar of the AWS Well-Architected Framework, it is considered integral to any solution development on AWS. I believe it is for this reason that it was removed as a domain in the exam. Instead of having its own portion of the question pool, questions about Cost Optimization are distributed throughout the three biggest domains of SAP-C02.
In terms of services covered, there have not been many major additions or exclusions. The list of services covered is too large to go over in this article (you can find it here in the exam guide), but I can provide three major categories of changes which you can expect to see on the newest version of the exam.
The largest increase in size of any given domain from SAP-C01 to SAP-C02 is the “Organizational Complexity” domain, which went from 12.5% of the total exam weight to 26% – now the second largest domain on the exam.
This was largely accounted for by a much bigger focus on multi-account solutions architecture, specifically leveraging AWS Organizations. In order to ace your SAP-C02 certification exam, you’re going to need to be comfortable with all of the concepts around managing resources and permissions that span multiple accounts. This includes:
- Sharing Resources with RAM
- Granting permissions to outside users with assumed roles and trust policies
- Applying Service Control Policies to OUs in AWS Organizations
- Leveraging Service Catalog and CloudFormationStack Sets to share common architectures across an organization
- Networking VPCs across multiple accounts
If you’re already familiar with multi-account management, this will be a huge advantage for taking the SAP-C02 exam. If you’re not so comfortable with the concepts around multi-account resource and access management, check out our course “How to Organize Your Accounts in AWS”, which will cover all the foundational and advanced concepts around multiple account architecture that you need to understand in order to pass the SAP-C02.
Aurora is the new Queen of Relational Data
Historically, questions around the scalability and availability of relational databases hosted on AWS have revolved around RDS. Over the last few years, AWS has dramatically shifted language away from RDS and toward Amazon Aurora, and this is reflected in the question pool for SAP-C02. You’ll need to understand:
- Aurora Clusters, Readers, and Writers
- High Availability on Amazon Aurora
- Scalability with Amazon Aurora
- Database Compatibility with Amazon Aurora
While there likely won’t be any super in-depth questions about using or querying Amazon Aurora, it’s very important to understand its use-cases and why it may – or may not – be an appropriate choice for your scenario. If you want to know about Amazon Aurora in greater depth, check out our course on Amazon Aurora. This course is more in-depth than you’ll need to go for the SAP-C02 exam, but it’s a great way to learn about Amazon Aurora in an interactive way.
Hybrid networking and incremental workload migration is the new normal
Another big trend I noticed with the updated exam, is a renewed emphasis on hybrid networks and hybrid workloads. Instead of expecting entire applications to fully migrate to AWS environments, the SAP-C02 exam tends to focus on migrating specific workloads. You will often be tasked with identifying the correct service or set of services you will need to use to migrate a given workload. AWS no longer recommends the Server Migration Service for lift-and-shift migrations; and its successor, the Application Migration Service, appears infrequently in the exam.
You will also need to be aware of some advanced hybrid networking features, and how to make them secure and redundant for high availability. You will need to understand:
- Networking using multiple Direct Connect connections
- Networking multiple VPCs to one or more Direct Connect connections
- VPN Configuration
- Transit Gateway Configuration
Understanding hybrid use-cases for networking and migration is key to passing your SAP-C02 exam. While we often think of modern technology as “on-prem” versus “on the cloud”, AWS acknowledges that most real-life scenarios live somewhere in-between. This mentality is reflected on this newest version of the exam.
There are several services being included in the exam for the first time, and many that are more highly represented than they were in the previous version of the exam. While I don’t have time to cover them all individually, I wanted to provide a list of honorable mention services and topics that are worth looking before sitting for the SAP-C02 exam:
- AWS Security Hub
- Event-Driven Architecture
- AWS Secrets Manager
- AWS Global Accelerator
- Multiple Origins with Amazon CloudFront
- Amazon Athena
- AWS Glue
- Amazon FSx
- AWS Containers services (ECS, EKS, Fargate)
- Amazon QuickSight
- Amazon OpenSearch
- Deploying Infrastructure Across Accounts
- Amazon CodeGuru
- AWS IoT Services
Look forward to new lessons covering these topics to be added to the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional (SAP-C01) Course throughout the beginning of 2023!
I hope you found this article helpful, and we wish you good luck on the next steps in your learning and certification journey! Until next time – be good to each other, and keep being awesome!