AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional 2020

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A few thoughts on the exam

Just passing by to share with you a few notes on my experience so far with the CSAP exam.

I took the exam yesterday and failed with 730 points, my report said 750 was the pass mark. Close, but not close enough.

For me, the key area I screwed up was time management, and if this is anything to go by, remember what Scott explains at the start of the course and throughout I am sure he makes a point about how important it is to time manage the exam in order to do well. Guess what, I knew time was short and never before 3hrs simply vanished in what felt was a few mins. In short: I was half way my time with 45 questions unanswered 🙁

The areas in which I failed, unsurprisingly are the areas in which I probably like the least, "Migration Planning" and "Cost Control", not trying to justify anything, and I understand in order to pass (and do well in an AWS project), these topics are important, I just find these things boring and coming from a purely technical and development background, nothing is more wishy-washy than these two topics, but that’s just me, if you have project management background and skills, this is probably way up your alley.

In terms of study materials:

  • read most of the whitepapers in the course material

  • watched all of the reInvent videos in the course material (and some more – just because there are free and some are extremely useful, some presenters give master classes in those sessions and I’d argue why would anyone not make the most of having these key artifacts freely available to aid your study)

  • practice questions: I used the quizzes provided by ACG, alongside the exam simulator, done the other certs I have taken prior to this again just to re-inforce, also used Whizlabs but would not recommend them, they are not up to date for this exam, they are full of mistakes (if you happen to have time to teach whoever was writing the question, by all means, knock yourselves out and raise support tickets), and least important but still important: they are full of spelling mistakes, save your money

  • taken the free AWS exam prep training course

  • watched a ton of AWS "This is my architecture" videos

  • watched all the AWS CQ videos, if you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend it – they break down the questions and explain most questions in detail

  • I paid for the practice exam (normally $40, but got it for $20 with a voucher from the associate exam)

  • read a ton of blog materials, mainly AWS

  • read AWS FAQs

In terms of the shape of questions, they are mostly (as you should expect) scenario-based, some span over one page long where you must scroll down in order to visualize the options you can choose from

There was one question regarding AWS Connect, I do not recall having this service covered in any of the lectures on Scott’s course, nor I remember seeing it on the Associate exam, at least not up to the point I took the course.

My cloud journey so far: I started studying AWS in April, sailed through the first 4 tests quite easily, did practitioner and all the associate level tests in one month and at that point I was feeling very confident about it all, but honestly speaking, the CSA-Pro is tough, took me 2.5 months to cover all the material above and you already know the result, compared to 1 month for 4 much simpler exams.

My last two pence, don’t underestimate this beast, and most importantly don’t make the mistake I made with my time management skills.

And finally, huge thanks ACG and Scott for the course, if it wasn’t for you guys I’d not be where I am today, an apprentice still but encouraged and motivated by some really cool experts in the field, please keep helping us 🙂

Good luck

Brian Nivens

Thanks for the advice. The AWS CQ video is great. After watching, I’m changing my approach to the questions and taking time in the practice tests to work on parsing the questions. For the practice tests, I’ve been using the tutorialdojo tests on Udemy. They seem pretty good, but it’s an unqualified opinion. I haven’t tried the real test yet. Look for a coupon and those are about $10.


Can some explain what is AWS CQ Video?

Sam T

The AWS Certification Quiz Show | Episode 1 – YouTube

4 Answers

Thanks for your valuable feedback. I am planning to take my time with studying for this to ensure I pass and also understand the materials. You’ll definitely pass the next time you sit! Just practice speed reading in practice exams. As Brian mentioned, the Jon Bonso practice exams are highly reviewed as being similar difficulty to the actual exams. I stopped using Whizlabs after Sys Ops when I relied on their material and failed that exam my first time.

Good Luck!

Hi Alessandro,

Thank you for the open and honest feedback.  The first time I sat for the CSAP exam way back in 2015, I failed it too–for the same reason you mention.  Time management.   I also underestimated the detail and intensity of the exam.

There are some topics that are showing up recently on the exam which aren’t fully covered to the level I’d like in the course and that’s what I’m working on now.  Specifically, I’m creating new modules for SAM, Connect, the ML stack, updates in Storage Gateway, EFS, Dynamo and some of the new services like application auto-scaling, blockchain and such.

I expect these updates to be available towards the end of this month.


thanks for your feekback, what is AWS CQ videos?

Alessandro Behling

CQ=Certification Quiz Show

Time Management – Yes this is important, you must have a plan how to handle multiple choice questions. Through your career everyone has taken many.  

Pick up key words in the Questions, and key words in Answers. Quickly reject choices (based on key words),  narrow down and select appropriate choice- again based on key words. Even though the questions and answers are verbose- but most of it is total fluff, speed read and ignore. The entire exam is based on key words.

Question that you don’t know anything about – don’t waste any of your time, make quick guess and move on, don’t even bother marking it for review.

Mark for review only ones that you have genuine dilemma.

I have passed many/all AWS exams, never felt short of time in any – always had plenty of time to spare.

Bill Zhou

Do you have any tips for speed reading or selecting key elements from text? I sometimes fall into the pit of reading too much into a question.

Brian Nivens

Check out the Exam Readiness SA Pro course at AWS training (free). It gives a few practice questions and the presenter shows how to break down the questions and answers.

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