AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional 2020

Sign Up Free or Log In to participate!

Feedback after passing the Solutions Architect Professional exam! (SAP-C01)

After missing the pass mark by a tiny margin of 20 pts (2-3 questions by my guess) on my first try, I was able to pass the CSA Pro certification on Dec 1st, exactly 14 days later. I thought I would share my experience.

When I went for my CSAA certification, I only used ACG as my study material. I was able to pass with flying colors. When the time came to pick a study material, I didn’t hesitate to pick ACG. I ran through Scott’s lectures and took extensive notes. When I took the exam simulator, I didn’t get a passing grade. Reviewing my notes, I noticed that a good amount of material was not covered in Scott’s lectures. I’ll admit, I did not get a chance to read all of the whitepapers that Scott had listed at the end of each lecture. But honestly, who has time to watch a few minutes of lecture and then read for 2+ hours of whitepapers??

I decided to take the DolfinEd course at Udemy next. The course was 46+ hours long and went into extensive detail about almost every service that appeared on the exam. Someone else’s post about how they passed the certification mentioned they couldn’t bear through 18+ mins of PowerPoint slides, but I found them very informative. I felt those lectures highlighted the important points from the whitepapers. I compared a few of the subject lectures to the few whitepapers that I did read, and the points I would have noted was in the lecture. Another thing I appreciated from the other course was techniques on how to tackle an exam question.

I also purchased the sample exams from Jon Bonso at Udemy and the official practice exam from AWS.

After failing to pass the first time, I had a good feel for the exam. For the next two weeks, I went through all of the practice exam questions that I had and ripped into each one. I made sure I understood WHY each wrong answer was wrong. That included Googling deep into a particular topic. I found that many times, I had to go beyond official AWS websites for a good explanation of a specific topic (ie VPC peering vs transit VPC vs transit gateway). I think this is what ultimately helped me get the last few questions I needed to pass.

Scott, let me first apologize for posting AWS questions. I understand why you wouldn’t want such questions (to avoid running afoul of AWS), but where else can you find a forum full of AWS intellectuals to talk through a question? The exam questions are crafted with ‘gotchas’. Although just pointing out the ‘gotcha’ isn’t enough, those on this forum have been very good at breaking down the ‘why’ part of the ‘gotcha’.

Here are my suggestions on how to improve the course:

1. Much deeper dive into the services. (Currently, it feels like a high level flyover. This certification demands much more. Saying ‘read the whitepapers’ feels like a bit of a cop-out when compared to the depth covered by the CSAA course.)

2. Have a lecture where you tackle a few representative examples of exam questions. (Being able to get through each question in under 2 mins is more than half the battle. A seasoned AWS architect could get every question right, but not knowing how to quickly get through each question would be his/her downfall).

3. Better in-exam tips? (Just knowing that the max size of an EBS volume is 16 TiB helped me quickly weed out wrong answer options in at least 5 questions)

Someone else posted this list of topics to know for the exam, but I’ll post them as well with my addendums.

DR strategy, RTO, RPO (pilot light vs hot standby)

Lambda, API Gateway (Lambda max run time)

DynamoDB, DynamoDB Streams

AWS Organization, IAM vs SCP, Consolidated Billing (master account invites accounts to join)

Reserved Instances vs Spot Instances vs On-Demand Instances

S3, S3 Events, Glacier

SQS (regular vs FIFO)

CloudFormation & StackSets & Nested stacks & Service Catalog

Direct Connect (DX) and Direct Connect Gateway

VPC peering vs Transit VPC

VPC end points (other AWS services can use them with no changes needed)

AWS Rekognition (limits of functionality of analyzing streaming video vs stored videos)

AWS Workspaces

ELB / Auto Scale Groups / EC2

RDS – MySQL vs Aurora, Read Replicas (know all the different supported Aurora databases)

RDS Events


AWS Systems Manager – Patch Manager

Storage Gateway (file Gateway vs tape gateway vs cached vs store)

Snowball vs Snowmobile

CloudWatch, Cloud Watch Events

KMS, CloudHSM (know how to grant access permission)

EBS – Volume Types & IOPS & limits

CloudFront, Lambda@Edge


Route53 (latency vs geo-location; target health checks)

IAM – Roles, Policies, Identify Federation with SAML

AWS WAF vs AWS Shield (know what AWS services they can be used for)

Athena, QuickSight

AWS Config

Database Migration Service (know the databases it can migrate to and from)

Redis vs Memcached

AppStream 2.0

Elastic Container Service (ECS)


Instances types (when to use T2 vs C4/C5 vs R4/R5)

Amazon Cognito

Internet gateway, NAT gateway (IPv6 interactions)

Placement groups (how to move an instance into one)

AWS Trusted Advisor (support plans needed for programmatic access)

AWS PrivateLink (know use cases)

‘ab’ response with list of topic hints is a very good thing to review; scroll to the bottom: (

TLDR; The ACG course alone won’t get you past the exam. ACG + all suggested whitepapers… Maybe? But there are better ways to study than reading endless hours of whitepapers.

3 Answers

Congratulations and thanks for sharing this exhaustive list of recommendations. Really helpful. I noticed that you used DolfinEd and Jon Bonso courses at Udemy. I actually used the Bonso practice tests on my Developer Associate exam a few months ago and it was good. I haven’t tried DolfinEd yet. I’ve been reading this specific forum lately and I’ve been seeing the some "ACG course alone won’t get you past the exam" posts. I guess to be safe, I’ll add these courses you mentioned as additional reference material.


Thank you for reading my post. Good luck on your preparation and exam. I believe your game plan is sound. But do note that the Associate level and Pro level exams are two different beasts. Without a doubt, your approach to the Pro exam HAS to be different. I still believe ACG is a good resource for those who have general questions, but the lack of in-depth material makes the ACG CSA-Pro course more of a starter, entry course rather than the core learning I wanted it to be.

Hi PandaMan,

Thanks for sharing.  As I state in the Intro to the course, you MUST also read the white-papers, watch youtube videos and get plenty of hands-on.  The reason for this is that many of the exam questions come straight out of the white-papers verbatim.  Those who choose not to read the white-papers or other supplemental material do so at their own peril.  

I’ll be the first to say that my course is not for everyone and people learn differently.  I’m glad you found a combination that works well.


Thanks for your views, this course should be more of an in-depth review of AWS.

Sign In
Welcome Back!

Psst…this one if you’ve been moved to ACG!

Get Started
Who’s going to be learning?