AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional 2020

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I robbed the bank and passed the CSA-Pro

My exam experience

I’m a slow person. I don’t read fast and to make it worse I’m not a native speaker. Yet I consider myself fluent in English, but not being native still makes it harder and makes me an even slower reader (and the additional 30 minutes for not being English-native were not enough for me).

I can’t recall any question in that exam longer than 2 lines that I didn’t had to read 3~4 times to not even fully grasp all the details… and questions less than 2 lines long, well, there might have been less than a handful.

So I was at question 2 and already 15 minutes had passed and I didn’t even had answered these 2 questions in full understanding of the details of the questions and all answers.

I was 100% sure I would fail.

As time and questions were passing by, there are numerous questions where after having read 3~4 time the questions and lost already too much time I either

  • picked an answer without reading them, just by glancing at them and choosing the one that had one attractive word (e.g. a question about some sort of DB architecture, I would just select the answer containing the word Aurora without reading it)

  • picked the first answer that would satisfy the problem in the question without reading the others to check if there was a better answer.

I gave up marking questions for review because I knew I would not have the time and even with the extra 30 minutes, I finished just 10 minutes before the end.

So I was really surprised to see that I passed, because not having the time to grasp the questions and make thoughtful decisions I was sure I would fail.

I passed with 770 points. Which I guess is just by 1 or 2 questions above the limit.

That leaves me with a bit of a bitter feeling that won’t be answered here, but: what’s the point of such an exam?

I’m doubtful about how such an exam, which doesn’t give the time to make thoughtful answers, helps at evaluating someone’s technical level and understanding of the technology. The 3 Specialty exams I passed before were not that bad to my opinion. I did them all in time and confidence without the 30 minutes extensions which I didn’t know existed at the time.

The exam content and study

As for the content, I can’t say much. The number of questions which made it to my cognitive brain are about only a handful. The only question that struck me and which is not covered in this course was about Lambda CI/CD deployments.

To study:

  • prior to taking this course, I retook the entire CSA-Associate course

  • took this course, read all the whitepapers, viewed all the videos

  • watched many re:Invent 2019 videos (the entire Security, Networking, Architecture tracks and part of the DB track)

  • re-read my notes from all the Associate courses, and the Security specialty course

  • did my own labs

It still felt to me that this course is covering about just half of the content of the exam – not in terms of scope but in terms of depths.

And despite my additional study and practice I was still missing some very technical information.

My feedback on this course

As an advice for this course content, I would suggest to get rid of everything that is a repeat of the CSA-Associate (it feels to me that there’s often more technical details in the A Cloud Guru CSA-Associate course and the Professional course), and build on top of it and go in-depth. 

The re:Invent videos and whitepapers are not enough additional material in themselves: I had several questions which were detailed CLI options type of questions.

Require people to go back follow the Associate course if they need and use the saved time to go in-depth into details.

Now I have to go work on the next one.

Sean Meadows

I fell you Matthieu. I used ACG courses to pass both my SAA and Security Specialty exams without having to use other courses or spend hours reading whitepapers. So far, I’m not impressed with the SAP course here on ACG. Many, MANY students are saying they have needed to take other courses and read over hours of whitepapers to pass the SAP exam, which I think is completely counter intuitive to what A Cloud Guru has traditionally been about – which is structuring exams to teach you the material to pass the exam and making taking whole other courses and reading every whitepaper optional. Sorry Scott, but I feel like the lessons could be 5 minutes longer and really go deeper into the material. For example, Challenge 1 on the Networking section has part of the answer being Jumbo Frames enabled, and Jumbo Frames are not mentioned ONCE ANYWHERE in the entire hour and a half section.

Sean Meadows

Meant to say structuring LESSONS to teach material, not exams.

6 Answers

Congrats Matthieu!   And thanks for the feedback.  I hear you on the CSA-A stuff.  When AWS got rid of the requirement to pass the CSAA first before CSAP, that opened up lots of new complexities for people who just jumped into the CSAP.    I can tell you we’ve gotten very "energetic" feedback because the course doesn’t teach everything someone needs who might have never sat at an AWS console before…regardless of what requirements and disclaimers.

Interesting that you had CLI items.  I’ve taken the exam several times but haven’t gotten any of those in my question batch.

Congrats again!


Matthieu Lienart

I can recall at least 2 questions asking about the specific option to use to perform a task. Some answers to select from where CLI commands options others where expressed as web portal options. Regarding the CSAA, I can see the problem with it not being a requirement anymore now to sit the CSAP but just as you push to read the write papers I could see values to make the A-Cloud-Guru CSAA course a requirement. That would allow you to go further into details. Anyway that us just my personal feedback based on what I felt missing from this course and the extra studies I did. But I also do like that you don’t serve all the content on a silver plate.

Rare to hear someone pass the CSA-Pro exam – by guessing the answers (sounded like that). Most/lots of stories that we hear folks failing the exam despite best effort. So something must have gone right besides luck. Very rare for AWS exam – maybe puppy mills are churning out.

But yes, the exam questions are too very verbose – just cant see any purpose behind that. Real life is not like that at all. You may have a complex problem with many moving parts – does not have to be verbose.

Matthieu Lienart

@Sam, I did not guess answers. I rather adopted sometimes very risky strategies in order to catch up with the clock. For example, I remember a architecture question about DB. After having already spend too much time reading the problem description 3~4 times, it felt like it was a problem for Aurora. I just glanced at all answers and I saw the word "Aurora" in only one answer and selected it without fully reading ti and moved on to the next question. Maybe the answer I selected was a trap saying something stupid about Aurora, but I took the risk to save time. Or I remember a question asking for the best solution to solve a problem. The first answer was a solution. I selected it, did not read the other and moved on to the next question. Whether the first answer was the best or not I will never know because again in order to catch up with time I took the very risky approach not to read the other answers. I’m not sure I would recommend anyone to adopt the same risky strategies.

Matthieu Lienart

These risky strategies helped me to pass in the sense that they helped me to answer all questions on time but maybe all these answers were wrong and I would have had a better score if I had the time to go through all answers and really make sure that the one I chose was the best one. Or maybe they were the right answers and having more time wouldn’t have make a difference. I’ll never know. Which is kind of frustrating by the way…

I want to add my thoughts on this, 

I actually think the exam might not be flawed as suggested but rather the process adopted happened to work this time for Matthieu.

Let me explain, As discussed a lot of the detail in the questions can be superfluous to the question at hand, one of the issues I am having is over thinking the question and second guessing my ‘gut’ instinct. Perhaps in this case skim reading and going with the logical and initial feeling of the right answer is actually a passable method.

I say the above seeing that Matthieu did a lot of studying and seems to have passed a number of AWS exams previously, therefore i think there was enough knowledge and understanding to take this risky method. That being said it was just a pass and on a different day with a different question pool it might have gone the other way.

It’s not like they were just guessing answers it was an educated guess based on a good level of knowledge and understanding both with regards to the subject matter and how AWS writes questions and answer options.

Incidentally is there not a process to get extra time on the exams if you are a English second language speaker? I thought I saw this somewhere.

Lastly congratulations Matthieu on passing the exam, I wouldn’t down play the achievement and if you really did cheat the system , which I don’t think you did, I would expect the re-certification to catch you out.


Matthieu Lienart

Allan, thank you for the comments. I do believe that whatever exam/certification is concerned, being used to the format, the way questions are asked, the types of traps, etc. is about 1/4th to 1/3rd of the job. Having taken many AWS exams did for sure helped a lot. As I also mentioned in my reply to Sam, I would not necessarily recommend anyone to use the risky strategies I used. They helped me to finish on time, but I do not know if they helped with the score or the opposite and will never know. And as you say, it might have very well ended with a failing result (or a better score). This is why I am saying that I "robbed the bank", because I am myself unsatisfied about how I passed. As you mention, there is a process to get 30 minutes extra time as a non-native English speaker, which I used for the first time for this exam (I wouldn’t have made it without it as I finished just 10 minutes before the end of the extra time). But despite those extra 30 minutes, me being a slow reader, not being native which makes things worse despite my (self-considered) English fluency, I can’t skip the superfluous verbose content just at sight. Until I fully read and understand it’s difficult to say if it is superfluous or not. But that is just my own personal limitations. Especially when I’m 2~3 hours into the exam.

You are not alone in that feeling about the time constraints of the exam. I have and have had a lot of certifications, associate and professional over the last 20 years. (Cisco, Microsoft, VMware, AWS)
The ones I hate the most are the AWS Professional ones because they are too time constrained: you do not have time to read and carefully think, you have to be a question answering robot, you do not train about the subject but about how to answer fast and that is really bad IMHO for measuring your knowledge.

Matthieu Lienart

@bcxpro Cisco certifications will forever remain the worst to my opinion:

I took this exam last week .  I failed with a score of 730, I guess 1 or 2 correct answers would have cleared me.  I do have 2 AWS Associate certifications ( Architect and SysOps) , thought it was in 2015

I agree that questions are too verbose . I spend too much time with first 50 questions, mainly because , I read the questions more than once .  It looks like better strategy might be to read the question ONLY ONCE, but spend more time in eliminating the wrong answers and pick the correct answers . 

One thing I gained is the knowledge of so many new features that AWS has introduced in the last 5 years and we never get to use them in the field. 

Not sure, AWS Architect professional Certification is of much help or use in securing better job oppotruntiies. I would like to hear from others in the field. Not sure if I should retake the exam. It looks like I’ve spend another $300 to retake the exam

Vasu Ram

Matthieu Lienart

Hello Vasu, sad to here you failed the exam. I would personally spend the money to retake the exam in a short period of time. Enough time to fill-in the study gap but not too long to forgot all you mastered already. Especially as you were very close. As for your question about Certification (AWS or others) it will be an eternal debate. What I can say is that in my case I was able to land a new job in a new company from VoIP engineer to Cloud engineer, with no Cloud experience other than my own labs, solely on my certifications and other professional experience.

G L Goteng

vasu_ram, sorry to hear you failed. But I thoug 720 is the pass mark? How can you get 730 and yet you said you failed? Please can someone tell me the pass mark for CSAP? I passed my CSAA last year and preparing to sit for the CSAP very soon, perhaps next month.


750 is pass mark for CSA Pro

I agree. There seems to be way too much emphasis with catching people out rather than examining knowledge. Long questions and a single wrong word slipped in to long answers to trick you. Also very ambiguous answers where sometimes assumptions are read into the question and other times you were not supposed to have made similar assumptions. 

These certs are crap but I feel I am being forced to do them after many years of relying on experience and the ability to get up to speed quickly on something new. Should I really have to learn about Elastic Beanstalk to pass an exam FFS. 

Worked with plenty of ‘certified’ people who are as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike. Certs mean little in the real world

Matthieu Lienart

Michael, I would personally not be so extreme. I have done way worse certifications in the past (Cisco certifications) and although I agree just having a certification doesn’t make anyone an expert I do find them useful. Going through the certifications, I learned a lot about in-depth details or features I was unaware of because I had at that time no use of it. And it helped me change career and job… All the best on your own path

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