AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional 2020

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My tips on how to pass the 2019 AWS Certified Solution Architect Professional

Hello Cloud Gurus,

I am happy to report that I have passed the AWS Certified Solution Architect on March 9 2019 with a score of 848 and I am sharing my experience with you below.

A little bit about myself

I work as a DevOps Engineer at Q4 Inc. in Toronto, Canada. I have been using AWS at work day-in-day-out since December 2016 when I joined the company.

My timeline for getting the 5 AWS certs is as follows:

  1. Solution Architect Associate (SAA): Sep 17, 2016

  2. SysOps Administrator Associate (SOA): Mar 20, 2017

  3. Developer Associate (DVA): Apr 18, 2017

  4. DevOps Engineer Professional (DOP): Feb 24, 2018

  5. Solution Architect Professional (SAP): Mar 09, 2019

Note: If you want to take both professional exams DOP and SAP you may want to take them closer together, i.e. a few weeks apart as there is a lot of overlapping and they were both updated in 2019

ACG Courses

I started studying for SAP in December 2018 when I got my subscription. Here are the courses that I have done on ACG that I consider a must:

  1. Mattias Andersson’s course AWS Certification Preparation Guide is a great place to start whether you are new to AWS certifications or have a bunch of certificates already.

  2. Scott Pletcher’s course AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional 2019 is a refresh of the popular Certified Solutions Architect – Professional course authored by Original Guru Ryan Kroonenburg. I used the resources in this course as a study guide and posted them here

  3. Paul Wakeford’s course AWS Cost Control aligns perfectly with the Cost Control domain in the SAP exam which carries a 12.5% weight of the exam.

The following specialty courses I consider optional but they were critically important for me to consolidate knowledge about services such as Direct Connect, Redshift, CloudHSM, EMR that I do not have hands-on experience with. I know it’s a lot of hours but you can watch them on high-speed, i.e. 1.2 x for topics you want to pay close attention to and 1.75 x for really advanced topics that you want to be aware about without knowing all the details.

4. AWS Certified Advanced Networking Specialty great course by the one and only Ryan Kroonenburg, I highly recommend it, it’s paid off for me, I had a question in the exam where VPC B was peered with two VPCs: VPC A and VPC C that had overlapping CIDR ranges and we needed to make sure that VPC B was able to access all resources in VPC C AND one particular IP in VPC A. Ryan explains how you do that in the Deep Dive – VPC Peering section of his course.

  1. Another great course by Ryan Kroonenburg: AWS Certified Security Specialty, I am actually considering classifying this as a must since Security is such a big topic in the exam, it comes up in domain 1 and 2 which together weight 43.5%.

  2. Sanjay Kotecha’s course AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty, helped me understand important topics such as Redshift, EMR, Kinesis.

AWS Practice Exam

I took it on Feb 3rd first time and scored 30%! I barely had time to screen-shot all questions!

I wanted to take it two more times after that but to my surprise, the PSI console would not let me take it again. I have opened a ticket with PSI Support but they were not helpful and giving me different responses every time I would follow up. I have finally given up and simply created two more certification accounts attached to two different emails. That way I was able to take the practice exam two more times and I scored 60% and respectively 65%. By the way, the same happened with the two new accounts, once I have taken the Practice exam once I could not take it again under the same account (PSI if you are reading this: How can we practice if we have exactly one shot at it?)

The practice exam is way more difficult than the actual exam so do your best but do not despair if it seems not to make sense.

Study Schedule

I started seriously studying in the last week of December 2018 and continued on full speed through the whole month of January and February and also the first week in March so 2.5 months in total.

I happen to take the train to work so I would read AWS Developer’s Guides on my way to and from work on my Kindle.

I would study at least 1.5-2 hours every evening after work and replace Netflix with YouTube every night to watch AWS re: Invent videos.

Also, a lot of study on the weekends as well. When going out for walks I would listen to re:Invent videos on high speed, i.e. 1.5 x normal.

Exam Simulators

In the last 2 weeks leading to the exam, I have done 1 test a day, started with the ACG Exam Simulator (took that test 3 times until I scored over 80% and of course reading the recommended material in between), then gotten to Whizlabs tests (400 questions split in 5 x 80- question tests) and finished with Udemy (300 questions split in 4 x 75-question tests). All 3 test providers were great and revealed important gaps in my preparation which I was able to fix.

Other tips

• If English is not your first language (which is the case for me), you are able to claim extra 30 minutes for any AWS exam. This IS the one exam that you should use this and making this claim is easy but you have to do it BEFORE scheduling your exam. It gets approved instantly and then you will have 210 minutes for the exam instead of 180 when you book your exam. Faye Ellis has posted a link to the instructions but for the life of me I cannot find the post, you basically ask for an Exam Accommodation and select ESL +30 and once it gets approved instantly you proceed with booking your exam.

• If both RDS MySQL and Amazon Aurora seem valid answers look for stated requirements that say “minimal administration” coupled with regular growing of the DB size. Remember that Aurora cluster volumes automatically grow as the amount of data in your database increases, it increases in 10GB increments up to 64TB. In my exam, I had a question where the DB was growing at a pace of 10GB per day!

• Developer Guides that I have read on my Kindle (and I am glad I did): ElastiCache Redis, ElastiCache Memcached, Kinesis Data Stream, Kinesis Firehose, Redshift, EMR, Storage Gateway, AWS Data Migration Service, CloudFront.

• When studying use active reading, extract important info and write it down on post-it notes and post those on your bathroom mirror-that way every time you brush your teeth you get to repeat those important concepts as well. Read all those notes before the exam. This technique helped me a lot, I have 42 post-it notes on my bathroom mirror 😊

• Check out Paul Schwarzenberger’s great feedback to his exam here

In closing, I would like to thank the ACG team for the great work they do and wish you guys good luck with your exams!

Farhan Darzada

Congratulations Radu! Thank you for sharing these awesome tips! I recently passed the CSA-Associate exam and I am now currently reviewing for the CSA-Pro exam. Aside from acloud guru, I am looking at other resources to prepare myself, and I’m especially looking for practice exams that can help me. I am currently enrolled in the Jon Bonso/Tutorials Dojo practice exams on Udemy (they have 4 sets x 75 questions per set) and so far, they’re great. I am learning a lot with all their explanations and cheat sheets. I am also looking at Whizlabs practice exams but quite hesitant because they have poor reviews on Udemy. Do you have any other recommended practice tests on Udemy that are as good as the Tutorials Dojo mock exams?

Radu Lupan

Thank you Farhan! I agree, the Udemy cheat sheets are a great. As for the practice exams, I actually liked the Whizlabs better because I have failed the first two tests and that revealed important gaps in my preparation. Between ACG Exam Simulator, Whizlabs and Udemy I think there are enough questions that you can practice with. Good luck with your preparation and the exam and let me know if you have any other questions.

6 Answers

Congratulations Radu! Thanks for sharing your feedback. Can you please also share which subjects you were tested in the exam detailed?

Radu Lupan

Thank you HappyCloud. I am sorry I did not put together a list of topics that came up in my exam. You can check out Mukul Gopal and Paul Schwarzenberger’s posts as they both did a great job on that and that’s pretty much that I got too. Yes, including Amazon Mechanical Turk which I have never heard of before 🙂



Congratulations Radu! Your exam experiences are spot on to what I encountered last Saturday. I also took the exam and pass it and we used the exact same review materials and practice exams. I don’t know if that Udemy (300 questions split in 4 x 75-question tests) practice exams that you bought are from Tutorials Dojo too,  that’s what I used and they’re great.

I wrote my exam experiences too here. I hope it can help out others!

Radu Lupan

Congrats Mukul! You really killed it man, well done! Yes, the Udemy and Tutorials Dojo questions are the same thing. Great feedback!

John O’Brien

I am planning to take my exam next month and I am always seeing this Tutorials Dojo practice exams on some of the threads here. Seems like a small team and they only have 3 products: CSAA, CSAP and CSOA, but their reviews are great just like what the two of you are saying here. Do you think I should just buy this one instead and don’t buy the official AWS practice exam? I really want to save as much as possible for my review.

Congrats Radu!

Hi Radu, 

I am preparing for my AWS SA Pro exam which is slated next month. You mentioned that: 

"The practice exam is way more difficult than the actual exam so do your best but do not despair if it seems not to make sense"

I also read Mukul’s awesome list of exam feedback and he said that the questions in the official AWS practice exam do not show up a lot in the actual SA Pro exam. So for me, Seems like the official AWS practice exam is not really helpful at all, and might be just a waste of my $40 USD. I already shelled out 300 USD in booking my exam, plus my shared ACG subscription so I really don’t want to spend so much for my review materials. 

Do you recommend that I don’t buy the official AWS practice exam and instead, just buy those affordable Udemy Tutorials Dojo practice exam that you and Mukul used?

Radu Lupan

Hi John, If you have other AWS certifications, check your Benefits section, you may have a Free Practice Exam Voucher you can use. Otherwise, if money is an issue then I would definitely get the udemy practice tests as they are way more beneficial than the AWS practice exam. As I mentioned, I was not able to pass the AWS practice exam after 3 attempts. I did not get any questions from the practice exam in my real exam. Good luck with your preparation and your exam next month and let me know if you have any other questions.

Radu Lupan

Also, I recommend trying to have your employer reimburse you for the exam expenses.

Congratulations Radu, well done!

Congratulations again Radu and thank you for sharing your exam feedback. I also passed my exam and I included you in my post as well:

Radu Lupan

Thank you, James and congrats to you too! Well done!

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