AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional 2020

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Passed Solution Architect Professional

Hello Cloud Gurus!

I’m happy to say I passed the SA Pro (old exam) earlier this week after studying with Scott’s new course, so I think I’m possibly one of the first people to take the exam after studying from his new updated course. The course can be used to study for either the existing exam which is expected to be available until early 2019 or the Beta which is available until Dec 3rd, whichever you decide to do.

My approach was as follows:

Listened to all the lectures at least once and repeated any lectures that I needed more time to understand. I paused the videos and made a load of notes and diagrams on the areas I was not familiar with.

I completed all the challenges at least 3 times, until I was totally comfortable with why certain choices were incorrect and why.

Early on in my studies, I watched the AWS Certification Exam Prep Guide by Mattias which was really useful in explaining how to approach the multiple choice questions with some really good examples on how to identify incorrect answers. This course applies to any of the AWS exams but is particularly useful for the Professional level where the correct answer doesn’t always jump out at you and you need to compare 4 or 5 possible answers. This course is available to all ACG members:

When approaching the questions, I drew out an answer grid marked A-E and crossed off the obviously incorrect answers for each question, this really helped me to focus on only the remaining options. On the day, I drew this out before beginning the exam so that I didn’t waste any precious seconds.

Sample Questions

In addition to Scott’s challenges, I did the official sample questions 3 times, researching any incorrect answers.

White Papers

I read through the Security, Storage Options and VPC Networking white papers… Scott recommends a lot more than these and if I had given myself more time, I would have read a lot more than those and I would recommend reading all the white papers he mentions! Unfortunately the last 2 weekends before the exam I had some unplanned friends and family visits which I was unable to avoid and this meant I lost around 3-4 days when I had expected to be able to study…

In hindsight, if I had given myself more time to prepare, I would also have watched the recommended re:invent deepdive videos, especially on areas like Direct Connect which is difficult to get hands-on experience with and also on areas like Networking and HA, just to consolidate everything. I definitely felt less prepared for not doing this!

AWS Practice Exam

The night before the exam, I took the official practice test, it consists of 40 questions and cost $40, but if you have already achieved one of the Associate certs you can use one of the practice exam vouchers they give you, so most people should be able to do the practice exam for free.

Beware with the Practice exam though because it is much, much more difficult than the real thing, if that is even possible and it can make you feel that you are not ready to take the exam even when you are!

I scored only 65% and almost ran out of time. It really made me feel like I wasn’t ready which was a little bit depressing because this was at 6pm on Sunday and my exam was at 9am the next day!

In hindsight, I should have done this at least one week before the exam to have time to review the questions properly and focus on my weaker areas.

I’ve read on our forums that many people successfully passed the real exam after failing the practice one, but I was still worried that I was going to get a borderline score…

From what I’ve read, a lot of people got at least 10% more on the real exam than they did on the practice. A big problem with the practice exam is that the questions and answers are poorly worded which makes a lot of the questions extremely confusing. – The real exam is much more clearly worded and far less ambiguous.

On the day I got 80%. It isn’t an amazing score, but I was pleasantly surprised and I was just happy to get a pass! So if you are getting around 65% on the practice then you will most likely do "OK" in the real exam, but for your own sanity, please do not do it the night before your exam! It’s my own fault but it was totally depressing and I was extremely annoyed with myself!!!

Here is a comparison between my practice exam and the real scores and you can see there is quite a lot of variance:

Practice: Overall Score: 65% Real Exam: Overall Score: 80%

Practice: 1.0  High Availability and Business Continuity: 83% Real Exam: 72%

Practice: 2.0  Costing: 100% Real Exam: 100%

Practice: 3.0  Deployment Management: 100% Real Exam: 85%

Practice: 4.0  Network Design: 100% Real Exam: 42%

Practice: 5.0  Data Storage: 33% Real Exam: 81%

Practice: 6.0  Security: 62% Real Exam: 85%

Practice: 7.0  Scalability & Elasticity: 33% Real Exam: 81%

Practice: 8.0  Cloud Migration & Hybrid Architecture: 50% Real Exam: 100%

Test Center Network Issues

During the exam we lost network connectivity around 3 times. This was a big concern because each time, my machine got rebooted and a couple of times it took a few minutes to get the exam back. When the exam came back, I had usually lost the last answer so had to select my answer again. I was worried that I was losing precious time on my exam during the reboots, but each time when the exam screen came back the clock had not changed so I needn’t have worried.

English Not Your First Language?

English is obviously my first language, but if it is your second (or third!) language, you can request an extension of an additional 30 minutes for all of your exams. There’s a great blog post here which explains how to do that, you need to do this in your certification account before scheduling the exam:

Hopefully that is useful for some of you studying for the SA Pro, it is a tough exam but not impossible! And a big thanks to Scott for an excellent course!

Good luck all and keep being awesome!





Interesting. Thanks for the info. I took the practice exam on a whim today (hadn’t really prepared much beyond my other certs) and ended up with a 55%. I also noticed that some of those questions were very strangely worde and in the moment at least seemed like some didn’t have any answers that seem reasonable. I guess it’s encouraging to hear the real one is easier. That was also my experience with the Dev Associate (86% test => 94% real exam).

Radu Lupan

Congrats Faye, well done! Thank you for the info.

10 Answers


So happy for you Faye!   Congratulations!


Thank you for the explanation, and congrats! I’m also intending to take the BETA course but will likely take the existing exam and not the BETA exam. You mentioned the difference in difficulty of the practice exam and the real exam. Did you notice anything in particular outside of the wording that causes this?

Faye Ellis

It was mainly the wording in my opinion – it made it very difficult to be sure about the intention of the question and the answers! I’m sure it tripped me up a few times. .

Hi Faye, Congratulations on the certification and thanks for sharing the detailed study plan.

Regarding preparation, have you used the Exam Simulator for Pro 2019 BETA as well?

If so, how "new" these questions are seen compared to the "old" exam?

Faye Ellis

Hi Gabor, yes I used the Exam Simulator, it was released about a week after passing my exam. I actually think some of the questions on our exam sim are a little bit more difficult than the real exam… From what I can see, I don’t think the content of the new exam has changed significantly, they have just updated to cover a few new technologies. Scott’s course covers you for taking both the current test and the new one.

Bill Vitale

Hi Faye, would you be willing to share how you did on the Exam Simulator similar to how you did on the AWS Practice Exam? This could help give a rough approximation of relative difficulty of the Simulator as well. And thanks for all the details above!

Faye Ellis

Oh I think I got around 62% the first time I tried our exam sim, but it may not be a fair comparison because I had already completed the real exam and had time to review a few topics that I had struggled with in the exam and also the exam sim is designed for the new exam… while I studied for the old one… so I don’t know how useful that comparison is…

Faye, thanks for the informations and congrats! 🙂

Congratulations Faye , I will be the next person taking the exam in 2019

I was wondering why the current SA Pro Exam is 12 Hours and the new one 2019 is only 7 Hours long?

If the content of the new Exam changed by 30% how could the training have covered the current exam?


Faye Ellis

Hi – the course has been completely restructured with new content and re-recorded with a new instructor and teaching style, which does impact course length. I think it is actually 8.5 hours long right now as content is added on an on-going basis as the exam evolves….

Congratulations, Faye! How useful would it be to review the previous content and the new content to prep for the new exam?

Faye Ellis

Hi Alec you could use it if you just wanted to hear a topic explained in a slightly different way, but be aware that there will be gaps because the old course is designed for the old exam….

Congratulations Faye!


Congratulations Faye!! Great suggestions.

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