7 best tips for passing any AWS Certification exam

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This guide contains practical tips and strategies that increase your chances of passing any AWS Certified exam by 25% by making use of a couple of simple but powerful techniques!

You’ll also learn how to take advantage of the AWS certification portal and add an additional 30 minutes to your exam so you have more time to answer the questions.

Let’s get to it! Here are the 7 best tips that help you pass any AWS Certification exam.

Best tips for preparing for your AWS Certification Exam

I’ve condensed this guide down to 7 tips and strategies divided into practical exam techniques e.g. how to improve decision-making with multiple-choice questions so you have a better chance to pick the right answer.

Here are my tips to help you get prepared for an AWS Exam.

1. Look for the right keywords in the questions

The AWS Certified exam consists mostly of multiple-choice questions (4 or more answers) and occasionally they ask you to supply 2 or more answers. These questions are typically in a long story format and are created to trick you in some cases.

Therefore it’s really important to read it thoroughly and look for the right keywords in the text that might give away the answer. This will give you a huge advantage in your decision-making process and allows you to answer questions way faster!

Allow me to show you how that works by giving an example:

“You are working on a mobile gaming application and are building the leaderboard feature to track the top scores across millions of users. Which AWS services are best suited for this use case?”

  • A. Amazon Redshift
  • B. Amazon ElastiCache using Memcached
  • C. Amazon ElastiCache using Redis
  • D. Amazon S3

Answer C. See what I did there? As you can see I emphasized the most important keywords of the question in Bold fonts.

Applying this method makes this question way easier to interpret. You now know what is expected in this question which makes it easier to dissect the given choices.

As you might know, Amazon Redshift and Amazon S3 are not designed for high volumes of small reads and write, typical of a mobile game. Amazon ElastiCache with Redis provides native functions that simplify the development of leaderboards, which is the correct answer!

With Memcached, it’s also possible but it is more difficult to sort and rank large datasets. But remember the question? It asked for the best-suited AWS Services!

2. Answer the question first, then look at the choices

When you read the question, use your own knowledge to answer the question before you dive into the multiple choices that AWS is giving you. Block the choices for a brief moment and try to answer them, then look at the choices that are given.

You are creating an Amazon DynamoDB table that will contain messages for a social chat application. This table will have the following attributes: Username (String), Timestamp (Number), Message (String). Which attribute should you use as the partition key? The sort key?

  • A. Username, Timestamp
  • B. Username, Message
  • C. Timestamp, Message
  • D. Message, Timestamp

The answer is A. The reason you need to answer this yourself first is to avoid confusion. In the exam, they try to confuse you by providing multiple answers that look alike.

As you can see in the multiple-choice answers, A and B look pretty similar and can cause you to doubt yourself. This can become very time-consuming if you do this for every question.

3. Eliminate the answers that don’t fit your primary thought

If you’ve applied the previous tip, you should have come up with an answer before you read the multiple choices. Now read the answers that are given and see which one matches your primary thought.

Pick the one that comes the closest to your primary thought, if you’re still hesitating then go with your gut feeling. Most of the time your gut feeling is right.

4. Don’t spend too much time on each question

A typical AWS Certified Associate exam consists of 65 questions that need to be cleared within 130 minutes. That means you got around 2 minutes per question (130 min / 65 questions) on average.

Just make sure to keep track of time and skip questions that take too long to answer. You can revisit them later when you have time left over.

5. In doubt? flag your answer!

If you really have no clue about the right answer, flag it and come back later! This strategy really helps me, because at the beginning of the exam I need to warm up a bit and I need more time to answer questions.

But once I start clearing more questions, I’m way more focused and my memory kicks into overdrive. Most of the time when I revisit the questions again I reread them and then suddenly got the answer.

6. Review your flagged answers

If you have some time left, don’t hit the submit button yet. Review your flagged answers one more time to make sure you answered each and every one of them.

If you don’t know the answer, it’s better to guess than to keep the answer empty. Since you won’t get any points for not answering the question.

7. Request exam accommodations

This is really important if you’re a non-native English speaker like me. You can request a permanent +30 minutes extra to complete the exam. Once it’s activated it will also apply to all future exam registrations.

ESL +30 is available to non-native English speakers when taking an exam in English. ESL +30 only needs to be requested once and will apply to all future exam registrations at all test delivery vendors. Please select ESL +30 using the dropdown menu below.

On the homepage of Certmetrics you should see the following:

Certmetrics request exam accommodation button
Certmetrics request exam accommodation button

Then select the ESL +30 Minutes from the accommodation drop-down menu. This is a one-time procedure and will apply automatically once you schedule a new exam.

ESL +30 minutes accommodation approved
ESL +30 minutes accommodation approved

Conclusion

To summarize, using the tips described in the guide will improve your pass rate tremendously by using general exam strategies.

Looking for keywords in multiple-choice questions is important to find out what the intent of the question is. Then try to answer the question before looking at the multiple-choice answers so you can eliminate answers that don’t fit your primary thought.

This strategy makes it easy to filter answers e.g. going down from 4 answers to 2 answers which will then improve your chance of giving the right answer by 50%.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How do I register and schedule an AWS exam?

To register for an exam, sign in to aws.training and click Certification in the top navigation. This will redirect you to Certmetrics.

From there you can schedule your exam with either PSI or Pearson VUE as the test delivery provider. The Certmetrics dashboards show all available exams which you can schedule.

Certmetrics eligible AWS exams
Certmetrics eligible AWS exams

Once you pick the exam which you’d like to schedule it will redirect you to the test delivery provider’s scheduling page, where you will complete your exam registration.

Can we take the AWS certification exam from home?

Yes, you can take all the AWS certification exams from home. Both test delivery providers Pearson Vue and PSI support them.

What AWS certification should I get first?

If you’re a beginner then start with the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner (CCP). It’s a cloud beginner-friendly certification that covers the basics of AWS and the cloud and requires no technical experience as a prerequisite.

I wrote an exam guide for the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam that provides everything you need in order to pass the exam effectively in one go.

Danny Steenman

Is a Principal Cloud Consultant with a background in DevOps Engineering and thorough hands-on experience in architecting and building highly scalable distributed systems on AWS Cloud using Infrastructure as Code.

A prominent leader who is passionate about sharing AWS technical expertise by writing technical articles.