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Bit about my background: I have worked as a Tech Business Analyst on a AWS migration project. I work as a Service Delivery Lead now. I have very little hands on experience and most of it is through labs and self-learning. I was very keen to get myself started on understanding cloud and what it has to offer. In my current and previous role it was imperative for me to understand how we operate with and in the cloud, considering we are all moving into it.

My intention in writing this article was to help anyone who is curious to get their certification but might be worried because they have very little or no hands-on experience. This information is purely based on my experience.

Consider these certifications as your learning journey.

June 2018 I passed my AWS Associate Solution Architect and in Nov 2018 I passed my AWS Associate Developer.

I was keen to get my SysOps done as well. I attempted SysOps in March 2019 and failed.

What I did wrong:

- I underestimated the exam and overestimated my effort.

- I did not understand the concepts and the differences in a lot of services properly.

- I did not go through AWS documentation.

What I think I did right this time around and how it helped me:

1. I went through A Cloud Guru SysOps course to prepare for my content: It is not enough to go through the content alone. It is important to remember the exam tips in the course. They are called exam tips for a reason. If you remember them they will get you more than a few marks in the exams and help you eliminate incorrect choices.

2. For practice tests I used WhizLabs and BrainCert: I saw a few questions from BrainCert in the exam. I don’t think I saw any from Whizlabs. But I would recommend using Whizlabs for practice tests and then reading through all the documentation as part of the review. It helps you jog your memory and tests your understanding of the concepts. When you use the review of the answers (correct and incorrect) to read the AWS documentation it gives you a structure to go through the documentation. Do the BrainCert practice tests after you complete whizlabs.

3. AWS FAQs. The FAQs are a very good revision to cement your understanding of concepts.

4. I did not read any white papers.

5. I did not do the AWS practice test.

Based on my memory from the two exams I sat I would recommend getting a good grip of the below content. It will help you eliminate the incorrect questions. These concepts are extremely important for you to have a good shot at passing the exam.


Everyone sitting the associate level exams know this is a very important topic.

I found these scenarios cement my understanding of how all the components needed in a VPC work together.

Difference between Security Group and NACLs

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from aws documentation

I had various questions around inbound and outbound rules for security groups and NACLs.

Error Responses

This documentation lists the 4xx and 5xx error codes and their description. 4xx are client-side errors and 5xx are server-side errors. In my first attempt I got confused and I could have answered at least 2 questions easily. I had a question even in my second attempt. You can apply this same learning not only to s3 but other services as well.

Cloud Watch Default Metrics

Understand the default metrics. The below ones are the default for ec2:

Memory utilization is a custom metric and you can install scripts to send custom metrics to cloudwatch.

Elastic Load Balancer

What are the metrics for load balancer.


Cloudformation is a very important topic. I had more than a couple of questions around cloudformation template and cloudformation with autoscaling.

Thoroughly understand the cloudformation template anatomy:

The template is covered in A Cloud Guru, but you also need to understand how it rolls back, what is the condition to set if you want to manually interfere if a stack creation fails, how to retain resources during a rollback.


Like cloudformation this topic should help you get a few questions right.

- Lifecycle policies.

- S3 bucket policy examples. I had two questions around bucket policies.


- S3 analytics vs s3 server access log:


- s3 vs ebs vs efs:

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AWS Organization

AWS organization is covered at a very high level in A Cloud Guru. I had more than a couple of questions around AWS organization. It is worth putting in the effort to understand this service.


Tagging your resources for billing:


Troubleshooting autoscaling

Remember: you can suspend autoscaling to troubleshoot what happened.

Load Balancer


Network load balancer has a static ip address.

Application load balancer can be used to route requests based on url or http header or to a lambda function.

Understanding the difference in below services will definitely help you score a few points:

AWS Config vs AWS Cloudtrail vs AWS CloudWatch

AWS Trusted Advisor vs AWS Inspector.

Few other topics to remember:

- Sharing AMI

- UseCase foe EBS volume types

- Encryption ebs volumes

- IAM best practices

I can go on and on. But these are the topics I remember answering questions about. The content in acloudguru is apt for you to know the topics that are covered. That content itself is not sufficient to pass the exam. Reading the AWS documentation about those topics will not only help you pass the exam but also help you get a good understanding of the concepts.

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