My Journey to Passing the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate Exam

I recently undertook the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate exam and successfully cleared it on my first attempt. In this blog, I’ll share my study plan, recommended study materials, and the lessons I learned along the way. If you’re interested in pursuing this certification, my experiences might offer helpful guidance for your preparation, increasing your chances of success.

About Me

I’m relatively new to the IT industry, with just two years of experience. During this time, I spent a year and a half as an AWS Cloud Consultant. I believe that my modest two years of experience should be encouraging for anyone looking to attain this certification. While my cloud experience undoubtedly played a significant role in my success, I want to emphasise that having no prior cloud experience should not deter you from pursuing AWS certification. This exam is primarily based on theoretical knowledge, making hands-on experience less crucial.

Choosing the Right AWS Certification Path for Your Career

In the AWS certification journey, selecting the most suitable certification path is crucial to your career growth. AWS offers a comprehensive guide to help you determine which exams align with your career goals. You can access this resource in the AWS Certification Paths PDF. This document provides valuable insights into the various AWS certifications available and their relevance to specific roles in the IT industry. Whether you’re aiming for a Solutions Architect, Developer, or SysOps Administrator certification, this guide is an indispensable resource for planning your AWS certification roadmap.

My Study Approach

It’s important to remember that everyone has their own unique study methods. In this section, I’ll outline my preparation process step by step.


I started by enrolling in Stephan Maarek’s “Ultimate AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate SAA-C03” course. This comprehensive course includes detailed tutorials and hands-on labs to help you understand AWS services thoroughly. The 27-hour tutorial was quite extensive, and it took me several months to complete. While watching the videos, I took handwritten notes and simultaneously performed the labs using my AWS free-tier account.


Taking breaks between completing the course presented a challenge in remembering all the services. To overcome this, I decided to read through all the PowerPoint study materials provided by Stephan. This time, I focused on taking notes only for concepts I found difficult to grasp or remember. It took me about a month to work through the entire PowerPoint presentation. My notes expanded considerably as I had forgotten many of the services during my breaks. Even though I wasn’t entirely confident, I dedicated a full day to reading the recent notes I had taken from the PowerPoint and took a mock exam the next day.


I was somewhat disappointed when I didn’t achieve a great score on my first mock attempt, especially after dedicating so much time to preparation and working as a Cloud Consultant for nearly 14 months.


To access these mock exams, I purchased the “AWS Solutions Architect Associate Practice Exam” by Neal Davis. Neal provides thorough explanations for each question, which I found incredibly helpful. He also offers a free cheat sheet for the services that could be included in the exam, which proved to be a valuable study resource for my revision. You can find Neal’s Cheat Sheet here.


I realised that simply studying wasn’t sufficient to pass the exam. I needed to change my approach. I started making detailed notes for services I felt less confident about when taking mock exams. I noted why a particular choice was the correct answer and why others were not. I continued this process by taking more mock exams and analysing my mistakes, as well as reviewing the explanations for correct answers to ensure my understanding was solid. This iterative process continued until I achieved about 80% in the last mock exam. In total, I completed six mock exams before attempting the actual exam.

Takeaways from my Approach

While consistent studying was beneficial, it wasn’t until I started taking mock exams that I truly gauged my readiness for the actual test. I could have saved several months had I incorporated mock exams earlier in my preparation. Mock exams not only identified my weaknesses but also allowed me to focus on improving those areas, leading to a steady increase in my scores.

One important point to note is that mock exam questions may not be an exact match for the actual exam, but they will definitely give you a good idea of how the exam questions could be asked. In my opinion, the mock exams are slightly harder than the actual exam. This, surprisingly, worked to my advantage by over-preparing me for the real thing.

This additional insight will provide your readers with a more comprehensive understanding of the benefits of using mock exams in their preparation.

Exam Tips

  1. Before taking the exam or starting your preparation, I highly recommend signing up for the “Get AWS Certified: Associate Challenge.” By participating, you might receive a coupon that offers a 50% discount on your exam fee.
  2. If English is not your native language, I strongly advise applying for an extra 30 minutes during the exam. While you may not need it, having the extra time can be a lifesaver if you encounter challenging questions. In the next section, I’ll guide you through the process of requesting this additional time.
  3. Keep in mind that Pearson includes a couple of additional unmarked questions for training purposes. Don’t be alarmed if some questions seem unfamiliar – they could be part of the unmarked questions.
  4. Before starting the exam, make sure to read and understand all the instructions provided by Pearson.
  5. Make sure to check you have answered all the questions before submitting your exam, for some reason a couple of questions were unanswered even though I answered them.

Applying for Extra Time

1. Log in in to AWS Training and Certificate 

2. On Login you should see this screen:

3. Click on Request Exam Accommodations follow the on screen instructions and select accommodation type – ESL +30 MINUTES

4.  Usually it would be approved in a couple of minutes. 

Note: this should be done prior to registering for the exam.


So, that’s my story of how I tackled the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate exam. What I’ve learned along the way is that with determination, a well-organised study plan, and some practice, you can make it too. Whether you’re a newbie like I was or a seasoned IT pro, an AWS certification is doable. It might have its challenges, but if you put in the effort and use the right resources, you’ll be well-prepared for the exam. So, no matter where you are in your IT journey, you should believe that you can become an AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate. 

Also, keep in mind that there are many other resources available. The ones I mentioned in my blog are the ones I used, but you should choose the ones that match your pace and learning style. I hope my experiences and tips help you in your preparation, and best of luck on your path to success!

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