AWS Certified DevOps Engineer Exam Tips

The last 30 days have been exhausting for me. I studied hard on the new AWS Certified DevOps Engineer exam and thank goodness I passed (750 out of 1000 is required). This was the hardest professional certification I ever worked on. The exam was re-launched recently in March 2019 so there is still a shortage of information around the community. I was hoping to share my experience to help demystify this new exam.

I had a somewhat solid background to begin with, having taken the AWS Certified Solution Architect Professional exam (before the 2019 update), and worked quite a bit on CloudFormation, automation and Git. However, I still did not anticipate the exam to be this difficult until I was halfway through and already had the exam and materials paid for.

Without clear guideline on study material other than the white papers, I first skimmed through the ACloudGuru course, which helped me form a high level sense of exam coverage. Nonetheless it does not cover any topic in-depth and therefore by no means makes an essential part of my study. I checked out LinuxAcademy course and they are much more in-depth for the major topics indeed. I like the course material in Lucid chart. However, the LinuxAcademy course along does not cover everything you need to know.

What I found extremely helpful is the free training videos from the official training website. I strongly recommend the 7-hour course Exam Readiness: AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional. The instructor did a great job outlining the services and knowledge areas in the assessment . The course also comes with quality sample questions with answers and explanations on what the thinkings are behind the correct answers or why some choices are obviously wrong. I went through these questions twice and feel much better at not only understanding the question, but also understanding the intent of the question.

Apart from the Exam Readiness course, other free introductory courses from the official training website are helpful as well especially for those services that you only need to know the basics. Most of those courses are 5 ~ 10 minutes long, with brief but sufficient introduction and a demo session. The other extremely helpful resource is the official practice questions. The practice exam is harder than the actual exam but they closely resemble the actual question style in the exam. Unfortunately, no answer is provided but they made me spend time finding answers across the documentations and blogs. It is worth-noting that the AWS blogs provides plenty of use cases that are covered in the questions.

When it comes to the real exam, it covers a lot more topics than its predecessor. Many questions are long and confusing. And I wish I could run a diff command to highlight the differences between choices. During exam preparation you really need to train yourself on reading efficiently. I found myself sometimes eyeball through all four choices at the same time, which get my mind scattered.

During my study, I divide all services into three categories based on the level of familiarity, and here is my list:

Category 1. Know these services very well, in and out:

AWS ElasticBeanstalk, OpsWorks Stacks, OpsWorks Chef Automate, CloudFormation, CloudWatch, CodeBuild, CodeCommit, CodeDeploy, CodePipeline, CodeStar, Lambda, API Gateway, Config, Trusted Advisor, CloudTrail, Systems Manager, Autoscaling Group in EC2, DynamoDB

Category 2. Know these services well, but not necessarily down to every single detail:

Amazon Kinesis Firehose, Kinesis Analytics, Kinesis Streams, Step Functions, Elastic Load Balancer, Secrets Manager, Serverless Application Model (SAM), Route53, RDS, Certificate Manager, ElasticSearch, ECS, ECR

Category 3. Know about these services at a high level, but do not skip any:

AWS Organization, X-Ray, GuardDuty, Macie, Inspector, Service Catalog, KMS, Batch, Athena, Single-Sign-On, Data LifeCycle Manager, CloudSearch, Health Dashboard, Glue, QuickSight, LightSail

Although I did not mention much about the white papers, I want to highlight their importance again. I would not attempt the exam without reading and understanding the required white papers.

If you aspire to take the AWS certified DevOps Engineer exam I hope this helps you a little bit. Good luck.