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How I Studied For an AWS Solutions Architect — Associate Exam

April 15 2024·3 min read

I recently received my AWS Solutions Architect – Associate (SAA-C03) certification. In this post, I will explain why I decided to get it, share my exam preparation process, and offer a few tips.

Why get certified?

By the time I decided to get certified, I had been involved with AWS for seven years. I had designed architectures, provisioned infrastructure, and implemented systems on AWS for several companies and my own startup.

Despite that, I never studied AWS systematically. My learning was ad hoc; I learned from blog posts, AWS documentation, and my colleagues when needed.

I knew that I had gaps in my knowledge, so I decided to take a more organized approach. The SAA certification seemed to cover everything I needed to know.

My study process

I spent 85 hours studying for the exam, which took me three months to complete. I found a study pace of 6-8 hours a week comfortable enough to combine with a full-time job.

I used Adrian Cantrill's SAA course as the primary study material. Adrian's course is long – it contains 62 hours of lectures and demos- but it is an excellent choice to prepare for the exam and gain a deep understanding of the skills needed at your job.

The course is split into modules. Each module contains lectures and demos and ends with a quiz. There are also two practice exams at the end of the course.

Here's how I approached the course:

  1. I listened to the lectures, taking short interlinked notes in Obsidian and creating flashcards in Anki.
  2. I did all the demos except the ones that required having a registered domain.
  3. At the end of each module, I took a quiz and added more flashcards based on it.
  4. I reviewed the flashcards every week so that I wouldn't forget the concepts I learned in the previous modules.
  5. Finally, I took both practice exams and scored ~83% on them.

I listened to the videos at the 1.25x speed, but because of the additional note-taking and flashcard reviews, it took me 76 hours to finish the course.

After I cleared the course, I spent 8 hours taking Jon Bonso's TutorialsDojo practice exams. These exams were more challenging than the ones in Adrian's course, but they also turned out to be close to the actual AWS one. I took 5 practice exams in the review mode, scoring around 81%.

The exam

I decided to take the final exam at a testing center. The exam was more challenging than the TutorialDojo practice ones. Maybe I was just "lucky" to get a more difficult question set, but I spent much more time and flagged more questions than during my practice. I ended up with 30 minutes to review the 12 questions I flagged.

Ultimately, I got a score of 838. I received my results 5 hours after finishing the exam.


If your day-to-day involves building on AWS, preparing for an exam and getting certified will help you build a solid and structured knowledge base.

Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Be ready to invest a couple of months to prepare
  • Study for the skills, not the badge – pick a good course and go through it even if you already know certain AWS services. I went with Adrian Cantrill's SAA course and would recommend it.
  • After finishing the course, spend a week or two on practice exams. They will prepare you for the real thing. I would recommend TutorialDojo practice exams.
  • If you consistently get 80%+ on practice exams, you should pass the real one.
  • Don't get stuck on the difficult questions – flag and review them at the end of the exam. Answer the questions you know first.
  • Get enough sleep on the day of the exam.

Good luck!

My name is Dmytro Khmara and I love building software products.

More about me

My name is Dmytro Khmara and I love building software products.

More about me