30-01-17

AWS Specialty Beta Exams – Feedback and Tips

 

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At the end of last week, I completed all three new AWS beta “specialty” exams. For those not aware, AWS are bringing in three new certifications to complement the existing five that have been around for a while. The new exams focus on specific technology areas:-

There was a special offer running during the beta in that the exams were half the usual price, plus a free resit if you don’t get past them the first time. It’s difficult to say at what level these are pitched – in general, a lot of the content seemed “Pro” level to me, certainly you need to know a lot more than the Associate exams.

The exams themselves were the Pro length 170 minutes, with varying numbers of questions. The Networking exam had something like 130, the Security I think was 106 and the Big Data 100. The questions were typical wordy type AWS questions with some of the usual favourite key words such as “resilient” and “cost optimal”. Certainly from a format perspective, there’s nothing really new here. Of the three, I think I did best on the Security exam, followed by a borderline Networking exam and Big Data trailing in a very distant last. There were a lot of terms in that exam I’d never even heard of before!

Results are due at the end of March which is when the beta collation period ends. I have no expectation on the Networking and Big Data exams, but then again you never know how these things are going to be scored and evaluated. The Security exam I felt went quite well, but who knows?

With respect to the content, these were the key takeaway areas :-

Networking

  • Direct Connect – tons of questions on this.
  • VPNs
  • VPC, including peering – what is and isn’t possible (between accounts in the same region, etc.)
  • BGP – including prepending and MED
  • Routing – both static and dynamic
  • Routing tables
  • Route propagation
  • DHCP Option Sets
  • NAT (gateways and instances)
  • S3 Endpoints
  • CloudFront
  • Jumbo Frames
  • Network optimised instances

Security

  • IAM (users, groups, roles, policies)
  • Encryption (data in flight and at rest – disk encryption, VPN etc)
  • Database encryption (TDE, disk encryption)
  • KMS
  • CloudHSM
  • CloudTrail and CloudWatch
  • Federation with other sources, SAML, Cognito etc
  • AssumeRole and how that works
  • Tagging
  • S3 (versioning, MFA delete)
  • IAM Access keys

Big Data

  • EMR
  • RedShift (including loading and unloading data to S3, performance issues loading files, Avro, gzip etc.)
  • Pig
  • Hive
  • Hadoop
  • iPython
  • Zeppelin
  • DynamoDB (make sure you understand partitioning, performance issues and indexes – global and local)
  • QuickSight
  • Machine Learning (including models)
  • RDS
  • Lambda
  • S3 ETags
  • Kinesis
  • ElasticSearch
  • Kibana
  • IoT
  • API Gateway
  • Kafka
  • Encryption (TDE, CloudHSM,KMS)

As you can see from above, the focus may be relatively narrow, but you do need to understand things pretty well. I wouldn’t say you need to go right into deep depth in the exam questions, but you certainly need to know each of the topics listed above and really what they can and can’t do. From there, you should be able to work out what you think is the right answer.

So now we wait until the end of March, I expect and am prepared to sit all three again as we continue on the never ending treadmill that is IT certification 😉

Study materials included acloud.guru as usual and also the AWS YouTube channel. The Re:Invent 300 and 400 level videos are really good preparation for the exams as they go into some decent depth.

Any comments or questions, please feel free to hit me up on Twitter.

 

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