Monday, April 6, 2020

My experience in taking AWS certification online

This write-up is timely as most tech-professionals are now stationed, working from home.
If you are into web programming, engineering, and tinkering -- you might have heard of AWS (Amazon Web Services).

As I look back to my previous self, I can still remember how I try to avoid the path of certifications. As someone who didn't have any formal education, the least I want to collect for myself is a bunch of papers, containing my name and the expertise I would tell myself, I know. Instead, I was eyeing more on the objective of earning experience and battle scars as I go onto my journey in the tech-engineering industry.

You see, I was once a good Devops Engineer, some say I am great but I'll stick to what I know and let everyone else believe what they think is true. As you work for organizations that invite you to have growth, within a short period of time, you'll see yourself working on something else. The servers that were once your battleground now shifts to people-leadership. The terminal that was once your best tool now shifts to the workforce/project management platform. The thought-process that was once only applied to yourself now shifts to influencing others to grasp the mindset.

Back to the present time, I am more appreciative of certifications and exams. Not because I find it advantageous in today's talent search world but because it gives me the cornerstone to test my know-hows over time, especially that I am no longer that hands-on to the realms of AWS.

There's a ton of resources you can utilize that enables you to prepare for any AWS exam, and this article isn't one of those. My focus in writing this article is for me to provide anyone who eyes the path of certification, the knowledge to not stumble on the same roadblocks I've encountered. Most especially to those who are planning to take the exams online.

The pitfalls:
  • DO NOT BE OVER-CONFIDENT. You might tell yourself that you already know what you need to know to be able to answer and pass the exam. Well, think twice. It would be a disgrace for someone to fail the test, especially to the one who thinks he already knows it all. Use confidence to your advantage, be confident. We all need that to boost our self-esteem so we can keep moving forward in achieving our desire, which in this case, to pass the certification exam. Here's a good resource to check out: JOCKO PODCAST - SHORT CLIP.
  • DO NOT STICK TO A SINGLE RESOURCE. While there is a course, might it be paid or free, that covers a great number of topics to prepare yourself for the exam, the context and the way things are interpreted (by the authors) might not be the same. Always cross-check, always have cross-references and make sure the source of truth is verified by others. 
    • Some of the best individuals I personally know in the field now run their own firm. If you and your team are interested in in-person teaching, focus-group learning, check out APPER PH. Often, our very own AWS HERO, Raphael Quisumbing runs a study group for free.
    • If you want more flexibility, go for online courses. Udemy, ACLOUDGURU, and LINUXACADEMY are some of the best platforms for learning. Take note that the idea of online courses is not about how fast you can finish each track but how fast you've understood and how much you've retained what is taught.
    • The resources that triumph it all are the ones that come from AWS. Check out the AWS Whitepaper and AWS Blog. You can also subscribe to the official Youtube Channel of AWS.
    • Ask questions to the official Facebook Group of AWS-User Group Philippines. Note that everyone in this group is working, so when you ask questions, you have to be as articulate as possible. Do not waste people's time by letting them probe more what you're trying to find out, instead, over-emphasize the things that confuse you.
  • DO NOT TAKE THE EXAM WITHOUT TAKING THE PRACTICE TEST. You might think, but why?. If you are really prepared for the exam, you should be able to pass the practice test. Though taking the practice test incur more cost, it's worth it. This is essential for you to determine whether you are ready or not. An additional $20/$40 USD for the practice test will serve its purpose, trust me.

The exam know-how:
  • Assuming you're ready and you've passed the practice test. You're good to proceed to the next steps.
  • Make sure you already have an account with AWS. If not, create one.
  • Visit https://aws.amazon.com/certification/


  • Note that only Pearson Vue offers the exams online with an online proctor checking on you as you answer each questionnaire.

  • As you schedule your exam, read each dialog carefully and make sure you understand every instruction.
  • As you go through the application process, upon you select the date of your exam, please make sure to change the timezone so you won't have any confusion with your schedule.

  • You need a credit card to pay for the exam cost.
  • Prior to your scheduled date, you will get an exam reminder as to what to prepare and what to do. Make sure to go through those steps ahead of time to avoid hassle on your exam date.
    • A software will have to be installed on your machine. This software will be tracking your activities, from the applications running on your host, to the motion recorded from your webcam, to keyboard activities.
    • You will also be asked to take photos of your table. (1) Front, (2) Back, (3) Left, and (4) Right
    • Make sure your room is quiet, closed doors if possible.
  • On your exam date, here's what you need to prepare:
    • You might be asked to redo the steps above. If so, redo.
    • Make sure your webcam, microphone, and speakers are working
    • Make sure your table (where you'll be taking the exam) is clean. No extra peripherals like a paper, notebook and other writing materials.
    • Make sure your mobile phone is not within your reach.
    • You'll be receiving a call, via an application that they'll ask you to install and you'll be welcomed by your proctor.
    • Then, you can proceed with the test.
  • Additional note. The proctor allows you to have drinking water be stationed on your table. It's always good to have a bottle handy, in case you'll be tense and get dehydrated.


I wish you luck on your upcoming exam(s).
As you acquire more knowledge and specialties, pay it forward. Teach. 



*** Bonus Track ***
The good problems:

  • I am living in Davao City. And one challenge for all AWS Professionals is that there aren't any testing centers in Mindanao. More so, there isn't any company (at least that I know of) that is offering training for AWS that are officially accredited to the organization.
  • Not like any other metro city, Davao City is still on its way of booming. Digital footprints for cloud-service oriented professionals aren't that big.