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I got AWS Solutions Architect Associate (SAA-C03) certified. The why and how.

Posted on:February 17, 2023 at 12:00 PM

I received my AWS Solutions Architect Associate certification a few days back (Jan 15, 2023 to be precise). And here is my experience.

Before I go into the details of the preparation and the exam experience, let’s see my prior exposure to AWS and the need for taking the certification.

Undertaking this cloud computing certification has been there in my bucket list since 2017. I started with a Udemy course around that time, but never really saw it through. As the old proverb says, “necessity is the mother of invention”. Finally, I reached a point where understanding the cloud infrastructure in-depth was absolutely necessary for various reasons listed below.

My previous experience with AWS

One of the questions that come up frequently is how much AWS hands-on experience you need to crack the exam.

I have used the free tier for a year to play around with some services. This was long back. At my job at Avegen, I have had (superficial) hands-on experience with EC2, Route 53, ACM, ALB, RDS, OpenSearch, EBS, etc. - pretty much everything you can expect from managing a three-tier web architecture.

Is hands-on experience really necessary?

Well, it certainly becomes easier to understand the services when learning. The things that you have hands-on becomes easier to grasp and you can correlate with what you have done. There is an insane amount of information to ingest about various services. Unless you understand the concepts, it becomes a process of rote learning which is not what we want. So yes, I would certainly recommend getting the free tier for a few months and checking out what AWS provides.

My Preparation

The very first step is to plan.

Study Materials

I primarily chose the following materials.

Additionally, you must read the following:

First, I binge-watched the Udemy videos at 2x. As the next step, I read the study guide and underlined all the important points.

Why underline?

Well, this has been a learning technique since my days in medicine. A day before the exam, there is no way you can complete reading the whole PDF. Instead quickly glance through the important points you had underlined once. It helps in revising critical points in the last few days.


The practice exams

I found the TutorialsDojo practice exams are tougher. I failed most of the initial exams I took. Gradually the score improved and I started passing the practice exams. In both Udemy and Tutorials Dojo combined, I took 11 practice tests.

Practice fail The very first practice exam I took

Practice pass One of the final practice exams

The actual exam

I decided to take the exam at a Pearson VUE center. The exam is NOT a cakewalk. All the questions are scenario based (as expected). Completing the practice exams helps. Time wasn’t a challenge for me. I was able to complete going through all the questions with about 30 minutes left. I had flagged around 15 questions for review. And after deciding on the answers for the ones flagged under review, I submitted the test with 8 minutes left on the clock. The exam requires a lot of attention, I was left with a pounding headache after the submission.

A few exam tips:


A few posts from Reddit suggested that one has to wait anywhere between 3 hours to 24 hours (or more in some cases) for the results. After refreshing my AWS account dashboard and Credly dashboard every 5 minutes like a maniac, I finally got my Credly badge the next day afternoon. And I received a score of 863.

Final results

Lastly, I would recommend you join AWSCertifications subreddit, where you will find a ton of guidance posted by the community.