How To Pass The AWS Certified Developer Associate Exam
The AWS Developer Associate is a very popular certification in the modern cloud-native world. It is also very well respected, recognised and sought after in the industry which makes it valuable to have in your portfolio.
If you are here, you are most likely already training for it or doing your research before you dive in. Having just passed my exam I thought I should share a few ideas to help you do the same.
About the exam
The exam can be booked on the AWS Training website with one of the two proctored exam providers, PSI or Pearson VUE.
It is a 65 multiple choice and multiple response questions exam, you get 130 minutes to complete it and you need a minimum score of 720 out of 1000 in order to pass.
At the time of writing this, the cost for booking this exam is 150$ + Tax. However, the good news is that if you have passed another AWS exam recently it is very likely you have a 50% discount voucher on your AWS Training account.
Like all of the other AWS Associate certification exams, this one covers a lot of ground so it is not easy, but it does benefit from a lot of support out there, thanks to its popularity.
Key tools, technologies and concepts
To get an idea of how the exam is structured, the recommended previous knowledge, exam content, and other very useful information please have a look at the official exam guide here.
Exam main content domains and their weightings:
Domain 1: Deployment 22%
Domain 2: Security 26%
Domain 3: Development with AWS Services 30%
Domain 4: Refactoring 10%
Domain 5: Monitoring and Troubleshooting 12%
Tools and technologies
Please see below a non-exhaustive list of the tools and technologies that could appear on the exam according to the official AWS provided guide. The order and placement of them in the list do not indicate relative weight or importance:
- Application integration
- Cost and Capacity Management
- Data Movement
- Developer Tools
- Instances (virtual machines)
- Management and Governance
- Networking and Content Delivery
AWS services and features
- Amazon Elasticsearch Service (Amazon ES)
- Amazon Kinesis
- Amazon EventBridge (Amazon CloudWatch Events)
- Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS)
- Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS)
- AWS Step Functions
- Amazon EC2
- AWS Elastic Beanstalk
- AWS Lambda
- Amazon Elastic Container Registry (Amazon ECR)
- Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS)
- Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Services (Amazon EKS)
- Amazon DynamoDB
- Amazon ElastiCache
- Amazon RDS
- AWS CodeArtifact
- AWS CodeBuild
- AWS CodeCommit
- AWS CodeDeploy
- Amazon CodeGuru
- AWS CodePipeline
- AWS CodeStar
- AWS Fault Injection Simulator
- AWS X-Ray
Management and Governance:
- AWS CloudFormation
- Amazon CloudWatch
Networking and Content Delivery:
- Amazon API Gateway
- Amazon CloudFront
- Elastic Load Balancing
Security, Identity, and Compliance:
- Amazon Cognito
- AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM)
- AWS Key Management Service (AWS KMS)
- Amazon S3
As mentioned above this exam covers a lot of ground so it is very important to take a baby-steps approach to it.
- Before training for this exam, I personally passed the AWS Cloud Practitioner one which has a very comprehensive official AWS training course. Even if you do not actually want to sit that exam, I think the training course is the best starting point for becoming a certified developer associate, even if you have some real-world AWS experience. It will give you a good overview of the range of services and resources AWS has to offer, explaining various use cases for them. AWS Developer Associate then dives deeper into the functionality and complexity of the most popular services almost demanding you get some hands-on experience with all of them.
- There is a lot of training material available out there for this exam, some for free and some on well-known training platforms which require one-off payments or subscriptions. The best one in my experience is the AWS Certified Developer — Associate (DVA-C01) course offered by acloudguru. It is a very comprehensive course, offering plenty of examples in each chapter as well as hands-on labs, all of which you can follow along and get your hands dirty either in your own AWS account free tier resources or in test environments provided in the course or even in their cloud playground.
- The course offered by"A Cloud Guru" mentioned above can be overwhelming at first sight as it contains 13 chapters ranging from a few minutes to over 6 hours each. You will soon find out that the chapters are very well structured and not scary at all, but they do require a good disciplined training routine. I have allocated 3–5 hours a day for going through the course and labs. I have tried not to mix too many chapters in one day, took notes and dived deeper into things I found harder to understand. Because the course is so vast, the key is not to rush through it because it will be very hard to identify or remember the gaps you are left with, and starting it over again after finishing it is something you want to avoid.
- Every chapter in the "A Cloud Guru" course offers practice questions at the end and they also offer practice tests with randomised questions at the end of the course. Please make sure you answer as many of those as you can and get good scores while the information is fresh.
- The next step, like in any certification training path is to find some relevant and up-to-date mock tests and the good news is that there are plenty out there offered by well-known websites such as skillcertpro or whizlabs. I personally went for the skillcertpro option which offers 950 questions in 14 tests and a cheat sheet you can download and use. My approach was to go through all 14 tests one by one, read carefully through the questions I got wrong and even try the same test all over again straight after. After consuming all 14 tests as described, and getting a range of 50–75% score on them, I have tackled about half of them again to make sure I finish them a lot faster and I get over 80% score. This is not a fast process but it will definitely help you prevent sitting the exam more than once.
My online exam experience
I have booked the exam on the AWS Training website with Pearson Vue Exams and chose to take it from home. It is very convenient as you can generally find next day availability and can book it at almost any time in the day or night.
Between booking the exam and the actual exam time you have to run some tests on your machine, which happen in a custom Pearson Vue little browser you have to download called OnVue. Of course, you need to make sure you use the same machine for sitting the exam.
On the day of the exam, you are allowed to check in 30min before or 15min after the scheduled time by going on your AWS training dashboard, accessing the exam and launching it. That will give you a code that you have to put in the OnVue browser. That will run some tests again on your microphone, speakers and camera, and also make sure you do not have any other browsers or prohibited apps open and ask you to download an app on your phone that will help you to take photos of your ID document, face, and testing environment.
After completing the scanning process on your phone you can go back to your computer, and within the OnVue browser you will join a voice call with a proctor, which might ask you to show around the room a little bit more and then release your test.
On the test page you are shown the questions one by one and you can flag them and review them at the end. During the exam you can open the chat again to get in touch with the proctors if needed.
There are some requirements and conditions that you will be provided but worth mentioning here:
- camera, microphone and speakers needed
- only 1 screen is allowed
- a system check has to be performed
- the room has to be free of other computers/devices or learning materials
- only the laptop is allowed on the desk
- nobody can ever enter the room during the exam
- no noise is allowed in the room
- no headphones, watches or hats allowed
And the list goes on… Please read the instructions they provide very carefully!
During the exam, there are some rather strict rules you need to follow that could get you kicked out. So please do not push your luck in any way. Some of the main rules worth remembering:
- you are not allowed to speak to anyone (not even to yourself)
- no mouthing allowed
- not allowed to cover your mouth
- don’t look anywhere else but the screen for too long
- don’t leave the desk
“Fun” fact: I almost got kicked out for staring out of my screen while trying to concentrate on some questions. I immediately got a warning to which I didn’t have the option to reply if I wanted to explain or apologise.
It is hard indeed not to look anywhere else but into your screen for 130 minutes, but that is probably the only real down-side of taking an exam from home.
After finishing your test, reviewing your answers (if you want) and submitting it, you will get a few feedback questions about your exam experience, which you have to answer in order to get your result. Straight after that you get the result of your exam which only tells you if you have passed or failed. The actual score can be downloaded from the AWS training page where you can also find the certificate up to 5 days later.
I hope this will help you in your certification journey and you will pass this on your first attempt.