How to prepare for the AWS DevOps Pro certification exam
This is mostly a note for my future self. This article is about how to organise your time during the exam, not about how to train for the exam. You can train by following some online courses.
Some websites recommend to put a time limit on each question, and time it so you have some time at the end to review the questions. I think this is wrong because all questions are not the same. Some questions are quite easy and require little time, maybe as little as one minute. Some questions are very long and difficult and try to drown you under a lot of information (especially the Pro exams). These questions will take a lot of time for you to go through and analyze, maybe as much as 5 minutes.
Preparation is key, but you need to prepare the right way. Check how many questions there will be at the exam (the DevOps Pro has 75 questions) and the exam duration (the DevOps Pro is 180 minutes). Subtract 20 minutes that will be used at the end to review some questions (more on that later), so that’s 160 minutes. Divide the remaining time in 5 (32 minutes) and memorise the time milestones. The on-screen exam shows how much time you have left, so the milestones will be: 180, 148, 116, 84, 52, 20. Now need to fit 15 questions (75/5) into each of these slots, assuming the questions are randomly distributed throughout the exam. I personally found that the biggest challenge was to keep my focus during the whole duration of the exam because it is so long. Having such regular milestones will provide some mini-goals to achieve, as otherwise the on-screen exam gives no visual indication of your progress.
I think it’s better to spend a bit more time on each question and be reasonably sure of the answer, rather than giving a quick answer and flagging the question for review. I think it is very hard for the Pro exams to leave a lot of time for review at the end. Additionally, going back to review the question will require more time to read the question and answers again. Re-read the same text many times is a waste of time. I think it’s better to read the text slowly with a lot of focus rather than read it many times very quickly.
The exam will allow you to flag the questions on-screen and review them at the end. As noted before, it’s better to mark as few question as possible for review. Usually, you will be given a pen and paper. I think that rather than marking the questions for review on-screen, it’s better to mark them on paper. The reason is that you can mark the possible answers as well. Usually, there will be a few answers that are obviously wrong. Marking the potential right answers will save you some time when reviewing the question, as you won’t have to read again the obviously wrong answers.
The pass mark for the AWS exams is 70%. That means you need to answer 70% or more of the question correctly to pass the exam. Given this, I think it is better to admit that you won’t get all the answers right. So if there is a question where you just don’t know the answer, give it a good guess and move quickly to the next question. It’s better to save your time to correctly answer a question where you know the answer rather than spending ages on a question you will most probably get wrong anyway.
When doing the exam, here is how to proceed:
- If the question is easy, choose the answer you believe is right. Maybe spend a bit of time to double-check your answer, and move quickly to the next question. Do not mark the question for review.
- If the question is hard, do not be afraid to spend more time on it. Eliminate the answers that are obviously wrong and choose the best answer. Quickly double-check your answer(s). If you are in doubt, don’t spend to much time and mark the question for review along with the possible correct answers. For example, if there are 4 answers and answers A and B are obviously wrong, mark down “C D” next to the question number on your sheet of paper. Give your best answer and move on.
- Some questions will test you on a very specific aspect of AWS. For example, whether a service has a particular option, or whether you can connect two services together. In this case, you either know the answer or you don’t. If you know the answer, this question is easy for you, so answer quickly and move on. If you don’t know the answer, give it your best guess and move on. Do not mark the question for review, as reviewing it won’t lead to a better answer and will just be a waste of time.
That’s it for now, good luck!