Passed AWS SysOps Associate Exam!

Hi! I passed the AWS SysOps Associate exam, so I wanted to spend a few minutes and give my thoughts on it. I can’t give any data on actual questions, because that breaks the AWS NDA, but I do have some personal insight I will share.

As a Multiple Choice Question exam, with no exhibits, screens shots or AWS CLI emulators – I found the AWS SysOps exam experience to diverge somewhat from the actual experience of using the AWS console and CLI in real life. That’s not saying you don’t have to know your stuff, because you do – I am saying that if the test authors spent the same amount or more time incorporating console screen grabs (or using an emulator to have the test taker type in AWS CLI commands), as they did on pure word trickery, this exam would truly be great. As the exam stands, you have to be good at both using AWS console and CLI as well as using your mind to abstract the AWS GUI experience into the written word MCQ format.

The exam was heavy on Autoscaling. In fact it could have been called the AWS auto-scaling exam. Many different scenarios were presented and the best Scaling solution had to be selected. Know Connection draining and Load Balancing in and out – I was hit hard on those!

Second, the exam was heavy on CloudWatch, (as it should be), know all your CW metrics, which services have the 1 min metrics by default, CW namespaces, etc . . . This makes sense, as a good SysOps person knows where to get, and how to read logs. Again, I can’t mention the importance of knowing CloudWatch inside and out. Know the Cloud Watch API calls. Read the CloudWatch FAQs.

Third, know your VPCs, Routing and Security tools. Know which subnet is the “main” when you use the VPC wizard to make a VPC with Public and Private subnets. Know which resources the VPC wizard spins out for each of the four Wizard types; and know if you can delete those resources in each instance. (To study for this I did labs of each, a few different times and tried deleting things, and noted what was left). Know when you need to use the routing table; what it does and where you need it – I had a few scenarios where I was asked about which routes go where; so yeah.. you need to know routing.

Ahh yes, the Security tools. Know your SSE-C for S3, how it works with the API, what the SSE-C API sends in each call, etc . .  Know the Bucket Policies in and out, know how to READ JSON bucket polices and what they do; when denys “trump” alloweds, etc. .Know the recommended Security settings AWS has for console users, best practices, which services Amazon is responsible for vs. which ones the customer is responsible for. Know, NACL, vs. Security groups, when and where you use each one. IAM Fundamentals and basic policies are a must.

Last, know all your S3, EC2, EBS, basics – I actually went over all my notes (and class material) from the Arc-Associate Exam, because, yes, there is some overlap.

Sources: I used ACloudGuru Online Courses SysOps class to train, Ryan Kroonenberg is a GREAT instructor; the class is 16 hours – I went through it a couple of times, but this is enough for the foundations only, but not enough to pass the exam.  I read the FAQs for all services ( again and again), did any practice questions I could get my hands on – and lab’d things up again and again. Lots of Reading the FAQs on all services.

As a Security Professional, I feel that understanding the interworks of AWS SysOps will aid in securing applications in AWS, protecting the services that run as well as understanding where built-in AWS tools are not enough; and where I might need other vendors to fill the gaps. I was glad the exam hit on some of the Security aspects of AWS – can’t do that enough. 🙂 After both exams, I still feel like the AWS learning is really just beginning.

I hope AWS ( and other vendors ) continue to move away from the MCQ format for certification exams and move toward more what Cisco and RedHat do; the use of emulators for hands-on to test student knowledge.

Thanks for hanging out with me! I hope this helps!



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