Book Review: AWS Certified Solutions Architect Official Study Guide: Associate Exam

AWS Certified Solutions Architect Official Study Guide: Associate Exam is the first in what will surely be a whole range of books designed to get the aspiring AWS Architect through the certification exam. In addition to the Introduction, the book contains 14 chapters.


 AWS Certified Solutions Architect Official Study Guide: Associate Exam


The exam blueprint (available from here) discusses specific domains:

  • Domain 1.0: Designing highly available, cost-efficient, fault-tolerant, scalable systems
  • Domain 2.0: Implementation/Deployment
  • Domain 3.0: Data Security
  • Domain 4.0: Troubleshooting

The book though is organized according to AWS Services. There is an “Objective Map” as part of the introduction which provides a link between the exam domains and the contents of the book, but the amount of reading required to meet a specific subobjective can seem daunting. For example, the subobjective 1.1, “Identify and recognize cloud architecture considerations, such as fundamental components and effective designs” is linked to chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 14!

However, I like the approach taken. With some many AWS services to understand, it’s hard to know where to being. The book is starts with an introduction to AWS which covers the advantages of cloud computing and a very brief overview of some of the AWS services. Then, chapters devoted to the fundamental services such as Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), and Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) are covered. A single chapter covers Elastic (Classic) Load Balancing, Amazon CloudWatch and Auto Scaling. There is no reference to Classic Load Balancer (CLB) or Application Load Balancer (ALB) suggesting that the chapter was complete before August 2016. AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) also has a chapter of it’s own.

After covering these services, the various database options are covered in a single chapter, then the Application Services (Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS), Amazon Simple WorkFlow (SWF) and Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS)) are covered in a single chapter while Amazon Route 53 and Amazon ElastiCache each get their own chapter. There’s a chapter which covers additional AWS services which might appear on the exam.

The final three chapters build on the foundations set in the initial 11 chapters, and cover Security, Risk and Compliance and Architecture Best Practices.

The material is certainly easier to consume than reading through the official AWS documentation sets, and faster to consume than AWS Re:Invent videos. As you would expect, it benefits from the focus on the certification exam. Every chapter includes a short test, and there are supplementary mock exams and study flashcards available.

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect web site (and the book) states that eligible candidates for this exam have:

  • One or more years of hands-on experience designing available, cost efficient, fault tolerant, and scalable distributed systems on AWS
  • In-depth knowledge of at least one high-level programming language
  • Ability to identify and define requirements for an AWS-based application
  • Experience with deploying hybrid systems with on-premises and AWS components
  • Capability to provide best practices for building secure and reliable applications on the AWS platform

AWS Certified Solutions Architect Official Study Guide: Associate Exam is not a substitute for a significant amount of hands-on experience with AWS. The questions will test basic understanding of the material, but they aren’t as difficult as the questions in the actual exam. The book will help fill gaps if your focus has been in particular areas of AWS and you need broad coverage of other AWS services. It is a great complement to other sources of material.



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