In the current landscape of software engineering and development, it is increasingly crucial to become a certified expert in cloud computing platforms. For companies, the added benefits of having Cloud Certified Developers and Engineers in-house include increased agility to quickly and securely host applications, greater flexibility in building new solutions, access to vast computing infrastructure, scalability based on demand, and high-level security.
Our associates at SpinDance have been advancing an initiative to obtain certifications through AWS Training and Certification, a learning platform provided by AWS. As the name suggests, AWS provides various types of certifications for its cloud service offerings and some training material that may help candidates obtain said certifications. Though there are a plethora of educational resources available through AWS’ Training and Certification platform, there is also no shortage of third-party training and informational materials specific to each AWS certification/exam. This article aims to compare and contrast training resources that said associates utilized in preparation for the AWS certifications obtained to date.
Training Resources to Consider
- AWS Training and Certification
- Udemy Courses: AWS Certified by Stephane Maarek
- Udemy: Practice Exams by Stephane Maarek
AWS Training and Certification
For many of the certifications that AWS offers, it provides training material to prepare those interested in obtaining a given certification for the correlated exam. Their training material consists of videos, literature, slide decks, etc. Naturally, it is frequently updated with current cloud offerings as the AWS ecosystem evolves.
The training is offered in 15 different languages and seems to be fairly comprehensive as it relates to the corresponding exam. Amazon uses creative and understandable analogies coupled with illustrative animations to help explain some of the more convoluted parts of their ever-increasing list of cloud services. This is helpful in giving even those less technically inclined a deep understanding of how a service operates ‘under the hood’.
In most aspects, it was found that Amazon’s provided training was sufficient. But, one thing that may really help better one’s understanding of topics and services discussed would be hands-on activities.
Stephane Maarek’s AWS Certified
Stephane Maarek is a consultant, software developer, and teacher offering educational material across a variety of different platforms including YouTube, Udemy, Medium, etc. He offers approximately 40 pay-to-access courses through Udemy that cover topics related to a variety of AWS certifications exams. Each course can typically be purchased during sales for about $12-15 USD, and they will include roughly 10-15 hours of pre-recorded lecture material, module quizzes, and hands-on activities. He keeps all of his courses up-to-date with the latest information from Amazon. Udemy also prominently displays the ‘last updated at’ date for each listing. Audio for the courses offered by Stephane is generally only available in English, though Udemy provides auto-generated captions in a handful of languages as well.
Despite the general production quality not being as high as the videos produced by Amazon, the quality is not so low that it became a distraction or that it reduced the course’s value. In fact, most of the discussions around services and topics felt more informative and in-depth, in terms of how to use a given service, than the associated AWS lecture video for the same service. Going through the hands-on activities Stephane includes in every module is largely enjoyable; there’s nothing like digging in and going through the motions required by each step in the process of standing up a given service.
If the detailed lecture videos, module quizzes, and hands-on activities aren’t enough to sway you, each certification exam prep course also comes with one practice exam. Anecdotally the practice exam seems to be highly representative of the actual exam given by AWS (less the proctor, of course). It also includes a performance review after you have completed the exam. In the review, Udemy allows you to see which questions you answered correctly and Stephane provides an explanation for each choice and why it was either correct or incorrect in the context of the question.
Stephane Maarek’s Practice Exams | AWS Certified
Stephane also offers listings that include sets of approximately five timed practice exams, available via Udemy. The exams can be purchased for about the same price as the previously mentioned course. Just like the exam included with the video lectures, they are all highly representative of the official proctored certification exams given by Amazon.
Amazon also provides practice questions. Some are offered free of charge however in some cases they will need to be purchased. A helpful part of the alternatives available through Udemy is the review section. There are other instructors like Stephane with similar listings. Similar to the exam included with the previously discussed all-inclusive courses, the sets of practice exams include a review section that starts after you have completed each of the individual five practice exams and includes detailed explanations of the question and each available choice.
Note: In addition to that, in the experience of SpinDance associates, Amazon also doesn’t provide users with any sort of review after completing any of the practice questions.
Personally, I found the practice exams to be extremely helpful especially in preparation for the official exam. They were helpful not only for review but also because the content and likeness seemed to have a higher correlation with the actual exam than even the practice questions that AWS provided and for nearly the same cost. For any future certification exams one may take, without any doubt or hesitation, it is recommended to also purchase a set of practice exams in preparation.
Before opting for any of the paid-for options, it’s important to consider what types of training you typically excel the most through and what helps you the most when it comes to retaining information. If you’re able to take notes while listening to short video lectures coupled with some light reading, then it’s likely that the training provided by Amazon might be sufficient for the more basic certifications that they offer.
However, if you’re the type of person that requires some hands-on activities and prefers going through each step manually, or if you simply desire a more detailed explanation in some areas, you could probably stand to benefit from seeking out the type of training offered in Stephane’s training courses in lieu of the previous option.
Overall what was found to be the most beneficial in preparing for the type of content and questions given by Amazon in the actual certification exam (and relieving some of the inevitable test anxiety), was the practice exam sets available through Udemy. Our associates at SpinDance found that the questions were very similar in not only wording and context to the exam questions but also in the level of difficulty and they found the number of questions per topic to be fairly comparable as well.