AWS Certified Solutions Architect vs DevOps exams - my subjective comparison

March 27, 2017 by Paulina BudzoƄ

Last week, I finally had the time to schedule my AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional exam, which I passed on Saturday. It’s been a while since I did the other AWS Professional level (DevOps) certificate, but I thought I’d share my take on how the exams compare.

Let me start with a small disclaimer: this comparison is very much my subjective take on both exams. From the point of covered topics, the DevOps exam is much more up my alley - it touches on things that are my primary interests.

The first difference between the exams, that was obvious to me, were the questions. Not the content of the questions, but their form. The questions on DevOps exam were very long - most of them were easily covering half of the screen ( sometimes more) and the answers weren’t much shorter. There was a sea of text to sift through, pick up the details of the infrastructure, figure out what the question was about and find the differences between the answers. Possibly, that’s why I was exhausted after the DevOps exam. I had a good night’s sleep, was rested and ready when I started it. That was not really the case for my Solutions Architect exam - I was a little tired and distracted, but when I left the exam centre, I didn’t feel too bad. Of course, sitting for over 2 hours in a small room with poor ventilation will take its tool (exam centres seem operated in only two modes: either no ventilation or a window open onto a busy street). But I was significantly more tired after my DevOps exam.

That brings us to the details of the questions. Remember that both exams cover different topics - DevOps exam was much more focused on how to get things done. The Solutions Architect exam (from my perspective) expected you to know that things can be done, and understand a bit on how - but not nearly as deeply as the DevOps. But, the SA, covered many more topics, so you can understand why the questions weren’t as detailed. I feel like the questions on DevOps exam required a bit more knowledge though.

It’s possible that I simply had more experience with those exams when I tried the SA, but I found that many SA questions conformed to a typical pattern. Also, a lot of “pick-one” type questions on the SA exam had 4 answers with 2 pairs of details interchanged between them.

All in all, I found the Solutions Architect exam to be easier than DevOps. Not because of the topics covered, but because the exam felt a bit outdated. A lot of questions followed a pattern, which meant you could very quickly scan through the question and answers and pick the right one. This was much harder to do with the sea of text on the DevOps exam.

In general, it feels like the SA exam needs an update. Not only because of the form of the questions, but because it’s simply outdated. The exam seems to assume some outdated notions about Glacier and Reduced Redundancy S3 storage class . Luckily it seems like AWS is aware that both SA (Associate and Pro) certifications need an update. There’s currently an extended version of the updated Associate exam being tested - hopefully the time for Professional exam will come soon.

From all my certifications, I think I value my Red Hat’s Certificate of Expertise in Ansible Automation the most. Red Hat’s exams are performance based, not quiz-types exams. There are no questions. You are given a set of virtual machines and a set of tasks to perform. Your configuration is then tested by an automated checker (sometimes a bionic one, too), so it takes a couple of hours (up to 3 days) to get the results. But the exam tests that you not only know how to do things, but can actually do them. Maybe AWS should implement performance-based exams too? They already have the virtualization infrastructure ready!

If you’re interested in performance-based exam, check out Pawel’s thoughts on Red Hat’s EX403 as well. Feel free to ask any questions about the exams, we are happy to answer (as far as the NDA allows)!

Posted in: AWS

Tags: certification