Tips for passing the New AWS Solutions Architect Associate (SAA-C03) Exam?

By Antony Melvin  – Architecture & Planning Practice Lead

AWS Certified Solutions Architect - associate Exam

I passed the original Solutions Architect exam SAA-C01 back in September 2019, before lockdowns and Covid – simpler times. I had a choice of 2 slots a day at a physical exam centre in Manchester, the machine I was allocated had seen better days (haven’t we all) and somehow everything worked out OK when the ID scanner eventually worked.

Nearly three years later I got the email saying my cert was expiring in a month, so I sprang into action. I thought that re-certification would entail a shorter refresher exam – but I was wrong there – re-pass the same exam in full or the next one above it in the hierarchy are the only options. Yikes!

According to what people say on the internet, this is the most popular cloud certification out there and it does cover a lot of ground.

I used three places for preparation.

Neal Davis’s training was available on Udemy for a bargain price of $12, with 6 practice exams at a similar price – given that DCT constantly updates the content there was a lot of forewarning on new areas likely to be on the exam. On Udemy many of the other bargain courses date quickly, so kudos for Neal and the team for enhancing the training even after purchase.

Secondly there was the AWS documentation, which can be a bit dry compared to the commercial offerings – especially when it comes to Hand on Labs. But it is a genuinely accurate and well-maintained information source (as you’d expect).

Finally, I went to A Cloud Guru and signed up for a paid plan on the day of the exam. There is a 7-day cooldown if there is nothing else of interest. The course was an SAA-C02 course, but as explained on the line ACG reckoned that 80-90% of the SAA-C02 course was valid for the SAA-C03 exam. I reckon that judgement was pretty accurate.

The Exam

To the exam itself, I booked in a remote proctored option after work using Pearson Vue – for 9:30pm on the same day. Which is amazing really – booking a serious exam with only 4 hours’ notice. Admittedly only allowing 3 days before the expiration did offer a little extra frisson!

In the three years since I last took the exam there have been a bunch of changes – especially as I jumped from SAA-C01 straight to SAA-C03. The exam seemed a lot wordier with lots more reading to do on most of the questions. I remember finishing the SAA-C01 exam with almost 50 minutes to spare – but I completed question 65 this time around with barely 4 minutes left.

I’m not going to go into the precise content of the questions – that wouldn’t be fair or even within the T&Cs. But the training companies had a good handle on what would be involved, so I would suggest looking to them for a detailed breakdown. One tip I would offer would be to understand how many synonyms there are for ‘AWS managed services’. I would also expect that the number of Machine Learning and Data questions will only rise as the exam matures.

Anyway, I passed, or I failed, or something. Three years ago, I got the message on screen as soon as I finished the exam. This time, I got an exhaustive client satisfaction survey. Google says that Pearson Vue take 3-5 days to send you the result.


I passed – the update on CertManager and Credly appeared the next day: