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AWS Solutions Architect Associate exam blueprint: 6 areas to master

Eyeing the AWS Solutions Architect Associate certification? Understanding these six areas will help you ace the SAA-C02 and set you up for career success.

Jun 08, 2023 • 9 Minute Read

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  • Learning & Development
  • AWS

Is it time to dive deep with the new AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate certification track? Short answer: Yes! 

We recently debuted a new Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification track at A Cloud Guru. Now, maybe you’re wondering, “Why would I take a certification track when I can just take a certification course?”

The courses in our new AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate certification track will give you the knowledge and skills you need to pass the newly released and updated AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate and (bonus) prepare you to work as a solutions architect in the real world. (That's a big bonus since the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate cert is one of the top-paying cloud certifications out there.)

6 essential areas to master for Associate AWS Solutions Architects

The AWS Associate AWS Solutions Architects certification track was designed with six supporting courses to help you fully prepare for your AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam and get on your way to becoming a solutions architect. Each supporting course builds on the next, and they’re designed so you can take them independently of each other. Here are the six courses that cover the six essential areas you'll master.

Get certified and gain real-world skills

If you’re looking to jump-start your cloud career, remember that a certification is a piece of the puzzle. Understanding these six areas will help you both ace your SAA-C02 and set you up for a successful career as a solutions architect.

As we make our way through the supporting courses for the certification track, we’ll increase your skills and confidence, covering AWS theory, offering practical demonstrations, and providing hands-on labs — so you can prepare for the newly updated SAA-C02 certification exam while also getting real-world, hands-on experience. That's a win-win.

By the way, if you’re currently studying for the Solutions Architect Associate exam, join ACG's Ryan Kroonenburg, Mattias Andersson, and Scott Pletcher for a live study hour, where they'll be walking through some sample questions on Monday, December 7, 3 p.m. (ET).

1. Designing Resilient Architectures

Ready to get started? This is your first step. The first supporting course, Designing Resilient Architectures for Associate AWS Solutions Architects, covers AWS fundamentals, including AWS accounts, IAM, organizations, and core services you need to know for the exam. Having this foundational knowledge is crucial for new students — but also for all you senior engineers out there.  

2. Networking and Compute

Next, we dive into the second supporting course: Networking and Compute for Associate AWS Solutions Architects. The newly updated SAA C02 exam heavily features network and compute questions, so this course will make sure you’re prepared for the harder questions on the exam. When I sat for the beta exam, the networking questions were harder than SAA-C01. I saw a strong focus on understanding high availability and how to implement it in your designs. 

There were also questions around how to secure your multi-tier architectures, as well as a few scenario-based ones about high-performance computing. I also saw questions on VPN and Direct Connect regarding not only high availability but also knowing the performance of each and how to provision both. 

Furthermore, there was more depth on VPC endpoints, so it’s important to know the differences between interface endpoints and gateway endpoints, as well as how to use both in your designs. 

I also had one question on my beta exam on Resource Access Manager (RAM), so make sure you understand what RAM is and how its sharing works, as well as its limitations. And there was also a question on PrivateLink and the AWS Global Accelerator, which I hadn’t seen featured in the SAA-C01 exams before.

3. Storage, Databases, and Migration

From there, we move on to the third supporting course: Storage, Databases, and Migration for Associate AWS Solutions Architects. The newly updated SAA C02 exam has more S3 questions, so make sure you know S3 storage classes and how each one would work best for specific scenarios. On my beta exam, I had more S3 performance questions and S3 encryption — which makes sense, as the updated exam features security more heavily. My beta exam also had questions about S3 events and FSx, which I hadn’t seen on the SAA-C01 exam, so it’s important to have a solid understanding of what FSx is and when you would use it.

With this course, we’ll explore how to architect high availability regionally versus globally. I had a few scenario questions on the exam around this design. For global high availability, we could use S3 Transfer Acceleration, Cross-Region Replication, or CloudFront with S3. 

As far as database questions, I saw a huge shift in the amount of Aurora questions on my beta exam from the older SAA-C01 exam. This shift was specifically around Aurora Serverless and the high availability Aurora and Aurora Serverless provides. Make sure you understand the different architecture behind RDS database instances and Aurora database instances. I also noticed there were more questions around DynamoDB performance and DynamoDB streams.  

Finally, there were a few questions on Database Migration Service (DMS), as well as a question on AWS DataSync.

4. High Availability and Scalability

Next is the fourth supporting course: High Availability and Scalability for Associate AWS Solutions Architects. The exam has been redesigned to feature the architecture and implementation of AWS services and resources, rather than specific numbers and facts about AWS resources and services. 

The updated exam questions were much more focused on Elastic Load Balancing, CloudFront, and Route 53, so make sure you understand what each is and how it works. Plus, it’s important to know how Route 53 integrates with other services, as well as latency for Route 53 routing. 

5. Application Services

The fifth supporting course, Application Services for Associate AWS Solutions Architects, explores deployments and hybrid environments in AWS. I didn’t see a big change in this category on the updated certification exam. Make sure you understand SQS at a high level and know that SQS is great for decoupling architectures (meaning your designs aren’t dependent on each other). I had a tough question on SQS vs. Kinesis, so it’s important to understand both and how they can work together. I also had a scenario-based question about Amazon MQ, which was added to the SAA-C02.

6. Logging and Security

The final supporting course in the certification track is Logging and Security for Associate AWS Solutions Architects. On the beta exam I sat for, the questions were much more focused on cost optimization, security, Aurora, FSx, and AWS architecture. Security in AWS was heavily featured, and the security coverage seemed to focus more on WAF (web application firewall). There was definitely more AWS Key Management System (KMS), so understand KMS and its compliance levels. I didn’t see much of a change under IAM from the SAA-C01 to the SAA-C02 exam, but I did think AWS Organizations and Cognito were featured more.

Cost optimization is key

Throughout all six supporting courses for this certification track, we’ll focus on AWS cost optimization. There was a heavy focus on my beta exam around all aspects of cost optimization and how to design cost-optimized architectures, so definitely take some time getting to know what AWS services can help you use cost-effective resources.

Preparing for the SAA-C02 exam

Overall, I did see a shift in the design of the questions and the focus for the updated AWS SAA-C02 certification exam. But, with the help of this new certification track, you’ll be well-prepared when you sit for your certification exam.

Beyond this certification track, we have a solid course for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam, an AWS Cost Optimization Deep Dive (which is one of our featured free courses for the month of December, by the way), AWS security, and other AWS service deep dives too!

Why should you get your AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification

So, why should you take these supporting courses and this certification track when there are so many other courses you could take, and why should you get your AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification? 

 Well AWS says: 

"The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification validates the ability to design and deploy well-architected solutions on AWS that meet customer requirements. This new exam version (SAA-C02) includes updated content across all domains as well as new objectives aligned with AWS platform innovations in categories such as databases, cost optimization, and security. AWS Certification regularly updates this exam to reflect the rapid pace of innovation on the AWS platform and the latest in best practices for architecting on the AWS Cloud."

If you’re a student like myself, trying to learn all the things, come join me! As a former and current student, I’m also excited to help others prepare for the updated SAA C02 certification exam.

Ace your SAA-C02 with ACG

Preparing for your AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification exam? Our new certification track can help you get ready for the exam (and your future career in cloud).

About this cloud guru

I started off as a contractor for a government agency, working as the administrative assistant for the infrastructure team. In that role, I kept getting SharePoint tasks assigned to me. I had no previous IT experience, so I started taking courses to learn more about SharePoint . . . which made me realize I didn’t have any fundamental knowledge. So I paused on the SharePoint course and started studying for my A+ certification. 

After the A+ certification, I picked up the SharePoint course again. Then, the government agency I worked for decided to start moving to the cloud. In order to help out and understand what my team was doing, I bought A Cloud Guru’s AWS CSA SAA-C01 course and just fell in love with AWS. As I made my way through the course, I was still struggling with fundamentals. This is why I added a larger fundamentals course to this certification track — because fundamentals matter, and you need to have that solid foundation to build on. 

I was the fourth member on my team of 81 to get the AWS Certified Solutions Architect certification, and from there I just kept going. Now, I hold all three AWS Associate certifications, both AWS Professional certifications (AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional and AWS Certified DevOps Engineer - Professional), and two of the AWS Specialty certifications: Advanced Networking and Security Specialty.  

My hope is that not only will I help someone like myself but also offer a refresher to the more experienced students and a deeper dive to all.  

Please let me know what you think of this new certification track and the supporting courses. And let me know: Are you a newbie like me, or are you years beyond me? Our team here at A Cloud Guru prides itself on learning all the things.Wherever you are in your learning journey, Come join us in learning all the things!