Passing on the second attempt and why the first attempt should never have failed...
After taking the SOA-C02 AWS SysOps Administrator exam, I'm pleased to announce another hard-won milestone of success on my continuous learning journey as a DevOps and Infrastructure Engineer in the cloud. As of today, I am now a certified AWS SysOps Administrator after passing the SOA-C02 exam on Friday 21st January 2022. It's normal to think bad luck and nerves played a role in my failing my first exam and it was a factor in missing out by 40/1000 points. However, that was not the whole story ergo the tale I bring you today. The deeper story is a tale of poor software quality, and poor customer support of complaints in so far as the sequence of events goes to this day of success.
The overall score in passing on January 21st was relatively the same as the overall score is failing if the first exam on December 5th, 2021 had the labs' portion been completely graded. Notable was the unstable lab environment in this exam from the Pearson Vue at home, which became unstable after 1 hour when I hit the chatbox to ask the proctor for a bathroom break. The freezes and degrading environment led to an exam environment crash as I moved into the lab's section and an exam relaunch was seemingly missed in the grading of the exam. Until Pearson Vue sort their act out on the home environment software quality, I would recommend taking this exam or any Pearson Vue exam with an interactive labs component in a test centre only.
AWS training support issued a voucher in a breakthrough on Jan 19th 2022, and I sat the exam passing it two days later on the 21st noting my score had a margin over the pass mark that would have equated roughly to the mark I could have gotten the first time around if the exam environment did not destabilise. The lab objects I could have created on one question alone on the December 5th sitting would have gotten me score parity to my January 21st sitting if they did not fall victim to the environment's instability and freezes. The second time around, the software in the environment was stable and what I would expect from an exam hosting giant like Pearson Vue. I walked through the labs like a boss and aced them. My tale however continues as fate decided to mess with my AWS certification journey once more. On the day of the January 21st exam, the exam centre had builders working next door and apparently without notification to the exam centre staff. Bob the builder decided to use drills and Kangoo hammers in the adjacent room of the adjacent building, which was on the same floor. I tried my best to focus on the complex and detailed theory questions but the ground vibrated routinely underneath my feet from the 3rd minute for a solid 2 hours afterwards. It was a true test of my mettle and resolve to settle down and concentrate, so I could pass this exam in spite of the hair raising obstacles.
Thinking about all this, I would recommend you check with your desired test centre for any building works in adjacent structures before booking your exam. One of the reasons I was so resilient in both exam sittings was down to my preparation and exam strategy, which I wrote about in my blog called the Certified Kubernetes Administrator exam. I recommend you check it out as I applied those strategies on AWS content using similar preparation resources and strategies for this exam. As you can see, they did not fail me then or now. In addition to my Kubernetes blog on exam strategy, I can offer the following additional advice regarding sitting this exam.
- Do regular practice exams and space them out to at least one-week intervals so you don't remember the answer. The real goal of the practice exams is twofold. Firstly, seek to understand the question by reading and rereading it for a proper understanding. The tricky wording on AWS exams demands it as a keyword that can change the whole context of the question.
- When you understand what the ask is, then answer it from a seat of understanding. This is a technique that will get you past the 80/82% theory exam allocation in the real exam.
- Watch your timing. The exam counts down on the screen in minutes so it's easy to lose track of time over 50/51 theory questions noting 60 minutes should be reserved for labs. Practice doing theory questions in around 2 mins per question whether the question is verbose or not. I found the repeat of this timing becomes learned and a useful mental indicator of one becoming stuck in the exam without having to distract oneself from working out how much time per question is left. This allows you time to revise your flagged questions comfortably and move on to the labs. On my second attempt, I moved past 20 flagged questions using this technique with ample time to revise them, noting I made further answer adjustments in 3 questions. Coming back to them truly helps with understanding when under exam pressure, which was compounded by the ruckus caused by the builders.
- Save 60 minutes for your exam labs section and 10 minutes for problems so you can take your time working the labs. Remember, when you select 'Yes' and move past your theory question section, you cannot go back. I did not move past that review section of the flagged theory questions until I reread the question, understood my answer and was happy with it. I had 64 minutes left to do the labs.
- On lab questions, you will get detailed step by step instructions on what is required underneath the lab question summary on the side of the screen beside the lab environment. Make sure you take a breath after the theory section, steady your nerves and then read the lab instructions from top to bottom. You will be logged in so no need to worry about logging onto an AWS console.
- Also, do not presume you know what objects are required from the question summary. Make sure you read the step by step instructions and read them fully. Then reread them and start to action them in a controlled and informed manner. Matching your actions to the requirements within the confines of the operating instructions given is part of the skill being evaluated so if they say for example leave all other fields as default, then do so.
I cannot offer any more to an intriguing tale of drama around a highly technical and complex exam testing the candidate on an intriguing cloud platform, which AWS is. Administering it is evolving rapidly and despite my woes in getting certified, I have to complement AWS on the highly stable and efficient platform they built. It's worth getting certified, just be mindful of the traps like the ones I fell into above and good luck on your certification journey.
Stay tuned for more on Infrastructure in this blog along with articles on other areas of interest in the Writing and DevOps arenas. To not miss out on any updates on my availability, tips on related areas or anything of interest to all, sign up for one of my newsletters in the footer of any page on Maolte. I look forward to us becoming pen pals!