New AWS Solutions Architect – Associate (SAA-C03) Announced! 

AWS Solutions Architect Associate

As if my team and I weren’t already busy enough with creating new learning paths for the previously announced AWS Certified SAP on AWS – Specialty, and the upcoming refresh of the AWS Certified Advanced Networking Specialty certification, AWS have just announced an update to what can be considered their most popular certification, the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification.

The current AWS SAA-C02 certification was released on March 23, 2020 so it’s been generally available for almost two years already, so it’s not that surprising that it is being updated. The rate of change and innovation with AWS in two years is huge. By updating their certification to include the latest services, features and best practices ensures that the certification continues to prove it’s worth to both businesses and individuals.

So, I imagine many of you have a number of questions which may include:

  • Can I still take the current SAA-C02 exam as I’m currently studying for it? 
  • I recently passed my SAA-C02, will it still be effective or will I have to take the new exam?
  • When does the new exam come into effect? 
  • What are the changes? 
  • Will there be any exam lab questions like there is in the AWS SysOps Administrator certification?
  • Where can I learn the new materials for this exam? 
  • Where can I find more information on this exam?

So let me answer each of these for you! 

Can I still take the current SAA-C02 exam as I’m currently studying for it? 

The quick answer is yes, certainly! In fact I recommend that if you have already started studying for the AWS SAA-C02 exam then you continue to do so. You have plenty of time to finish your studies as the last date to take the SAA-C02 exam is August 29th, 2022. 

Also, with that in mind, if you haven’t yet started studying and want to take this exam, then with enough effort and dedication, and depending on your experience you will still have time to prepare and pass it before the end of August. For those looking for study guides and material for the SAA-C02, you can find our learning path here which covers the assessment points in the exam

I recently passed my SAA-C02, will it still be effective or will I have to take the new exam?

This is always a concern when AWS announces an updated certification, and for good reason! It’s likely you just spent months studying for an exam, only to find out that AWS are updating it in the not too distant future. Well, I have some good news for you, you do NOT have to resit the updated certification to keep your credentials.

Even if you took the AWS SAA-C02 exam on the last date available (29th August 2022), then your exam will still last for 3 years from that date. There is no need to resit the newly updated certification. The certificate and digital badge you get for attaining the certification does not include the version of the exam.

When does the new exam come into effect? 

The new exam, which will be labeled as AWS SAA-C03 will be available to take from the 30th August 2022. However, the registration to be able to book your exam opens on July 26th 2022, so if you want to be one of the first then you can book it from this date! 

What are the changes?

After reviewing the difference between the exam guides for the SAA-C02 and the SAA-C03 there are some changes, however there is a lot of overlap from the SAA-C02, however it does reference some of the latest services and features within existing services. 

From a Domain perspective, there are still 4 different assessment domains to focus on with minor changes as shown here with the 2 domain tables for each exam. 

SAA-C02 Domains% of exam
Domain 1:Design Resilient Architectures 30%
Domain 2: Design High-Performing Architectures28%
Domain 3: Design Secure Applications and Architectures24%
Domain 4: Design Cost-Optimized Architectures18%
SAA-C03 Domains% of exam
Domain 1: Design Secure Architectures30%
Domain 2: Design Resilient Architectures26%
Domain 3: Design High Performing Architectures24%
Domain 4: Design Cost-Optimized Architectures20%

You will notice that 3 of the 4 domains are still named exactly the same, however their percentages have changed in the new exam guide:

  • Design Resilient Architectures – Percentage dropped from 30% to 26%
  • Design High-performing architectures – Percentage dropped from 28% to 24%
  • Design Cost-Optimized Architectures – Percentage increased from 18% to 20%

One domain has changed slightly in its name, in SAA-C02 it’s called Design Secure Applications and Architectures, in SAA-C03 it is labeled as Design Secure Architectures and the the percentage has increased from 24% to 30%

Based on these comparisons alone we can see that there is now more of an emphasis on cost management and security as the percentages in these areas has increased by 8% between the two.

The new exam guide for SAA-C03 contains a lot more information as to what is in scope and out of scope compared to that of the SAA-C02. It also has detailed information showing you what knowledge you should have for each domain, in addition to the skills necessary to meet the requirements of the domain. 

Here are some high level points to take note of for each Domain

SAA-C03 Domain 1: Design Secure Architectures

This has a heavy focus on designing secure access to AWS resources, so as you’d expect a deep understanding of AWS Identity & Access Management (IAM) is required. You should also have knowledge of AWS Single Sign-On, AWS Security Token Service, AWS Control Tower and Service Control Policies. 

It also looks at how to secure workloads and applications, this will test your understanding of and knowledge of services including Amazon Cognito, Amazon GuardDuty and Amazon Macie, AWS Shield, AWS WAF, AWS Secrets Manager, in addition to a solid awareness of VPC security controls.

The final point in this Domain assesses your ability to determine appropriate data security controls, so expect to demonstrate your knowledge across the AWS Key Management Service, AWS Certificate Manager and how to manage data recovery and retention across a range of storage services.

SAA-C03 Domain 2: Design Resilient Architectures

This domain centers its focus on 2 main areas:

  1. How to design scalable and loosely coupled architectures
  2. How to Design highly available and/or fault tolerant architectures

The scope of this domain is wide and varied.

Assessment on point 1 requires you to have knowledge across Amazon API Gateway, AWS Transfer Family, Amazon SQS, AWS Secrets Manager, Application load balancers, Amazon SQS, AWS Fargate, AWS Lambda, Amazon Elastic Container Service, and the Elastic Kubernetes Service.

When it comes to HA and FT architectures, you must be aware of the AWS Global architecture, plus Amazon Route 53, Amazon Comprehend, backup strategies, RDS Proxy and AWS X-Ray

SAA-C03 Domain 3: Design High Performing Architectures:

This domain introduces a new section compared to that of the SAA-C02 which looks at how to determine high-performing data ingestion and transformation solutions. As a result, emphasis will be centered around services such as Amazon Athena, AWS Lake Formation, Amazon QuickSight, AWS DataSync, AWS Storage Gateway, AWS Glue, Amazon EMR, and Amazon Kinesis. 

Much like the SAA-C02, it also focuses on 4 core resource types, Storage, Compute, Database and Networking. So ensure you focus on performance features from the core services in each of these areas.

SAA-C03 Domain 4: Design Cost Optimized Architectures

The final domain also focuses on the same 4 resource types I just mentioned, Storage, Compute, Database and Networking, and how to optimize costs at different levels based on a variety of different requirements. It’s also essential that you are familiar with a variety of AWS cost management tools which you need to be familiar with which include, Cost Explorer, AWS Budgets, and AWS Cost and usage reports. 

As I mentioned earlier, the domain focused on cost has increased its overall percentage weighting in the exam, so it’s worthwhile taking the time to understand how to optimize your architecture effectively to minimize costs across your accounts, in addition to having the knowledge how to report on these costs accurately using the appropriate tools available.

Overall, across all of the domains, I get the sense that there is more of a focus on the students abilities to understand how AWS solutions can be deployed based upon the Well-Architected Framework. So it would also be valuable to you to be familiar with this framework.

Will there be any exam lab questions like there is in the AWS SysOps Administrator certification?

For those unaware, Exam lab questions are scenario based, and are composed of a set of tasks to perform in the AWS Management Console or AWS CLI.

I was expecting to see the inclusion of exam lab questions in this certification, however the only exam question types listed in the exam guide are:

  • Multiple choice: which has one correct answer and three incorrect responses
  • Multiple response: which has two or more correct responses out of five or more response options

So with that in mind, there are no Exam lab questions at this stage.

Where can I learn the new materials for this exam? 

Here at Cloud Academy we are already working on new content to support you in your preparation for this new exam. We will be building a completely new and comprehensive learning path to support all the assessment points highlighted in the exam guide to ensure that you have all the knowledge required to sit and pass the exam with confidence. We will have our learning path complete with on-demand courses, hands-on labs, lab challenges, and a preparation exam, before the updated certification is generally available.

Where can I find more information on this exam?

Toi find the latest information relating to this exam you can visit the AWS certification coming soon URL here. From here you can get the latest SAA-C03 Exam guide and take a look at some sample questions

I hope that has answered some of your questions relating to this announcement, but if you have any further questions, please feel free to reach out to me and I’ll be happy to help! 

For training preparation on all AWS certifications, take a look at our AWS certification library here.

Good luck with your studying! 


  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate

  • SAA-C03

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