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Observations on the AWS Developer - Associate Exam


AWS Developer - Associate Exam
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In this course, follow along with AWS certification specialist, Stephen Cole, as he discusses his experiences taking the AWS Developer - Associate Exam.

You will learn what topics you need to know to pass the exam, how the exam is structured, as well as some of the administrative and practical aspects of the exam.

This short course is ideal for anyone who is preparing to take the exam and is looking for some hints and tips for passing.


Hello. My name is Stephen Cole and I'm a trainer here at Cloud Academy.  

I'm here, today, to talk about the AWS Certified Developer - Associate exam.  I've been asked--numerous times--about the exam, what it's like, and what sort of content it contains.

I've also been asked what it takes to pass it and become certified.

I've taken these questions and put them together in this short course.  

When I'm done, you should have a better understanding of the exam, how it is presented, and what it measures.

Secondarily and probably just as important, I want to remove some of the uncertainty you might have about taking the exam.  Uncertainty can become fear and, eventually, paralysis.  

Personally, I am no stranger to AWS exams.  To date, I've earned 9 AWS certifications over the years including the AWS Certified Developer Associate.

You can see my current and past certifications using this link: https://www.youracclaim.com/users/mysticole928/badges

After you pass, you will get a certificate that looks like this.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself.  I'm here to talk about the exam, how it's built, and the topics it covers.  It won't be exhaustive.  It's meant to get you on the right track regarding preparation.

Before I start, I need to be clear about something.

As part of the AWS testing process, everyone taking the exam has to agree to a code of conduct and, as part of this agreement, we are required to keep the specifics of the exam confidential.

Violation of this agreement can result in the loss of certification and its related benefits and I am not willing to put this at risk.  

This means that I cannot share detailed information about the exam questions.  It would be cheating and devalue the certification.  

That said, I believe that I can share my personal experience and perceptions of the exam as well as the types of content it covers without violating the confidentiality agreement.

According to the AWS marketing materials, this exam is intended for individuals who perform a development role and have one or more years of hands-on experience developing and maintaining an AWS-based application.


The AWS exam guide is more succinct.

It says that people that pass the exam demonstrate an understanding of core AWS services, uses, and basic AWS architecture best practices. 

Additionally, it validates a person's proficiency in developing, deploying, and debugging cloud-based applications using AWS.

To me, this is interesting because it doesn't say anything about coding ability.  This is a good thing because I am not a developer-type by training or temperament and I did pass the exam.  

Currently, when you pass the exam, you get a digital badge awarded.

The description of the award says:

Earners of this certification have a comprehensive understanding of application life-cycle management. They've demonstrated proficiency in writing applications with AWS service APIs, AWS CLI, and SDKs; using containers; and deploying with a CI/CD pipeline. Badge owners are able to develop, deploy, and debug cloud-based applications that follow AWS best practices.

The key words and phrases in this description are accurate.

  • Comprehensive understanding of application lifecycle management.
  • Demonstrated proficiency with AWS service APIs, SDKs, and the CLI.
  • Deploying with a CI/CD pipeline.
  • Follows AWS best practices.

Taken as a whole, I think that the exam can be described as being more about the care and feeding of developers and their cloud-based environments than it is actually about developers.

Comparing it to the Solutions Architect - Associate exam and the SysOps Administrator exams is a little unfair.  Each exam has a target audience and the questions vary accordingly.  So, being easier or harder is subjective.  There is overlap between the three exams.  I have no way of knowing--exactly--how much overlap but, based on the exam guide, my guess is between 40 and 50%.  

The reason I mention the exam guide is that, in the introduction, it says the exam validates two things and one of those things is an understanding of core AWS services, uses, and basic AWS architecture best practices.  To me, this is the overlap between the three exams.

Still, how hard is the exam?

The AWS Certified Developer - Associate exam is challenging.  To pass it and become certified, you will need to have a solid understanding of how to deploy, monitor, and update code in the AWS cloud.  This is harder than it sounds and requires a fair amount of study.  By study, I mean it's important to have a fair amount of hands-on experience with AWS.

That said, I am of the opinion that the Developer exam was a little easier than the Solutions Architect - Associate exam and that the Solutions Architect - Associate exam was a little easier than the SysOps Administrator exam. Remember, this is my opinion, your experiences will be different than mine.  To me, the Solutions Architect - Associate exam and SysOps exam both seem to require a slightly deeper understanding of the related AWS services and features.

Before I talk about the exam contents, I want to take a couple of minutes to talk about the exam itself.

About the Author
Learning Paths

Stephen is the AWS Certification Specialist at Cloud Academy. His content focuses heavily on topics related to certification on Amazon Web Services technologies. He loves teaching and believes that there are no shortcuts to certification but it is possible to find the right path and course of study.

Stephen has worked in IT for over 25 years in roles ranging from tech support to systems engineering. At one point, he taught computer network technology at a community college in Washington state.

Before coming to Cloud Academy, Stephen worked as a trainer and curriculum developer at AWS and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in cloud technologies.

In his spare time, Stephen enjoys reading, sudoku, gaming, and modern square dancing.

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