Certifications / Cloud

How to Study for AWS Cloud Practitioner

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Published on July 9, 2020

It is widely accepted that the most daunting aspect of AWS is its sheer complexity. While it may be true that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, it is also true that the first step can be the most difficult one to take. Luckily Amazon has made that first step into the cloud easy by providing a valuable entry-level certification, AWS Cloud Practitioner.

The AWS Cloud Practitioner exam is for everybody. Whether you're a developer, a manager of developers, or an enthusiast who wants to know what all the cloud hype is about, you're in the right place. If you're ready to make the leap into AWS, there is plenty of AWS certification training to keep you busy.

While AWS Cloud Practitioner certification is geared toward everyone, it is commonly earned by those who work on the business end of IT — product owner, manager, and the like. These folks are investing a lot of time, money and resources into the cloud, so this certification will prove that they understand its core services and their pricing models.

The Cloud Practitioner certification is the only AWS certification needed by business individuals who are involved with the cloud, but is the first certification out of many for those who will be developing the cloud. Let's take a look at how to prepare for the exam and increase your odds of earning certification.

Preparing for the AWS Cloud Practitioner Exam

There's a common saying in the military: In any given situation, you do not rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training. This logic can also be applied to earning certifications. You can either wing it — which certainly isn't recommended, AWS exams are known for their difficulty — or you can invest in training like CBT Nuggets offers and commit to a study plan.

First things first, make sure you understand the ins and out of the AWS Cloud Practitioner exam, from topics covered to the exam format. For example, the exam consists of 60 multiple choice and answer questions that cover security, pricing, general cloud concepts and technology. You'll have 90 minutes to sit for the exam, which costs $100 USD to take.

As mentioned, it is not an overstatement to say that the Cloud Practitioner exam is difficult. That is why it's imperative that you and/or your team be well equipped with practice exams, virtual labs, quizzes, and professional guidance — all of which are included with a CBT Nuggets subscription.


No matter which AWS certification you are vying for, we strongly recommend that you read its corresponding whitepaper. It can include detailed information about the technologies or practices your exam covers. In fact, many of the questions from the exam are lifted directly from the whitepapers.

Amazon recommends the would-be practitioner read the three following documents:

Make sure you take your time reading these whitepapers. Pace yourself. Try reading 10 to 15 pages a day, while taking notes. Preferably, read the white papers after you have finished your training. That way, the whitepapers will seem far less abstract — and you will be able to tether them to real-life examples from your training.

Once you have completed the whitepapers, transcribe the most important parts of your notes onto flashcards and have a friend quiz you.

Get an AWS Account

Many people can recall being told in school that there are three types of learners: auditory learners, visual learners, and kinetic learners. Kinetic learners are those who learn by doing. With regards to IT, it is the most practical of the three styles. While reading and listening are great learning methods, nothing will prepare you faster than doing it yourself.

This is why it is so important to actually get an AWS account before going all in on the Cloud Practitioner learning material.

Because the Cloud Practitioner exam focuses on the multitude of services that AWS provides, it is imperative that you poke around the AWS console. Don't worry, Amazon provides a free-tier in case you would like to test any basic services. While in the console, you can spin up an EC2 instance, see how a lambda function is created, or configure a NAT gateway.

Don't worry if you have no clue what any of that means or even is. You can refer back to your training or the AWS whitepapers for explanations. However, being able to see tools and services in action can make concepts "click" for you.

Understand the Pricing for Services

The AWS Console is not solely for starting and stopping services, it is also the primary screen for reviewing billing and pricing details. Specifically, billing is located in the Billing & Cost Management Dashboard.

Because the Cloud Practitioner exam focuses on the numerous different pricing models of AWS, it is important that you have a clear visualization of the actual screens they are referring to in both the course and the white papers.

While we are on the subject of services —  make sure that you have a basic understanding of core AWS services like  S3 buckets, EC2 instances, Amazon Glacier, and ELB. Take note that the Cloud Practitioner exam will ask you about these services in the context of a given situation, so make sure you understand how these core services apply to real-world situations.

Know the 5 Pillars of Well-Architected Framework

The AWS Cloud Practitioner exam covers a multitude of different subjects, but the one subject that comes up time and time again during the exam are the five pillars of a well-architected framework. In fact, one of the aforementioned whitepapers is dedicated to it. The five pillars are: Operational Excellence, Security, Reliability, Performance Efficiency, and Cost Optimization.

Hopefully by the time you've completed your training and read the whitepapers, you have a firm grasp on those pillars — and their importance. Each one of these pillars has associated design principles that you need to know. Make flashcards that quiz you on the five pillars and their design principles, so they become etched in memory.

Many of the questions on the Cloud Practitioner exam ask you exactly what these are, so it is crucial that you have them memorized. If you do not have these five pillars memorized, along with their design principles, you are not ready to take the exam. Trust us, you want to earn an AWS certification.

Final Thoughts

Earning the AWS Cloud Practitioner certification is no easy feat, but nothing worth it ever is. Whether you're a product owner needing general knowledge of the cloud, or a developer just beginning your cloud journey, the tried and true steps outlined can make your journey to Cloud Practitioner certification smoother.


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