My Thoughts On the SysOps Administrator Associate BETA Exam — (SOA-C02)

Today I sat the brand new AWS SysOps Administrator Associate exam (SOA-C02). I think I had the first time slot available in the world — 10am on Tuesday morning (Australia Time). I’m creating a brand new course which is specifically designed to pass this exam at https://learn.cantrill.io so I wanted to do a little recon and make sure that the topics I’m covering are aligned with the exam.

You can find my detailed thoughts below, but at a high level

  • It’s a great exam

(Full disclosure, I create AWS courses at https://learn.cantrill.io which are focussed on teaching real in-depth theory and practical skills, rather than solely concentrating on exams)

My course based on what I saw is spot on, there are a few topics I might add for completion, but otherwise I think students are going to be running a 100% pass rate with it as is. I think anyone can take and pass this exam with what’s in my course right now.

Also posted to https://cantrill.io/2021/02/16/my-thoughts-on-the-sysops-beta-exam-soa-c02.html

Testing Vendor Experience

I sat the exam with Pearson Vue, and it was set to start at 10am with a check-in time of 9.30am. I’d already ran the system checks a few days before, and was sitting the exam on a Macbook Pro (Intel), in a small separate room I had cleared especially.

I first had to checkin and perform the system check again. Initially it failed because it couldn’t ‘hear’ any sound from my internal microphone. It felt a bit silly saying test test 1 2 3 4while the check was running ....but nobody will ever know how stupid I sounded.

Next I had to use my mobile phone to scan my ID. Logically, I'd switched my phone off and put it out of arms reach, so after a minute or so I was good to go, IDs and things scanned.

Then, i had to take four pictures :-

  • Direct at my desk — from the front

Once done, the person observing me wanted me to pan my laptop camera around the room for a last minute check and unplug my external screen.

A few times during the test I was touching my face and received a chat message requesting i stop. But honestly, that was fair enough.

Overall from a vendor perspective … 8/10 — no major issues.

Exam Structure — PART1

The exam itself was 55 questions long, and the question quality was good. There was one which I felt was lacking the correct information to decide on the right answer. Given the job I do, I can normally spot these a mile away and I still think it's a QA issue. It's a BETA though, so the odd question can be forgiven.

After the 55 questions, i was prompted to review the questions. Anything I flagged were highlighted and once happy I could move on to the next part… warning here, you can’t return back to the questions section of the exam once you move on.

Exam Structure — PART2

The second part of the exam was the labs, and I had been looking forward to this a LOT. I had a total of three labs, and the exam recommended 20 minutes for each. I think the remaining time allocated was for all of the labs, they weren’t individually timed, but obviously you have to keep track of them.

The process for each lab was simple enough. You are greeted with a sub area of the testing screen, which was a windows desktop. Click to log in, and the AWS console loads. On the right hand side, you are given a scenario .. create X Y Z, or implement 1 2 and 3. Use these names, make sure it works in this way.

You have to follow instructions, implement the task and then click next and you move on. Once you’ve moved on thats it for LAB1. You do the same process for LAB2 and LAB3.

The topics were actually really good:-

  • Use AWS config to ensure something is set to on (compliance)

Overall, i think each can be done in 15–20 minutes, assuming 1) everything works and 2) you want to be careful and double check your work.

BUT .. I had issues.

Issue 1 — The UI

When working with the AWS console, I couldn’t see the NEXT or FINISH buttons. They were off the bottom of the window (which was maximised). I tried scrolling down, it didn't work. I tried changing zoom it didn't work. Imagine that the testing software is full screen on your laptop, the windows session is a subset of that (say 75%), but the desktop of that windows session is larger than the size in the test software. You have scrollbars on the windows session, and scroll bars in the apps on windows.

The way i had to fix this:-

  • change the browser window away from maximised

3/10 for this .. it was horrible, distracting and since I didn’t know in advance the initial lab took ages.

Issue 2 — COPY and PASTE…. or not.

Copy and paste didn’t work from the exam software into the windows desktop. Out of 10 times, maybe 1 worked. There was a notice saying if copy and paste didn’t work, check a file on the desktop. This file had the same instructions inside, obviously to copy and paste from — but that didn’t work either. I had to manually type some REALLY long strings

  • Security Group Names

1/10 for this, a really, really, really bad experience. Anyone who knows me knows I’m pretty OCD about detail. I was triple checking everything, but it was really bad.

Issue 3 — Completing a LAB was hard … not implementing it, completing it.

When I finished a LAB, I received a really odd message.

You haven’t watched all the multimedia for this content …….`

It took me 2–3 minutes to work out that it wanted me to scroll to all extremes of the windows desktop session … U, D, L, R .. and then it would let me finish.

This one could have really screwed with people .. another 1/10.

Overall

The labs were great technically, you can’t beat the exam anymore via memorisation, but the implementation needs work 8/10

Question Topics

Obviously I want to be really careful here re. NDA. What I will do is give a list of things I think you should know — without revealing anything about question content.

  • Be really familiar with all the DNS Record types, and when and where you can use them. APEX vs NONAPEX.

Main Product Coverage — Learn These

  • EC2

A few last words…

1 — I’m here to help, so if you have any questions please just ask, or join my slack community at https://techstudyslack.com or ask in comments

2 — Be really cautious of any existing courses being renamed quickly to ‘SOA-C02 Compatible’ this looks to be a major change, requiring real learning, not facts and figures, you should treat it that way. My course mentioned on this post is specifically been designed to accomodate this new exam version — it’s valid for SOA-C01 as well, but designed for SOA-C02.

3 — Demos, Demos, Demos — the new cert style focusses on testing real world skills. Make sure you are constantly practicing your implementation, fault-finding, performance and security skills. Trust me, a theory only course isn’t enough. I have a demos repo available hereto help.

4 — I’ll be posting more info and suggestions as I learn more.

5 — If you want a course for this one, mine is almost done 90%+, but it would have passed todays exam already https://learn.cantrill.io/p/aws-certified-sysops-administrator-associate

Please follow me for updates, and share this post anywhere you think might benefit :)

Technical Trainer, Cloud Architect, Tech, Productivity & Efficiency Obsessed wannabe minimalist.

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