Setting up your training plan

Now that I deciphered the exam guide I had an understanding of how I’d approach my studies.

TLDR: Training Plan signup link can be found here.

The original training plan is a composite of the following:

  • My translation of the training plan.
  • Work colleague experience of the exam.
  • ‘External search’ experience of the exam

As a side note, when I originally made my training plan, I made a point of not asking colleagues or searching for what would come up in the exam. I did this to test how accurate my ‘predictions’ would be based on my reading of the exam guides. Ordinarily though, I’d definitely say to do the smart thing and ask colleagues/see what’s on Google – which is why it’s step 1 of “Targeting your AWS Certification study efforts”. It’s just that in my case – I didn’t want to bias myself by finding out beforehand.

You will get an improved guide if you sign up

Since you will have the benefit of my hindsight, if you sign up for my training plan you the additional benefit of what I learned from the exam:

The common consensus from my planning, colleague and Google was to include:

In depth knowledge of Lambda
In depth knowledge of S3
In depth knowledge of Dynamo

And an overview of:

Elastic Beanstalk
Cloud Formation
Cloud Watch
Cloud Trail

But just because I had to include these things, didn’t mean they necessarily needed to come first. As I mentioned before we need to build on fundamentals. Not only that, we need to work out our realistic capacity so our study project gets over the line.

Ordering your training plan – building a little each week

If you look through the training plan I’d like to draw your attention to a few things:

  • I’ve started out with theory to get an overview of the world of AWS
  • I’ve moved onto more practical work the next week
  • After that I mix theory and practice
  • Each week has a goal, which has come from my planning out my study
  • This study plan is a prerequisite to doing practice papers – it’s a map of what you need before you’re ready for the exams.

I can talk about more in depth about mixing theory and practical work another time, but for now we’ll move onto the importance of the weekly goal.

Plan out goals/actions for each week to understand your commitment

The table below shows the actions needed to support the goal for week one, which was ‘Understanding of core AWS services, uses, and basic AWS architecture best practices’

  • The “Tasks” column contains links off to supporting whitepapers.
  • The “Resources Created” column shows flashcards that I would later create to test myself on these concepts.
  • The estimated hours we’ll come back to later, but we’ll use it when we come to evaluating how long our training plan will take. It looks as though I’m on the hook for 10 hours study this week though.
TasksResources CreatedEstimated Hours
Read AWS OverviewAWS Overview Flashcards1
Create flashcards to cover what core services there areAWS Overview Flashcards2
Create flashcards to cover what core use cases there areFound to be not necessary1
Create flashcards to cover architectural patternsBest Practice Flashcards1
Read Architecting for the Cloud AWS Best Practices whitepaper, February, 2016Cloud Best Practice Flashcards1
AWS Well-Architected Framework whitepaper, November 2017Well Architected Flashcards1
Optimizing Enterprise Economics with Serverless Architectures whitepaper, October 2017Serverless Flashcards1
Flashcards for regions and Availablity ZonesRegion and Availibility Flashcards1
Stretch – read security whitepaperSecurity Flashcards1

Priming yourself for learning

With my first week defined, now I needed to put into action. How do you create a study plan that gives you the ability to recall concepts under exam pressure? Well, I’m a big believer in spaced repetition – as you’ll see from other articles I’ve written, they can be great bang for buck to force your memory into action.

The TLDR is this – without a way to test yourself of concepts, and to filter the essence, you’ll be kidding yourself that you’ve understood and retained something. If you use flashcards and spaced repetition, then you’ll be able to force yourself out of your comfort zone to recall things.

Linked in the table above is set of white papers and concepts I’d deemed necessary to build the foundations for the rest of my study. I would argue this was the difference between me passing the exam by rote and passing the exam because I could do the job.


I like the system of getting a bigger picture before I dive in, as I find it allows me to make the chunks of learning more manageable each week. I wanted a combination of directed effort (what does the exam require) combined with a ‘why’ (the overview of what AWS is). I feel that if if you understand early enough what the different components are, the trade-offs and use cases for them are already ‘percolating’ through. Since exam questions often as you to explain these trade-offs.. it’s better to start understanding these early.

Just one more thing. you may have noticed that the training plan also contains a task each week to review previous flashcards. This is to consolidate your knowledge each week. We’ll move onto spaced repetition, and why that matters, using our plans from week 1.