Setting Up a Work Study Group for AWS Certification

Last fall, a small group of us at Atomic Object Grand Rapids decided to sign up for Amazon’s AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Exam. The cohort consisted of Dan, JoeC, Lydia, PatrickB, and myself. Even though most of the group had prior exposure to AWS, we were interested in a more focused look at the services that are offered.

Exam Preparation

To prepare for the exam, we put together a simple schedule that split the studying topics up across several weeks. Every Monday, we met as a group over lunch to review the previous week’s topics. Our goals in doing this were to:

  1. Provide a clear idea of the time commitment upfront.
  2. Define bite-sized chunks of studying that could easily fit into existing responsibilities at work and home.
  3. Enable discussions between employees that span a wide range of experience levels and projects.
  4. Have more fun than studying and reviewing independently.

Taking the Exam

Our entire group took the exam in-person at a local testing center. Amazon does offer to take this exam remotely, but we elected to avoid that route for the time being. It certainly doesn’t hurt that one of the Pearson VUE testing locations (Jubilee Jobs) is located a short walk from our office in Grand Rapids. We were able to easily stroll over and take the exam during a long lunch break.

The actual testing experience was much like any other standardized test, for those familiar with that sort of thing. Be sure to read and follow the guidelines for the testing center you are visiting. They often require things you may not always keep with you (such as two forms of photo ID).

Post-Exam Retrospective

After we all took the exam (and passed!), we met as a group to do a rose/bud/thorn exercise. Here’s what we came up with.


  • Working through the material as a group was great. It kept us on track and prevented any last-minute, late-night studying.
  • The group discussions were extremely valuable. Many of the stories we shared wound up preparing us for the exam just as much as the official content.

It was clear that one of the best parts of the program was the weekly group discussions. Often, the conversations you have with your peers can end up being more valuable than hours of online coursework. We also benefited from having group members with varying levels of exposure to AWS services. Hearing stories of what services worked (or didn’t!) in particular circumstances was very helpful. We probably wouldn’t have had those conversations with each other had we not been prompted by the study material.


  • The Cloud Practitioner certification was useful to get exposure to Amazon’s service offerings, but the group was eager to have more focused learning around real-world applications of the services.

Since this is one of Amazon’s “Foundational” certifications, it is best suited for those with little exposure to AWS or other cloud providers. The recommended coursework will introduce you to a lot of AWS services without diving too deep into any single one. This may be a bit redundant or boring for those already familiar with AWS products. One of the “Associate” certifications, such as that for the Solutions Architect, would likely be a good match for those seeking more directly applicable coursework.


  • Not all of the videos in the Cloud Practitioner Essentials course were as useful for the exam itself as we were hoping, and felt a bit more like a time sink in the end.

One of the recommended materials to prepare for this exam is the free Cloud Practitioner Essentials (Second Edition) online course. We agreed that watching all of the videos from start to finish was too slow-going. Spending that time focused on the other recommended study materials is likely a better option. However, I will give a special shoutout to the video explaining Identity and Access Management in the AWS Security course module. That one is a keeper!

Final Thoughts

It’s nice to have a certification under my belt and have more exposure to some available services. However, the biggest benefit of this experience was the opportunity to meet with my peers regularly and share experiences.

I would definitely encourage others to form or find a group with which to share knowledge and stories if they don’t already have one. The chance to learn from other’s successes and mistakes can be invaluable.