The new AWS SysOps Certification exam (SOA-C02)

On March 26th of this year, I sat the new AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate SOA-C02 Beta exam, the last day of the Beta period. After what felt like a very long, but not unexpected, wait for the results, I received an email from Credly yesterday informing me I have a new badge for AWS SysOps Administrator. Just to make sure, I logged into my Certmetrics and confirmed the pass! Happy days!

Previous AWS Exams

This was my third AWS certification after passing two exams last year, the Fundamental AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner followed by the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate (SAA-C02).

Whilst the merits of the Cloud Practitioner is questionable, I felt it served as a good warm up for two reasons:

  • A refresher for someone like me who hadn’t sat a professional exam for some time.
  • A first experience of an online proctored exam, given that test centers were closed due to COVID-19.

Happy I passed and felt confident to move onto tackling the Solutions Architect cert. First, however I successfully sat Microsoft Azure Fundamentals , for which I had a free exam voucher, the content of this exam shared some of the basic principles of cloud computing with Cloud Practitioner and along with previous experience with Azure, this stood me in good stead.

I had started studying for the Architect exam back in January 2020 with Adrians Cantrill’s course on Linux Academy, but work got in the way and by the time I got to focus on the Architect certification again AWS had released the new SAA-C02 version of the exam with new topics added. I opted to study Adrian’s new, comprehensive course at to continue my studies. Thankfully I got my pass and the studies have proved useful as the portion of my job working with AWS grows as more of our Teleco customers adopt cloud services.

An example of the image used in Adrian Cantrill’s courses

SysOps Study

Anyway, back to the subject of this post, the SysOps Associate beta exam…I decided to give the beta a go after seeing posts regarding the new exam on various AWS channels, Reddit, Twitter and Adrian’s Tech Study Slack. Being a beta exam the exam fee was at a reduced rate and the only downslide I saw was having to wait around 90 days for the result as opposed to the instant result on a non-beta exam!

To study this time I opted for Stephane Maarak’s excellent Udemy course. I didn’t quite have the time for Adrians Cantrill’s SysOps course, so I would rely on Stephane’s course, the overlap from Adrian’s Solution Architect course and my growing experience with AWS.

The exam

The exam is split into two parts, the first involving the familar multiple choice and multi-answer questions section and the second part contained a hands-on lab portion. With a total time of 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete all sections, plenty of time is provided and being beta it allows for any issues experienced. On finishing the first portion of 55 questions, I felt ok, but not super confident as some subjects for me at the time were not so familiar.

Sticking to the NDA and without giving anything away, some of the subjects I was not sure about were:

  • Amazon Elasticsearch Architecture
  • CloudFormation cross-stack references vs nested-stack
  • Plus I got two questions on Route 53 around APEX vs NONAPEX DNS Record types, for which I know I opted for the wrong option!

So going into the 3 labs, I felt I’d need to score well to secure a passing mark (720 out of 1000). I had plenty of time remaining for the labs, much longer than the 20 minutes recommended for each, so I took my time and didn’t rush through them, thoroughly checking my work after completing the tasks.

My experience of the labs were good, I believe other people sitting the exam had issues, but I had no such concerns. The labs were setup through a virtual Windows machine with browser access to the AWS console (there is no internet access so you are not able to look at AWS documentation to help implement tasks). On the right hand side of the screen, you are given a scenario, asked to create A B C, or implement X Y Z, using names provided and make sure it works as specified. You follow the requirements, implement the task using the console and complete each lab before moving onto the next (you cannot return to a previously completed lab).

Again sticking to the NDA my three tasks were around:

  • The setup of a scalable application – configuring a VPC, LT, ASG, ALB, Security, Networking etc
  • Using AWS config to ensure something is set (compliance)
  • Configure some S3 data buckets with lifecycle policies

On completing each lab, I felt confident that I’d fully implemented the tasks correctly.

Wrapping Up

I enjoyed the exam, I liked the hands-on section and I expect that element will be added to future AWS exams going forward. I didn’t like the long wait for the results, however, but I knew that beforehand!

The old SOA-C01 SysOps exam is retired from 26th of July. If you are looking to take the new SOA-C02 exam you can find more information on the Coming Soon to AWS Certification page with the exam guide here.

I will look to complete the AWS Certified Developer next to round off all three associate certifications, first however, I want to clear my Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA)