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AWS Advanced Networking Speciality | Nolan Harvey, Cloud Networking Engineer, PTP


In the middle of 2020, I was asked to complete the AWS Advanced Networking Specialty. Knowing other colleagues who have taken the exam to earn the certification, I knew this would be no easy task. I immediately began doing research to find the best study materials and set off on the seemingly daunting task of preparing for the exam. You may be asking yourself as you read this…. why write about it? Well, my goal in writing this is to share my experience and what worked for me to successfully pass the exam and maybe in turn the information will be helpful to someone going through the process right now or to someone preparing for cloud certification. So here it goes……

Before I start studying for an exam, I typically do research online to see what kind of experience other people have had with the exam I am preparing to take. During my research, I found a blog from someone who had passed every other AWS exam and was describing their challenging experience with the Advanced Networking exam. Not exactly what I wanted to read/see right out of the gate, but the first thing came across in his post was the following quote accompanied with the below image he had created to show the breadth and difficulty of each AWS exam.

“In my opinion, this exam is by far the hardest out of all AWS certifications, easily surpassing the Big Data Specialty or Solutions Architect Professional certifications for difficulty.”

As you can imagine I was not feeling overly enthusiastic about the road ahead or the prospect of completing the exam. Now for the glass half full guy perspective… I have a good amount of traditional networking experience and I also hold the AWS solutions architect associate certification. So, I felt that maybe I had a bit of a leg up on this exam but knew I would have dig in and start somewhere so I decided to take the advanced networking specialty course on A Cloud Guru. With a series of training videos, I like to take notes while I watch them and then take snapshots of useful images from the videos to be able to reference later. After I completed the course, I ended up with 44 notepad files worth of notes and 16 images for topics like extreme hybrid network scenarios, hybrid DNS, VPC peering, transient gateways, and direct connect.

Once I finished the A Cloud Guru course, my next step was to look for good practice exams. I had one I used before when I took the exam the first time, yeah you heard that right, I did not pass the first time, but remember I said this would be challenging and while writing this I didn’t feel the need to discourage anyone from taking or bore them with my first time failure experiences, so I am focused on what it took to reach a positive outcome. Anyway, I did not find the first set of practice exams very useful. I probably was not as prepared as I felt I was. I didn’t do terrible, but I definitely had some work to do. The 2nd time around I ended up finding a practice exam on Tutorials Dojo by Jon Bonso called AWS Certified Advanced Networking Specialty Practice Exams 2021. I’d used Jon Bonso’s practice exams when studying for the solutions architect associate exam and loved them. Jon’s practice exams have a very good variety of questions across all topics listed in the AWS exam guide. He also includes extremely detailed descriptions of why the answer to a question is correct and why the other options are incorrect. I went through the untimed practice exams several times. After each practice exam I got a report showing the 6 different sections of the exam guide and how I did on each of them. I kept track of these over time to get an idea of which sections I was doing well and which ones I wasn’t. This series of practice exams includes quizzes by section which I used to measure my knowledge for each section I wasn’t scoring well in. I also used it to practice the sections which comprise a larger amount of the exam. The image below is directly from the AWS exam guide and I really hammered on the first, second, and fourth sections as they comprise 67% of the exam.

I took the exam for the second time in June 2021 and passed, barely.  But a pass is a pass, and I was finally done after a year of off and on preparation!  There is no doubt that this is a tough exam.  You’ll be answering questions about a number of services that you likely haven’t ever worked with.  One thing I noticed is that if you understand most of the material you can typically eliminate one or two of the answers.  You might get a few questions where you just have no idea but most of the time you can eliminate some answers.
There are a few things you absolutely must know to pass the exam:
  • You will get many questions regarding Direct Connect.  If you can understand different solutions involving Direct Connect, you’ll be in much better shape.
  • You’ll get some questions regarding AWS DNS and hybrid DNS, make sure you understand this.
  • Understand the different between the different types of load balancers and when you would use each one.
  • Understand when to use VPC peering, transit gateway, AWS VPN, and Direct Connect
This exam is a beast, but you can pass it if you do your due diligence, study hard, and use practice exams.  It might take you a few tries but you can do it.  Good luck!
For more info on PTP’s Cloud Networking Services, click HERE!

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