Using spaced repetition to pass cloud certifications

After completing a few cloud certifications in the past year, a lot of folks asked me how I prepared, which materials I've used, how difficult it was etc. In this post, I'll try to summarize my experience, share my learning materials and some tips that will hopefully set you up for success.

The learning process

Learning in general is difficult. Balancing a full-time job coupled with personal chores leaves very little time for studying. With the influx of information around us, it's also becoming increasingly difficult to retain that information and when I set out to get certified, I've also tried to see how I can make learning more effective. This is where a technique called spaced repetition comes in.

It's not something novel, there are some hints in this old Latin phrase - Repetitio est mater studiorum which is translated as - repetition is the mother of learning.

We tend to remember things by repeating them, however, studies have shown that when these repetitions happen in carefully planned intervals our retention is much better. It's like when somebody gives you their phone number. In the beginning, you will need to repeat the number quite frequently, but after a while, it "sticks" into your brain, and you'll have to do less repetition until you finally memorize it.

This is what spaced repetition is all about.

Flashcards are commonly used to facilitate spaced repetition. There are plenty of tools, but one of the most popular ones is Anki cards. What I love about Anki is that it works on all devices. I was able to study for the exam while commuting or queueing in the supermarket.

At the bottom of this post, I'll share my complete Anki cards deck for AWS and Azure certifications, with hundreds of questions that I've collected from official learning materials and practice exams.

The learning materials

For AWS developer associate, I was following this excellent Udemy course by Stephane. Upon completing each section, I would add important info as Anki flashcards and memorized it through the app. Once you feel confident with your knowledge, my suggestion is to take a few practice exams. These were quite useful because they give you a glimpse of what the actual exam will look like.

When it comes to AZ-900, I was mostly relying on Microsoft official learning resources. A high-quality course is also available from Adam Marczak, but do note that some videos might be outdated, however about 80-85% of the content is still valid as Adam explains the concepts very well. Same as with AWS, I did a few practice exams before the actual one.

How long does it take?

The answer to this question is highly individual. In my example, I already had about one year of working experience with AWS before taking the exam. This was helpful with a few services that I was exposed to, but the certification covers a lot of them, and it still took me around 4 months to prepare accordingly.

When it comes to Azure, it felt "easier" because I already had solid knowledge from AWS and a lot of concepts were transferable. However, AZ-900 is an entry-level exam and not comparable to AWS developer associate which covers much more detail. Different certifications have different levels and if you are just starting my advice is to go with AZ-900 or AWS solution architect.


Was it worth it? Absolutely! Before the certification, I felt I "knew" AWS but that learning happened mostly through work, trial and error or, reading the documentation. The certification aims to give you a good overview of different services and when to use them. For the same task you can use multiple services, but being able to know all the pros and cons of each one is a path to making an informed decision. This is highly useful if you are in a lead or architect role.

In the end, I would recommend everyone to do the certification and I hope these tips were helpful. I plan to go for a few more in the upcoming period, so I'll keep you posted on that.

P.S. As promised, the repo with my Anki flashcards.