With so many features and functionalities added at such a rapid pace by AWS, it is only fair that the certification exams are updated as well. There are two changes for existing certification and a new certification that is coming out soon.

  1. AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate has a new version SAA-C02 – Begins March 23, 2020
  2. AWS Certified Data Analytics – Specialty (formerly AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty) has a new version DAS-C01 – Begins April 13, 2020
  3. AWS Certified Database – Specialty is a new exam – Begins April 6, 2020

In this blog, we will stress on AWS Certified Solutions Architect. The registration for this exam began on February 25, 2020 and the first day to take this exam is March 23, 2020. This means the last day to take C01 is March 22, 2020. AWS has updated the last day to take C01 to June 30, 2020. There are already a lot of materials and practice tests available online for the older exam and the course providers have already started making the changes.

No changes to the format of the exam

  1. Still a pass or fail exam.
  2. Nothing is changing in terms of “Recommended AWS Knowledge” needed for this certification. At high level, AWS still recommends one year of hands-on experience designing available, cost-effective, fault-tolerant, and scalable distributed systems on AWS for this cert.
  3. There are still multiple choice and multiple response questions.
  4. Unanswered questions are scored as incorrect; there is no penalty for guessing.
  5. The number of questions is likely to be the same at 65 however, some folks had 75 in the beta exam.
  6. Some questions are unscored; these do not affect your overall score and are there gather statistical information.
  7. Results for the examination are reported as a score from 100-1,000, with a minimum passing score of 720 and there is no requirement to pass the individual section, only the overall examination.
  8. Folks that took beta exams mentioned that most questions are 1-2 lines of scenario followed by the actual question itself. Also noted that the wording was improved from the previous exam and the questions were less ambiguous, which is good news for the students.

Side by side changes to the topics covered for the exam

Let us first draw side by side comparison of the changes in the exam format:

SAA-C02 (New Exam) SAA-C01 (Old Exam)
Design Resilient Architectures (30%)
– Design a multi-tier architecture solution
– Design highly available and/or fault-tolerant architectures
– Design decoupling mechanisms using AWS services
– Choose appropriate resilient storage  
Design Resilient Architectures (34%)
– Choose reliable/resilient storage
– Determine how to design decoupling mechanisms using AWS services
– Determine how to design a multi-tier architecture solution
– Determine how to design high availability and/or fault tolerant architectures.
Design High-Performing Architectures (28%)
– Identify elastic and scalable compute solutions for a workload
– Select high-performing and scalable storage solutions for a workload
– Select high-performing networking solutions for a workload
– Choose high-performing database solutions for a workload
Define Performant Architectures (24%)
– Choose performant storage and databases
– Apply caching to improve performance
– Design solutions for elasticity and scalability.  

Design Secure Applications and Architectures (24%)
– Design secure access to AWS resources
– Design secure application tiers
– Select appropriate data security options

Specify Secure Applications and Architectures (26%)
– Determine how to secure application tiers
– Determine how to secure data
– Define the networking infrastructure for a single VPC application.  
Design Cost-Optimized Architectures (18%)
– Identify cost-effective storage solutions
– Identify cost-effective compute and database services
– Design cost-optimized network architectures
Design Cost-Optimized Architectures (10%)
– Determine how to design cost-optimized storage
– Determine how to design cost-optimized compute.  
  Define Operationally-Excellent Architectures (6%)
– Choose design features in solutions that enable operational excellence  

Clearly, the new exam C02 is much more streamlined. AWS has changed the verbiage within the topics covered. Instead of saying determine, they have started using the word design. This makes sense that as an architect you would be designing the applications.


Below is the summary of important points to note:

  1. Domain 1: Design Resilient Architectures nothing has changed except for the fact that weightage of this section has gone down by 4%.
  2. Domain 2: Design High-Performing Architectures, the weightage has been increased by 4% to 28%.
    • Words do matter, so C02 exam is stressing on high performing architecture, instead of performant architecture.
    • Instead of explicitly mentioning about caching solutions, it is implied that this would be asked.
    • Networking solutions is a new point mentioned which means expect more questions on Integrated Network Solutions, Managed Network Solutions and Hybrid Network Solutions. Check this link for more information.
  3. Domain 3: Design Secure Applications and Architectures, the weightage has reduced by 2% to 24%. Not sure why security would be less stressed on section.
    • I feel in the older exam, it talked about “networking infrastructure for a single VPC application” in this section which was not the right place for it, so it is removed. Networking in general has been moved under Domain 2.
    • New point added in this section is data security. Check out this blog on AWS website which talks more about security.
  4. Domain 4: Design Cost-Optimized Architectures the weightage has been increased by 8% to 18%. This clearly shows how serious AWS is in terms of saving the money for its customers. AWS leadership principle of customer obsession comes into play.
    • Cost-optimized network architectures has been added to this section. This link on AWS talks about cost optimization at all levels – a must read.

For the right reasons, the Define Operationally-Excellent Architectures domain has been removed in the new exam. In my IT experience, operational excellence is part of all the other domains that the new AWS exam is based on.

Time for all the training providers to update their course materials. Below are some important links that can help you for your preparation.

AWS Whitepapers

Practice Exam for C01 (new practice tests coming soon)

Sample C02 questions from AWS

Regardless of the format, the AWS preparation journeys shouldn’t change as much. Remember to check our website reviewNprep.com for all the AWS solution architect preparation journeys that can help you not only pass AWS certifications but ace the exam.

That’s it folks. Hope you found this article useful. In the next blog we will talk about AWS Certified Data Analytics – Specialty (formerly AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty).

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Author: Haman Sharma is certified AWS Solution Architect and founder of reviewNprep.com. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

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