I wanted to start out by mentioning that this blog post is not at all an extensive guide or course on how to study and pass the AWS Certified Developer - Associate (DVA-C01) exam. This post will aim to provide some tips, advice and quality free resources that can be used when preparing to sit the AWS CDA. Let’s envision success in the form of seeing a “PASS” on that final screen and work our way back from there!

General Advice

  • Sometimes it needs to be re-iterated that these kinds of exams are not the measure of intelligence. If you are sitting this exam and you happen to fail, please do not be too hard on yourself. Things happen and every failure is chance for future growth.
  • Know the general feel of the exam. For the DVA-C01, this comes in the form of this Exam Guide. You do not need to be an expert in the layout of the exam in order to pass. You simply need to be aware that there are a limited number of questions you can expect to receive based on each area. You won’t have 65 straight questions about Cognito, ELB and IAM only. What you can expect is a mix of questions that cover various areas per the official guide.
  • Pace yourself during the exam. A lot of folks read that as “take your time”, but it’s more “know your time remaining” which is key to focus on. You have 130 minutes to answer 65 questions. Some questions you will answer easily with confidence, so there is no need to spend extra time deliberating on an answer. Others will need some extra attention and thought, so spend your time wisely.
    • In addition to the above point, try and keep enough time to review your questions at least once before submission. It’s a great “double-check” in case you may have missed a crucial keyword in a question.
  • The exam consists of 65 questions, but using a “scaled scoring” model. This means that if you receive a particularly difficult exam with objectively harder questions, you only need to answer fewer of these correctly than the inverse. This is quite fair if you think about it; for an objectively easier exam there are more “gimme” questions you can answer easily, versus an objectively harder exam you receive leniency in the number of correct answers required to pass.
  • Perform as many practice tests under time constraints as possible. Some practice exams you may take are far easier than the actual certification exam and some are extremely harder. Do enough to get a feel for the time and that will provide you with confidence in a good outcome.
  • Read up on particular AWS Service FAQs and White-papers to help conceptualize the topics in your mind to a greater degree.

Exam Specific Advice

I have put together a list of knowledge areas per AWS service that should hopefully help with the questions asked in the exam. To ensure this blog post is readable, the full list can be viewed here

Helpful, quality FREE resources

  • There are lot of free practice questions that can easily be found with a quick Google search “free aws certified developer exam questions”. However, be warned that a lot of these websites that offer sample questions are sometimes not at all relevant for the AWS Certified Developer Associate exam. There is one particular site that asked countless questions just about EC2, so do your research and you’ll spot the good from bad pretty quickly.
  • I particularly enjoy the CQ: The AWS Certification Quiz Show streams - I find the host MJ really engaging with the experts and the questions themselves are pretty challenging! The episodes that relate to the DVA-C01 exam are:
  • If you have no trouble answering any questions from these videos you will have no issues on the exam! I personally found the questions from this show tricky with a lot of second-guessing, but they are a great resource.
  • Courtsey of Viktoria Semaan and their post there are some great practice questions available here
  • The Exam Readiness: AWS Certified Developer – Associate (Digital) course by AWS is a fantastic review of the key areas of the AWS CDA exam. It is well worth the time commitment (maybe a couple of hours?), gives you a good sense of how to answer the exam questions, and most importantly, its free!

A Cloud Guru

  • Important note: I am not at all sponsored or affiliated with A Cloud Guru 😄
  • If you are the kind of person that learns best with structured, course based material, I strongly recommend a subscription to A Cloud Guru. I took the AWS Certified Developer - Associate 2020 by Faye Ellis and found it incredibly useful. I personally learn best with a mix of these video courses, lab challenges and reading topics so the pace and course breakdown worked great for my learning style. Faye also explains topics very well and is an engaging instructor.
  • A Cloud Guru also provides an interesting practice exam where there is a bank of 294 questions and each exam attempt pulls 65 of those questions. I find this great as these practice exams provide you the answers to each question and a breakdown in score of each section. The AWS official practice exams do not provide the answer per questions, just an overall percentage which is less helpful.
  • A Cloud Guru is very neat in that there are dedicated AWS Playgrounds for your account (depending on the subscription you have) and these are invaluable when it comes to testing out various different AWS services without fear of a huge bill 🙂


  • Understand the exam structure
  • Undertake practice tests as much as you can
  • Consider A Cloud Guru if you are a course-minded learner 😉