How I Passed the AWS Cloud Practitioner Exam in Two Weeks for Free

Daniel Park
9 min readJul 19, 2023
AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Badge | Source: Credly

During the first few weeks of my software engineering internship this summer, my manager outlined that in the latter stages of our internship project, we would eventually deploy our product to AWS. Although I’ve worked with software since high school, I did not have much experience with AWS, let alone public cloud, and I wanted to learn more before heading into the project. Therefore, I decided to take the AWS Cloud Practitioner Exam to get myself familiar with AWS. I had previously played around with the idea of getting the certificate previously, but I never found the energy to prepare for it. And with the firm giving me a free voucher for the exam (normally $100), I decided to take the exam.

I scheduled my exam for two weeks ahead when I started through the AWS Certification Site to avoid falling into Parkinson’s Law and not procrastinate on my preparation. I recommend you also schedule your exam before your preparation to create a sense of urgency and avoid procrastinating, but even so, you are free to reschedule the exam up to two times before you have to cancel the exam (but with a free refund.)

Give yourself a deadline to avoid exam prep procrastination by scheduling the test early! | Source: Benjamin Hardy, PhD.

And after two weeks of preparation (one week of learning and one week of practice) I passed the exam, and to give back to the community on Reddit and blogs online for providing great resources, I have compiled all of the free resources available I used to prepare for the exam as well as what to expect on exam day. Although some of the resources I list below do have paid options, I used their free alternatives to prepare such as samplers or work-arounds. Given your experience and availability, feel free to either take more or less time to prepare for the exam.

In this article, I will cover the following topics (feel free to skip ahead as you please)

  1. About the Exam
  2. Learning Resources
  3. Practice Resources
  4. What to Expect on Your Online Test Day

About the Exam

The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Exam is a foundational certificate exam that exams on high-level understanding of AWS Cloud and its services. It is a great starting point if you’re someone with no prior IT or cloud experience and want foundational cloud literacy.

The exam is 65 questions given in a 90-minute period with either multiple choice or multiple response (select two correct answers out of five given) questions with no penalty for an incorrect answer. In order to pass the exam, you must get 70% of the questions correctly, or the equivalent of a 700 / 1000. You can view more information about the test and its non-exhaustive content with on the exam front page.

You can either take the exam in person at a test center or, alternatively, online on a personal computer, which is what I did and will go over the specifics of later in this post.

While I don’t believe it is extremely important to point this out, but for the sake of completeness, the question types covers four domains: Cloud Concepts, Security and Compliance, Technology, and Billing and Pricing and each domain will cover a specific percentage of the test. But don’t worry too much about this, I couldn’t really tell the difference between the types when practicing or taking the official test.

Learning Resources (1 Week)

First, I used the AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials Course as a primer to the major AWS services and concepts that come up on the test such as EC2, S3, and the Well-Architected Framework. While the content is easily digestible and the team behind the course did a great job of making the videos engaging, the course unfortunately does not cover all the topics that would come up on the exam such as Config, Athena, and accessory ML services.

Therefore, I supplemented my learning from the SkillBuilder course with the AWS Official Exam Guide that has a complete exam outline of the key tools, technologies, and concepts that might be covered on the exam.

AWS Cloud Practitioner (CLF-C01) Official Exam Guide | Source: AWS

For any unfamiliar service I encountered in the list, I looked it up on the official AWS Site and learned about it.

Practice Resources (1 Week)

As with every exam, the most important part of preparing for it is to do a lot of practice questions. Below is a compilation of over 1000 questions I used to prepare for the exam, in order of what you should complete first, as well as my thoughts on how useful they were in my preparation. As with the learning resources, all the resources I list below are all free online with payment options for their full versions.

AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials Final Exam (30 questions)

This is the final exam on the SkillBuilder course. It only predominantly covers content from the course, so it is not a good representation of everything that comes up on the exam, but it is a good starting point to see how much you know on the major services.

AWS Official Sample Exam Questions (10 Questions)

These are sample questions from AWS, although they are easy in comparison to what you would expect on the exam. Similar to the SkillBuilder questions, you can use this as a starting point to see where you are when it comes to service familiarity.

AWS Cloud Practitioner Official Sample Exam Questions | Source: AWS

TutorialsDojo Cloud Practitioner Exam Prep (20 questions)

While the full paid version for 260 questions is about $11, the trial version has free questions with extensive explanations after completing them as well as external links to free YouTube courses if you need review on a service. You can either use the questions in review mode, where you get the answers right after you submit a response for a question, or in test mode where you do the twenty questions under timed conditions. If you wanted to pay for quality questions with great explanations, I recommend getting these.

WhizLab’s Free Questions (30 questions)

Another great resource to use that have questions that cover all the major topics of the exam as well as explanations of how the exam is usually formatted. However, the explanation and answers being uncovered before you even attempt the questions may be annoying at first.

DigitalCloud Free Exam Questions (20 questions)

Another good resource you have access to and provides a good exam simulation for test day (albeit only 20 questions to make you pay for the full version of their course)

ExamTopics Free Exam Questions (990 questions & Counting)

This was my main resource for practicing after I used the above resources, as this is an extensive full database of questions that get continually updated, and is an amazing (and free!) practice resource you can take advantage on. If you are lucky enough, you may see a problem from here that comes up on the exam! Although some of the answers for the questions are based on votes, there is a dedicated discussion for each question that discusses why each answer is correct, which was incredibly useful for preparation.

What to Expect on your Online Exam Day

So now you’ve arrived to test day, now what? A lot of resource blogs tend to end here, and resources about what to expect on test day are seldom and limited to Reddit comments. Here’s everything you need to know for the online test day so all you have to worry about is the exam itself! (Although I cannot write about the in-person experience since I have not done that myself)

Take the AWS Cloud Practitioner Exam online via OnVUE | Source: Tutorials Dojo

Before the Test

When you register for the exam. You will receive an email from Pearson Vue to download the required testing software for your computer. Be sure to download the software and run a diagnostic exam through Pearson to ensure that everything is ready for test day. This is required to do before the exam so you don’t run into any issues.

When you get up to your test time, you will have a window of 30 minutes before and 15 minutes after you scheduled exam date to check in. You want to ensure you have a clean desk, including anything in the background in front of you, outside of your computer and a water bottle. The check-in period is extremely extensive, as you have to take and upload pictures of your work area and surroundings before the proctor can clear you for the exam. I don’t think I have to say this, but be sure to keep your surroundings for the test as work-friendly as possible!

During the Test

In addition to the check-in, there is extensive monitoring by your main proctor and multiple assistant proctors before and during your exam to ensure that no one is cheating on the exam. Any suspicious activity, including mumbling to yourself whether intentional or not, will be flagged by the proctors for potential fraud. For example, I was flagged with two warnings after part of my head was not in view of my webcam and was given a final warning about an hour into my exam before it could have been revoked.

While you are not allowed a pen/pencil and paper to write down notes as you go, there is a tab for each question where you can type your notes. I used this tab to eliminate any responses I knew were incorrect and typing out concepts that were relevant for the question such as writing out the full Cloud Adoption Framework for a cloud adoption related question.

You can also flag each question for review, and after you go through the end of your first pass, the exam has a great feature where you can view only the questions you have flagged or all the questions.

After the Test

After you submit your test and complete a short survey on the test experience, the platform will automatically tell you whether you passed or not. If you passed: congratulations! You will receive your full score and certificate a couple of days after the exam. If you haven’t: don’t worry! AWS does not limit the amount of retakes you get. Reflect on where you struggled in the exam and what you could do to improve it so you can focus on strengthening these areas.

Starting off your cloud journey with the AWS Cloud Practitioner Exam is a great way to get yourself exposure to AWS, and you can get a shiny certificate badge out of it too

AWS Cloud Practitioner Certificate I received after a couple of days

While you’re down here, please leave a comment on how you did on the test or if there is anything I should add or leave on this blog so it would be helpful for others who are preparing. And if you liked it, feel free to share this with others so they can be ready for test day as well!

Good luck on your exam, and happy learning!

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Daniel Park

"The best way to learn is to teach" - Frank Oppenheimer