Taking the AWS Certificate Exam Online

Robert Koch, Enterprise Architect

07 April 2020

I was about to schedule an AWS certification exam when everything was on hold due to the desire to maintain social distancing and keeping everyone healthy and safe. Regardless of your views, it's important to play it safe rather than risking our lives especially when there are many unknowns involving COVID-19. In light of the situtation, it's understandable that all exam centers were closed.

When I heard that AWS Training & Certifications in partnership with Pearson VUE had announced they will open up online testing, I immediately booked an exam two weeks out! Amazing to see the schedule being open to all hours of the day and weekend, 24/7, meaning you're not restricted to business hours of your local testing centers. This is wonderful as I can take the exam outside my working hours, plus I was able to book it sooner than expected, and at a unbusiness-like 5pm local time!

I've already got real curious about how my experience with it will be, especially when it pertains to me being a deaf person. Will the online proctor demand that I speak/interact over the microphone? Will they ask me to take my computer and walk around the room with it with the webcam on to be sure I'm not hiding notes? Will they ask me all sorts of questions proving my identity? There are many unknowns going into the online exam especailly in regards to accessiblity. Maybe I'll get a waiver for free exam if I've found a systematic flaw, yeah!

After two weeks of reading whitepapers, watching acloud.guru videos, and playing around with AWS services mentioned in the exam guide, I felt ready to take the exam. A little before the exam time, I assembled the family and emphasized to the kiddos to NOT enter the room and make too much noise in the house, or I can automatically fail the exam. I don't know what kind of punishment I would dole out if that happened -- err, let's not think about it, I need to pass the exam! I didn't know how strignet proctors will be so wanted to err on the side of caution. With nervous sigh, closed and locked the door to my bedroom where I had moved a table desk and chair in. In addition to the typical pre-exam jitters, I had to get myself steeled up and ready to identify any accessibility gaps and point them out. Waived fee... c'mon, c'mon.

Started following instructions in the email sent to me when I registered for the exam. Signed in and got an access code, entered the phone number in case they need to reach me. Using the access code and the link texted to my mobile phone, went to the mobile website where it instructed me to take a selfie, photos of my ID - front and back, and four photos of the room I am taking the exam in. Invasive, but thinking it's better than having, say, an asymptomatic person at your home! After uploading the photos, the software on the laptop went through a systems check to be sure three items are checked off: mic is on, webcam is on, and ample internet speed. I think I was presentable to a point too.

The screen loaded and I see myself on a video with an "Recording" indicator. The intro screen warns you to not move your head away from the view of the camera or you will fail the exam. Dare I stretch my neck?? The software locked your computer down to the point where you cannot exit the screen except there's an "Exit" button if you really need to get out of its shackles, but, of course, would result in a failed exam! Bummer, I still have my mobile phone near me so decided to risk being out of view of the camera and move it across the room out of arms reach. I figured since the exam hasn't actually started yet, it'd be safe to do so at this point. The screen also has a whiteboard (think MS Paint) and a chat icon. Decided to proactively inform the online proctor that I'm deaf and if there are any issues, please chat. Got the acknolwedgement from the proctor with a very nonchalant "Ok". Hum, no drama. Now, the 'Next' button takes you into the world of what-ifs -- seeya in 2 hours...

Win! AWS Certificate number 4! This time the AWS Developers Associate Certification exam! The pre-exam experience and jitters are interesting to say the least, but all in all, a very positive experience and something I would be good to go through again. I don't have any qualms about how it was proctored nor did I find any glaring accessibility gaps. All, regardless of whatever situtation we got ourselves in with distancing, I still encourage you to get certified as it gives you credibility among your peers and up your game in terms of what you can contribute to the increasingly cloud-dependent economy.