Study Guide: AWS Certified Developer Associate (DVA-C01) Exam

This article is a complete guide on how to prepare for the AWS Certified Developer Associate Exam (DVA-C01) which needs to be completed in order to become an AWS Certified Developer Associate. This is an in-demand certification because it proves your skill at developing for the AWS platform, which has seen consistent growth over the last decade. By the end of this guide, you will learn exactly what you need to do to be prepared to pass the DVA-C01 exam on your very first attempt.

Passing the AWS Certified Developer Associate Exam DVA-C01 on your very first attempt is not hard, just make sure you know these topics very well:

  • Deploying Code & Apps on AWS
  • Authentication & Security on AWS
  • AWS Coding & Development
  • Refactoring, Optimizing & Migrating Code
  • Monitoring, Analyzing & Troubleshooting

Developers who achieve this certification are more likely to be employed by companies that utilize AWS for their cloud infrastructure. Advanced topic areas include application development, integrations with third-party systems and databases, and continuous integration and delivery. DVA-C01 demonstrates that you have learned the necessary foundation to successfully develop for all AWS services. Without any further ado, let’s jump into the guide.

What Skills Are Tested on the DVA-C01 AWS Certified Developer Exam?

The entire exam consists of multiple-choice and multiple-response questions. In particular, you will be tested on your knowledge of writing, deploying, refactoring and monitoring applications on AWS that you have developed. The AWS Certified Developer Exam (DVA-C01) is broken down into 5 content sections, as follows:

Domain% of Examination
Deploying Code & Applications22% of your score
Authentication & Security26% of your score
AWS Coding & Development30% of your score
Refactoring, Optimizing & Migrating Code10% of your score
Monitoring, Analyzing & Troubleshooting12% of your score

While you will not be scored directly on your ability to write code, you will still need to understand code to solve the multiple-choice questions you are presented with. This means you will need to understand programming principles, even if you’re not familiar with a particular programming language. It should also be noted that you’re not being tested on your knowledge of a particular programming language, but instead on your ability to develop specifically for AWS.

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How to Prepare for the DVA-C01 AWS Certified Developer Exam?

Obviously, if you’ve never messed with AWS, you shouldn’t take this exam immediately, but first, prepare and learn the prerequisite knowledge, but even AWS veterans should spend some time studying and refreshing themselves on the subject. If you learn what you need to learn before taking the exam, it should be a breeze, so let’s dive into what you can do to prepare yourself for the exam.

Since this certification is all about AWS, you should understand the core services that they provide. In addition to that, you’re expected to understand the underlying philosophy behind AWS architecture. Before taking this exam, you should have practiced developing, deploying and debugging applications on the AWS platform, but you must keep security best practices in mind. To be clear, these are prerequisites that you’re expected to already know, but I recommend even seasoned AWS veterans refresh themselves on these subjects before approaching the exam.

There are some other prerequisites, such as experience coding in a high-level programming language, proper usage of containers and module development. If you’re interested in this certification, it makes sense that you would have some previous programming experience.

However, even if you lack some or all of the prerequisite knowledge that I’ve outlined, you can get yourself fully up to speed and prepared for the exam by taking this A-to-Z course on Pluralsight. This course is designed for anyone, including complete beginners up-to seasoned veterans and everyone in between, and will fully prepare you to pass the exam on your first try. If you’re not familiar with Pluralsight, check out my Pluralsight review here.

Exam Part 1 of 5: Deploying Code & Apps on AWS

The first section of the exam is meant to test your ability to deploy code and apps on AWS. This means you’re going to need a firm understanding of the foundations of AWS, including knowledge of EC2, Virtual Private Clouds and RDS databases. The initial portion of the exam is exclusively focused on deployment, so you should have practical, hands-on experience writing and deploying applications in every scenario.

You will need to clearly illustrate your ability to deploy code using continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD.) In general, this is called the CI/CD pipeline, and it refers to the best-practice methodology that enables you to deliver code revisions frequently and reliably. This means understanding development patterns, processes and automation pipelines that help feed into the CI/CD pipeline.

To finish up on the first section of the exam, you will be preparing deployment packages, as well as using Elastic Beanstalk to deploy applications, and finally demonstrating your ability to deploy serverless applications.

Exam Part 2 of 5: Authentication & Security on AWS

This section is pretty straight-forward in terms of what you should expect. It covers all the best-practices you need to know in order to securely utilize AWS. However, even though this section is easy, it seems that in the real-world a lot of developers neglect security in practice. This is why every week there seems to be a news story about an unsecured S3 bucket leaking sensitive information or causing a data breach. Luckily, those who pass the exam to become an AWS Certified Developer Associate have demonstrated that they know how to properly implement security procedures on AWS.

The exam asks the developer to illustrate that they know how to properly authenticate calls to AWS, that they can properly implement encryption on AWS, and that they know how to implement authentication on applications.

Exam Part 3 of 5: AWS Coding & Development

It should come as no surprise that the section is responsible for the largest percentage of your grade. That’s because this section is focused on developing for AWS, which is what the entire exam and certification are all about.

To start with, you will be required to show your knowledge of writing code designed for serverless apps. You will also need to demonstrate that you can take written “functionality requirements” and figure out the ideal application design to meet those requirements. The ability to take application design requirements and translate that into functional code is also tested. The section ends by forcing you to show that you can write code that works with Amazon APIs and SDKs, including the AWS Command Line Interface (CLI.)

Exam Part 4 of 5: Refactoring, Optimizing & Migrating Code

The exam is almost over at this point, and while the 4th section comprises only 10% of your grade, the lowest weighted section of the exam, it is still highly critical that you know how to refactor and optimize your code.

In this section, you will be tested on your ability to rewrite code in order to optimize it to extract the maximum potential of AWS services and features. After you’ve done that, the section follows up by testing your ability to migrate a preexisting code so that it runs on AWS.

Exam Part 5 of 5: Monitoring, Analyzing & Troubleshooting

Unfortunately for developers, it is rare that code functions perfectly or as needed over the lifecycle of an application. That means you will need to be able to monitor your applications and analyze them to detect issues that arise now, and in the future.

The final portion of the exam tests your ability to monitor the code that you have written. In addition to that, you will be scored on your ability to accurately use “root cause analysis” on any errors or issues found in your testing or production environment.

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Final Advice on Preparing for the DVA-C01 Exam

This is a technical exam, and as such, there are distinct correct answers that are hidden among several “distractor” answers which are wrong. No one can guess their way through this exam, so if you’re not prepared you shouldn’t bother taking it and wasting your time and money. Instead, you should study every aspect of the exam beforehand, so that when you do take the test, you pass it with flying colors.

One tactic that will ensure your success is to take an online course that is designed to teach you everything you need to know to pass. For example, this Udemy course on DVA-C01 walks you through the entirety of the subject, giving you all the knowledge needed to pass the test, plus insights on the most commonly asked questions, how to answer them with the utmost ease, and over 18 hours of video tutorials to walk you through the entire learning process. If you’re not familiar with Udemy, you can check out my review of Udemy here.

Once you’ve completed that course, you will know everything you need to know to pass the DVA-C01 exam. However, the exam costs $150 USD, so before risking that kind of money, it makes sense to pick up this 4 pack of practice exams on Udemy. These practice exams are from the same author who produced the course I recommended, so these tests are a natural follow up when you’ve completed that course.

The same author is also an expert in Apache Kafka. In case you also want to learn how to prepare for Apache Kafka CCDAK certification exam, please read our guide on that as well.

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Passing the DVA-C01 Exam on your First Attempt

As I mentioned, the DVA-C01 exam costs $150 per attempt, which means you will lose out on a good chunk of cash if you fail the test. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to do proper preparation before taking the exam. In this section, I am going to outline everything you should do in order to pass the test on the first attempt, after all, there is no reason to pay for the exam multiple times if you don’t have to.

To start off, after reading this guide, ask yourself: do I feel like I know everything that the DVA-C01 requires me to know? If you cannot confidently answer YES to this question, then you should not risk taking the test now. Remember, this test is either a “pass” or a “fail” so there is no room for mistakes. You will score between 100 to 1000, but you need to score 720 points or more on the test to pass.

If you cannot confidently say that you would pass the exam right now, then you need to train yourself until you reach the point where you can confidently say that you will pass the test. Luckily, you can gain that confidence by taking any of the courses I recommended earlier in the article. In addition to that, here is another great Udemy course on becoming an AWS Certified Developer Associate. This course starts at the beginning and will teach you the skills and knowledge you will need to operate at your best on AWS. Skills such as programming, operations, engineering, security, and cloud infrastructure development are all covered.

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Tips & Tricks on How to Study to Become an AWS Certified Developer Associate

Amazon Web Services has become a technological pillar for many companies and their online infrastructure. This means that becoming an AWS Certified Developer Associate helps to separate you from the IT crowd, clearly illustrating that you’ve mastered the AWS ecosystem and can develop enterprise solutions for the cloud. So how do you properly study for such a monumental certification?

Well, to start, I still recommend taking an A-to-Z course on the exam, like the ones I mentioned previously. With these courses, you’re going to have a clear path from beginning your journey as an aspiring AWS developer to the end, where you are issued your certification as an AWS master.

Apart from those courses I mentioned, I do have some specific advice that will help you. Specifically, you should take notes. Not just a few scribbles here and there, but instead, while you’re watching video tutorials or reading through courses, pause every time you learn something new and write it down. This will help to cement in your brain the new knowledge that you’ve learned so that it doesn’t go in one ear and out the other.

The next bit of advice is practical for any mental activity, and that is to get plenty of rest, eat healthy meals, drink water and get some exercise. If you’ve ever tried to study while sleep-deprived, or while depressed from a poor diet and lack of exercise… well, then you know that it is not ideal. Treat your body and mind well and you will find that studying takes less time and is more effective.

Finally, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty by practicing on AWS itself. Ideally, you should already have an AWS account and some EC2 instances up and running. If not, that’s okay, you can dip your toes in the water for free. If you haven’t signed up, you can probably grab a coupon for some free time on AWS as well. Taking one of the courses I recommended, in conjunction with practicing on AWS itself, will help you to become a seasoned AWS Certified Developer Associate in no time.

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Registering & Taking the AWS Certified Developer Associate Exam (DVA-C01)

Once you have completely mastered the required subject matter for the exam, you’re ready to take the test. You can register for the test and schedule your exam here. The test will take just over 2 hours to take, so you should set aside 3 hours just to be safe.

There are two methods of taking the test:

  • Schedule your exam at an approved testing center. However, some people do not live near an approved testing facility or cannot schedule it in for whatever reason.
  • Test online using a proctored exam. If you’re not familiar, a proctored exam utilizes software to monitor your computer, webcam, and browsers to minimize your ability to cheat during the exam. Proctored exams are reviewed by a human being to ensure that the test was not tampered with.

After you complete your exam, you will be given a graded score from 100 to 1000. The score is broken down into the 5 exam sections, with each section getting its own score. You will need a total score of 720 or higher to pass, and you can pass the exam even if you fail a particular category.

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Concluding Thoughts

Hopefully, you’ve found this preparation guide handy in covering what you need to do to prepare for the test. In the modern world of IT, Amazon Web Services have become an essential service for billion-dollar companies across the globe. This makes AWS developers a rare and valued resource, which in turn means that AWS Certified Developers are never without work.

The DVA-C01 exam will put your practical and theoretical knowledge of AWS development to the test. To be prepared for the exam means you know the ins and outs of AWS development. This means you can’t fake your way through the exam, but instead must study and learn the practical knowledge that is required. This is why taking a course that covers everything you need to learn is recommended. Trying to piece together all the required knowledge on your own is a waste of time when other experts have already compiled everything you need to know in order to pass on your first attempt.

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