There has been a lot of buzz in the AWS world since mid-January about the newly re-released Security Specialty Beta Exam. After having done a lot of research with my AWS Security Essentials course here on Linux Academy, I felt like I was moderately prepared to sit for the exam. After all, you get a voucher for a retake if you do not pass the beta exam. What did I have to lose?
The format of the exam was multiple choice, with both single response and multiple response questions (same as the other AWS exams). I had 180 minutes to complete roughly 70 questions. I felt that this was plenty of time even though some of the questions were longer, scenario-based questions. If you have tested with AWS recently, you should be comfortable with this exam format.
Without violating any NDAs I signed with AWS, I would like to give an overview of the topics and services I saw on the exam. KMS and IAM were the most covered in the exam followed by CloudTrail and Config. CloudWatch Logs were covered as well. S3 is also a great topic to review regarding how IAM, bucket, and object policies work. Lastly, you should be able to differentiate between Systems Manager, Config, and Inspector and the best uses of each.
If you are interested in taking this exam, I would suggest the following materials:
- AWS Security Essentials Course: Although this course wasn’t intended for this exam, it does give background on many of the services that a student may not have a lot of experience with.
- AWS Security and Compliance Whitepapers: They are all listed on this page under the third category.
- AWS Security Best Practices Whitepapers
- 2017 Re: Invent videos about security, especially the 300 and 400 level ones. The complete archive of these videos can be found here (scroll down to the SID prefix).
The exam requirements state that you must hold another AWS certification to take this exam. My honest opinion is to hold at least an associate-level certification before attempting this exam. There are a lot of advanced topics that someone with a Cloud Practitioner certification may not have grasped or experienced yet.
One interesting change I noticed was the scoring. In this exam, scoring goes from 1 to 1000 with a minimum passing score of 750. This is much different than the other exams I’ve taken where scores range from 1 to 100, and the passing score is somewhere around 70. I wonder if the passing score will fluctuate like the other exams. I wonder this because I have no idea what my score was. In beta exams, scores are not available until 90 days or so from the end of the beta period. For the Security Specialty exam, the end of the beta period is March 2, 2018. It could be the beginning of June before I know my score.
This exam was a fun experience. For me, there was very little stress knowing I get a voucher to retake it if I did not pass the beta and the exam goes live. That voucher is good for the first year the exam is live. Considering the beta is half-price, it is a great deal. If your experiences differed from this, we would love to hear from you. Visit us in our community on our website or message us in Slack.