5 non-technical tips to pass AWS CLF-C02 certification

Romell Avendaño
9 min readApr 2, 2024

As James Clear says in his book Atomic Habits “You don’t rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

So here are 5 strategies I used while studying to pass AWS CLF-C02 certification

Image from ChatGPT4
  1. Mnemonics will make your life easier.
  2. Set your OKR
  3. Ask ChatGPT
  4. Used spaced repetition
  5. Join a study group or start one

Mnemonics will make your life easier

Image from ChatGPT4

The amount of services and topics that AWS has can become really overwhelming at some point, in fact, it seems like there is no end to what there is to learn, however I started to apply a technique to make it easier for me to remember and learn so many things and that was, create my own mnemonic words.

For example, I remember that it was very hard for me to learn the CAF perspectives, and when I half learned it, I confused it with the pillars of the Well-Architecture Framework, it was really a disaster, until I applied this technique to both topics.

Now for me CAF is a meaningful phrase that says:
Great Business Operations Secures People and Plattaform.”

I know that the word “Great” in the CAF does not exist as a perspective, so I replace it by the correct one which is “Governance”, taking as a base the same letter “G”. Finally the 6 perspectives remain: Governance, Business, Operations, Security, People, Plattform.

[CAF](https://aws.amazon.com/cloud-adoption-framework/?nc1=h_ls)

In a similar way I did with the Well-Architecture Framework, I created an acronym to remember it: ESF-ER-OS or ESFEROS.

In this case the acronym stands for:
E: Operational Excellence
S: Safety
F: Reliability
ER: Performance Effectiveness
O: Cost Optimization
S: Sustainability

Remember that these terms were created by me, that is, they mean NOTHING IN THE AWS WORLD, and maybe they don’t make sense to you either, I just made them up so I could memorize and remember them.

So here the recommendation is: create your own acronyms and mnemonic words for things that you do not remember or that are very complex to memorize, and if creating these words can be a bit complicated, ask for help to our friend ChatGPT.

Set your OKRs

Image from ChatGPT4

Spending time studying and reviewing is important, so is having a clear and measurable direction, otherwise you will be adrift.

It is important that during your certification journey you can ask yourself questions like:

  • How do I know I am making progress in reaching my goal?
  • Will what I know now be enough?
  • Do I need to dedicate more time?
  • Am I studying the right way?

Establishing a clear, concrete and measurable goal is essential to keep your efforts aligned with the result(s) you want to obtain from those efforts.

That’s why setting out OKR-style metrics could help you to efficiently channel that effort and dedication, and ultimately result in the achievement of certification.

Writing OKR might seem silly, quite easy and even unnecessary to do, but when you take the time to do it, you realize that it is not that easy, that it actually requires some time and intellect to be a really useful ally to your cause, so the recommendation here at the outset that I could tell you is: It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be functional. Take some time to think about it and write it in a way that they are clear and challenging enough to move forward, but not so much that it forces you to give up, and once you have it, stick to them, be a guarantor of compliance and monitoring, also establish a frequency of evaluation, for example, I dedicated every Sunday night to review the progress of my OKR, to update them and even to rethink them if I felt that something was not clear or if they were heading in a different direction to the one I was interested in.

I share with you my OKRs at the time of taking my certification exam:

Objective: Submit and pass the AWS CLF-C02 certification within Q1–2024.

KR1: Review with Anki every day for 10–15min.

KR2: Take at least two mock exams per month.

KR3: Obtain a passing score of 80% on the mock exams.

KR4: Study/review AWS material 4 days per week for 30min.

KR5: Do a OnePage of what you learned during the week every Sunday.

Regarding tracking you can use any application that allows you to configure and keep track of habits. There are many on the market for both Android and iOS. I used the paid version of HabitNow which allowed me a high customization and a lot of ease when recording my KRs compliance.

Capture from my HabitNow App

Keep in mind that these OKRs are the ones that worked for me, the ones that adapted better to my pace of life and time availability, so take them simply as what they are: an example that will inspire you to elaborate your own.

Something important here: Perhaps the most experienced with OKR would find deficiencies in the wording of my objective or KR, and I’m sure they can be improved, so if you like to write me in the comments and let me know those blind spots to incorporate them in my next challenges, then excellent, I appreciate it. But in any case the invitation remains the same: take the time and write your OKRs, follow them up, update them, rethink them if necessary and execute them again, but do not abandon or discard them, it is a really powerful tool.

Ask ChatGPT

Image from ChatGPT4

ChatGPT, regardless of the version, can give you support in a very didactic way in relation to understanding some services.

For example ask him to describe to you as if you were 5 years old, how does this or that service work, or why is it important?
So for example, if you want to understand how AWS CloudFront works, you could say something like:

ChatGP4 conversation

Now if the level is too low you can ask him to explain it to you from your particular role or expertise.

ChatGPT4 conversation

And voila! He has explained it to you at a level according to the expertise you indicated and also with a very particular vision of importance for that role, very different from an architect, a web developer, and of course a 5 year old child.

Here the key is that you can use it as support, and I repeat AS SUPPORT, in the understanding of some topics that may initially escape your understanding. It is also very useful for him to explain to you how two services that might seem similar in reality are not, so ask him to explain the differences or make a comparative table about it.

But remember that ChatGPT is still an experimental tool and could be wrong. So my recommendation here is, when you have any doubt and you need “someone” to explain you, this is an excellent option to move forward, but always validate against the official AWS information.

Use spaced repetition

Image from ChatGPT4

The world of AWS is incredibly large, so much so that trying to remember it all can be a bit overwhelming.

For this, the strategy I used was to use spaced repetition in the form of flashcards. At first I started doing them physically (paper and pencil) but soon realized that the volume of information might not be the best or most efficient method. So I started using: [Anki — powerful, intelligent flashcards](https://apps.ankiweb.net/)

Anki is a very easy to use, customizable, cross-platform and totally free application that allows you to create your own decks of cards with the concepts that are most difficult for you to learn, and thus study them through the application to strengthen them in your long-term memory.

Here I would like to emphasize that using Anki by itself does not have any results, it is only a tool, that is, if you do not feed your deck constantly with the new information that you discover and do not use it constantly, and by that I mean: every day, it simply will not work. Establish a daily or inter-daily study plan, with a minimum amount of time, 5, 10 or however many minutes you want, and commit to practice. At first you may find it a little difficult, but over time you will gain knowledge and confidence.

Anki also provides incredible statistics automatically, so you will be able to see in detail the progress of your learning with the use of this tool.

Capture from my Anki Desktop App

Join a study group or start one

Image from ChatGPT4

I first started studying for the certification about a year ago, around May 2023 with a co-worker. We met once a week and after about two months my friend gave up and I found myself studying on my own intermittently for another month or two until I finally gave up.

My second attempt was much more structured and also more ambitious at the beginning of November 2023, in the sense of preparing and publishing a scheduled study program, calling a community of people interested in getting certified, to take the official AWS course week by week (one module = one week). This time the call had a much bigger push with a little more than 20 participants.

Finally, from that team of 23 people, only 3 of us (including me) remained until the end of the course. In other words, we had an impressive attrition during the following weeks, for different reasons, most of them of a personal nature, but the 3 people who made it to the end were the right people for this challenge, in the sense of support, commitment and motivation. Having a support network can make a huge difference in achieving your goals, here I talk more about it:

My recommendation here is: look among your colleagues and friends, those who are interested in this challenge, prepare a plan, present it, add them and be the wind that guides that ship. I assure you that your personal motivation is a great motivator for others.

Final Thoughts

Although these strategies are framed in the context of AWS as non-technical tips to help you on your own path to certification, if we remove that label, we can see that they are much broader, and potentially applicable in many different contexts, so that is my final message: an invitation to take hold of these simple but powerful ideas, incorporate them into your own day to day toolkit, don’t just copy them, take them to another level, challenge them, customize them and improve them, I assure you that the resulting product will be an incredible learning experience and success in your certification. Good luck!

All images were generated with ChatGPT4 in a minimalist, Victorian style. Why? Just for fun. 😝

I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to dive into this reading. Your support means a lot, and I’m genuinely thrilled you’re a part of this journey. 😊 🤖 🪐

Your thoughts, opinions, and feedback are invaluable to me. I’d love to hear what resonated with you or any ideas you might have. So, don’t hesitate to drop a comment or reach out — let’s keep the conversation going!

Until next time wonderful readers. 🚀 😎

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Romell Avendaño

Life is a DIY project, that's why I write about technology, innovation, productivity and more. Also I'm Obsidian Fan and I assure you I'm not a robot) 🤖