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From the inside of an Amazon certification exam

Amazon certifications has really evolved over the years. When I started my certification path there was 5 certificates, three associate and two professionals. This has now evolved into a full program with a total of 11 certs ranging from the foundational Cloud Practitioner to several Specialty certifications.


When I passed my first professional exam at Re:Invent in 2017 I actually thought the questions were really bad. It was almost as much of a reading exercise as an AWS exam. Over the years this has changed a lot and Amazon has really stepped up their game. 

One of the things that has been done is the introduction of the Subject Matter Expert (SME) program. The basics behind that program is to allow experts, within different fields, contribute to the certifications exams in an Item development workshop (IDW).

An IDW is a workshop gathering Subject Matter Experts from all over the world, to create, design, and review questions for a particular AWS certification. 

I got the chance to participate in an IDW for the Alexa Skill Builder - Specialty certification in London at the end of August. 

There are a lot of details that I can’t share with you, but I will try to explain my experience becoming a Certification SME. 

How it all started. 

During Re:Invent 2018  I was talking to one of the SME program managers in the Certification Lounge. It all sounded so interesting that I just had to sign up for the program. To sign up for the program log into the training and certification portal and your certification account, navigate to benefits and opt in for the program. Or come to Re:Invent and make sure to talk to the SME program managers. 

Start of the Alexa IDW 

During early summer one of the program managers reached out to me and asked if I was interested in participating in an IDW for the Alexa Skill Builder Certification, of course I was after exchanging a couple of e-mail I was basically on my way to London. 

The workshop 

Day one started with an introduction to the workshop, what we were going to do, the goals, and the how-to. And of course, a traditional around the room to get to know each other a little better. In the group we were 17 people from all over the world, some had traveled all the way from Australia. We had a nice mix of Amazonians and external SMEs. 

Our two workshop facilitators set clear expectations and guided us through how to write good questions, and examples of not so good questions. 

On the whiteboard in the room was a listing of all topics we were supposed to write questions against and how many questions was needed for that topic. When we had created a question and submitted it for review, we changed the number on the whiteboard. This was a really motivating way of doing it and everyone could track the progress.

We mixed individual item writing with group review, where we all got the chance to voice our opinion and making the questions even better. 

Even though Amazon provided us with some nice snacks, coffee, soft drinks, and more my head was a total mess when the day ended. This was so much harder than I thought.

snacksOn day two the item development continued in the same way as the first. We mixed item writing with group review. I really enjoyed the review part, that felt really rewarding. 


We ended the day with a fantastic group dinner with a lot of laughs and a fantastic time. 

The final day started with a handout of some great swag, I will definitely wear the sweater at Re:Invent this year. If you see me there, come say hi! 



The whiteboard had also been updated with the progress and the new goal for the day was.whiteboard

The conclusion 

Participating in an IDW was one of the best things I have done. Not only did I get to contribute to a top of line certification program I also got an inside view of the amount of work that goes into an exam. I really appreciate the one I have already been sitting and the one I will sit in the future so much more now. I will participate again if I’m given the chance. 

I had so much fun and met 18 amazing people!! 

If you get the chance to come to an IDW, don’t hesitate! Just come!