I Passed the AWS Certified Database – Specialty Beta Exam – Tips and Tricks

The results are out for the beta exam (DB1-C01) of the AWS Certified Database – Specialty, and I’m happy to share that I passed and gained the credential.

AWS Certified Database – Specialty credential awarded to Diwa del Mundo

The beta exam is difficult. To give you an idea of the difficulty level of the exam, the AWS Certified Database – Specialty is a cross between the Solutions Architect – Professional, SysOps Administrator – Associate, and Security – Specialty except that it is focused on AWS database services. 

I relied heavily on the exam guide to determine focus areas. Since it is a beta exam, figuring out the exam coverage is critical. AWS is advocating “purpose-built” databases, which provides a paradigm shift on how architects and developers should look at modern data stores. Here is a good article that discusses purpose-built databases:


From the article: “The days of one-size-fits-all, monolithic databases are behind us. As Werner Vogels, CTO and VP of Amazon.com, said: “Seldom can one database fit the needs of multiple distinct use cases.” In the past, web applications were constructed by using the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP), where a single database was used for many different experiences. “

Based on the article, it provided me a north-star for exam preparation. I booked the exam on the last day of the beta period, but I only started preparation during the last week of December 2019. 

I focused my efforts heavily on the following:

Amazon Aurora

AWS Database Migration Service (DMS) and AWS Schema Conversation Tool (SCT)

Amazon Redshift

Amazon DynamoDB and DynamoDB Accelerator

On top of these services, I also spent much time on understanding the use cases of the other purpose-built database services. 

Amazon Neptune (Graph)

Amazon QLDB (Ledger)

Amazon DocumentDB (Document database with MongoDB compatibility)

Amazon Timestream

I was lucky I have some experience with Amazon Neptune and QLDB. I spent time evaluating QLDB in its preview release, so I have a good idea of its use cases and limitations. 

The exam has five domains. I didn’t focus too much on Domains 4 and 5 for my preparation since I have good experience already for managing, monitoring, and securing AWS workloads. I also have the AWS Certified Security – Specialty and AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional, so I have a hunch that the questions would be similar to those two certification exams.

Exam Domains

I compiled a list of the whitepapers I used for my preparation:

Migrating Applications Running Relational Databases to AWS Best Practices Guide 

Modernizing the Amazon Database Infrastructure Migrating from Oracle to AWS 

Database Caching Strategies Using Redis 

Amazon RDS for Aurora Export/Import Performance Best Practices 

Amazon Aurora Migration Handbook

As a Specialty exam, I expected that it requires a deep dive into the database services advanced features. I wasn’t disappointed, and that’s what exactly appeared on the exam. If you are preparing for the exam, you must read the product pages, and the developer guides multiple times end-to-end. 

I’ll be writing separate articles for each domain to discuss exam preparation details. I hope this article gave you a better idea of what entails to be an AWS database specialist. AWS did a phenomenal job of developing these purpose-built databases, and it is an excellent opportunity to leverage them in building high-performance applications and platforms in the cloud.

AWS Certified Database – Specialty Badge

Congratulations to those who passed the AWS Certified Database – Specialty!