AWS Certified Machine Learning -Specialty (MLS-C01) Exam Learning Path

Finally, cleared the AWS Certified Machine Learning – Specialty (MLS-C01). It took me around four months to prepare for the exam. This was my fourth Specialty certification and in terms of the difficulty level of all of them this is the toughest, partly because I am not a machine learning expert and learned everything from basics for this certification. Machine Learning is a vast specialization in itself and with AWS services, there is lots to cover and know for the exam. This is the only exam, where the majority of the focus is on the concepts outside of AWS i.e. pure machine learning. It also includes AWS Machine Learning and Big Data services.

AWS Certified Machine Learning – Specialty (MLS-C01) exam basically validates

  •  Select and justify the appropriate ML approach for a given business problem.
  • Identify appropriate AWS services to implement ML solutions.
  • Design and implement scalable, cost-optimized, reliable, and secure ML solutions.

Refer AWS Certified Machine Learning – Specialty Exam Guide for details

                              AWS Certified Machine Learning – Specialty Domains

AWS Certified Machine Learning – Specialty (MLS-C01) Exam Summary

  • AWS Certified Machine Learning – Specialty exam, as its name suggests, covers a lot of Machine Learning concepts right. It really digs deep into Machine learning concepts, most of which are not related to AWS.
  • AWS Certified Machine Learning – Speciality exam covers the E2E Machine Learning lifecycle, right from data collection, transformation, making it usable and efficient for Machine Learning, pre-processing data for Machine Learning, training and validation and implementation.
  • As always, one of the key tactic I followed when solving any AWS Certification exam is to read the question and use paper and pencil to draw a rough architecture and focus on the areas that you need to improve. Trust me, you will be able to eliminate 2 answers for sure and then need to focus on only the other two. Read the other 2 answers to check the difference area and that would help you reach to the right answer or atleast have a 50% chance of getting it right.

Preparation Summary

  • Machine Learning
    • Make sure you know and cover all the services in depth, as 60% of the exam is focused on generic Machine learning concepts not related to AWS services.
    • Know about complete generic Machine Learning lifecycle
    • Exploratory Data Analysis
      • Feature selection and Engineering
        • remove features which are not related to training
        • remove features which has same values, very low correlation, very little variance or lot of missing values
        • Apply techniques like Principal Component Analysis (PCA) for dimensionality reduction i.e reduce the number of features.
        • Apply techniques such as One-hot encoding and label encoding to help convert strings to numeric values, which are easier to process.
        • Apply Normalization i.e. values between 0 and 1 to handle data with large variance.
        • Apply feature engineering for feature reduction for e.g. using single height/weight feature instead of both the features
      • Handle Missing data
        • remove the feature or rows with missing data
        • impute using Mean/Median values – valid only for Numeric values and not categorical features also does not factor correlation between features
        • impute using k-NN, Multivariate Imputation by Chained Equation (MICE), Deep Learning – more accurate, factores correlation between features
      • Handle unbalanced data
        • Source more data
        • Oversample minority or Undersample majority
        • Data augmentation using techniques like SMOTE
    • Modeling
      • Know about Algorithms – Supervised, Unsupervised and Reinforcement and which algorithm is best suitable based on the available data either labelled or unlabelled.
        • Supervised learning trains on labelled data for e.g. Linear regression. Logistic regression, Decision trees, Random Forests
        • Unsupervised learning trains on unlabelled data for e.g. PCA, SVD, K-means
        • Reinforcement learning trained based on actions and rewards for e.g. Q-Learning
      • Hyperparameters
        • are parameters exposed by machine learning algorithms that control how the underlying algorithm operates and their values affect the quality of the trained models
        • some of the common hyperparameters are learning rate, batch, epoch (hint:  If the learning rate is too large, the minimum slope might be missed and the graph would oscillate If the learning rate is too small, it requires too many steps which would take the process longer and is less efficient
    • Evaluation
      • Know difference in evaluating model accuracy
        • Use Area Under the (Receiver Operating Characteristic) Curve (AUC) for Binary classification
        • Use root mean square error (RMSE) metric for regression
      • Understand Confusion matrix
        • A true positive is an outcome where the model correctly predicts the positive class. Similarly, a true negative is an outcome where the model correctly predicts the negative class.
        • false positive is an outcome where the model incorrectly predicts the positive class. And a false negative is an outcome where the model incorrectly predicts the negative class.
        • Recall or Sensitivity or TPR (True Positive Rate): Number of items correctly identified as positive out of total true positives- TP/(TP+FN)  (hint: use this for cases like fraud detection,  cost of marking non fraud as frauds is lower than marking fraud as non-frauds)
        • Specificity or TNR (True Negative Rate): Number of items correctly identified as negative out of total negatives- TN/(TN+FP)  (hint: use this for cases like videos for kids, the cost of  dropping few valid videos is lower than showing few bad ones)
      • Handle Overfitting problems
        • Simplify the model, by reducing number of layers
        • Early Stopping – form of regularization while training a model with an iterative method, such as gradient descent
        • Data Augmentation
        • Regularization – technique to reduce the complexity of the model
        • Dropout is a regularization technique that prevents overfitting
        • Never train on test data
  • AWS Machine Learning
    • SageMaker
      • Know SageMaker in depth
      • supports both File mode and Pipe mode
        • File mode loads all of the data from S3 to the training instance volumes VS Pipe mode streams data directly from S3
        • File mode needs disk space to store both the final model artifacts and the full training dataset. VS Pipe mode which helps reduce the required size for EBS volumes
      • Using RecordIO format allows algorithms to take advantage of Pipe mode when training the algorithms that support it. 
      • supports Model tracking capability to manage up to thousands of machine learning model experiments
      • supports Canary deployment using ProductionVariant and deploying multiple variants of a model to the same SageMaker HTTPS endpoint.
      • supports automatic scaling for production variants. Automatic scaling dynamically adjusts the number of instances provisioned for a production variant in response to changes in your workload
      • provides pre-built Docker images for its built-in algorithms and the supported deep learning frameworks used for training & inference
      • SageMaker Automatic Model Tuning
        • is the process of finding a set of hyperparameters for an algorithm that can yield an optimal model.
        • Best practices
          • limit the search to a smaller number as difficulty of a hyperparameter tuning job depends primarily on the number of hyperparameters that Amazon SageMaker has to search
          • DO NOT specify a very large range to cover every possible value for a hyperparameter as it affects the success of hyperparameter optimization.
          • log-scaled hyperparameter can be converted to improve hyperparameter optimization.
          • running one training job at a time achieves the best results with the least amount of compute time.
          • Design distributed training jobs so that you get they report the objective metric that you want.
        • SageMaker Neo enables machine learning models to train once and run anywhere in the cloud and at the edge.
      • know how to take advantage of multiple GPUs (hint: increase learning rate and batch size w.r.t to the increase in GPUs)
      • Algorithms –
        • Blazing text provides Word2vec and text classification algorithms
        • DeepAR provides supervised learning algorithm for forecasting scalar (one-dimensional) time series (hint: train for new products based on existing products sales data)
        • Factorization machines provides supervised classification and regression tasks, helps capture interactions between features within high dimensional sparse datasets economically
        • Image classification algorithm is a supervised learning algorithm that supports multi-label classification
        • IP Insights is an unsupervised learning algorithm that learns the usage patterns for IPv4 addresses
        • K-means is an unsupervised learning algorithm for clustering as it attempts to find discrete groupings within data, where members of a group are as similar as possible to one another and as different as possible from members of other groups.
        • k-nearest neighbors (k-NN) algorithm is an index-based algorithm. It uses a non-parametric method for classification or regression
        • Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) algorithm is an unsupervised learning algorithm that attempts to describe a set of observations as a mixture of distinct categories. Used to identify number of topics shared by documents within a text corpus
        • Linear models are supervised learning algorithms used for solving either classification or regression problems. 
          • For regression (predictor_type=’regressor’), the score is the prediction produced by the model.
          • For classification (predictor_type=’binary_classifier’ or predictor_type=’multiclass_classifier’)
        • Neural Topic Model (NTM) Algorithm is an unsupervised learning algorithm that is used to organize a corpus of documents into topics that contain word groupings based on their statistical distribution
        • Object Detection algorithm detects and classifies objects in images using a single deep neural network
        • Principal Component Analysis (PCA) is an unsupervised machine learning algorithm that attempts to reduce the dimensionality (number of features) (hint: dimensionality reduction)
        • Random Cut Forest (RCF) is an unsupervised algorithm for detecting anomalous data point (hint: anomaly detection)
        • Sequence to Sequence is a supervised learning algorithm where the input is a sequence of tokens (for example, text, audio) and the output generated is another sequence of tokens. (hint: text summarization is the key use case)
    • SageMaker Ground Truth 
      • provides automated data labeling using machine learning
      • helps build highly accurate training datasets for machine learning quickly using Amazon Mechanical Turk
      • provides annotation consolidation to help improve the accuracy of the data object’s labels. It combines the results of multiple worker’s annotation tasks into one high-fidelity label.
      • automated data labeling uses machine learning to label portions of the data automatically without having to send them to human workers
    • Comprehend
      • natural language processing (NLP) service to find insights and relationships in text.
      • identifies the language of the text; extracts key phrases, places, people, brands, or events; understands how positive or negative the text is; analyzes text using tokenization and parts of speech; and automatically organizes a collection of text files by topic.
    • Lex
      • provides conversational interfaces using voice and text helpful in building voice and text chatbots
    • Polly
      • text into speech
      • supports Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML) tags like prosody so users can adjust the speech rate, pitch or volume.
      • supports pronunciation lexicons to customize the pronunciation of words
    • Rekognition
      • analyze image and video
      • helps identify objects, people, text, scenes, and activities in images and videos, as well as detect any inappropriate content.
    • Translate – provides natural and fluent language translation
    • Transcribe – provides speech-to-text capability
    • Elastic Interface helps attach low-cost GPU-powered acceleration to EC2 and SageMaker instances or ECS tasks to reduce the cost of running deep learning inference by up to 75%.
  • Analytics
    • Make sure you know and understand data engineering concepts mainly in terms of data capture, data migration, data transformation and data storage
    • Kinesis
      • Understand Kinesis Data Streams and Kinesis Data Firehose in depth
      • Kinesis Data Analytics can process and analyze streaming data using standard SQL and integrates with Data Streams and Firehose
      • Know Kinesis Data Streams vs Kinesis Firehose
        • Know Kinesis Data Streams is open ended on both producer and consumer. It supports KCL and works with Spark.
        • Know Kinesis Firehose is open ended for producer only. Data is stored in S3, Redshift and ElasticSearch.
        • Kinesis Firehose works in batches with minimum 60secs interval.
        • Kinesis Data Firehose supports data transformation and record format conversion using Lambda function (hint: can be used for transforming csv or JSON into parquet)
    • Know ElasticSearch is a search service which supports indexing, full text search, faceting etc.
    • Know Data Pipeline for data transfer
    • Know Glue as fully managed ETL service
      • helps setup, orchestrate, and monitor complex data flows.
      • AWS Glue Data Catalog
        • is a central repository to store structural and operational metadata for all the data assets.
      • AWS Glue crawler
        • connects to a data store, progresses through a prioritized list of classifiers to extract the schema of the data and other statistics, and then populates the Glue Data Catalog with this metadata
  • Security, Identity & Compliance
    • Security is covered very lightly. (hint : SageMaker can read data from KMS encrypted S3. Make sure, the KMS key policies include the role attached with SageMaker)
  • Management & Governance Tools
    • Understand AWS CloudWatch for Logs and Metrics. (hint: SageMaker is integrated with Cloudwatch and logs and metrics are all stored in it)
  • Storage
    • Understand Data Storage Options – Know patterns for S3 vs RDS vs DynamoDB vs Redshift. (hint: S3 is, by default, the data storage option or Big Data storage and look for it in the answer.)

Whitepapers and articles

AWS Certified Machine Learning – Specialty (MLS-C01) Exam Resources

26 thoughts on “AWS Certified Machine Learning -Specialty (MLS-C01) Exam Learning Path

    1. Its mostly the time i could spend on it. If you have Machine learning background it might be much quicker for you.

  1. I cleared AWS Solution Architect Associate Exam 3 weeks back and i am familiar with basics of Machine and Deep leaning concepts. I am planning to write this AWS machine learning exam and found this blog very helpful. Thank you so much for creating it. Very helpful.
    Just wanted to know will job opportunities increases if we do this certification. Please let me know.

    1. Job opportunities should surely increase, but it would ultimately depend on the job needs and experience needed.

  2. Hello Jay – Have already completed successfully AWS CSA,Pro and AWS Big Data certifications. Now planning for AWS ML. However, AWS ML seems to quite different from other AWS certifications.Also enrolled for Udemy course (AWS Certified Machine Learning Specialty 2020 – Hands On!) in terms of ML I found concepts are wage little difficult to understand for ML beginner. Is there any ML course materials did you refer during the preparation ? wherein ML concepts are made to understand easily. I believe based on the exam patter AWS ML = ML Concepts + AWS ML Services + AWS Big Data.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated

    1. Hi Balaji, AWS Machine Learning is an exam which cannot be cleared with only AWS knowledge. Almost 50-60% concepts are ML related and over 40% is not related to AWS services.
      Frankly for me, this was the toughest exam as like you I am an ML beginner.
      I took 2 courses Linux Academy and Stephane Maerek one and practice on Braincert for this exam to make sure I atleast understood the concepts.

  3. Hi Jai,

    I am also newbie in ML. Any idea about the course on Udemy from Chandra? Is this course enough for passing exam. Any thoughts

    1. AWS Machine Learning exam is one of the toughest one as it does not rely only on AWS Concepts. You need to be sure for AWS Concepts for ML and Big Data, but also ML concepts. Not sure for Chandra course, but i have used Linux Academy and Stephane course and Braincert exams. They were a perfect fit for the exam.

  4. Hi Guys,

    Last week I cleared AWS ML specialty exam with flying colors. I got 892 score. This is my third AWS certification. I passed AWS Solution Architect Associate and Big Data Specialty exams. These exam preparations helped me a lot. Its one of the toughest exam for ML newbies. I did attend couple of Udemy courses and Linux Academy course. These courses helped me. Coursera offers free ML introduction course. Please check it out. This blog helped to to revision my skills. Thanks Jayendra.

    1. they were quite relevant to the topics required for the exam and explained most of the concepts in detail.

  5. Does this exam include bayesian ML as well? I have not worked on Bayesian ML. Also, does it include AWS ML studio related questions? Stephan has a great course and so is Linux academy. Are they enough for theory?

    1. haven’t seen anything on bayesian ML. I used Linux Academy and braincert were good enough to clear the exam.

  6. I have finished AWS Solution Architect (Associate) last week. I have good background for Machine Learning.
    In AWS Solution Architect exam, questions were lengthy describing the scenario in the organization.
    For Machine Learning, do I expect similar questions? I am asking this because, the practice exam for ML has short questions.

    1. Hi Vishwas, its a mix for Machine Learning actually. There are long questions, but most of them are short single line or few words answer options as well.

  7. Thank you to all the resources and Acloudguru to get me going.

    Online Courses that helped me
    1) Udemy –

    Practice tests close to the final exam
    1) Udemy practice test –
    2) Growth Tree Academy –

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