Are you a system administrator who has at least 6 months of hands on experience with Salesforce CRM administration or development? Are you craving to put a seal of approval on your skills and get the recognition you deserve? Are you enthusiastic about learning more and being better at your job? If you answered “Yes” to any of those questions, you have landed at the right place.
This might sound like a sales pitch but my career took a whole different turn once I got 5x certified (Read my story here). I went to Dreamforce last year, got my dose of inspiration from all the awesome people that I met there, came back super energized and cracked all 5 certifications in the first attempt. I ended up learning a lot more than I knew before, my company recognized my achievements which resulted in a pay hike (and a bonus!) and most importantly, I was overwhelmed by calls from recruiters wanting to hire me. Also, the ‘6 weeks’ time period isn’t set in stone and you could always reduce it or extend it, depending upon your level of comfort and expertise with the Salesforce CRM and time constraints.
First and foremost, your target should be to go for the Salesforce Administrator, Advanced Administrator and Developer certification exams. I say this because all three of them are closely interrelated and once you have grabbed these, preparing for the Sales Cloud and Service Cloud gets a little easier. For people who are extremely well versed with the Sales Cloud and Service Cloud, feel free to take these exams before the other three if you are looking for a confidence boost. One thing to note is that the Salesforce Certified Force.com Developer and Advanced Developer exams are going away and getting replaced by the new exams, hence you need to plan and prepare accordingly. So let’s get started with preparing a line of action to grab the five coveted certifications.
- You have worked on the administration/development side of the platform for at least 6 months.
- You are willing to give what it takes for the next three months and spend at least 1-2 hours during weekdays and possibly more during the weekends.
- You need to know if you will be taking the exam at home (online proctored) or at a test taking center (online proctored). I have never had any trouble taking the exams from the comforts of my home and I would undeniably be inclined towards the same. If you intend to go for onsite proctored exams, you will need to manage the scheduling of your exams well in advance.
- You promise to treat me to a bittersweet chocolate mousse cake slice, if you pass all five exams.
OK the third one can be ignored (not totally) and the first one isn’t set in stone either. I know some folks who passed all five exams with just 3-4 months of “hands-on” experience with the platform but it helps a great deal to be more familiar with the Salesforce CRM before you begin this exciting journey. There are a lot of helpful blogs out there like David’s and Ben’s, which can assist you in finding resources to study for the exams. So let me provide you with something different. After each exam that I passed, I jotted down the important topics that had the most weightage in the exams, before they got flushed out of my minuscule brain. The study guide is the most reliable source for the weightage and the recollection of important exam topics is something based off my personal experience. I wouldn’t lay out the preparation schedule since the design style of that will vary from individual to individual but I will try my best to give you what you need to pass the exams. Let’s begin:
- Register for your first exam knowing where you currently stand. My personal recommendation would be to get the date for ADM 201 for three months from now. These three months will be utilized for going through all the important topics that I am going to list below.
- The official study guide for each exam will always be the most reliable source of information but you could certainly use my experience to make your life a tad bit easier and increase your chances of cracking the exams. The most important topics are highlighted for each category of exams and these are the ones that should get the most attention as well. Without further ado, here’s my list of topics that you should focus on during your preparation for the exams:
- The first four weeks should be wisely spent on going through the topics in the help guide and the ones I listed above. Target the areas that you don’t get to work on very often and play around with them in your developer org, if possible. If you haven’t yet experienced or heard of Trailhead, make sure you go through all the relevant trails, if time permits. Nothing beats “hands-on” experience.
- Make notes as much as possible! I can’t stress enough on the importance of noting down everything you deem revision-worthy. Here are my valuable and treasured notes that I still refer to once in a while:
- A week or two before the first exam, rummage through legit online sites or resources to find sample questions and practice tests which have been posted by individuals who have passed the tests themselves. A paramount note of caution: Observe that I didn’t suggest going through the answers but only the questions that you find online. Research, try it out yourself , scour the help and training and do whatever it takes to find the right answers and do not at any cost, trust the answers on the online sites/tutorials. You should use the online practice tests or flashcards only to familiarize yourself with the style of questions that you will encounter in the exam and nothing else. Resources that I have used with success:
David’s guide to passing Salesforce certifications
Certified on Demand study guide
- A night or two before the exam, go through your valuable notes as many times as possible. I went through my revision notes at least thrice before taking each exam. Again, you can find a lot of good blog posts about exam-taking strategy (Merivis Blog). Review each question carefully before selecting the answer and mark it for later review if there’s the slightest amount of doubt.
- After you pass the first exam (yay and congrats!), schedule the other exams with a gap of 7-10 days between each one of them. My personal recommendation would be to take the Administrator, Developer and Advanced Administrator exams at an interval of 1 week each, giving yourself a break of 1 week (optional) and then resuming the certification-grabbing spree the week after. Rinse and repeat for all the other exams.
There’s no need to panic if you fail an exam. Some of the best admins and developers that I know , failed at least one of the exams, learnt from their mistakes, tightened their grip on the preparation, retook the exams and passed. Also, don’t forget to reward yourself every time you pass an exam! I wish you the best of luck in your quest for all five certifications.