I have recently been receiving a lot of E-mails asking about how to start and run a Salesforce study group (pro bono and in-person) for certification exam preparation which basically led to this post. To provide a little more background, I have been running Salesforce ADM 201 (Administrator) study groups for almost six months now with a 100% success rate so far and all of the 16 people who took their exam aced it. In my experience so far, these study groups provide a fantastic mutually beneficial association between my group members and myself where both sides learn something new during the course of the sessions. Please note that I don’t charge my members a dime for hosting these study groups since it’s my way of giving back to the community from which I have benefited so much myself! A brief Thank-You E-mail from the group members when they pass the exam always feels enough to make my effort worthwhile.
If you think you can devote two-three hours on a weekly basis over a period of four-five weeks, then don’t think twice and start planning for a study group in your area. I firmly believe that you do not need to be an expert with the Salesforce platform to start one and collaborating with other experienced members is the key to making a study group successful. I personally like preparing the study material and hosting the study groups on my own but that’s just me. So how do you go about planning and executing a study group for Salesforce certification exam preparation (assuming you are the one hosting it)?
Find a meetup location convenient for everyone
I do my study groups at the local public library and I am highly satisfied with the setup there. Academic Institution, community center, start-up incubators, church, a fellow member’s working space, park shelter, city hall, coffee shop are some of the other options that you can explore. If you really want it to happen, the meetup location would be the least of your worries since there is no dearth of choices.
Limit the study group size to four to seven people
Since we are talking a meetup study group here, I would strongly recommend not having more than seven members; at least when starting out. Four to Seven is a manageable number and you can ramp up depending upon your experience with the first few study groups. If you are doing it all alone, then it becomes more important to limit the group to less than seven members, so that monitoring the members’ progress doesn’t become burdensome.
Wrap up the study sessions within four to five weeks
People might have differing opinions about this but I personally don’t recommend stretching the sessions’ duration beyond four to five weeks. Based on my experience so far, four consecutive weeks of study session every Sunday for 2.5 hours has worked perfectly. The group members are usually the 8 AM – 5 PM work crowd (including myself) and we like our sessions to be short, sweet and crisp.
Prepare the study material tailored as per the ADM 201 study guide
This is probably the most important aspect of running a successful study group. One popular feedback that I received from the successful group members was that they found the study session material to be precise and not overwhelming at all. Go through the exam’s study guide and try to provide only the relevant information to your group members. Help and Training is way too vast and dense so get picky and prepare the study material based on your own experience with the exam.
Create a Google sheet with ‘Must-Do’ modules/exercises for each session
Leverage fantastic resources like Trailhead and Salesforce Help & Training to create assignments for your study group members. I share a google sheet with all of my group members and deem it imperative that they complete all the relevant modules or practice exercises for each session. Make the study group as interactive, fun and challenging as possible and give your group members another good reason to keep attending your sessions!
Create a Developer org and demo as much stuff as you can
Demo any feature that you think is worth showing in action to your group members. Seeing it all visually happen undeniably leads to better memory retention and the members definitely appreciate it. Create a workflow rule or a validation rule. Build a Process or a quick Visual Flow and demonstrate their power to the members! Some of the members from my previous study groups had never seen a Visual Flow in action and when I demonstrated it to them, they were like (literally) ‘I had no idea that Salesforce had such a powerful declarative tool or I wouldn’t have asked our developers to build those Apex triggers.’
Create a practice test for the certification exam
This is where your experience with the ADM 201 exam will shine. Based on your own experience, carve out a 15 or 30 or 60 question practice test and provide it to your group members. They will absolutely love it! I prepared a 30 question multiple choice practice exam for my first group that I have been re-using for all the subsequent groups. It’s a one time investment and definitely worth it.
Have a pep talk with members a day before the exam
OK you obviously don’t need to do this but I just randomly and nonchalantly suggested this to my first study group’s members: “I know this exam can be scary and if any of you gets the last minute jitters or needs a pep talk before the exam, text me and we can do a quick call”. Believe it or not, almost 80% of my group members called me a day before or on the day of the exam and talked to me for about 10-15 minutes. They later claimed that it indeed help. I enjoyed that too and plan to do it for all of the future study group members as well.
Even though I do the training on my own, I can confidently claim that I have learnt a great deal from the study group members. Every new group brings with it a diverse set of folks from diverse backgrounds and it’s a wonderful experience to collaborate with them. It’s also highly addictive and I don’t think there’s anything stopping me from continuing to host these. If you have any questions related to starting a study group or are interested in joining my study groups, feel fee to E-mail me and I will be glad to help you out.
Have a great week ahead!