The Salesforce Admin exam is most likely many peoples’ first certification. It’s often a prerequisite for other certifications, and many employers looking for a Salesforce admin require applicants to have it. The focus of this post will be one’s journey towards earning the Salesforce Admin Certification.
Getting Salesforce Certified can be both fun and challenging. The excitement comes from getting to learn a popular CRM platform, one where users can be infinitely creative when designing and building Salesforce Apps. On the other hand, Salesforce certification exams are by no means trivial; the questions dive into the dark recesses of the Platform. So it’s not as if anyone can breeze through these exams. Now, there may be multiple methods to best go about passing these exams, but I will focus on two that worked for me: (1) Covering Focus on Force material and (2) interacting with the Platform through both Trailhead and app creation.
Focus on Force
Focus on Force provides an exhaustive overview of each topic covered by a Salesforce exam. Each topic covers a certain percentage of the exam. For the Salesforce Administrator exam, for example, Data Management covers 10% of the exam, while Security and Access covers 13%, and so on. Through what’s essentially a PowerPoint or Slide Deck presentation, the user is guided through a plethora of information and images. Each guide costs anywhere between $19-24, and one can also purchase the corresponding exam guide, which contains topic-specific exams and practice exams.
The beauty of the exam guide is that the questions closely replicate what one might see on an actual exam; explanations as to why an answer is right or wrong are also provided.
While the Focus on Force materials are great, they may not be sufficient enough for success on these exams. For me, the best teacher is experience: it’s one thing to read about how something works; it’s quite another to get experience making that something work. This is where Trailhead comes in.
Trailhead is a free educational service provided by Salesforce. Trailhead guides the user through creating their Salesforce sandbox, which is basically a site (or org) that replicates most Salesforce functionality, and it allows you to practice with many Salesforce features. Additionally, on just about any Salesforce-related topic, a user can take a Trail. Which is a module that guides the user through various activities such as setting up security, creating fields and objects, building automations, creating reports, and performing data migrations.
Trailhead also walks you through creating your own Sandbox. Which is essentially your very own Salesforce org. Most trailheads will walk you step by step on what to do in your Salesforce Sandbox so that you are actually in there doing the things. First-hand experience is always an important part of learning a new skill, especially within Salesforce because of the intricacies of the tool. For me, the difference between a role and a profile or how to create an approval process doesn’t really make sense until I actually set these things up. If I’m confused about how something is supposed to work, I see if there’s a Trail for guidance.
Furthermore, I think building your own App in a sandbox is a great way to reinforce the knowledge needed to pass these exams. For me, app-building is especially helpful in passing the more complex exams, such as the consultant-based exams like Sales, Service, and Community/Experience.
There is quite a bit of nuance to Salesforce’s features (e.g., Omnichannel, Territory Management, Pricebooks, Knowledge, Chat, Experience Builder, and so on), and for me, experience and practice have been instrumental in helping me grasp the platform’s subtleties and complexities. For instance, how to configure Omnichannel makes no sense unless I do the work myself:
What are the Exams Like?
The Salesforce Administrator exam covers a host of different topics running from analytics and data management to automations and security. Additional areas include those specific to sales and marketing applications, service and support applications, and user setup. The difficulty of it lies in that it covers so many areas; unless the user has many years of Salesforce experience, it is unlikely they have touched upon all or most of these features.
To be fair I’ve heard stories of people who have passed this exam with little to no studying. The exam costs $200, and I’ve heard stories where experienced Salesforce users failed it on the first attempt, and so it’s by no means a walk-in-the-park. As such, study materials such as Focus on the Force may come in handy.
The exam contains 60 multiple choice questions, though some correct answers require selecting two or three correct answers. In theory, if you know 20 of these questions and can narrow down your choices to two for the other 40, you’ll likely pass; for statistically speaking, you’ll get 20 of these correct, and then you’ll have 40/60 correct, which is sufficient for passing.
My strategy for covering this material is to take about 30-45 minutes each morning and slowly go through the topics. I write down what I don’t know in a notebook, which helps my brain store the information. By using this process, it takes about three weeks to cover the material. This might seem excessive, but I don’t think it’s a wasted effort, as you’ll need this information at some point in your career, whether for a project or preparing for another exam (many of the topics covered in the Salesforce Administrator exam are covered in exams like App Builder, Sales Cloud Consultant, and Service Cloud Consultant). Then after going through the materials, I take a practice exam, making note of the answers I got wrong. I’ll keep taking the practice exams for another 1-2 weeks, taking time to revisit gaps in my knowledge.
What works for me may not work for you, and that’s okay! But finding a process that you are comfortable with and you find optimizes your learning process, will be extremely beneficial in your path to a certification.
Lastly, I’ll leave with maybe the most important tip I’ve found helpful to pass an exam. D’s get certifications! You don’t have to know everything about the platform or a particular topic to be successful. Typically, one needs only get a 65% or higher in order to pass these exams.
“But getting a 65 on an exam doesn’t mean I’m going to be the top option for the job or the promotion!” Maybe. But probably not. it’s likely no employer or prospective client will know or care whether you got a 65 or 95 on the exam; they’re much more interested in seeing this:
Wrapping It Up
My process for preparing for and earning a Salesforce Certification takes about 5 weeks. The first 3 weeks I slowly go through the Focus on the Force material. For the next two weeks, I take multiple practice exams and focus on areas I don’t yet understand. I supplement my learning with Trailheads and App building. The entire process takes between 20-30 hours.
There might be more efficient methods for passing these exams, and someone with a lot of experience with the Platform could likely pass the Salesforce Administrator exam with so much studying. Yet for someone who hasn’t had much experience, this process was necessary. That being said, even for someone like me who has no background in computer science or Salesforce, becoming Salesforce certified is highly obtainable and beneficial for your career path.