Recently, I completed the Certification Gauntlet Challenge where I passed the 5 Architecture Designer exams in 5 weeks. Based on that and past certifications, here are tips before taking the test and the day of it.
Before The Test
Select the Certification
First you have to decide which certification to take. See Salesforce Certification for a complete list and details. Note that some certifications have prerequisites that require having other certifications first. For example, most consultant exams require the Admin certification first. The architect designer certifications do not have prerequisites which I find unusual. I’d highly recommend having the Admin certification first since many of those topics are more deeply covered in the Application Architect designer certifications.
My recommended order is similar to David Liu’s Certification Order:
- Platform App Builder
- Sales Cloud
- Service Cloud
- Advanced Admin
- Others based on desired track such as Architect, Developer, Consultant, etc.
These 5 provide a solid foundation and you’ll know Salesforce pretty well for the most common types of work and use cases. After these, pursue other certifications based on your desired track(s).
If you’re a developer / architect starting in Salesforce, the same order is recommended because the Salesforce platform provides many point-n-click declarative options to implement features and functionality without ever writing code and these certifications will give you that foundation. One should always start with exploring declarative, non-coding solutions! Essentially, if you can’t do it with clicks, then you can do it with code.
Schedule the Test Already
If you’re like me, you have lots of ambitions and many competing priorities so you say to yourself, “I’ll take this in a month”. A few months go by and you haven’t taken it. Before you start studying, join a study group, and otherwise prep for the test, schedule it! This will motivate you to prepare because you’ve scheduled it and don’t want to waste money, especially if it’s your own.
How much time to allow?
This really depends on how well you know the subject already. Review each certification’s exam guide and you’ll see. If you know a lot of it already, schedule it for a week or two in the future. This gives you plenty of time to go through the resource guides for each certification. Personally, I’ve found it takes about 10-15 hours to read, watch, and go through all the exam guide’s resources. Allow for more time to go through the resource guide’s hands-on activities. With no or little experience, schedule this for 2-3 months in the future to give yourself enough time.
Online vs Onsite?
Personally, I prefer onsite over online because onsite provides 2-3 blank sheets of paper with pencils and, for me, a quieter environment since I work from home with a family. Online does not provide blank sheets of paper AFAIK based on the last time I took one in 2012. If this is incorrect, please let me know!
I also prefer onsite over online because installing the online software, setting up the camera correctly, and having technical issues during the exam can be a real pain in the butt. If online is your only option, install and test everything weeks in advance and then again the day before the test. This is non-trivial to do! Onsite is so much easier in my opinion.
What time of Day?
The earlier in your day you can take it, the better! Ideally this is an hour or two after waking up because you haven’t spent all your intellectual energy on other things yet and you’re awake enough to kick butt. If the desired time isn’t available for scheduling, schedule another day.
If you don’t study, failure is very likely. The questions are very specific and if you don’t have the knowledge, you’ll choose the wrong answers because there’s usually options that one may consider correct but isn’t the “Best” answer.
Minimum Prep Recommendations
- Review all the resources in each certification’s resource guide. These can be Trailhead modules, blog posts, videos, white papers to name a few.
- Review these after you wake for the day. You’ll be fresh, have a better time studying, and be more likely to retain the information rather than studying at the end of the day before bed. If before bed is your only option, do it. It’s better than nothing.
- Complete the resource guide’s hands-on activities.
- Review other certification blog posts
- Practice in Salesforce
- Keep Study Notes. Write notes as you study and prep. If you have a blog, create a draft blog post and write down the notes as you go. I find writing / typing things down really helps me remember content. Do not copy & paste since it doesn’t have the same effect! Publish the blog post when ready.
Other Prep Options
- Join study groups. There are many virtual study groups out there. Search and you’ll easily find some.
- Classes – There are many classes available from Salesforce and others. I’ve never taken one so I can’t recommend any specific ones but they can be expensive. I hear good things though. If you do take a class, do it near the scheduled exam so the content is fresh!
- Practice Tests & Questions – There are various practice questions from various sources. I’ve never used them but others say they’re helpful. If you have recommendations, let me know in the comments below.
Before The Test
- Have a meal and stay hydrated!
- Arrive early to the testing center. This allows you plenty of time to find it, provide any identification and complete any necessary paperwork. Some may let you start early so you can finish early!
- Have the 6 digit test code with you for the test center. This comes from the confirmation sent to you. I always have the email open on my phone so I can just show it. You could also print it out.
- Review your study notes again! If you published them online, open them on your phone so you can review them. I did this for all my architect designer certs. It usually takes 10 or so minutes.
- Use the restroom so you don’t have to go during the exam.
During the Test
- First and foremost, keep calm! Being stressed and frustrated blocks your mind. This is easier for some than others. Focusing on breathing and blocking out everything else can help.
- Eliminate choices first and then select from the remaining options. If the answer(s) aren’t immediately obvious, which is the most common, eliminate choices first. If you have paper and a pencil, write down the question number, write down the eliminated choice letters such as A, B, C, D, or E, and then put a line through them indicating they can’t be a choice. I find it much easier to reason about 2 choices versus 3 or 4. This also helps when you come back later to review the question. I also find eliminating the choices faster too.
- Don’t know the Answer? Mark it for review, continue on, and come back to it later. You want to get through the test in the time allotted. Don’t waste time guessing until you’ve gotten through the test. I find it takes me about 60-70 minutes to go through all 65 questions and that’s with eliminating choices for each one. Since most exams are 90-105 minutes, that leaves 20+ minutes to review the previously marked questions or go through all the questions again.
I find other blogs from others to be really good resources too. Here are some I frequent for certification prep:
- Ultimate Certification Guide from David Liu
- Always A Blezard from Gemma
- Exploring on Salesforce from Santanu Boral
- Salesforce Memo from Maciej Jozwiak
- SFDC Architect Journey from Binod Kumar
- Decoding the Cloud from Richard N
- Salesforce Ben from Ben
- Taking Salesforce Certifications Onliine
What other tips do you have?