In my previous articles, I discuss the types of the most important Salesforce certifications that, in my opinion, should be a part of your CV. When you know specifically which certification you want to earn, you should ask yourself several questions, such as: In what order should I take the certification exams? What should I focus on? In the last paragraph of this article, I’d also like to share my recipe for success. Make sure you read it carefully, and the exam will be a piece of cake for you.
There’s no best answer regarding the order in which you should take the certification exams. However, there are several combos you should consider depending on the level of your career or knowledge of a certain product.
- Admin + Business Analyst
It’s the basic path (and sufficient enough) if you want to become a business analyst with decent knowledge of Salesforce and business analysis in this area.
- Admin + Business Analyst + Cloud (of your choice)
Apart from helping you learn the basics, this specialized path enables you to become an expert in the chosen product.
- Admin -> Business Analyst -> App Builder -> UX Designer -> Cloud (of your choice)
It’s the consultant path that you can take if you plan to be a more active analyst or even a consultant carrying out basic activities on the platform.
- Admin -> Business Analyst -> App Builder -> UX Designer -> Strategy Designer + Cloud (of your choice)
It’s the expert path that gives you the opportunity to acquire admin, analytical, strategic, UX, and expert knowledge of the chosen product or products so that you can fully understand the platform.
My path is as follows: I started with the Admin certification after 2 months spent on Trailheads and 3 months spent on the project work with Service Cloud. Just before taking the certification exam, I also focused on preparing for it – it took me about 3 months, which was very exhausting. Therefore, I took the next certification exam after 6 months – it was a recently introduced BA certification (I was able to prepare for it within a week). I earned the other certifications more quickly. I decided to brush up on admin knowledge and took the App Builder certification exam (a month of preparation). Having up-to-date BA and App Builder knowledge, I took the UX certification exam (I needed 1.5 months to prepare for it). Then, I passed the Strategy Designer certification exam (2-3 weeks of preparation) and I had a six-month break after which I prepared for the Service Cloud certification exam (2 months of preparation). This is a point where my Salesforce journey ends for the time being; however, I’m already thinking of earning the Sales Cloud certification.
Each of the certifications and how to prepare for them can be covered in a separate article. However, they all share a number of characteristics.
The certification exams are in English (you have an option of getting extra time if you’re a non-native speaker; at least, this is what I heard but never used).
The number of questions in each exam can differ. Those that have been available a little longer usually have 4 answers from which you need to choose one or more correct ones. In more recent ones (BA and Strategy), there are 3 answers from which only one is correct. The way to approach the questions is always the same – eliminating the least relevant answer (there’s always one). Then you need to look for catches (for example, the name of the function that doesn’t exist or sounds different) and eliminate them, too. In this way, we have two answers – both (what’s awful) can be correct. The whole trick is to choose the better one (according to Salesforce).
The exams can be taken in the examination center or remotely. I took my exams in the center because if I had lost the internet connection, I could have retaken the exam free of charge. Whereas, if I had chosen the remote option and there was something wrong with my internet connection while taking the exam, the exam fee could have been lost.
The exam fee is usually around 200$ (correction – around 50%)
Each certification exam looks similar. They have a few questions about what elements of the platform are and how they are called. There are a few questions based on scenarios, such as: What would you do if you were an admin/consultant? Which feature can help you achieve your set goal? There are also technical questions, such as: What will happen if you apply the given function or operator in the formula field?
Each certification requires so-called maintenance once a year. It means you get an email with a list of Trailheads you need to do within a specific period of time to keep your certification valid. If you don’t do this, you lose it.
Finally, as an award for making it through this lengthy three-part article, I’d like to share my strategy of learning and preparing for Salesforce certifications.
- Start with the vision of the end
The beginnings aren’t easy, especially if you know how much learning is ahead of you. It’s worth noting down which certifications you want to earn within a year or two, or even a longer period of time. Having a list, you can plan accordingly at what time intervals you’re going to take the certification exams and how much time you need to spend on preparing for each of them. A high-level plan will make the vision of getting certified a reality.
- Be prepared for a long journey
When you have a list of certifications to earn in the coming years, you can now be a little bit like Adam Małysz – only the next jump counts. In other words, only the next certification is important. Select the first certification you want to gain and carefully plan how much time you will need to study for it. Next, choose an initial date to take the certification exam. In this way, you give yourself a deadline to complete your exam preparation. After you pass the exam, have some rest and repeat the cycle, that is, focus on the next jump.
- Gain knowledge, don’t just collect certificates
Focus on understanding the system and products, not on collecting certificates. When learning the theory, try to visualize how you perform specific tasks in the system.
- Start with Admin
Start with the basics, that is, the Admin certification, as it covers all the information you need and you will need it often.
- Use certifications as a leverage
The first certification, that is, Admin, is the most difficult; the next ones come easier. Admin contains the fundamentals on which each certification exam relies, and you should take advantage of it. Production goals or App Builder also require this information; therefore, it’s worth using this knowledge to pass these certification exams. BA and Strategy Designer also overlap in some areas, part of this knowledge is also in UX. In general, certifications cover many common areas and you should make the most out of it to optimize your certification journey.
- Trailmix isn’t everything
On its website, Salesforce provides information about certifications that can help you understand what you need to learn. Apart from the list of topics you need to cover, you can also find the link to Trailmix – I highly recommend doing it before learning the theory. Unfortunately, Trailmix, despite being useful, is sometimes limited and contains only the very basics. That is why you should look for additional resources on the internet or among your colleagues.
- Focus on Force
Focus on Force is the portal without which I can’t imagine taking Salesforce certification exams. It contains the theoretical summary for each certification with a list of topics you need to learn. The presentations have the theoretical information on functionalities and screenshots from the system. The biggest advantage of FoF is its database of sample exam papers that can help you prepare for a given certification exam. However, I warn you – they are easier than the real exam.
- Practice makes perfect
Going through a considerable number of sample exam papers is crucial to pass the exam. After studying each theoretical part, I take a test covering this material to consolidate my knowledge. When I go through the whole theory, I retake the test, looking for my weak points until I get a satisfactory 80% after each attempt. From that point, I give myself two weeks to prepare for the exam. During the first week, I focus on revising the theory and doing sample exam papers in random order. The following week, I have a rest and read through widely accessible test questions online. Make sure you take advantage of those test questions or look for similar ones, for example, on Udemy.
- Make friends with Ben
Salesforce Ben is a website that has up-to-date information about SF changes. It also contains interesting articles about configuration or new products. Additionally, you can make friends with Mark Wheeler who publishes popular courses on Udemy. Although they were too difficult for me as I tended to fall asleep while watching them, there are people who can’t imagine passing the certification exam without his video tutorials. Regardless of which additional learning resources you choose, you’ve already won, because each of them can help you understand the platform from different points of view.
- Believe you can make it
You’ve got this. You’ve planned what you want to do, taken the time to learn, smashed the tests, and clicked through Trailheads. Why should you fail the exam? Don’t even think about it. Tell yourself with no hesitation you can make it (if not now, there will be the next time). While taking the exam, I like to imagine I’m at work and explain to another person, who doesn’t understand Salesforce, why this answer is the best. It works.
- Wear ear plugs
At the examination center, you can use ear plugs (along with a piece of paper and a pencil; the whole set is by the desk where you take the exam). In my opinion, they’re crucial. When I took my first certification exam, one person coughed and snorted – I couldn’t focus; I didn’t use ear plugs and failed the exam. During the next exam, demolition was going on in the building next door; I used ear plugs and I passed the exam. From now on, every single time, I use ear plugs – they help me focus, and the silence I get after putting them on enables me to hear my own thoughts.
I want to end by pointing out that it’s only at the beginning when the amount of learning may seem intimidating. If you manage to fit learning into your daily routine, you can easily earn your first certification within 2-3 months. I mean learning, not only passing the exam. At a push, you can get certified faster, but you shouldn’t earn certifications for its own sake, should you?
If you happen to fail the exam on your first try, don’t hesitate and set a new date for the exam resit within the coming two weeks. Have a rest for a week and use the following one to take sample tests and revise the syllabus. The second attempt will be much easier. You can do this!
- System-Business Analyst
System-Business Analyst. A graduate of Electrical Engineering as well as Electrical Power Engineering at the Lublin University of Technology, and postgraduate studies “Analityk Biznesowy – profesjonalista na styku IT i Biznesu” (“Business Analyst – a professional at the interface between IT and Business”) at the SGH Warsaw School of Economics.
He is certified with the ECBA, Salesforce: Admin, Business Analyst, UX Designer, Strategy Designer, Service Cloud Consultant, App Builder ; AgileBA Foundation, IREB CPRE Foundation, Facilitation Foundation, Change Management Foundation, ABC Scrum Master, AgilePM Foundation, and PRINCE2 Foundation.