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Rob Cowell · 20th April 2023

Expert tips and tricks for passing Salesforce certification exams

Salesforce is the world's leading customer relationship management (CRM) software, and obtaining a certification in this domain can unlock a wealth of opportunities for your Salesforce career growth. In this blog post, we'll be sharing some top study tips and tricks to help you prepare for and ace those Salesforce qualifications.

Know your certifications

Salesforce offers a wide range of certifications, each tailored to specific roles and expertise levels. Before embarking on your certification journey, take time to understand the different certifications available and identify which one aligns with your Salesforce career goals. Some popular options include:

  • Salesforce Associate The Salesforce Associate certification is an entry-level credential designed for individuals new to the Salesforce ecosystem. This certification provides a solid foundation in Salesforce fundamentals and is a great starting point for those looking to build a career in Salesforce administration, development, or consulting.
  • Salesforce Administrator The Salesforce Admin certification is ideal for individuals responsible for managing, configuring, and maintaining Salesforce applications. It covers topics such as user management, data management, security, and process automation. There are two levels of Administrator certifications: Salesforce Certified Administrator and Salesforce Certified Advanced Administrator.
  • Salesforce Platform App Builder This certification is aimed at individuals who build custom applications on the Salesforce platform using point-and-click tools. It covers topics like designing, building, and deploying custom applications, as well as managing data, security, and business logic.
  • Salesforce Platform Developer Targeted at professionals who develop custom applications using the Salesforce platform, this certification focuses on Apex programming, Visualforce, Lightning components, and integrations with external systems. There are two levels of Developer certifications: Salesforce Certified Platform Developer I and Salesforce Certified Platform Developer II.

There are many more Salesforce certification exams available, and not all of them are deeply technical, such as the Business Analyst or Strategy Designer certifications. Why not see if a new certification will help you acquire new skills?

Use official study materials

Salesforce provides comprehensive official study materials to help you thoroughly prepare for your certification exam. Utilizing these resources ensures that you have accurate and up-to-date information to guide your learning. Key official study materials include:

  • Trailhead: Trailhead is Salesforce's free, online learning platform that offers a wealth of interactive learning modules, projects, and superbadges. These resources cover a wide range of Salesforce topics and provide hands-on experience to complement your theoretical knowledge. Be sure to complete the recommended Trailhead modules and projects for your chosen certification.

  • Exam guides: Each Salesforce certification has a corresponding exam guide outlining the exam objectives, key concepts, and the weighting of each topic in the exam. You’ll find these in the appropriate Trailhead certification preparation track for each exam. Exam guides are an essential resource to understand what you'll be tested on and help you prioritize your study efforts.

  • Salesforce documentation: Salesforce's extensive online documentation is a valuable resource for in-depth information on specific topics. The documentation includes user guides, developer guides, and release notes, all of which offer detailed explanations and examples. Use these resources to clarify concepts or dive deeper into areas you find challenging.

  • Salesforce webinars and videos: Salesforce regularly hosts webinars and publishes videos on various topics, including certification preparation, new features, and best practices. These visual resources can be an excellent way to reinforce your understanding and learn from Salesforce experts.

  • Salesforce sample questions: For some certifications, Salesforce provides sample questions to help familiarize you with the types of questions you may encounter during the exam. While these questions may not appear on the actual exam, they offer valuable insight into the question format and complexity to help you prepare ahead of time.

Join the Salesforce community

There's power in numbers, and the Salesforce community is a goldmine of knowledge and experience. Connect with fellow Salesforce enthusiasts on forums, discussion boards, and social media groups. Ask questions, seek advice, and share your own insights. You'll be surprised by the wealth of information and support available within the community.

Additionally, in-person events such as Dreamforce and TrailblazerDX offer a number of excellent learning opportunities, including boot camps for many of the certifications — and these are also available virtually too. If these larger events are hard for you to reach, local Trailblazer Community Group meetups are also an excellent resource for networking with your peers, many of whom will have either done the certification you’re interested in, or are themselves planning to take them.

Hands-on practice is key

While theoretical knowledge is important, hands-on experience with the Salesforce platform will give you the edge you need to excel in the exams. Put what you've learned into practice by working on real-world scenarios, setting up Salesforce environments, and experimenting with different features and functionalities. Remember, you can get a free Salesforce Developer Edition org and other trials here.

Don't neglect the basics

Mastering the fundamentals is crucial when preparing for Salesforce certifications, as these foundational concepts will help you navigate more complex scenarios and problem-solving tasks during the exam. While some exams are quite specialized in their focus, many of the foundational exams mentioned earlier cover a broad range of areas.

Here are some essential areas to focus on:

Salesforce platform basics

Familiarize yourself with the core Salesforce platform features, such as the various types of objects (standard and custom), fields, and relationships. Understand how Salesforce apps and the AppExchange ecosystem work, as well as the Lightning and Classic user interfaces.

  • Data management
    • Learn how to import, export, and manipulate data within Salesforce. Gain proficiency in using Data Loader and other data import tools, and understand data validation rules, data backups, and data storage limits.
  • Security and access
    • Grasp the concepts of Salesforce security, including organization-wide defaults, role hierarchies, sharing rules, and profiles. Understand the purpose and use of permission sets, public groups, and field-level security. Additionally, get a basic understanding of Salesforce's multi-factor authentication and single sign-on capabilities.
  • Workflow and process automation
    • Delve into the world of process automation within Salesforce. Learn how to create and manage workflow rules, approval processes, and Process Builder flows. Understand when to use each automation tool and how they interact with one another.
  • Reports and dashboards
    • Become proficient in creating, customizing, and managing reports and dashboards in Salesforce. Understand the different report formats, chart types, and the use of filters and bucket fields. Make yourself aware of report scheduling, data visibility, and dashboard best practices.
  • Salesforce user interface
    • Develop a solid understanding of the Salesforce user interface, including the Lightning App Builder, page layouts, record pages, and components. Learn how to create and customize Lightning components, as well as how to use global actions and quick actions to streamline user experience.

Take practice exams

There's no better way to gauge your preparedness than by taking practice exams. These tests not only help you become comfortable with the exam format and question types, but also identify areas where you may need to focus more effort. Use practice exams as a tool to refine your knowledge and build confidence. While very few Salesforce certifications have official practice exams, popular community sites such as FocusOnForce and Salesforce Ben offer a wealth of study material, including practice exams.

Create a study plan

A well-structured study plan is essential for effective preparation. It helps you stay organized, focused, and on track to achieve your certification goals.

Determine a realistic target date for taking your exam, taking into consideration your current knowledge level, work commitments, and personal life.

Review the exam guide for your chosen certification and break down the objectives into smaller, manageable goals. Create a list of topics you need to study and allocate a specific amount of time for each based on their complexity and weighting in the exam.

Set aside time in your study plan to review and revise previously learned topics. This will help reinforce your understanding and ensure that you retain the information for the long term.

While it's important to dedicate time to studying, don't forget to maintain a healthy balance between work, study, and personal life. Allocate time for relaxation and self-care to prevent burnout and ensure that you remain motivated throughout your preparation.

Periodically review your study plan and track your progress. Make adjustments as needed to ensure that you're making the most of your study time and staying on track to achieve your certification goals. Your study plan should be flexible enough to accommodate changes in your schedule or shifts in your understanding of certain topics. Be prepared to adjust your plan if you find that you need more time for certain subjects or if you're making faster progress than anticipated.

Use test-taking strategies

No matter whether you’re sitting your exam at a testing center, or taking the exam online, there are still some tips you can make use of on exam day.

Developing and employing effective test-taking strategies can significantly improve your performance during the certification exam. These strategies can help you manage your time, reduce anxiety, and make well-informed decisions when answering questions.

Take the time to read each question thoroughly and ensure you understand what is being asked before attempting to answer. Be aware of keywords and phrases, such as "NOT," "EXCEPT," or "MOST LIKELY," that may alter the meaning of the question.

Keep an eye on the time during the exam to ensure you're making steady progress through the questions. If you find yourself stuck on a question, make a note of it and move on to the next one. You can always return to the difficult question later if time permits.

When faced with multiple-choice questions, try to eliminate any obviously incorrect answer choices. This will increase your odds of selecting the correct answer, even if you're not entirely certain. When in doubt, trust your instincts and go with the answer that feels right based on your knowledge and preparation. Avoid second-guessing yourself, as this can lead to anxiety and could negatively impact your performance.

Maintaining a calm and focused mindset during the exam is crucial. If you feel anxious or overwhelmed, take a moment to breathe deeply and refocus your thoughts. Remind yourself that you've prepared well and have the knowledge to succeed. If you have time at the end of the exam, review your answers to ensure you haven't made any careless mistakes or misread any questions.

Gain complementary skills

To help you gain confidence on the Salesforce platform, you can also look at boosting your Salesforce skills in complementary areas, to further augment your knowledge. Salesforce DevOps is fast becoming the standard for development on the Salesforce platform, and a Salesforce DevOps certification can help you achieve a deeper understanding of Salesforce release processes. No matter which role you have or are aiming towards, DevOps Launchpad provides free resources and certifications that can help set you apart from your peers – and perhaps even highlight a new direction for your career!

Now go get certified!

Passing Salesforce qualifications requires dedication, focus, and a well-rounded approach to learning. By following these tips and tricks, you'll be well on your way to achieving your certification goals and unlocking new career opportunities. Good luck, and happy studying!