I decided to re-write this from a post last year with new updates and a focus on “How to Study for the Salesforce Admin Exam”. One of the biggest reasons for this re-write was the Salesforce admin exam is the most difficult and most sought after by people looking to sharpen their Salesforce technical skill-set OR enter the Salesforce space. In addition, the success of the “How to Study for the Salesforce Service Cloud Consultant Exam” inspired me to do a re-write on how best to study for this particular exam. Keep in mind, you will not get answers for the test here, but rather a strategic, thought out approach to help you prepare, practice and pass the Salesforce Admin 201 exam. A few things about the exam in general and what it can do for you; if you are looking for a career or job in the Salesforce eco-system, this is the first and most critical exam certification to secure. Once you add this on your LinkedIn profile, prepare for recruiters to “connect” with you in good ways, if you know what I mean. Lastly, this exam is NOT easy, you have to study for it and want it, but once you pass this one, the Dev 401 exam will be easy for you as 70% *(my personal estimate only) of the material from the Admin 201 exam is on the Dev 401 exam.
For this blog, I will break it down into three simple sections to help you strategically study for the Salesforce admin exam.
As you begin your journey of how to study for the Salesforce admin exam, consider the resources you have already at your disposal. Some of you may be employed at companies who have access to Salesforce premier training or will foot the bill for you to attend a class. If you have the budget and/or your company can pay for the course, definitely the onsite 5 day class for administrator certification is the way to go (to find a class near you, click here). With this class you receive hands on training, the ability to ask questions and really get to the basics of Salesforce.com administration. If you pay for this on your own, the price is about $4250 (don’t quote me), however if you are a US Veteran, there are ways to get into these classes for free. If you cannot afford or do not wish to attend the class, fear not, there are other options to pass your admin 201 course, but the path is a bit harder and requires more dedication. If you are not taking an ‘in-person’ class you must have access to the online training which Salesforce provides through it Premier Training offering. You can walk through the same training you will receive in the ‘in-person’ class when you go through the online course. Keep in mind, you must be disciplined and do all the admin exercises step by step. When you are doing the Salesforce admin exercises, you are set up and administer the environment of a fictional company called “AW Computing”. If you try to go through the online course too quickly and don’t grasp the fundamentals of the subject, you will fail the test. There are a variety of other online premier training classes you need to take (listed below at end of blog post) and you should view and understand all of these. If for some reason, you have decided to forgo the onsite training AND do not have access to premier training through SFDC, the road to your official certification becomes a bit more difficult. While you can still take the test and study other methods (see other methods below), your chances of passing the first time are really difficult.
After you have exhausted your online training options through the official paid training (online/offline), there are several good resources online for free that focus on the essentials of Salesforce and the platform. The Salesforce YouTube channel offers some key video’s that can sharpen your admin skills. Here are some great study links entitled “Who See’s What”
- Who Sees What: Overview
- Who Sees What: Organization Access
- Who Sees What: Object Access
- Who Sees What: Organization-Wide Defaults
- Who Sees What: Record Access via the Role Hierarchy
- Who Sees What: Field Level Security
- Who Sees What: Record Access via Sharing Rule
- Who Sees Who: User Sharing
- Who Sees What Permission Sets
Online Flash Cards / Sample Tests
A second strategy of how to study for the Salesforce admin exam is to take advantage of the online sample tests and flash cards generally available on the internet. I do want to stress this area of study can be littered with traps, so be careful. Online, there are copious amounts of sample tests and sites that claim to be helpful in preparing for the Salesforce admin exam. While I certainly did not review every one of them out there, I did look at three and will give you my take on each. You will not pass the exam if you just study old test questions, but rather this method of study should only augment what you already know from other training and/or experience within the platform.
- http://www.cram.com/ – by far this one had the most info and although alot of the content is relevant and good, there were enough flash cards that were just wrong. The answers were either not checked or someone accidentally put them in wrong. Quickly after using this site, I began to to think, “Can I trust these answers” and once I got there, I stopped using this site. So use with caution; it isn’t a site I could recommend.
- SITE Taken Down – DO NOT USE:
http://www.abetterstudyguide.com/ABSG/ – Now this one was not as jazzy of a site as cram.com, but the format and concept are great. This site allows you to log in, take sample tests that are short or long in length and you can see over time, how your are fairing on these sample test. I found the answers to be mostly correct in that there were no glaring examples of wrong answers such as cram.com. Overall, a great site, but the tests you take are the same, so after a few iterations, you are essentially learning the answers to the same questions over and over again.
- http://quizlet.com – This site was by far the best for what I needed. You should know what to search for on the site and there are lots of samples of test questions within the site. Once you find a few good tests, the format, correctness and ease of use were the best. I used this site for all three of my certifications and would recommend this to anyone. I knew it was a good site, when a few Salesforce.com employees I met in San Francisco even recommended it.
- NEW – Also check out this post on How to Pass the Salesforce Admin Exam Using Trailhead. This post gives you insights into using Trailhead to pass the Salesforce certification exam.
In conclusion as we consider how to study for the Salesforce admin exam, there is absolutely no sure fire quick method to pass the exam, however having a good exam strategy will be critical to you passing. Here area a few critical facts about the exam you should be aware of:
- The exam consist of 60 multiple choice questions
- Review the study guide Salesforce publishes for each exam
- Some questions have one answer or multiple answers
- You only have to get 39 questions correct. Keep this in mind, this puts you at 65% for passing
- You have 90 minutes to complete the test
- You have the option to do this from home, but there is alot of camera set up and security you need to manage. You should focus on the test and not your environment and therefore my recommendation is to go to a testing center
- All testing centers and registrations are handled through Webassessor
- You are allowed two pencils and 2 blank sheets of paper (given to you be testing center)
To me, one of the more critical elements of taking the exam is to review each question individually and remember you only need 39 correct questions to pass exam. When you begin the exam, the first thing you should do it take the scratch piece of paper and write down in three columns 1-20, 21-40 & 41-60 as below.
Ok, so you are ready to actually take the test. Remember, there will be questions you know, some you are not quite sure and occasionally, some questions you have NO idea what the answer is. Don’t worry about the questions that are difficult and you have no idea of the answer. Simply “Mark for Review” on the test screen and come back later at another time. Next, as you take the exam, mark (on your scratch paper) through the number the exam questions you know you got right (see pic below) and circle the exam question number for the question you wish to come back to and are “maybes”. Lastly, just leave the super hard questions alone and don’t mark through them. The strategy here is simple; when you get through with your first round of answering questions (remember you have 90 minutes), count up the questions you know that were right and add them up. So for example, lets say you have marked through (you know these) and have a count of 29. With this number, you know you only need 10 more questions to focus on and ensure you confident are correct. Next, focus on your “Maybes”, that are circled and do a time check.Go through a detailed round of the “Maybes” and then re-count the questions that now fall into the “For Sure” category and add to the total you had “for sure” you counted earlier (29). When I took my first Salesforce admin exam, I had 32 questions marked through in which I knew I had right. After my second round of going through my circled questions (“Maybes”), I then had a total of 44 questions I felt really confident I had correct. At this point I was 75 minutes into the test, with 15 minutes left. At that point I knew I was in good shape to pass the exam. I spend the last 15 minutes trying to answer the hard questions, then submitted the exam. You get the results in real time right after you submit, so be sure to take your time and read through each exam question. Below is an example of how I mark my questions when taking the test.
In summary, good luck with your studying and as always let me know if you have any questions through twitter (@hectorperezjr)
Hector Perez Jr
Optional, but critical online classes to take through “SFDC Premier Training”
Setting Up Salesforce CRM Content
Using Salesforce CRM Content
Administering Salesforce Knowledge
Products, Price Books and Assets
Expand Your Practice with ISV Apps from the AppExchange
Launch Your Own Customer Portal
Creating Your Salesforce Community
Using Salesforce for Outlook
Analyze Your Data Your Way with Reports
Configure Salesforce with Custom Fields
Customizing Profiles to Align with Your Business Needs
Getting a Head Start with Chatter
Managing Users and Troubleshooting Login Issues
Summarize Your Data with Highlights, Charts, and Dashboards