I passed the Salesforce.com Administrator Exam (ADM201) last week. I feel pretty good since rumor says about 40% fail on the first attempt. Here are some notes on my experience, starting with the exam itself and then the preparation.
The Salesforce.com exam was challenging enough to raise the blood pressure, but was not as hard as a college entrance exam like the GMAT or SAT. While I could rely on memorization for most of the questions, there were several where I had to connect the dots to figure out the answer.
The exam had 60 multiple choice questions and 67% was the passing grade. 90 minutes were allotted to complete the exam. As I understand it, there was a pool of questions and 60 were picked at random. The Study Guide outlines the percentages of each major topic, but I could not tell if the exam held true to the percentages since the questions were presented in random order.
There were a few questions with only one answer, but most had several correct answers. Most of them said pick two or pick three so they were not completely open ended. This might seem to worsen the odds of picking the right answers, but if I knew one answer for sure, then the odds actually got better.
The questions were not as obscure as some bloggers suggested. The questions have probably evolved over time so there may have been some obscure questions in earlier versions. One obvious piece of advice was to read the questions and answers carefully, especially those with NOT, CANNOT, and EXCEPT in them. I was provided with two pieces of paper and it helped to answer the questions as TRUE and then transpose them to fit the question format.
90 minutes was a comfortable amount of time to complete the exam. My first pass took about 60 minutes. The exam application allowed me to check questions for later review and I had 21 questions checked after the first pass. That was right around the 67% passing grade, assuming the ones I did not check were correctly answered. I guesstimated that I needed to get at least five of my uncertain answers correct. My second pass at the 21 uncertain questions took about 25 minutes and I changed about five of the answers.
After I pressed the final ‘submit’ button, the exam application said I passed. It did not tell me my actual percentage grade. I then received an email about an hour later confirming my passing grade and that I would be receiving a certificate.
I became a Salesforce.com user earlier this year. I went through two of the online classes:
- ADM100 Salesforce CRM Fundamentals
- SFA101 Sales Representative Fundamentals
Both took about an afternoon each and provided a good overview of the application and especially the terminology.
I then took the Administration Essentials for Enterprise or Unlimited Edition (ADM201) class for four days at the Salesforce.com offices in San Mateo. The class training manual was indispensable because of the detailed examples of all the features. The exam definitely gets into the details. The instructor, Brian, was a highly trained professional who was able to explain the complex interactions (especially permissions, security, and access) as well as keep us on task. It would have taken much longer to figure out some of this stuff without a strong instructor.
I gave myself a goal by signing up for the certification exam. A voucher for the exam was included in the tuition, but I did not have to take the exam at the end of the class. I scheduled my exam at WebAssessor. It looks like they have locations around the world. My local test center had times open everyday except Thursdays.
My next step was to spend about 14 hours reviewing all the material again, including the Study Guide. The Study Guide is a supplement to the training materials from the class. By itself, its primary value was as a checklist of what to study as it had the outline of the exam. It also had additional information that was not in the training materials although obscured by repeated material as well. There was one question on the exam that I think was only in the Study Guide (sorry, I can’t say what it was).
I used the Salesforce.com Developer Edition account as part of the review. The Developer Edition has all the Salesforce.com features regardless of which edition you are subscribed to. It also allows trying out scenarios without disrupting the production instance.
I also used my iPhone Notes application to create flashcards. Since the exam was mostly about memorization, flashcards were a great tool. Since my iPhone was always with me, I could also randomly quiz myself anytime. I had about 15, but should probably have had twice as many. I kept each flashcard to lists of seven or less since I was unlikely to remember anything longer.
Finally, I did the sample questions in the Study Guide and the practice exam at ProProfs Quiz School. I did find they were representative of the actual exam questions. I do not know how Salesforce.com feels about the ProProfs sample questions, but there was a question in the Study Guide that was very similar to one I encountered on the exam.
Breadth of Salesforce.com
The certification was one thing, but the real eye-opener was uncovering the depth and breadth of the application. I probably underestimated the amount of effort required by an order of magnitude.
P.S. Certification Maintenance
For every new release of Salesforce.com, there is a Maintenance Exam that must be passed to keep my certification. This occurs around three times per year. It typically contains 15 questions covering the new features with a time limit of 30 minutes. Salesforce provides several video presentations and Release Notes for preparation. So far it has taken me about eight hours to review all the materials and self-create some examples in my developer account for each Maintenance Exam.
Salesforce charges $100 per year that covers the Maintenance Exams.
P.P.S. Home Study
P.P.P.S. Home Study