Salesforce Certified Administrator Exam Tips

How to pass your Salesforce Administrator exam.

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So far, I have found the Salesforce Certified Administrator exam to be one on the toughest I have ever taken. Maybe there’s something about the pressure of knowing a stranger somewhere in the world is watching you closely through your webcam while you sweat over sixty multiple-choice questions?

One thing’s for sure – you have to know Salesforce pretty well in order to get through this exam. It goes into a lot of detail and involves thinking through some tricky scenarios, so even if you’ve been working with Salesforce for a number of years, you will need to do some study and revision in order to pass.

First step: honestly assess your own ability

Your first step should be to download the study guide from the Salesforce Certification website. This contains an exam outline which breaks down the exam into sections like this one:

AdminExamSection

You should have knowledge and hands-on experience of each of the features and functions covered in each of the sections before you attempt the exam. Don’t try to fluff it, or you will end up failing and having to pay to resit. As with many things in life, preparation is absolutely key here.

Methodically work your way through this exam outline and highlight any sections you feel you may be weak in. A good approach might be to score yourself out of ten for each item, so you know where to focus your study/revision. It’s very important to be honest with yourself.

Each section is weighted according to its importance, and for the higher weighted sections you can expect correspondingly more questions in the exam. So for example, there will be more questions around Security & Access features than there are about the AppExchange.

Fill in knowledge gaps using Trailhead

So you’ve now mapped out where your strengths and weaknesses are in terms of the exam content. What’s the next step?

Trailhead is Salesforce’s very own online learning resource, and it’s fantastic. Salesforce staff use it internally, which should give you an idea of the quality of its content. On Trailhead you can search for individual topics and work your way through detailed modules which explain the concepts, give you hands-on practice, then test your knowledge as you go along.

Update: there’s now a dedicated ‘Trailmix’ for those preparing for their Certified Salesforce Administrator exam.

Mock exams and flashcards

There are many mock exams and flashcards available on sites like Quizlet and Cram. While these are good for testing yourself and gaining a bit of confidence, the quality is variable and you shouldn’t totally rely on them because they may not cover everything you need to know in order to pass the exam.

Salesforce Ben and some of the other Salesforce superstars provide great mock exams for many of the Salesforce certifications. The quality of these is higher, and I recommend them for testing your knowledge, but I urge you not to be lulled into a false sense of security.

On mock exams, I was getting close to 100% and was totally confident I was going to ace the real exam. The truth is the official Salesforce Certified Administrator credential is a killer, with much longer/trickier scenario-based questions than any of the mock exams I have seen. Many other Salesforce Certified Professionals agree this is the toughest exam they have done so far because it is so broad.

You can do it!

Don’t let this post put you off aiming for this credential. If I can do it, so can you. However, don’t waste your money sitting the exam if you’re not ready. It costs $200 for the first attempt and $100 for every attempt thereafter.

The first step described in this post is crucial – identify your strengths and weaknesses, and focus your learning. If you take this approach and cover everything in the exam outline in the study guide, you will pass.

I find Salesforce exams really nerve-wracking. Doing them from home also makes them prone to things going wrong. I have had Internet connections drop mid-way through exams, cats jump on the table and walk across my keyboard, and window cleaners try to chat to me through the glass, all while the timer was ticking and that little webcam was silently watching my every move!

Despite these challenges, I survived the experience and have now passed several Salesforce exams. You can do the same.

Did this post help you?

If these tips helped you, please share the love by leaving a comment and/or sharing with your Salesforce Ohana!

Image credit: photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash.

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The Never-Ending Salesforce Learning Journey

The learning never stops with Salesforce!

Salesforce Tower

Approaching the mothership: The ‘Salesforce Tower’ at 110 Bishopsgate, London.

I work in the Salesforce ecosystem as a Solution Architect, and am well aware of how regular changes to the platform (three releases per year) mean we are all on a constant learning journey.

It’s not just about frequent releases, there are also many different products that work together to make up the Salesforce Customer Success platform, and Salesforce Consulting Partners are increasingly insisting that their consultants be certified for those products before they can work on real client projects.

Getting certified means studying and learning – therefore, I’m going to start writing about my experience with Salesforce certifications here on this blog.

I’m also going to be sharing Salesforce tips when I discover something that I think may be useful to others working in the Salesforce ecosystem.

The difference between leadership and management

I’ve just read an excellent article first published in Harvard Business Review by John P. Kotter, entitled ‘What Leaders Really Do’.

I used to struggle with the difference between leadership and management and didn’t fully understand how they were different, but after reading this article (chapter 3 in the B204 reader, ‘Discovering Leadership’) I do. For me this is quite a profound piece of learning.

In a nutshell, leadership isn’t a mystical quality. It has nothing to do with charisma or leadership traits. It isn’t better than management or a replacement for it. Both are distinct and complementary, and depend on each other for success.

Not everyone can be good at both leadership and management. Some are stronger leaders and some are stronger managers. Both kinds of people are valuable, but perhaps more valuable are those people who can both manage and lead. Understanding the difference is a key first step to this.

The difference between management and leadership

To quote Kotter, management is about coping with complexity, and good management brings a degree of order and consistency. Leadership is about coping with change, and more change always demands more leadership.

Companies manage complexity by planning and budgeting, setting targets, establishing detailed steps to achieve them, and allocating resources. Conversely, leading an organisation towards change involves first setting a direction or vision of the future, along with strategies for achieving that vision.

Managers develop the capacity to achieve plans by organising and staffing. They find qualified individuals, communicate the plan to them, delegate responsibility, and devise systems to monitor progress. Leaders align people by communicating the new direction to others who understand and are committed to achieving it and can help create the necessary coalitions.

Managers ensure plans are accomplished by controlling and problem solving using reports, meetings and other tools, identifying issues, and re-planning and re-organising to resolve them. Leadership involves motivating and inspiring, keeping people moving in the right direction despite major obstacles by appealing to basic human needs, values and emotions.

On reflection, this all sounds really obvious. Everything does with hindsight!

Tolstoy’s Wave

In whatever direction a ship moves the flow of waves it cuts will always be noticeable ahead of it … When the ship moves in one direction there is one and the same wave ahead of it, when it turns frequently the wave ahead of it also turns frequently. But wherever it may turn there always will be the wave anticipating its movement. Whatever happens it appears that just that event was foreseen and decreed. Wherever the ship may go, the rush of water which neither directs nor increases its movement foams ahead of it, and at a distance seems not merely to move of itself but to govern the ship’s movement also.

Tolstoy’s bow-wave metaphor for leadership provokes some interesting questions. Are leaders merely figureheads, propelled by events beyond their control even though it appears the events are controlled by them?

Leaders are in front of those they lead, but are they pulling or are they being pushed? Can you be a leader without followers? Do followers make leaders by being followers? Are leaders and followers just part of a virtuous/vicious circle feedback-loop? Must there be a leader before there are followers? Do organisations need leaders in order to be successful, or are we just used to the idea of having them?

– Grint (1997), cited in Billsberry (2009).

What is ‘reflective learning’?

Reflective learning is the deliberate process of carrying out cycles of inquiry. The term cycle refers to the way a learner switches between action and reflection. Note that the key word in this definition is deliberate.

An important part of reflective learning is a growing awareness of what is going on around you. As we don’t control everything, it is also important to learn to be aware of the impact our actions have on others.

Reflective learning is also focused on the future, so for learning to happen, you need to use your thinking to shape future action.

There are three points to consider:

  • Generating and evaluating new ideas. A crucial part of learning is doing things differently and evaluating the success of these new practices.
  • Reflecting on events and situations. We need to take time to consider what has happened and what can be learned in order to determine future actions.
  • Reflecting upon relations. As the actions of others will limit or help what we do, it is crucial to pay attention to how their actions develop.

In order to determine what to reflect on, it is necessary to ‘frame’ events or thoughts to give them a clear focus. This is simply the act of putting a boundary around them. Three possibilities for framing include:

  • Critical incidents where assumptions or existing ways of working are challenged.
  • A period of time that can be observed for recurring themes or issues that aren’t always noticeable in the moment.
  • An ongoing issue or focus of inquiry. A personal journal can be a useful tool for this.

It is important to remember that reflective learning has to be deliberate. We are deliberately seeking to change something. There is no correct method, only the right method for you.

Also remember that assumptions can be a dangerous block to learning!