The Challenges of Salesforce Certification

As someone who has held the Salesforce certified Developer and Salesforce certified Administrator certifications for a number of years, I have become quite familiar with the study, examination and maintenance process for these certifications.

In my opinion, an individual’s chances of passing a specific exam depend heavily on the amount of real-world experience possessed by him or her. For example, it would be extremely difficult for a Salesforce user with no administration experience to pass the Administrator 1 exam, even if that user had studied for the exam thoroughly and passed every mock exam available online. There are several reasons I have come to this belief:

In preparation for both Administrator and Developer exams, I leveraged many of the free mock exams and study guides available on the Internet. Although they seemed helpful, upon completing the actual exams, I realized that none of the study guides adequately captured the breadth of the questions that were on the exam. The core concepts were mostly there but the exams will throw huge curveball questions at you that may or may not have been in the study guide. One example that comes to mind are questions about multilingual Salesforce Orgs. Nowhere did I find sample questions on this topic; however, the topic was present in the Administrator exam. This is why months or years of real-world experience and a very strong grasp of the exam’s core concepts are critical to success. In fact, the Salesforce Admin exam guide states:

“…the candidate should have six or more months of experience as a Salesforce Administrator and should be able to successfully perform the tasks outlined in the exam objectives.”

Another complexity of the exam that may cause some difficulty (it did for me) is the structure and wording of the exam’s questions. The exam will not only test your knowledge of Salesforce but also your ability to deal with tricky, possibly deceptive questions. Here’s an example taken from the exam guide:

4. Which statement about custom summary formulas in reports is true? Choose two answers.
a.     Reports can be grouped by a custom summary formula result.
b.     Custom summary formulas can reference a formula field within a report.
c.      Custom summary formulas can reference another custom summary formula.
d.     Custom summary formulas can be used in a report built from a custom report type.

The piece to take note of here is the “Choose two answers” requirement. This will be a common theme throughout the examination. I personally came across questions where there appeared to be only a single correct answer and others where there were three or more possibilities but the specific question wanted two and only two responses.

These are the reasons I believe there is no amount of studying for the Salesforce exams that can override a lack of experience in actually using the product. The exam will throw oddball questions at you on top of a potentially tricky exam structure.