Studying for the Salesforce Sharing and Visibility Architect certification exam

Dave Ge

Dave Ge

Sailing Instructor, 10x certified Salesforce Administrator, Math Tutor.

Introduction

After completing the Salesforce Einstein exam last year, Sharing and Visibility seemed a logical next step. I have a personal interest and professional background in computer security. Probably any Admin with experience has dealt with issues of security and sharing. 

Most Salesforce engineers who have passed a few certification exams probably have a well-honed strategy for exam study and preparation, and do not need another study guide like this one. But I am writing it anyway, and I am writing it now while the experience is recent and thoughts are fresh. If you don’t need an exam guide please read on anyway. I’m told the jokes are good.

This exam journey was different, largely because of the very different study resources it took to get there.

  • Study the Exam Guide
  • Ignore the Exam Dump Sites
  • Reading list in Trailhead
  • Four key white papers
  • Continue to ignore the exam dump sites
  • Focus on Force practice tests
  • Developer org
  • Focus on Force Sharing and Visibility forum
  • Ignore the dump sites, continued
  • Udemy and Pluralsight courses
  • My own article on community sharing
  • Ladies be Architects
  • Sanctimoniously castigate the dump sites
  • Keep good notes
  • Take a breather
  • Take the exam

Exam Guide

All exam journeys start with the exam guide. If you plan to take an exam, it probably helps to know what you will be tested on:). Weightings in this case are different and not evenly distributed. Most of the exam is about declarative sharing. Apex sharing and tuning for large data volumes take up the rest. Details of category breakdowns and weightings are in the exam guide that any aspirant must read, and repeating it here adds no value to a guide like this that any seasoned Administrator doesn’t need in the first place. The link is here.

Web Search

Also typical of most exam aspirants, I did a fair amount of googling to see what resources are out there. There are many personal blogs, Medium posts, web sites, exorbitantly priced exam dump sites, articles, etc. out there; none of which seemed very interesting or valuable this time around. When studying for the Einstein exam I came across an excellent Medium post by Kelsey Shannon, but, for this exam, a lot is out there, none of it really worth looking at.

Trailhead

Trailhead is, or at least should be, where everyone goes, right after reading the exam guide and looking over dump sites. There are several Trailmixes for this exam. Most seemingly take an indiscriminate everything but/and the kitchen sink approach, recommending modules, reading, and trails representing tens of thousands of trailhead points, dozens of badges, and enough task hours that, by the time you are done, you are retired, senile, and no longer need the certification anyway.

Salesforce, on the other hand, and who, by the way, actually writes this exam, recommends a relatively modest 38-hour 9,100-point study path. It is overloaded with reading material and under-populated with the usual study modules and projects that most of us know and love. I’ve been an avid trailhead student for a long time, and already completed all of the very few Trailhead modules in the Trailmix for this exam. 

I started at the bottom of this huge reading list, and worked my way up, first reading the recommended topics on encryption, Apex sharing, sales realignment, and group membership. The very last item on the list is a broken link to “Hands on Activities Section”. I hope Salesforce will someday fix it.

Four Key White Papers

I was disappointed to see nearly all the study resources in Trailhead were reading material rather than exercises. The reading is great quality information, albeit frequently soporific and helpful curing insomnia.

It has been my experience through many exams now that what Salesforce publishes in their manuals is a good source of exam questions. It was certainly the case here. Among this overwhelming inundating plethora of reading the best materials are:

Focus on Force Practice Exams

Practice exams from Focus on Force have a well-deserved reputation as valuable educational resources. The tests are well written, have detailed informative explanations of the answers, and cite good references for further study. The tests are not just good practice but are also a great educational resource. To take best and full advantage of this resource I kept a developer org open and used it to research and further investigate questions and answers. 

Focus on Force practice exams as a resource

Focus on Force Sharing and Visibility Forum

I studied comments and feedback in the Focus on Force forum for this exam and read a lot of valuable information. I strongly urge anyone studying for this exam to take a look. There are comments from recent test takers about topic coverage and study suggestions. From this forum I learned to carefully study Territory Management and Community Sharing. Had I not seen these posts I would have studied these topics less carefully, and probably have missed a few exam questions. The advice was good and there were questions on these topics.

Udemy and Pluralsight Classes

I have had good experience in the past with classes from Udemy and Pluralsight. I did some searching for relevant classes and found two courses that turned out to be very good.

For a comfortably modest price, Pluralsight has a six-video five hour series for the Advanced Sharing and Visibility Designer certification

  • Security, by Sara Nettles 
  • Salesforce Data Access, also by Sara Nettles
  • Team Sharing by Emilee McWilliams
  • Sharing Files, Reports, and Dashboards by Sara Nettles
  • Territory Management by Sara Nettles
  • Advanced Sharing by Mehdi Maujood 


The Advanced Sharing video by Mehdi Maujood is exceptionally good. I highly recommend it to get ready for this exam. 

There are transcripts available for each video making it easy to go back for review and further study.

Udemy offers several Sharing and Visibility Designer exam review resources. After looking over what was available, the course from Walid El Horr is an easy choice. He speaks well, obviously knows the topic, the course is well organized, and the slides look professional. It is just over 8 hours. The slides can be downloaded for future review and reference. The sections on Apex and programmatic sharing are especially good.

My Own Article on Sharing in Salesforce Communities

As I learned from studying the Focus on Force forum, there is significant exam coverage of sharing in Salesforce Communities. Last year, I published an article about Community (now Experience-) cloud sharing among communities and more recently had to study it in response to a timely post from a reader. 

Timing of that reader’s post could not have been more prescient. I had to study the issue again, re-read my own article, and re-watch a few Gemma Blezzard videos to get a grip on my facts, respond to the post, and prepare for this exam. Consistent with the advice and suggestions I read on the Focus on Force form posts there were questions about sharing with community and internal users, sharing sets, share groups, and Community (er, Experience-) Cloud licenses.

I still can’t seem to fully mouth ‘Experience’ Cloud, it just doesn’t sound right.

Ladies be Architects

I have crossed paths many times with the videos and tutorials posted by Gemma Blezard and the Ladies be Architects group. I watched three of her videos, on Sharing Architecture, Programmatic Sharing, and Territory Management. The video on Sharing Architecture is especially good.

Dump Sites and Garbage Dumps

I have never looked at a Salesforce exam dump site. But I know people who have. If you are so poor that you can’t afford a few $25.00 study guides to take a $400 exam, then have a look at Quizlet and some of the other dump sites. You will find all the exam questions from Focus on Force and Salesforce Ben, plagiarized, quoted without attribution, reused and rife with errors in technical accuracy, spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence construction, and usage. Aside from having the all professional appearance of a failed seventh-grade science project, these dump sites have the added and entertaining feature of frequently being flat out wrong much of the time in answers to practice test questions.

I did a brief study session on Quizlet and quickly got disgusted with seeing questions plagiarized from Focus on Force and Salesforce Ben, questions that are poorly worded and exhibit a conspicuous lack of mastery of the English language (George Bush and Arnold Schwarzenneger must be advisors there…), blatant misstatements of fact, and a profound display of ignorance about all things Salesforce and Sharing. 

Ironically, one good indication you are ready for the exam is when you can easily spot the dump-site questions that are flat-out wrong, or recognizable as plagiarized from work by Martin Gessner and Christine Marshall. So in a perverse sort of way, plagiarized low-quality exam dumps are worth a look, just to check if you are ready.

Dump Sites and Garbage Dumps

About Weightings

I don’t agree with the advice I often see, to focus study efforts on more heavily weighted exam sections. It is all important. Some exams I pass by a thin margin. Every ounce of knowledge helps get you closer to a passing score. Performance and Programmatic Sharing in this case are almost trivial portions of the exam, but the topics are interesting, no harder to learn, and shed light insight and understanding of the more heavily weighted topics in declarative sharing. In other words, study performance and programmatic sharing, you will better understand declarative sharing, and boost your score.

Final Countdown to Exam Day

As usual, I made notes as I studied. I had about 20 pages by exam time. During the last 24 hours I relaxed, read over my notes, re-read my favorite white papers, watched the Mehdi Maujood’s Apex sharing video, and re-read all of Walid’s slides. For me it works to relax and reflect the last 24 hours rather than study hard, try to learn new material, or cram additional facts into my head.

Reflections

The exam is two hours. I used all of it. I took it at home and so pencil and paper are prohibited, which would have been helpful with some of the complex sharing questions. I usually try to get through an exam twice with time to spare for a third abbreviated pass, but this time, despite having two hours, it was slow going. I made the first pass with barely half an hour to spare. Be sure and make a pit-stop before starting and don’t drink too much coffee in the morning. 🙂

When time ran out and I saw ‘pass’ on the screen I remember feeling this was not the most painful exam. I feel the prior experience with Community Cloud, security super badge, and the two ‘Who sees What’ videos from Salesforce were helpful. I have been an administrator for a few years now, and have taught classes on Salesforce security. That prior experience helped. The exam sections on performance tuning for large data volumes and Apex programmatic sharing, representing a quarter of the exam, were new and very interesting, but most of the exam is an in-depth test of what administrators see in the normal course of maintaining user access and system security.

This journey was different from all the others, with an inordinate amount of reading and very few Trailhead modules. I used a lot more non-Salesforce resources. Studying the Focus on Force exams, while having a developer org open to see first-hand what Martin Gessner is talking about, was educational. Looking back on the Salesforce Trailmix for this exam, all that reading material, while slow and voluminous to trudge through, hits all the topics I saw that day on the exam.

In prior study guides I have written at some length about exam strategy. I won’t repeat it here, but strategies that Ben McCarthy, Stacy O’Leary, Gemma Blezard, and others write about are worth a look. Stacy and Gemma both seem to advocate what I would call a ‘fail early and often’ strategy that I agree with: Hurry up, take the exam, don’t wait, don’t be afraid to fail and try again. But remember, while good strategy helps, knowing the material is crucial, and that will get you a passing score.

Key study resources

By way of summary the best study resources for this exam are:

  • Focus on Force Sharing and Visibility practice exams 
  • Developer org
  • Focus on Force Sharing and Visibility forum
  • All the reading in Salesforce Sharing and Visibility Trailmix 
  • Four Salesforce white papers:  
    — Record Level Access Under the Hood
    — Designing Record Access for Enterprise Scale
    Guide to Sharing Architecture
    Best Practices for Deployments with Large Data Volumes 
  • Udemy class by Wallid El Horr
  • Pluralsight class by Sara Nettles, Emilee McWilliams and Mehdi Maujood
  • My own article on Community Sharing
  • Sharing video from Ladies be Architects

Conclusions and Thanks

This guide spells out how I studied for and passed the Sharing and Visibility Architect exam. I got there using many of the familiar Salesforce study resources, and the work of many people, named in this article, who are probably well-known to anyone who has worked in this ecosystem for any length of time. For those of you planning to take this exam I hope this article is helpful and if you have questions or comments please let me hear from you. 

Thank you, 

Dave Ge

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