How much time do I need to study for a Salesforce Certification Exam?

Another common question that comes up a lot when people start studying Salesforce, is how much time one will need to study for the actual certification exam.

Essentially, people want to know how much time they should dedicate to studying; if they're studying enough, or if their current schedule will allow them to prepare sufficiently for the exams.

How much time?

I continue my conversation with Salesforce Architect and Colorado Springs User Group Leader Roy Moore about how much time one needs to study for a Salesforce Certification Exam.

Interviewee Roy Moore

Roy Moore

Roy Moore has been Salesforcing since 2010 and has passed 7 exams on the first try, and 3 exams on the second try — making him an 11X certified Application Architect (heading for Platform Architect). He is a 6X Trailhead Ranger and is Co-Leader of the Colorado Springs Salesforce User Group.

How much time do I need to study for a Salesforce Certification exam?

Clock icon with question mark

Martin: I'm here again with Roy Moore. And Roy, what would you answer when people ask you, 'How much time do I need to study for a Salesforce Certification Exam?'

Roy: 13 hours — that's how long you need to prepare for all the Salesforce Certifications!

Martin:  Really? 13 hours? Okay, that's interesting. 

Roy: No, not really. I'm kidding! It totally depends. (Laughter) I do get that question a lot though. People ask me how long and it just depends. But we can explain — we can talk about why it depends. 

Martin: Okay. So what does it actually depend on?

Roy: Well it depends on a few things: it depends on your experience — how long have you been in Salesforce? It depends on what you've been doing in Salesforce, it depends on what level of Salesforce org that you've been working on — if it's less than Enterprise, then there are sections of Salesforce you've never been exposed to because it's not unlocked for an org that's under the Enterprise level. It depends on how healthy your org is — did you help stand it up? Did you build it from scratch? Or have you just been resetting passwords the time that you've been working on Salesforce? It's just so many factors. So this is the rubric I came up with.

Roy's Rubric

Your experience matters

Roy: It's not scientific or anything. It's just my humble opinion that if yesterday you said ‘What Salesforce?’ Then you probably need about 200 hours of prep time to get ready for your first certification. If you've been Salesforcing for a year maybe in an Admin role or a Junior Admin role — maybe 80 hours of prep time is enough. 2 years — 40 hours. 3 years — 20 hours. This again is a very loose rubric. There are so many pieces that could influence this. But assuming this is correct, there is a quiz we could look at together — a pop quiz. 

Example regarding experience

Roy: Susan — she's been at her company for two years as a Salesforce Admin and she's been prepping for Admin cert. She's decided she can study for an hour a day, Monday through Friday. And five hours on the weekend. When should Susan schedule her exam? So going back to that key from before she could say an hour a day on the weekdays and five hours on weekends, and she's been Salesforcing for two years — what would you think that would mean for how long she needs to put off the exam for?

Martin: Let's just go back and look at the question again. I think this is really useful and people should spend the time to just step through it and think about some of the factors that Roy has mentioned. So Susan has been at her company for two years, so now it's important to ask: ‘What has she actually been doing?’

What has Susan been doing the last 2 years?

Martin: So she's been a Salesforce Admin for two years. Now she's prepping for Admin cert. So already we know that she's got two years of experience on the job actually working with Salesforce. And then now the next question is ‘How much time does she actually have to study?’ So she's decided she's got one hour a day and that's Monday through Friday. And five hours on the weekend. So now we know how many hours. We know what her prior experience is. And that really gives some inputs into allowing her to think about how much time does she need, and when should she schedule her exam.

Roy: And the answer that you'll come up with — if you just rely on the rubric before, is four weeks. But this is really a trick question because I said four weeks, give or take six months as a joke. And the second answer is ‘No clue.’ So those are two answers and it comes down to the next slide. The next slide tells us why it depends. And we can go through these questions. Did she build the org? Did she inherit it? Has she been doing Salesforce Admin full-time/half-time/quarter-time? Is she a solo Admin or is she on a team? Is the org healthy or is it a mess? How customized is it? How many users and stakeholders? What edition of Salesforce? If it's less than Enterprise, then there's stuff she's never touched before. Did she bring any transferable skills to the role? Has she made a significant enhancement or has she just been resetting passwords for the last two years? So all this comes back to — it depends.

What Salesforce recommends

Experience plus studying

Martin: One of the important points out of this is that Salesforce recommends that you have a certain amount of on-the-job experience as well as studying through the topics. So putting those two things together, and then as Roy has suggested here — when you actually dig into what has she been doing. You know, then that will also factor into how much knowledge she has and how that can actually be combined with the theoretical sort of study of combining the knowledge and experience together. And that's going to put you in the best position to be able to actually answer the Salesforce certification questions — which are going to be testing your knowledge, giving you different options, and asking you to pick the best option when there are multiple correct options. So when you look at all of these different questions, and what type of experience you have — that really will determine how well are you going to be able to answer those types of questions.

Roy: If Susan has been a full-time Salesforce Admin for two years: she helped stand up an Enterprise level org; if she's worked hard to maintain and keep enhancing or using Salesforce best practices; if she's been exploring the yearly release notes three times a year if she's been regulating her local community group and being engaged in that and actively learning on Trailhead — then four weeks very well might be enough for her to get ready for her certification.

Four weeks studying for Susan

Martin: And I think what's interesting on this slide and what Roy has mentioned is that there are other things you could be doing to putting yourself in the position where you're ready to say ‘Yes. I should be Admin Certified or certified in any of the areas.’ Let's look at some of the points that are mentioned here. She helped stand up an enterprise-level org. So obviously, working in an org where you've got a handful of users versus having hundreds of users is totally different. And you're going to have different challenges, and you're going to be working on different types of solutions. Then the next point that Roy has mentioned here is working hard to maintain and keep enhancing the org using Salesforce best practices. You know, coming up with your own solutions versus maybe going out to the community, doing research, looking at what Salesforce suggests when you have to come up with a solution. That’s going to distinguish you as well. Then the next one is exploring the release notes. So the release notes — obviously, they're coming out three times a year. There's a lot of information in them but it's very important to stay on top of them. And to know — you know we mentioned Flow before. That was a focus on one of the recent updates to the Admin exam where they've put more emphasis on process automation and in particular, Flows. So keeping up with what's going on with workflow versus process builder versus flows. And what are the capabilities of those tools? And then the last one: attending your local community group, actively learning on Trailhead — that's all the community involvement. And actually working with other people and just having that interaction can help you reinforce your own learning versus just doing it all by yourself.

Roy: Absolutely. A lot of this is about soft sharpening. It's about intentionally carving out time to take what you know and keep it fresh so it doesn't get rusty. As it gets updated in releases and whatnot, you keep it up to date in your mind, and you get exposure to new things on Trailhead that maybe your org doesn't have a need for right now. But just getting that exposure could be helpful because I've had it happen a dozen times where my company wanted to do something and I had decided: ‘You know, I think there's a trail about that.’ I believe I did one a few months ago or a year ago and has allowed me to go find data about that feature. So absolutely, we have to be soft sharpeners as we approach our certifications and our professional careers.

A formula to help you decide when to schedule

Martin: So, Roy, you've come up with a bit of a formula to help people decide on when they actually should schedule their exam date.

Roy: Yes. And this is basic reverse engineering. Basically, you take today's date and you take the number of hours that you need to study, and you take the hours per week that you can study. You do the Math on that in this example. Let's say you need 60 hours to get ready for the exam and that you can save for 15 hours a week. Well, 60 divided by 15 is 4. That's 4 weeks. You take the date, you add four weeks to it and that's your exam date.

How to compute your exam date

Martin: I think this is really helpful for people just to actually break it down and actually have some sort of guidance. And obviously, you can adjust this, but just actually taking the time to think through how many hours roughly do you think you need based on all of the factors that we talked about before. And then how many hours do you actually have? And it's easy to overestimate that — so I'd be conservative on the actual hours per week that you have, and then coming up with that date. And that date is going to give you a goal to work towards. I think it's really important to set a goal and — you know, otherwise, you might find yourself just pushing that date out and out because it is easy to reschedule.

Roy: Don't tell that part. (Laughter) You're absolutely right. Without figuring out a goal of, ‘Well, I need to study this many hours and I think I can study this many hours a week.’ I mean, it could be 80 hours you need to study, and 10 hours a week you need to study. It could be 20 hours you need to study, and five hours a week you need to study. I mean whatever it is, you do that till you get that exam date. But as you said, Martin. The exam date is a goal, and if you don't set that… Unless you're extremely disciplined — most of us will say maybe next week, etc. And we'll just push it for months and months. But once you schedule that exam, and you say ‘Okay. I have committed. I've set the date; I've scheduled it. I need to put in my time studying.’ It will help you to actually fulfill that goal in a timely manner.

Author: Martin Gessner

Martin Gessner is the Founder of Focus on Force. 

He has spent over 10 years working in various Salesforce roles including business analyst, project manager, consultant and solutions architect. Along the way he has earned twelve certifications, published "The Salesforce Career Playbook", and helps Salesforce professionals learn more about Salesforce, develop their career and prepare for certifications.

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