Salesforce Administrator 201 Certification

Salesforce is one of the fastest growing and most in-demand skills in IT right now, and to add that knowledge to your resume can have a payoff almost immediately. The Salesforce ecosystem extends far past its original cloud-based CRM platform, so Salesforce technical skills prove extremely useful and necessary in a wide range of areas, from system administrators, to product managers, developers, integration architects and beyond.

Becoming Salesforce Certified is not only a highly effective way to prove your skills are current and at the expected baseline level but more often than not a prerequisite for companies who seek Salesforce experts. Most Salesforce-related jobs will require a minimum of one certification, and the entry-level – but no less challenging – is the Salesforce Certified Administrator certification.

Our Greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.

 -Thomas Edison

One thing I hear a lot from people with multiple Salesforce certifications is that passing the Certified Administrator exam was one of the hardest. Why? Well, because it’s the first one and the material covered is very comprehensive. So although this is a prerequisite exam to several other certification paths, it’s not one you can simply show up and take the test without preparation, even if you’ve worked with Salesforce for years.

Don’t let the difficulty level of the test put you off, though. The good news is that it doesn’t matter whether you’re already an experienced system administrator who wants to take the next step and get certified, or if you come from a completely different background and decided to learn a new set of skills from scratch. Getting that first certification can be achieved in a few months, even if this is the first time you’re reading the word “Salesforce”. You just need to devise a plan, prepare and practice.

I passed the Salesforce Certified Administrator exam exactly 3 months after I started studying for it. Before that, my Salesforce knowledge was very limited, to say the least. But with that goal in mind, I also wanted to pass the first time I took the test. Ambitious? Maybe, but very feasible as I later found out.

There are different ways you can prepare for the exam. 

Salesforce runs courses onsite or online, one of them being the Administration Essentials for New Admins (ADM201), which can run you about $4500 for the 3-day course.

You read that figure correctly. So if you or the company you work for are not willing to make that investment on your certification goals, there are many self-study resources online that can help you prepare for the exam. I took the second option which proved to be highly rewarding and I plan on using those same resources for my future certification exams.

What to expect from the exam?

I found practicing my test-taking technique to be just as important as learning the contents of the exam. Understanding the format of this test will help you structure the way you study for it.

  • There are 60 multiple-choice questions and 105 minutes to complete.
  • 65% is the passing score, which means you need 39 correct answers.
  • You may take the test at a test center, or remotely on your own computer. The second option is monitored through a webcam and you must submit your biometrics and follow strict guidelines beforehand, but may be worth it if you don’t have a test center near you or need more flexibility in terms of scheduling. You can find the information about scheduling your exam and the guidelines here.
  • The fee to take the test is $200 and the retake fee is $100
  • Every question is worth 1 mark on the test. Some questions will ask you to pick more than one correct answer but you either get the whole point or nothing. There’s no partial marks for a multi-select question.
  • The questions on the exam are scenario-based. Some questions are longer than others.
  • You can mark questions for review on your screen during the test, and that’s a tool I highly recommend using so you can maximize your efficiency during the test.
  • When taking the test, if you know the answer to a question right away, don’t dwell on it or second-guess yourself. Pick your answer and move on. Likewise, if you don’t know the answer, mark for review and come back to it later so you have time to answer the ones you know.
  • Use all the allotted time given on the test and read each question carefully, while always being mindful of the clock. I recommend spending 80 minutes on the 60 questions, allowing yourself the remaining 25 minutes for questions marked for review. So if you see yourself spending over 1 minute per question, it may be time to move quicker.
  • Some of the multiple choice options will have made-up names for things such as a “List” Report Format which doesn’t exist or is not one of the report formats in Salesforce. You can eliminate those options easily right off the bat.
  • None of the exams are open book so you may not bring any notes, hard copy material or take notes with you during the exam.

How to prepare the self-study way


Set a goal for yourself

Set a goal for yourself and book the test in advance so you have to meet your deadline.

Any time is the right time, but be realistic and know you will have to dedicate yourself for many hours a day so the content stays fresh in your head. This is particularly important for the Administrator exam because there is SO. MUCH. TO. COVER.


Prepare a schedule

My timeline was 3 months so during the first month I had about 16 hours a week to study. Luckily I was able to do these in large blocks, about 2 days a week. Then by month 2, I increased to 2 full days plus an additional 2 hours a day on the remaining 5 days.
I used the last month for revision. The schedule remained the same but by that point, it was all practice. I studied even a little bit every day, building Salesforce “muscle memory”.

How to Study



Download the official Exam Guide.

Become very familiar with that exam guide because it outlines the weight distribution for the topics required on the exam. Definitely concentrate on the areas of most weight (i.e. Standard and Custom Objects 14%, Security and Access 13%, Reports and Dashboards 10% etc). Anything over 10% is a high priority.


From that exam guide outline, prepare a study schedule.

Make a nice little spreadsheet if you’re into that sort of thing. Divide your schedule into two basic areas: large topics and smaller topics.

If you have a large block of consecutive hours, tackle one of the big topics (over 10%). I spent an entire week on Security & Access, so use as many “large blocks” to study those as you need.

Tackle the 1% and 2% topics (AppExchange, Desktop and Mobile Administration) on days you can’t study for hours consecutively but can still read up on the subject, like on your lunch break.

Overall, I highly recommend starting with Standard and Custom Objects and User and Org Setup because that’s really the beginning of everything.


Standard and Custom Objects


Sales and Marketing Applications


Security and Access

The reason why I put a high priority on these 3 topics is because they cover a large chunk of the exam, they are often interrelated, so if you understand these 3 areas really well, you will be able to answer the most difficult questions in the exam. This doesn’t mean you should skip the other topics. But learn these ones VERY, VERY WELL. 


If you’re a Salesforce beginner (like I was!), go to Trailhead first.

Trailhead is the official Salesforce FREE online learning tool. It’s fun and gives you a practical, hands-on approach to learning Salesforce. They divide the subjects into modules and trails that you can take at your own pace and you earn badges after you complete a module.

There’s something there for every level. A lot of the modules will correspond to topics on the exam guide but it’s not comprehensive because that’s not what Trailhead is for. The Admin Beginner and Intermediate Trails cover a lot of ground but it’s not a one-stop shop. It’s a starting point, especially if you’re stuck on a subject you don’t know much about.

Be aware that Trailhead alone will NOT get you that certification.


Sign up for a Developer Account.

The Developer Edition Org is a free, Salesforce practice org where you can apply the skills as you’re learning. While you’re at it, download the Salesforce1 and SalesforceA apps as well since they will also be covered in the exam. The questions on the exam are scenario-based, so practice your learning material on your Developer Org constantly but also imagine business scenarios where the tools you learn could be used.


Utilize Salesforce Help and Developer Documentation.

They cover everything you need to know. But I wouldn’t tackle those until you’re at least a bit familiar with the topic you’re studying. Then make the Help and Developer documentation your best friend. Every Salesforce expert does.


Implement the Developer Documentation “AW Computing Recruiting App”.

I recommend taking the time to fully implement it on your Developer Org. That will cover a lot of scenarios.


Watch the “Who Sees What” video series by Salesforce.

When you get to Security and Access, make sure to go to YouTube and watch the video series. You don’t want to skip that.


Have a buddy system.

It’s helpful to ask someone with Salesforce experience questions as they come along; no question is silly. If you don’t personally know anyone, the Salesforce Success Community will be more than happy to answer any type of questions you may have.


Take notes as you learn and write down key concepts.

I used a combination of a good old-fashioned notebook and making my own flash cards. There are flash card websites that will have tons of ADM201 notes but be mindful they are not necessarily updated with the current release and may not be accurate.


Find a good study guide website.

There are a few good study guide websites out there. The good ones are paid but for a tiny fraction of the price of the Salesforce courses. Because you pay for these, you can expect a higher quality and accuracy with the material offered.

Because I had already been preparing my own flashcards on some of the key principles from each topic, I found the card and bullet point format from the Focus on Force study guide very helpful.


Find a good mock exam website.

Mock exams can be a hit or miss. Real “question dumps” compromise the integrity of your hard-earned certification. Real questions that get divulged by test takers out there get reported and taken down rather quickly, so don’t waste your time.

I used the Focus on Force Practice Exams, which contain all original questions but follow the same format as the actual exam: 60 questions, 105 minutes to complete. Also try
sample Salesforce ADM201 Exam Questions

That alone helped me practice my test-taking pace but I also found the difficulty level on par with the actual exam. They also give you the
feedback results percentage by topic at the end, as well as details on the correct answers, with screenshots and links for reference.


Finally: when you study, don’t try to just memorize names and numbers.

It’s useless to know how many data types of fields there are if you don’t understand how and when to use which type. The best way to practice these skills is real life or the Developer Org.

It’s important to remember which part of the Setup you can find some of the most important configurations, like the Company Settings but the approach is always from a business case. For instance, there may be a question where you have to decide when to apply a workflow rule instead of a validation rule or an approval process. Sometimes there isn’t a completely wrong answer, but one where you have to choose the “best” answer for that scenario.

One of the questions I asked myself a lot while studying was “do I need to learn this in Salesforce Classic or Lightning Experience?. We strongly suggest to focus on Lightning Experience, but do learn the functionalities that are Classic only as well as how to switch and when to switch and some of the limitations.

You’ve studied hard. You passed the test. Congratulations! Now what?

Getting the “Pass” mark and earning your certification is definitely not the end of the road. Salesforce Certified Administrators are required to take 3 maintenance exams per year, in order to keep their certification valid and current. It is an online and open book exam that is 30 minutes long and typically 5-10 questions, related to the current release. You can find more information about the maintenance exams for all certifications here.

The Salesforce Administrator certification is only the first of many available, and once you earn yours you will find it’s very much like a tattoo: you will want many more! So set yourself that goal, go get it and best of luck!

A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Study Guide Topic Weightings



























To prepare successfully for the Salesforce Admin Certification Exam, we recommend to work through our Admin Certification Study Guide and Practice Exams.

Salesforce Admin Certification Practice Exams

Test yourself with complete practice exams or focus on a particular topic with the topic exams. Find out if you are ready for the exam.

Salesforce Admin Certification Study Guide

Every topic objective explained thoroughly. The most efficient way to study the key concepts in the exam.


        1. Sara S.

          Hi Robert,

          The materials will be updated with the Winter ’20 release next month, and we aim to finish updates before the year ends (if not sooner).

  1. Michał Pastuszka

    Hi, just wanted to write that I managed to pass the exam yesterday. Even though I’ve been working as a developer for almost 3 years now, this guide was extremely helpful. I managed to find some new information + remind myself about some standard functionalities, that I didn’t use for quite some time. You did some really nice work here! Thanks a lot!

  2. Eric Land

    Hello all, I just wanted to say that this resource was invaluable to me as a first time certification test taker. I have been an Admin now for a year, transitioning from a generalist developer type of role, and as I’m basically starting over, it helped me to really get a feel for the types of questions that would be asked and the format in which they were asked… how to read between the lines to not get caught up in the ‘tricky’ wording sometimes used. This site, along with Trailhead and practical experience helped immensely. I’m here to say that I passed my Admin 201 cert exam the first time out last month and I’m already working on the Advanced Admin and Service Cloud Consultant Certifications.

    Thank you for putting this all together and I hope to get through all of them as I work towards an architect role!

  3. neha.a.bhatia

    I have studied the course through Udemy, Revising the trails, In the focusonforce test I am not even scoring passing percentage. Kind of discouraging! I dont how to prepare as when i am taking the test the concepts are jumbled up!

    1. Martin Gessner Post author

      We have both full practice exams where the questions are weighted according to the official study guide weightings, but we also have topic specific tests, so you can focus on one area at a time. Many people like to study topics one by one using trailheads and our study guide and then take our topic exams, before doing final preparation using the full practice exams.

  4. Admin

    Hello Martin, Can you please let me know, if the Admin Certification Questions are from Classic or Lightning or from both? Please let me know, whether I should focus more on Classic/LEX for Admin Certification. Thanks

    1. Martin Gessner Post author

      They are a mixture of both and we are distinguishing in the questions when there is a difference between the two. Many topics are independent of the UI.

  5. Rina

    Hi Martin,
    I just earned my very first ADM-201 certificate in the first attempt thanks to your course and practice tests. The course content is tailored appropriately to speed up the learning process without getting bored. And the practice test questions are by far the best to test our knowledge.
    I have already purchased your platform app builder course. Thank You once again!!!

  6. K C Vishwanathan

    Hi Martin,
    I am newbie and while I have gone through some of the topics on Salesforce, I am yet to do a deep dive. Can you please let me know when is the next exam scheduled and how time would be needed for the preparation.
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Martin Gessner Post author

      Hi, regarding the exam scheduling, you may book and take the test at a test centre, or remotely on your own computer. The second option is monitored through a webcam and you must submit your biometrics and follow strict guidelines beforehand, but may be worth it if you don’t have a test centre near you or need more flexibility in terms of scheduling. You can find the information about scheduling your exam and the guidelines here:

  7. Guillaume Loubier

    Thanks Martin for the great content. I successfully completed Admin cert last week with quite good results! All the questions and explanations with links to official documentation are the reason why the course is so useful. Now I’ll be attacking the last course you’ve put online, Dev II. Thanks!

    1. Martin Gessner Post author

      Hi Mohit, it will help you be well prepared by covering the topics in the official study guide, but obviously it is up to you to learn! Best wishes for your exam.

  8. mohit

    Hi Martin,
    I am giving a salesforce adm 201 exam on 28 november, as of now i’ve prepared the syllabus but need to do some work out .could you please help me out with the latest questions . And one more thing .. as this would be Winter 18 exam . so how much it will differ from summer 17 exam ? Please guide.

    1. Martin Gessner Post author

      Hi Mohit, the Winter 18 official study guide was just released and does not have any changes to the topics from the previous release. My understanding is that each new release will have a few release specific and lightning questions, but the questions that test the fundamentals will stay pretty much the same.

  9. Ketan

    Hi Martin,

    Great material and information. Greatly appreciate putting this together. I called to register for Admin 201 exam was told Sales force is doing some maintenance and wont be available till 11/20. Do you think they might be changing the exam? does the material are up to date?

    1. Martin Gessner Post author

      Hi Ketan, Salesforce will be updating the official study guide and exam to Winter 18 on the 20th of November. We alway check for any changes to the study guide and update the materials accordingly. From release to release, there are usually only small changes.

  10. naziha

    Hello Martin,

    Thanks you for the profound explanation!

    if I study full-time for the administrator certificate, how much time can I take for preparation.

      just to plan well

    To buy the curse and the exam, I need to have a PayPal account?

    1. Martin Gessner Post author

      Hi Naziha,

      The time you take for preparation will depend on your previous experience, and amount of time you have available each day, but I would suggest at a minimum a couple of weeks to make sure you go through each topic thoroughly.

      You don’t need a Paypal account, Paypal allows purchases using a credit / debit card without a Paypal account.

  11. indraja

    hello dear friends i am planning to strat preparing for salesforce admin 201 .i dont know how to start i am getting confusion please let me know friends how to prepare for 201 certification thank u in advance..

  12. Pingback: Salesforce Administrator Exam Preparation & Exam Taking Strategy – Jenwlee's Salesforce Blog