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. An alternative to the Salesforce Class is a Live Instructor-Led class offered by K2 University. 

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 such as the Focus on Force Admin Practice Exam and Study Guide. 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. Configuration & Setup 20%, Object Manager & Lightning App Builder 20%, Workflow/Process Information 16%, 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 smaller topic (Productivity and Collaboration) 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 Configuration & Setup because that’s really the beginning of everything.


Configuration & Setup


Object Manager & Lightning App Builder


Workflow/Process Information

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 projects found in these Trailhead Trails.

Build Platform Apps in Lightning Experience
Build Apps Fast with Salesforce Platform Services

I recommend taking the time to fully implement them in your Developer Org. They 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

Case Study

Here's what Focus on Force user Tom Apicella had to say:

"I would not have been able to pass without the Study Guide and Practice Exams, so a big thank you to Focus On Force! In the same token, the trail-blazer Admin trail was very beneficial on the problem solving questions, and terminology.

To prepare for Admin Exam, here are the steps I took.

1. Completed the Admin Trail On TrailBlazer Prepare for Your Salesforce Administrator Credential 

2. Bought the Focus on Force study guide and practice exams — I studied each section of the study guide and then took the corresponding section exams. The first time through the practice exams I used the option to see my answers after each question. Whether I was right or wrong on a question I read the commentary they have for each answer and some of the reference links as needed. After taking the test I highly recommend reading those reference links!

After I took the sectional exams, I then took the practice exams, study on the weak parts and then took the sectional exams again and then the practice exams one more time.

On the 2nd time on the full practice exams I took them with the option to have the answers at the end like the actual exam. I was scoring in the 90’s on these this time so I felt I was ready to take the exam.

3. Took Test and Passed First Time!!! Although overall I felt I was well prepared for this test, there seemed to about a half of dozen or so questions that were a bit foreign to me. Maybe those were the extra 5 questions they throw in there?

I have a new game plan for the next cert I am going to obtain based on this experience.

Going forward here are the steps I plan on taking for preparing for the exam.

1. Buy the Focus on Force study guide and go through all the material.

2. Complete the Advanced Admin Trail On TrailBlazer

3. Buy the Focus on Force Advanced Admin Exams and use the study guide and practice exams and go section by section like I did previously.

I wish you all Good Luck on your Journey!" — Tom Apicella

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. Nikki Myoraku

    BIG thank you to Martin, Charly, and everyone on the FoF team! I passed the Salesforce Administrator exam last week and the FoF videos and exams (both topic and practice) were a huge support to me. Special shoutout to Charly – the admin study group videos are still super relevant, even a few years later, and the way the material is presented and explained really helped me wrap my head around how to think about Salesforce. I will definitely return to FoF for my next certification prep. Thank you again!

    1. Sandeep Focus Team

      Hi Nikki, Congratulations on passing your Salesforce Administrator exam! We’re so glad that our videos and exams were helpful to you. We know that passing this exam is a big accomplishment, and we’re proud to have played a role in your success. We’ll be sure to pass along your shoutout to Charly. She’s a great instructor, and we’re glad that her videos were helpful to you.

      We’re excited to have you as a part of the FoF community, and we look forward to helping you with your next certification prep. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions.

      Congratulations again on your success!

      Best regards,
      FoF Team

  2. Arun Kumar Sukumar

    Thanks a ton to FoF team! I have successfully completed my SalesForce Admin certification last week in my first attempt!
    Charly’s videos and the topic-wise exam questions were really helpful during my preparation.
    Thanks again!

    1. Sandeep Focus Team

      Congratulations Arun, on passing your Salesforce Admin certification exam on your first attempt! We’re thrilled to hear that the FoF materials and Charly’s videos were helpful resources in your preparation. Your hard work and dedication have paid off, and we wish you all the best in your future endeavors. Keep up the great work!

  3. Radhika Janjanam

    Thank you so very much for suggesting these projects below:

    Build Platform Apps in Lightning Experience
    Build Apps Fast with Salesforce Platform Services

    Gives complete picture of constructing an app from scratch and understanding what type of questions can show up in the exam too.

  4. Jyoti Sonar

    Any idea till when is the Spring 21 release or when will the next release switch to? I am planning for my exam in Oct adn worst case if I have to take again, will I still be on Spring release? Can anyone help? Thanks!

    1. FOF Moderator

      Salesforce has already released the Summer ’21 updates and we have already implemented the revisions that went along with it. FOF is aligned with the Salesforce Exam Outline that is officially published here.
      When you take your exam in October 2021, it would include the modifications that Salesforce has implemented for SU21.

      No exact release date has been posted for SW21 yet but historically, it’s towards the middle or end of November.
      Hope this clarifies.

    1. jaymalik

      That document has already been retired by Salesforce. However, you can check this Trail from Trailhead that breaks it down into several projects instead. This other Trail also includes a project about building a ‘Battle Station App’.

    1. jaymalik

      Right now, our materials (study guides and exams) have been updated to align with the latest Salesforce (Winter ’21) release. The Spring ’21 release is scheduled for February and the official exams aren’t immediately synchronous with the release changes. I wouldn’t be worried about release updates affecting exams significantly anyway.