Salesforce Certification Exams:
Scheduling, Location & Vouchers
For the third installment of this series, we tackle several commonly-asked questions during your certification journey: ‘How do I schedule my exam?’, ‘Should I take the exam onsite or online?’, and ‘How do I score with those voucher codes?’
Essentially, people new to the Salesforce ecosystem are always curious as to how they can schedule their exams, if there is any discernible difference in taking the test at a physical testing center or simply online, and how they can save a little bit of money when taking the exams.
I continue my conversation with Salesforce Architect and Colorado Springs User Group Leader Roy Moore about how one can go about setting their exam date, why taking the exams onsite has fewer hassles, and how you can save 50% if you work for a nonprofit.
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.
Martin: Roy the first thing to talk about and define is what exactly does ‘onsite’ or ‘online’ mean?
Roy: Yeah, good question. So when you get to the place where you schedule your exam, you have these two options: onsite and online. Onsite is a testing center. There are testing centers set up as independent businesses at universities and colleges. Some libraries have testing centers — but these are places you go in person to take the test. Online is pretty much what it sounds like — it's online at your home, or in your office where it's convenient for you to take the exam. So that's the difference between onsite and online. However, there is a qualifiable difference between the experiences you might have between onsite testing and online testing.
Roy: What I would recommend if you have the option is taking the exams onsite. The reason for that is when you do online testing at your home or in your office, there are additional requirements that are needed that you don't have to worry about when you're onsite. So there's a camera set up and there's this ‘Big Brother software’ from Salesforce that you have to download on your computer. There are all these ‘atmosphere controls’ that you have to worry about including a live person monitoring your test-taking. And I've had numerous friends have their online exams stopped by the proctor for the craziest reasons: a friend's exam was stopped because a train went by his window; another friend's exam was stopped because they were next to a conference room that had a birthday party and they were singing ‘Happy Birthday’ in the next room and it came through the speakers of the computer. Exams have been stopped because dogs were barking; one friend was reading the questions out loud to himself and the proctor stopped him and said ‘Who are you talking to?’ And he had to stand up, turn his camera around, show the room in a 360-degree view; to show that no one else was there — that he was just talking to himself. And there are these hassles with the ‘Big Brother software.’ I had a co-worker who tried to do the online exam, and he tried to put the software on his work computer and it would not play with the company's security on the work computer. So after several hours of trying to get it to play — he finally gave up and just went to a testing center because of the company box and the security controls. Mac and Apple users have additional things that they have to do to enable/disable permissions on their computers: there's a face recognition software that you have to pass and the lightning has to be just right. So my point here is the online exam has a bunch of hoops and hurdles to jump through, and the only downside to going onsite is you have to drive somewhere. Other than that, I don't see a benefit to doing it online — that's just my opinion.
Martin: And I agree. I've done both and while my online exam experience didn't actually have many hiccups, there was all the preparation time. It was getting the camera set up at the right angle and making sure that everything was just right. And if you go onsite, yes you can have some travel time but you can actually use the travel time to prepare yourself and think things through. And when you get there, it's all set up, you're ready to go and you don't have to worry about any of the logistics.
Roy: The easiest way to schedule your exam is to go to Trailhead and look at the certification you're setting for. There's a button on there that says ‘Schedule Exam Now.’ If you click on it, it will bring you to the Kryterion™ Global Testing Solutions, Salesforce’s partner.
Roy: They're the ones who manage the Salesforce Certification Exams for Salesforce. The very first time you come to this page, there is a section that says ‘New to Salesforce certification?’ and you click on a link that says ‘Create a new Webassessor™ login.’ When you do that — this is a special note: Do NOT use your work email! Use a personal email.
Roy: These are the certifications that you're testing for, and if you leave this job and go to another job you don't want to have to reach out to a former employer and say, ‘Hey, I need to get access to my certifications please.’ You want those to go with you, so even if work is paying for them you still want to set up your Webassessor™ account with your personal email address for future-proofing your career. So with that aside, once you've created your credentials you go in and find the certifications that you are looking at. Again, you have the option of ‘online’ or ‘onsite’ — you choose one of those. Whichever you decide to do after doing your research. Once you've selected your exam, and you've chosen ‘online’ or ‘onsite’ — let's assume you've chosen onsite, it'll ask you to help them find the testing center.
Roy: So you'll put in your country, your province, or state, you give some boundaries like your postal code or zip code, and the range and it'll tell you what testing centers are within range of the criteria that you've given them. Select all the ones that you think are good potentials. This is for Colorado Springs — this is where I live and there are two testing centers. So in this example, I've checked both of them. Then you click ‘Select’ and now it brings you to this calendar tool that lets you choose a day and a time.
Roy: And let's say Pikes Peak didn't have anything I liked when I was looking to schedule this, well then I could go down to the AcuSkill — the other testing center that's close enough for me to drive to and check out the calendar for that one. But through one of those two testing centers, and through one of these two calendar and start time tools, I could choose a date, time, and location for the exam. And then once I've done that — I have the day, location, time, price, and everything I need to know about the exam, I'm ready to Checkout. Except — look at that box right in the middle, what do you think about that?
Martin: So I can see that's where you put a coupon or a voucher code. I wonder how I'd get one of those?
Roy: So you might be saying, ‘How do I score with those coupons and voucher codes?’ Here are a few different ways you can get them.
Roy: The most common ways are Certification Days through Salesforce's Trailblazer Community. There's a group called Certification Days which you should definitely join and follow. If you go through one of their Certification Day Preps, they'll give you some sort of coupon — they'll give you discounts. And then there are Salesforce events around the globe. When they have Salesforce events that are in-person, at least — I'm not sure about the virtual ones that we're having a lot of these past couple of years. But the in-person ones — often, included in the registration is a voucher or two and so that's something to keep in mind. Also, if you are a member of your local Salesforce Community Group, attend meetings regularly because sometimes the leaders of those groups are given vouchers to give away as prizes to attendees. Now, if you work at a nonprofit, you can get 50% off your voucher price. There are some caveats to that and that's what this page talks about.
Roy: You do need to be a full-time employee, not a volunteer; not part-time. But if you're a full-time employee at a nonprofit, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell them that you're a full-time employee at a nonprofit. Ask them for a certification, say ‘Please and thank you.’ If you don't, they'll still give you one but I just think it's nice to say ‘Please and thank you.’ And then within three business days, you'll probably get a response with a one-off code. That code is for one-time use — and it's only for you. The fine print on this is that you're not to give this code away to other people, it's just for your use. If you have a co-worker at the nonprofit with you and they want a code, then tell them to do the same thing you did. But this code is just for you. You get up to five total, and they're for your exams only — they're not for retakes. They're not to be shared, and there is actually a line in the email where Salesforce says ‘Abuse’ — as in giving away this code to for-profit friends, or selling homework, or whatever abuse may lead to Salesforce not being able to offer this discount in the future. So that is a tip for those of you who work in nonprofits.
Martin: That's a really good tip. And a 50% discount code — if you're doing a number of certifications, that can really add up.
Roy: Especially when you get to the Architect level because some of those certifications are $400 certifications.
Martin: Right. And a lot of people get up to 10 or 20 certs. How many certs do you have currently, Roy?
Roy: At the moment, I have 11.
Martin: So if you think about the discounts as Roy mentioned on the Architect level, that really adds up.
Roy: There's a loophole and the loophole is as long as you schedule the exam before it expires, you're okay. You don't have to schedule the exam before the expiration date. You just have to schedule the exam before the voucher expires.
Martin: Right and so that comes back to our point before about actually setting a goal, actually scheduling it, and working towards that. So this is an extra motivation to make sure that you do that and don't lose your discount.
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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