For the fourth video of this series, we're going to be talking about some study tips that can help you towards your Salesforce certification journey.
People new to the Salesforce ecosystem often wonder where to start, and how they can make the most of their study time.
My conversation continues with Salesforce Architect and Colorado Springs User Group Leader Roy Moore about how “learning by osmosis” is not as effective as most people think it is, how following a four-step study plan (Aim, Plan, Focus, and Practice) enables realistic goal-setting, and how one can go about having hands-on experience when you don’t actually have it.
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: Now we're at the point where we're actually studying for our Salesforce certification and I'm here with Roy Moore and we're going to be talking about some study tips that can help you. So Roy, what would you suggest when people ask you where to start? I'm not sure. I can't really make this out. Can you expand on this one? (Laughter)
Roy: Well, Trailhead is the place to start.
Roy: The reason I say that is because Salesforce has done an excellent job of curating their own content. And they give these paths for studying for the exams that will walk you through everything they're going to cover. So that if you know nothing about what you're testing for, this is where you should start. If you've been doing it for a while, you might be able to jump ahead but for most people they should start by at least reviewing the content at Trailhead that's applicable to the exam they're studying for.
Martin: Right. And I think an important point to mention is that there's no one single bullet. Yes, start with Trailhead, but there are a lot of different elements that you can put into your study mix. Other than Trailhead, there are other resources that you can find online — there are Instructor-Led courses both in person or online. And most importantly, hands-on experience.
Martin: Let's not forget about what we talked about in one of the other questions where it really comes down to a combination of your knowledge and experience. I guess even if you don't have a job, you can get a dev org, you can work through different examples, and you can come up with your own projects. The best thing really is to combine all of these different ways of studying. Roy has mentioned previously around the community groups: there are the Certification Days groups and user groups. There's a lot of support out there. And obviously, we've mentioned Focus on Force there as a step before the actual exam. We have our study guides and our practice exams, but you know, we were saying it's not a silver bullet. It's not the only thing that you should use. You should use all of these different elements and put them all together. I think it's also important to just recognize that you really shouldn't rush this. And it's not about just passing the exam for it to actually have some meaning and for you to actually feel that you've achieved something. Working through it properly and going through all of the different topics that are in the exam, and making sure that you really feel comfortable and confident. And then you'll get to the point where you take that exam and you do recognize a lot of the things that are on there, and hopefully, you've come across some of them in your own experience. That really is the best way to combine all of these different ways to study.
Roy: Absolutely. There are so many variables: there's past experience; there's learning styles. I can't say it any better than you did — there's not one single bullet. It's finding a diverse portfolio of samplings of things that will help inform your knowledge. One of my favorite tips recently is the Hands-on Experience. Create a dev org, and use it to manage something that is part of your real-life — maybe use it to manage your home budget or your kids’ sports schedules. I use one to manage the local Colorado Springs User Group. And as you're studying for the exam — let's say you're studying for the Admin exam, for example. It's talking about validation rules and you haven't done many validation rules. Well, then you go to dev org and you create real validation rules for your schedule. So maybe you set up a validation rule that says the end time can't be before the start time and you put that in as a validation rule. And just that hands-on experience — if you're out of work, or if you're not working for a company that's giving you robust opportunities to build out things for them in Salesforce, then use the dev org, get that hands-on experience, use Trailhead, check out what’s on Google and YouTube, and the different things to see what resources are offered by reputable instructors. And all that I think is great input but I love the idea of using Focus on Force as the final step in the process because Focus on Force I think of all these tools is the one that will give you the most confidence to say ‘Yes, I really do understand this now after looking at these resources.’ The practice exams and study guides will solidify and get you past that final step for the Salesforce exam.
Martin: An important point as well on this that Roy mentioned are learning styles. People learn in different ways and so some people like to read the information, some people like to see it, some people like to watch it, some people really get more out of doing it with hands-on experience. So think about how you learn best but also try to combine all of these different elements, and then you'll get to the point where you feel confident.
Martin: Within Focus on Force we have this little tip around what you should think about when you're going through your study process. So we've already talked about the Aim Step — which is selecting the target date, and you can actually break it down into smaller goals or mini-goals. And with the certifications, there's an exam outline so you could make your goal correspond to each one of the sections within the exam outline. And you could say, ‘Okay, I want to finish this section by this date.’ And then that will correspond to the scheduled date for the actual exam.
Martin: So on here it says that 90 days is a good guideline for the time required to prepare. But we've talked about that in a previous section that there are so many variables across that so you really need to adjust that date. And then on the Focus Step here — this is focusing your time and energy and making sure that you actually are spending your time on what matters. It's very easy, I think, to go off onto a lot of different tangents. And that's one of the good aspects of the Focus on Force study guides because it really will focus you on each of the sections, and each of the objectives within the sections. And it's going to give you a summary of what you need to know. It's going to give you reference links that you can actually follow into Trailhead or follow into Help. And you'll be able to make the best use of your time so that you’re not jumping all over the place. And then the last step there is the Practice Step. So Roy just mentioned that around practicing in your own org — think about a problem that you can solve by building your own application. And then the other part of the practice is training your mind to process exam questions and that's where the practice exams come in. Some of us might not have taken exams for many years — might have been since high school, college, or many years ago. So just getting into that mindset of actually going through questions — multiple choice questions, selecting the best answer particularly when there might be multiple that are correct. And Salesforce sometimes is looking for the best answer and getting used to exams, going through questions, and being in that sort of situation.
Roy: I love this. The other piece maybe — maybe it's a subset of Focus — but when you set aside time for study, do everything you can to remove the distractions. Turn off Slack, turn off Teams, shut your email — give your study time your full attention. If you're watching a training video, don't just have a play in the background while you answer work emails. Watch the training video. Give it your full attention. Otherwise, “learning by osmosis” is really not as effective as most people hope it is. So that whole Focus piece is a very important component that I would not overlook.
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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