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Before and After a Salesforce Exam

With the study guides and the practice exams, we try our best to give you the most comprehensive view of what the exams might cover, to prepare you mentally for the exam. In this story, we give you a glimpse of what it might be like, psychologically and emotionally for actual people taking the exams. 

We have rounded up 3 participants in the last Australian Trailhead Bootcamp, who took their first certification during the event. This interview gives us their thoughts, expectations, and strategies in preparing for the exam. We also interviewed them again after the certification exam to see what they thought of the experience.

For privacy, we have decided to call them Admin 1, Dev 1 and Admin 2, based on where they are at in their career.


Admin 1

Male, 34

Background: IT and Instructional Design

Prep Style: Trailhead Trailmix, Focus on Force Practice & Topic Exams, and Forums

Prep Time: 2 months - dedicated hours

Admin 2

Female, 31

Background: Communications and Marketing

Prep Style: Lots of notes, get as many scenarios as possible

Prep Time: 1 month, no dedicated hours 

Dev 1

Male, 38

Background: Full-Stack Developer

Prep Style: Study guide then Dev Org then Practice Exam

Prep Time: 1 month, plus work experience

It's the start of the bootcamp, how are you FEELING about this in general, and why?

I'm excited about the week in Gold Coast. I'm very curious about the different activities Salesforce has in store for the attendees. I'm confident about taking the exam but also feeling a little bit pressured to represent my company here.

I'm very anxious, to be honest. The event starts off with a certification exam, and I really want to pass on the first try. To reduce the pressure, I've been telling myself that it's fine if I don't pass the first time, because there will be another chance on the last day.

It's my first time to attend an event like this, and I hope I'll be able to receive and learn as much as I can. As much as I'd want to say that I am just going to enjoy the whole experience, one thing is daunting me, and that is passing the exams. Because, hey, who likes exams?

Which CERTIFICATION are you preparing for? Why this one?

I've been preparing for the Salesforce Administrator Certification. I plan to take on future certifications but the Admin exam is the first on my list. It's a good foundation to get immersed in the Salesforce environment.

I'm preparing for the Admin certification because it will provide a good foundation for Salesforce and also for the other certs I plan to pursue in the future.

Salesforce Platform Developer I. My background is a full-stack developer, and I am going in the direction of becoming a top-notch Salesforce developer or, who knows, even a Salesforce architect! It's free to dream big.

How much TIME did you spend preparing for this exam?

I've dedicated a few hours each day over the past 2 months.It's easy since the work that I do serves as a way to review as well.

Hard to say because I didn't prepare in one go. I was studying last year, slowly but surely, but did not have an exact exam date scheduled. Eventually, I stopped. Now that I've booked for the Bootcamp, I've been studying for 1 month.

I learned that I was attending this event just a few weeks ago, from a company that I just joined. Being new in my company and with so many things to learn and process, I can't really say that I am very well prepared. Studying and being able to contribute at work at the same time is a challenge.

Did you have a SYSTEM to your exam preparation?

I use Trailhead, Focus on Force study guides and practice exams. I also engage in forums so I get different perspectives from others.

Since it's my first time to try to get certified, I'm still exploring all the possible ways to prepare. Learning with Trailhead and then reinforcing what you learned using Trailhead Playground or your dev org really helps.

Going through the study guides, testing the theory in an org, and then taking the practice exams works best for me. I wish I'd run through the trailhead modules thoroughly as well if time permitted me, as I know those are also extremely essential.

Going through the study guides, testing the theory in an org, and then taking the practice exams works best for me." - Dev 1

What was the MOST DIFFICULT part of preparing for the exam?

Just the breadth of knowledge that is involved. There are just too many things to study.

Since the Admin certification is the most basic of all, the questions can be about anything. Also, the questions can concept or scenario-based. You really have to know Salesforce thoroughly.

The coverage is really vast. Trying to wrap your head around general basic knowledge, concepts, and features, from declarative capabilities down to the programmatic bits is really a huge task.

What's your CHECKLIST or GO-TO materials?

Salesforce Trailhead, Focus on Force study guides, practice exams, and forums, Salesforce on Stackexchange.

I will use the following: notes I have written down and typed, Salesforce Help pages and articles, and Focus on Force materials.

The Focus On Focus study guide for Salesforce Platform Developer I. The rest will be the trailhead modules and developer docs.

What are your expectations for the bootcamp? 

I expect to learn from other Bootcamp participants on how they use Salesforce in their own organizations. I also think I'll get valuable insights and insider tips from the facilitators about the exam that'll increase the likelihood of getting certified. 

The advantage of going to the Bootcamp is that you go on a mission with a strict deadline. It also helps to have peers around because they become something like accountability partners. Those four days will be all about Salesforce and just that.

I have high expectations from the Bootcamp. It's not going to be a walk in the park, but I know they're going to make it as fun as possible at the same time for everyone and not fry our brains in the process. 

The advantage of going to the Bootcamp is that you go on a mission with a strict deadline." - Admin 2


Admin 1

EXAM 1          Salesforce Admin

EXAM 2         App Builder

Admin 2

EXAM 1          Salesforce Admin

EXAM 2          Salesforce Admin

Dev 1

EXAM 1          Platform Developer I

EXAM 2         Platform App Builder

Food for the brain - definitely don't take the exam hungry

Having peers around can make or break you

How were you feeling RIGHT BEFORE the exam?

I felt nervous especially that I probably pressured myself too hard. I just knew that I had to pass the exam and that time was it.

I was calmer than I expected. I did the best I could do to prepare given the circumstances. I was looking forward to my first cert exam experience and was also curious about it.

On the morning of the first exam, I was feeling giddy. I was just really ready to get started and tested on my Salesforce knowledge. Whatever the result, I had the next few days to learn from Salesforce trainers.

What was the most DIFFICULT thing about the actual exam?

The low-level questions that honed in on very specific programming aspects made the exam most difficult.

The way the questions were phrased can get really tricky! It may initially seem like it's about a certain topic, but it's something different.

Definitely the time pressure.

What didn't you EXPECT?

There were a lot more coding questions than I had expected to answer.

I didn't expect to have enough time to review the questions I marked.

Maybe just the sheer number of participants especially for our track.

What do you think was the KEY for passing the exam?

Identifying and improving on areas I found myself I was weakest at, which was made possible through Focus on Force's study materials, and focusing more on the topics that had more weight was the key to passing the exam.

It is important to know where you stand in each category because that's how you know where to zero in. Also, you need to take the category weightings into consideration. That way, you can be more efficient with the time you have for studying. 

Understanding the format of the exam, which questions had more weight, knowing that you have an opportunity to go back to questions you weren’t quite sure about the answer to. I only felt the pressure after I submitted my answers and was waiting for the results.

What could you have changed about your preparation - what could you have DONE BETTER?

I would want to complete the Platform Developer I Trailmix as I completely missed that in my preparation.

I wish I managed my time better and prioritized studying more. I did not get to finish the pre-work given to us and I'm sure that would have helped by a lot. I would have known what I needed to improve on and ask for help from the instructors.

I thought that the 2nd exam was just another opportunity for those who failed the first. When I found out that I could choose another exam, I didn’t know which certification to take next and so I didn't get to plan that quite well.

How did the Bootcamp help? 

I think the Bootcamp only helps half of your preparation for the exam. The other half should be the necessary homework, hands-on practice and other methods one needs to have or do to be fully prepared.

It was really helpful to hear an expert talk about the topics and present them in a way they think is best for the class. It was also very interesting to hear how other people use Salesforce in the context of their own industries.

Our class was huge so it was certainly helpful that you get to hear how other people use Salesforce in their organizations and what problems they encounter. It certainly presents you with different use cases that you can use for practice.

What Certification are you studying for now?

Focus on Force currently provides practice exams and study guides for sixteen certifications


  1. ttyjdk

    Hi Martin I just became a Salesforce Certified Administrator yesterday thanks a lot to your study guide and the test exams (No prior knowledge or experience with Salesforce. Duration about 2 months, actual time used about 40 hours on Trailhead and about 40 hours on focusonforce). FOCUSONFORCE is GREAT – Thank you VERY MUCH!

    I have worked with information security for many years, the last 3 years as a Security Consultant. My medium career goal is to make a transition into working with Salesforce Gamification. My company is the biggest SFDC partner globally so my short term career goal is to make a transition within my company into becoming a Salesforce Consultant. Based on my career goals what are your recommendations for A) What certifications I should take to reach my goals? B) The order in which I should take them?

    1. Martin Gessner Focus Team Post author

      In order to support your goal of becoming a consultant, I would consider the following certifications – as you have completed Admin, I would do App Builder next. This will support and extend your knowledge of what is possible declaratively which is very important. Then I would consider which type of consultant you are interested in. Salesforce has become very broad and it is becoming more and more difficult to know everything. If you are more interested in sales, then I would then do Sales Cloud and then Community Cloud. If you are more interested in the service side, Service Cloud and Community Cloud and perhaps Field Service Lightning. There is a lot of demand for Marketing Cloud consultants so you could also consider that track, which would make sense after completing Sales Cloud. Hope this helps!