03 Jun

Real-world tips for passing the Salesforce Certification Exams

This post was originally published by the Salesforce Foundation. This is the second in a series of blogs about taking advantage of the growing nonprofit Salesforce community to help build your Salesforce career and increase your organizational success.

In the Power of Us HUB (the Foundation’s online community for nonprofit and higher ed Salesforce users), we have a group called Girlforce (GF) which brings together women from all over the US to collaborate and learn. Many members of the group have formed study groups in an effort to build their skills and get their Salesforce certification. In fact, more than 10 GF members have been newly certified in the last few months.

For some of us, it was the first time we had taken a Salesforce exam, others were taking repeat exams, or getting additional certifications. We recently polled Girlforce members who had passed Salesforce exams about their tips and tricks for passing, and we came up with the following three keys to success:

1. Be prepared.

Finding a study group to help you learn difficult concepts and clarify the subject matter is essential. Virtual study groups, like the ones we have in Girlforce, or in-person study groups, like a local Nonprofit User Group, can be great resources in your study. Don’t leave it to chance – study, read, study some more, take practice exams. Feeling prepared when they walked into the room was crucial for most of the test-takers we surveyed. Find out what your weak point is, then make your weak point your strength!

GF member Judi Sohn shared, “The questions are often written in such a way that it’s just as easy to pick out what’s wrong as what’s right. So on questions when you have to pick 2 answers and you’re not sure, focus on eliminating the absolutely impossible choices. There’s always at least one. If you’re lucky, there’s 2 that you know beyond a shadow of doubt can’t possibly be right and what’s left has to be it.”

Preparation doesn’t mean you have to know all the right answers, but you should know enough about the subject to hopefully deduce the right answer in multiple choice!

2. Keep a tally.

One of the most common answers to our poll about how people passed their exams was getting through all of the questions and checking the ones for review to look at before submitting the test.

GF member Karen Fitton passed her exam by “keeping a tally of questions I was certain of and marking the ones I didn’t know to review. I go through [the exam] once quickly without dwelling on the questions, answering what I know and marking the others for review. Then I have a sense of how much time I have for the review and how I think I am doing.”

GF member Liza Mueller advises test takers to use the paper and pencil provided in the exam to keep track of your certainty to answers: “Questions for which I was uncertain got circled on the paper, where I also jotted down my gut instinct, or the two answers I was waffling between. Once I was completely through the exam I returned to the uncertain ones to read them more carefully. This helped me manage my time and nerves!”

GF member Mary Pustejovsky adds: “I kept a running tally to help me know how many I had ‘for sure.’ It just gave me the confidence to finally hit that ‘submit’ button!”

3. Be confident.

GF member Ashima Saigal admits to struggling with test anxiety: “The mere act of sitting down to answer [multiple choice] questions puts me in a solid state of fear.”

Many of us don’t love taking tests, and some of us are downright afraid of them. During exams, in addition to marking answers for review and writing notes, Ashima kept a percentage tally of those she was confident about the answer to, as well as those she hasn’t the slightest idea about and would entirely guess. Confidence was her mantra: “When I sat down, I wrote down immediately on my paper, ‘You know this stuff and can do it’ and when I began to question myself or my brain went blank, I went back to that place on my paper. When I started to panic (it happens to me during tests), I would close my eyes and breath.”

The hidden advantage to working together to share in preparation, giving each other tips and confidence is that in the process, you become more than you were. The exam gives you certification, the group gives you community.

As Jeff Winger in Community says “You’ve just stopped being a study group. You have become unstoppable. I hearby pronounce you a community.”

Joni Martin is a nonprofit advocate committed to building the capacity of nonprofits through technology. Joni has a Bachelor’s degree in Human Service Leadership and Management with a certificate in Nonprofit Management and Community Organization. She is the Dallas Chapter Leader for NTEN and serves on the board of the Nourish Collective. She has her dream job serving as a Salesforce consultant for nonprofits. She works remotely for Now IT Matters, changing the world from her back porch on nice weather days. It doesn’t get much better than that.

The Salesforce.com Foundation offers discounts on Salesforce.com instructor-led training as well as the stand-alone certification exams to our nonprofit and higher ed customers. Learn more.

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