How to prepare for the Salesforce ADM-201 (administrator) exam?

First, go to Salesforce Certification Website and read about the administrator track.  Becoming a certified administrator (ADM-201) is the first and most important step.

You have 90 minutes to pass a 60-question (multiple-choice) exam with a 65% passing score.  Whether you pass or fail, you will not be able to find out where you did well and where not, you won’t know how many questions you got wrong.  It’s either ‘pass’ or ‘fail’.

Next, read the study guide (link), this will be your study bible.  Go through each of the topics and tracks and make sure you understand what each means.  This study guide is your study plan.  You will take multiple passes through this guide, starting with a quick scan through of areas you feel very confident with, and which not.

Then comes the hard part. Spending time reading up on those areas that you’re not confident about.  Even better, sign yourself up for a free developer org and look up and mock up the relevant areas in your dev org (e.g. if you’re learning about assignment rules, build assignment rules).

Salesforce has its own training modules (admin beginner, admin intermediate), but these should not and will not replace getting down and dirty with your dev org.  Also, Salesforce offers a lot of context-sensitive help, so click on those question marks wherever you see them and read.  Also, click on “Help & Training” in your org, and read the relevant documentation under Welcome to Salesforce Documentation

Depending on how many hours you can dedicate each week, it could take you a few weeks or a month before you’re ready.

Stick to the study schedule and keep reviewing it, make another, and another, and you will (hopefully) cross off more topics about which you now feel confident.

In the US, the admin exam costs $200.  Retakes cost $100.  So… it’s a sizable investment, but not the end of the world should you have to retake the exam.

Once you pass and are a certified admin, you will need to keep up your credentials on a quarterly basis (3 times a year: Spring, Summer, Winter).  You do this via maintenance exams, they’re about 5-10 questions based on the latest release’s new functionality.

Do not ignore these – should you forget to pass these maintenance exams, you *will* lose your full admin certification and will have to retake the full admin exam.  Salesforce makes absolutely no exceptions, it will be your responsibility to schedule and plan for these maintenance exams.

That’s it for the admin exam.

There’s also the developer track (which has recently been broken out into different subtracks – read more about this on the same certification site I listed earlier), and a Sales Cloud Consultant and a Service Cloud Consultant exam.

Not all administrators have the admin certification and not all people who’ve passed the admin exam necessarily are experts in Salesforce.  More and more people are jumping on the Salesforce bandwagon, so the exam just helps you stand out a little more.  Also, your average recruiter (who might be recruiting across multiple platforms and applications) might not know that your x years of active Salesforce administration in the work trenches  mean a lot and might just be wanting to check off that “Salesforce-certified” box on their check list.

So… just do it. Play the game.  Most importantly, learn Salesforce and learn to love it.  I switched over to Salesforce in 2010 and have no regrets.  I love it.  I’m a little obsessed.

There are so many blogs out there and as with everything, Google is your best friend. If you run into a Salesforce issue or question, Google it.  Google will return results from Salesforce’s own developer forums, but also from the various blogs out there.