Certifications / Career / Developers

Salesforce Platform Developer Certification Guide & Tips

By Janet Elliott

The Salesforce Platform Developer I Certification exam is a 60 multiple-choice/multiple-select test, with a passing score of 68%. It covers a broad range of platform, declarative and programmatic topics. There are no official prerequisite certifications. The official Trailhead Exam Guide can be found here.

Who’s the Ideal Candidate?

The Platform Developer I certification exam is a foundational exam for anyone working on the Salesforce platform. While it is a key exam if you are on the path to become a Salesforce Developer, the framework of knowledge gained by preparing for this exam is beneficial for all roles, including Admins, Architects, Business Analysts, Product Owners and Project Managers. 

The PD1 exam guide states that a Salesforce Platform Developer I generally has “one to two years of experience as a developer and at least six months of experience on the Lightning Platform…” Practically speaking, having this experience is a good foundation, but it is possible to take on PD1 with a non coding background. 

I would suggest that the Salesforce Admin and Platform App Builder Certifications are unofficial prerequisites, as is two years of experience in the Salesforce ecosystem. This certification exam covers much more than just Apex and Lightning Web Components (what most would consider the coding elements). Also, you don’t have to write code for the exam, but you must understand its structure and purpose, as well as best practices.

Is It Right for You? Why Take it?

Whether you have coding/development experience or not, you should be clear on your goal for taking on this certification. I cover the topics of mindset and motivation in this article. It seems straightforward that you should pursue this certification if you want to become a Salesforce Developer or are currently a Salesforce Developer. While most everyone who works on a Salesforce org is a “platform developer,” in this context I am referring to someone who writes code. 

Here’s the caveat though; passing this certification does not validate that you are a competent coder, it simply validates that you have working knowledge of the framework of code and declarative capabilities. This certification is broad enough that it covers all the important underpinnings of the Salesforce platform that are critical knowledge for anyone in the ecosystem and therefore is accessible and important for all roles. If you are coming from a non-coding background, this certification provides the framework of topics to study for a well rounded knowledge base of the platform.

How This Certification Differs

You’ve probably taken other Salesforce certification exams, maybe Administrator or Platform App Builder, maybe one of the Consultant or Architect exams. This one is different. 

This exam is less about use cases and more about directly applying technical principles to scenarios. For me, studying for these other exams involved a linear process of going through the topics and checking them off as I understood/digested them. With PD1 it was a non-linear process. 

At the time I started studying, I had about eight years experience in the ecosystem so I was familiar with most of the declarative topics, but once I hit the more complex topics, I found that I couldn’t simply read about it or do a Trailhead module or two to understand it. There were a few areas I got stuck on and in order to continue I had to set them aside and move forward. 

What helped was expanding my study resources by attending virtual Developer user groups, reviewing developer topics in forums like Trailblazer Community and Ohana Slack, and most importantly asking developers to help explain concepts to me as well as real world scenarios to help understand the context. I talk about how to layer the topics in my Zero to PD1 article and also the concept of being comfortable with being uncomfortable as you study. Don’t give up! Complex concepts will become clearer over time, I promise.

Key Topics

Now that you’ve assessed if this exam is right for you, you have the suggested prerequisite certifications and experience, and you are clear on your goals and motivations, it is time to dive in!

Review the exam guide here. Don’t let the “Experience” section scare you off – you can gain experience and exposure to these topics through your studies. As of the writing of this guide there are five main areas covered in the exam. Let’s review each section along with some pointers and resources for each.

Top Tip: I have included resource links below. Salesforce changes rapidly, always look to official documentation and the most up to date references. Community generated content can be helpful but look to reliable sources.

Developer Fundamentals: 23%

  1. Understand Multi-Tenant Architecture. Check out Understand the Salesforce Architecture on Trailhead. 
  2. Know the design frameworks of MVC and Lightning Components. You can find a good overview of MVC here from Shrey Sharma and an overview of the Lightning Component Framework here.
  3. Know the data model options, examples, and limitations. If you don’t have a lot of data model design experience then hit the Trails and gain exposure to different scenarios and why they were built that way. Check out Data Modeling on Trailhead and DFW Developer User Group – Dev Up Session 1 Objects and Relationships.
  4. Study with the Platform Developer I Certification Prep: Salesforce Fundamentals, Database Modeling and Management module in Trailhead.

Process Automation & Logic: 30%

  1. Be comfortable with declarative process automation. Given my recommendations that you’ve completed the Platform App Builder certification, this should be review. You should understand how to use declarative automation and Apex together when necessary. Check out the Process Automation Specialist Superbadge on Trailhead to validate your knowledge.
  2. Start with the basics of Apex. Understanding variables, constants, methods and classes is your first step. Check out Women Code Heroes: Learning to Code by Kieren Jameson. This site is perfect if you are starting from scratch. Demystifying Code For Admins: The Last Step to Apex presentation by Adam Olshansky is helpful.
  3. Know the building blocks of a trigger. What each of them is, where they are used and what they do. Also, understand the proper structure of a trigger as well as best practices. You will find examples of best practices in your studies but learning these also come from exposure through blog articles, virtual and in-person dev groups.
    • You will be asked to review snippets of code and determine what they will do. The answer might be a particular error message or a particular outcome like a number value. These snippets are not complex and they test you on some of the basic Apex structures but they can be tricky. Just one character in the snippet can change the outcome. 
    • Starting from square one? Check out David Liu’s Apex Academy and build your first trigger! Another great resources to consider is Trailhead Apex Triggers.
  4. Gain hands-on experience with SOSL, SOQL and DML. Think about how you can use SOSL and SOQL in your current Salesforce environment. Working in a context you are familiar with and objects, data and use cases that are familiar will help you understand the concepts. Besides SOQL for Admins on Trailhead, there are a multitude of recorded webinars and blog articles that dive deep into these concepts such as this one from Houssam Saoudy.
  5. Understand Apex testing, unit tests, code coverage. There is a lot here to digest. Start with understanding the need for unit tests and code coverage and the building blocks of Apex testing. Then get hands-on with writing a simple unit test. Check out Unit Testing on the Lightning Platform on Trailhead.
  6. Commit the order of operation to memory. Beware: Make sure you are referencing the most up to date Order of Operation information. You can always find that here in the Apex Developer guide. You will find many unofficial graphical representations with a Google search but you can’t be sure they are up to date.
  7. Platform Events / Publish & Subscribe. Start with Platform Events Basics on Trailhead.
  8. Understand Security Vulnerabilities and how to prevent them. This is mainly just understanding what some of the main vulnerabilities are like cross-site scripting and SOQL injection and being able to recognize them in a given scenario. Check out Security Guidelines for Apex and Visualforce Development from Salesforce Help and Security Tips for Apex and Visualforce Development in the Apex Developer Guide. These both provide examples of what to look for so you can recognize the code.
  9. Study with the Platform Developer I Certification Prep: Process Automation & Logic module in Trailhead.

User Interface: 25%

  1. Understand the basics of Visualforce. Use of Visualforce is giving way to LWC, however it is still on the test, and there are still a lot of Visualforce pages in use today. Understand the controllers and extensions and get hands on. For this section, I found it useful to talk to a mentor to get examples and decision making logic on what to use when. Some helpful Trailhead modules include Visualforce Basics, Visualforce & Lightning Experience and Quick Start: Visualforce.
  2. Dive into Lightning Components. Lightning Web Components and Aura Components. If you are new to coding, this section can get overwhelming. Remember, you will not be asked to write a component on the exam, but you do need to understand the usage and the framework. Yes there are still questions about Aura even though LWC’s are the current component of choice! Also this is an area where it is helpful to talk to a mentor or a dev co-worker. They can help you understand any areas that are not clear.
  3. Start here with a presentation by Adam Olshansky- LWC 101, then check out Trailhead.
  4. Aura Components Basics, Lightning Web Component Basics.
  5. Quick Start: Lightning Web Components.
  6. Study with the Platform Developer I Certification Prep: User Interface module in Trailhead.

Testing, Debugging, and Deployment: 22%

  1. Check out all of the Developer tools. Get hands on with different environments and tools and understand when to use them. Salesforce DX, Salesforce CLI and Dev console. Command-Line Interface and Developer Console Basics from Trailhead can help you. Debugging, Testing, and Deploying Apex from the Apex Developer Guide covers this topic nicely also.
  2. Understand Apex Testing and Code Coverage. Check out Apex Testing in Trailhead and review Testing Best Practices and Code Coverage Best Practices from the Salesforce Apex Developer Guide.
  3. Study with the Platform Developer I Certification Prep: Testing, Debugging and Deployment module in Trailhead.

Study Strategy and Additional Resources

I covered a strategy for studying as well as some additional overall resources in my Zero to PD1 article here. The main suggestion is to take a layered approach. If you try to learn everything at once you will get frustrated. Take your time, seek out different resources, and be comfortable with the topics. Also, don’t give up if a complex topic doesn’t make sense at first. Repetition, getting hands-on, and seeking discussions on the topic will make it clearer over time. You will have some eureka moments, I promise!

One Last Word of Advice

Read the documentation! I didn’t pass Platform Developer I the first time around. One of the things I did the second time around was read all of the Salesforce documentation. In doing so, I recognized many of the questions within the documentation. These guides are more accessible and understandable than you might expect.

Final Thoughts

When you start out on your Platform Developer 1 path the array of topics can seem overwhelming. Outline a plan to cover all of the topics and take the first step forward. A study guide like Focus on Force can help you break down the topics and you can also purchase practice tests to see how well you know the material. If you come across an area that is confusing or frustrating, reach out to a developer mentor or the Trailblazer Community. 

Once you’ve gone through the topics, don’t be afraid to schedule your exam. Taking the exam, even if you don’t pass the first time, will help you become familiar with the test and also identify any areas that need additional study time. You can do this! Best of luck on your PD1 journey!

Why not check out our free Salesforce PDI practice exam?

The Author

Janet Elliott

Janet Elliott is a Salesforce MVP, 13x Salesforce Certified, and Manager of Solution Architecture at Kicksaw, a Salesforce Consulting Partner.


    Chris Sweet
    August 11, 2016 9:06 pm
    Great post, Ruben. While I'm a fairly seasoned Apex vet with at 401 cert, I still haven't bitten the bullet and gone for the PD1. This should really help me find the gaps in my knowledge to ensure I have everything I need to pass! Small note: there's a missing sentence under "Basic Visualforce" for item #2 (or it's just a copy of #1). Thanks!
    June 28, 2017 10:17 pm
    This was my go-to study guide and it helped me pass my test. Thanks a bunch!
    Russell Gibbins
    September 14, 2017 3:39 pm
    Thanks for this detailed article. I was able to prep and pass the certification by focusing on the items included in this article. Thanks again!
    March 20, 2018 12:41 pm
    I've heard that Developer I Exam has been refreshed by Salesforce recently. Any update on this?
    March 20, 2019 12:58 pm
    "I won’t wish you luck, but rather discipline and determination- that’s all you need." - Brilliant! Thanks for that.
    June 05, 2019 11:23 pm
    I am aiming for PD1 certification this monthend, this post gives me really good guidance to study.. I'm hoping I can pass the exam.. will keep you posted. Thanks.
    October 07, 2021 5:52 pm
    I have been a SF developer for a few years, working with very complex systems. I just finished the Cert Platform Developer (1) exam - And Failed !!! - How ? I studied hard, followed the SF prep course, reviewed it 3 times before the exam: * The exam includes many questions that are NOT covered in the SF Prep documents ! * The exam excludes a greate deal of the content that was in the Prep !
    February 17, 2022 1:34 am
    THere are *lots* of nitpicky Aura syntax questions for how little Aura is used these days.
    michel eyebe noah
    February 19, 2022 3:31 am
    qu'en est il de AURA COMPONENT dans la certification?
    Christine Marshall
    February 21, 2022 9:48 am
    Please check the User Interface section of the article.
    Amit Pande
    July 15, 2022 5:53 am
    Hi, Checked that PD1 exam objectives have recently changed as per the link below. https://trailhead.salesforce.com/en/help?article=Salesforce-Certified-Platform-Developer-I-Exam-Guide. Could you please update the page as per above objectives?
    August 01, 2022 1:08 pm
    The exam weightage is different now. As of 1 Aug 2022 it is : Developer Fundamentals: 23% Process Automation and Logic: 30% User Interface: 25% Testing, Debugging, and Deployment: 22% More Info (https://trailhead.salesforce.com/en/content/learn/modules/platform-developer-i-certification-prep-fundamentals-and-database-modeling/pd1-1-get-started?trail_id=platform-developer-i-certification-study-guide)
    Christine Marshall
    August 03, 2022 12:31 pm
    Thanks for letting us know! The guide has now been updated.
    Christine Marshall
    August 03, 2022 12:42 pm
    The guide has now been updated!

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