Certifications / Admins / Career

Salesforce Administrator Certification Guide & Tips

By Christine Marshall

The Salesforce Administrator certification is considered the baseline credential for any admin. Passing this exam will showcase your knowledge of Salesforce features and best practice configuration.

It is regarded as the foundation level qualification for any Salesforce professional. It covers the core Salesforce CRM platform, including the Sales and Service Cloud products, as well as the Force.com platform that enables you to extend standard Salesforce functionality.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the exam:

  • Entry-level certification
  • 6-12 months of experience required
  • No prerequisites in terms of other qualifications
  • $200 fee

Who’s the Ideal Candidate?

For anyone looking to enter the world of Salesforce, the Certified Administrator exam is the best way to prove your knowledge of the core Salesforce platform. Once achieved, it will provide employers with the confidence that you understand how to administer, maintain, and extend the Salesforce platform using custom functionality on the Force.com platform.

It’s also perfect for those ‘accidental admins’ or anyone already working as an existing Salesforce Admin (without certification). I found getting certified to be radically transformative for my skills and expertise. As a self-taught admin in the days before Trailhead, I shudder to think of how much damage I could have done.

Luckily, I never had any huge mishaps. However, while studying for the admin exam, I was stunned to learn about many features and best practices I was unfamiliar with. Needless to say, getting certified has made me a much better Salesforce Administrator.

The admin exam is also a prerequisite for many other Salesforce exams, so it’s important to understand the basics before progressing to other certifications that are slightly more advanced.

If you are at the very start of your Salesforce career, you might want to check out the Salesforce Associate certification first, which will give you a solid grounding in the fundamentals of Salesforce and the ecosystem. We even have a handy free practice exam pack to help you understand what’s covered!

Exam Topics

The Salesforce Admin certification will test your knowledge on:

  • Configuration and Setup
  • Object Manager and Lightning App Builder
  • Sales and Marketing Applications
  • Service and Support Applications
  • Productivity and Collaboration
  • Data and Analytics Management
  • Workflow/Process Automation

Key Topics

Salesforce exams are made up of different topics, comprised of different weightings for each. It’s important to pay attention to these, as just a few sections will most likely take up the majority of the exam, such as the key topics below.

Configuration and Setup: 20%

Security of a Salesforce org is of the utmost importance to ensure no unauthorized access, both internally and externally. For external security, this means understanding how passwords are managed, IP restrictions, and network settings. For internal security, this means understanding how user profiles, roles, and sharing settings work to restrict certain users from accessing records or performing functions.

Object Manager and Lightning App Builder: 20%

At its foundation, Salesforce is a cloud-based database that runs in a similar fashion to any other, with tables (objects), fields, and links between tables to create a relational database. It is fundamental to understand how these interact with one another and the difference between standard out-of-the-box objects such as Accounts and Contacts, as well as custom objects.

Data and Analytics Management: 14%

Salesforce is only as good as the data you put into it. You will need to understand how to import, update, delete and extract data, as well as ensure proper data validation. Reports and Dashboards in Salesforce can then be used by businesses to monitor performance and answer key questions that identify issues and support business growth.

Workflow/Process Automation: 16%

Salesforce can be used to automate mundane, repetitive work, reducing the need for manual tasks. This enables users to be more productive and can significantly help with the adoption of the platform. Salesforce has multiple automation tools, and part of your role as the Salesforce Administrator will be to select the best tool depending on your business requirements and the features of each tool.

Study Strategy

The Salesforce Administrator certification might seem daunting if you are just looking to get into the world of Salesforce. However, once broken down into individual sections, it’s a lot more manageable.

You should first check out the official Salesforce Trailhead exam guide. This gives you a great outline of all the different concepts you need to be familiar with before taking the exam. This can be used as your revision plan — tick off each section once you have fully understood each concept.

Revise using Trailhead, Salesforce’s online learning platform. Check out the relevant Trailhead modules that allow you to learn about features and test yourself by following the challenges and getting feedback in real-time.

As well as learning about the concepts on paper, you should ensure that you test these features in a Trailhead playground, learn their limitations, try and break them, and have fun!

For hands-on experience, we recommend that you complete both the Admin Beginner and Admin Intermediate trails on Trailhead. Next, complete the Admin Certification Trail and Admin Certification Trailmix on Trailhead. These have been specifically designed by Salesforce to guide you through the most important topics of the exam.

Lastly, you should familiarize yourself with the exam structure. Salesforce exams are multiple-choice but follow, a pattern giving you a choice of the right answer, incorrect answers, and an answer that could be correct but is not best practice (to really test your skills!). The best way to familiarize yourself with these exams is by taking our mock exams, which have been carefully crafted to reflect the real exam.

Exam Strategy

When exam day finally hits, there are a bunch of tips we gathered over the years to give you the best chance of passing with flying colours.

Firstly, if there are any concepts you are struggling to get to grips with, print off a cheat sheet and try and memorize any of these before you take the exam so they are fresh in your memory.

When taking the exam, pay particular attention to the question and read it through a few times. For the scenario-based questions, there will be huge clues in the answer to what the correct answer actually is. If you need to (and are taking the exam in a test center), use the pen and paper provided to draw out a data schema, role hierarchy, or any other diagram that will help you visualize the answer.

When deciding on the answer, be sure to use the process of elimination to get rid of the answers that are definitely incorrect. Salesforce likes to throw in answers that are made up of features or just plain incorrect.

They also like to throw in curveballs of features that appear to be correct but aren’t best practice. You can often worm out these by focusing on standard Salesforce features that accomplish a task. For example, you could build a custom approval process with Process Builder, but why do this when there is a standard feature that is best practice?

You also have a great tool at your disposal, the “Mark for review” feature. On each question, you will have a checkbox that you can mark. This is great if you cannot think of an answer right at that moment or if you are doubtful about your answer.

At the end of the exam, you will have a chance to review these questions. Depending on the amount selected, this will give you a pretty good idea of how likely you are to have passed the test. Regardless of the questions marked for review, I would always recommend going through every question if time permits. I do this on every exam, and often spot mistakes I made in the answers and change a few.

Resources

Tips

  • Check out the Trailhead Exam Guide and use this as your master revision list.
  • Ensure you revise the features and concepts and thoroughly test them out in a Developer org or a Trailhead Playground.
  • Once you feel confident with some of the modules, book your exam to give you a date to aim towards. This will give you the motivation to revise and pass the exam.
  • Try out our mock exams to practice for the real thing and test for any knowledge gaps.
  • Download our Top 10 Salesforce Certification Tips eBook.

Final Thoughts

The Salesforce Certified Administrator exam is a qualification that all Salesforce professionals should hold. It is an expectation of nearly every employer and will give (both you and them) the confidence that you can successfully and responsibly maintain and customize Salesforce.

Once you have achieved this certification, it will open so many doors in your career — it’s just a matter of choosing the path you wish to go down! Check out our Salesforce certifications infographic to see the different paths.

The Author

Christine Marshall

Christine is the Courses Director at Salesforce Ben. She is an 11x certified Salesforce MVP and leads the Bristol Admin User Group.

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