Salesforce Associate Certification Guide & Tips

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The Salesforce Certified Associate is a brand new entry-level certification, aimed at Trailblazers with 0-6 months of Salesforce experience. This new type of certification removes the emphasis on hands-on practical expertise, and instead validates and empowers those with foundational Salesforce knowledge. This knowledge includes understanding what a Customer Relationship Management platform is for, what business needs it solves, and how the Salesforce product suite can be used to transform and automate business teams and processes.

I would recommend this certification to anyone assessing if a career in the Salesforce ecosystem is for them, or anyone already committed to pursuing a Salesforce career, but perhaps at the very beginning of this journey.

I expect there to be some feedback from the community that suggests that this certification may not be worth it as it does not test “technical expertise”. As someone who has taken the exam, I would counter that the exam requires a much greater level of technical understanding than you would expect. I would also argue that there are three other main benefits of this certification:

  1. In the vast landscape of Salesforce, with a plethora of information available, it is actually overwhelming and difficult for many people to know if this is the right career/technology/community for them. This certification will provide them with an opportunity to follow a clear path that helps them decide if they wish to continue.
  2. The Salesforce Certified Administrator is known for being a tough exam to pass due to the depth and breadth of knowledge needed. The Salesforce Certified Associate can help us bridge the gap between complete beginner and certified professional – it also demonstrate a commitment to personal development – something I would look for in any potential candidate.
  3. The skills gap and increasing number of vacant Salesforce roles demands that we find more resources. Perhaps the Salesforce Associate won’t prepare someone to go “under the hood” of Salesforce, but what it will do is educate and empower someone who can then advise and enlighten a business. Once a business and its end users better understand the art of the possible, they may be inspired to invest in this individual to become a certified Salesforce Professional.

Let’s dive in to our guide and tips to pass the Salesforce Certified Associate exam!

About the Salesforce Certified Associate Exam

  • The exam consists of 40 multiple-choice/multiple-select questions.
  • You will have 70 minutes to complete the exam.
  • The passing score is 62%.
  • The exam costs $75 to take and retakes are free.
  • The exam can be taken online or at a testing center.
  • There are no prerequisites to take this exam.

Who’s the Ideal Candidate?

The Salesforce Certified Associate is for anyone with 0-6 months of Salesforce experience, looking to transform their career with Salesforce. According to Salesforce, you do not need any practical technical expertise – that’s right, this certification is for you, even if you have no existing experience! It’s the ideal precursor to the Salesforce Administrator Certification, but it is not a prerequisite.

The Salesforce Certified Associate is designed to prepare Trailblazers for a career in Salesforce by validating foundational Salesforce knowledge, including what Salesforce is, what Salesforce does, and how the platform solves business needs.

The exam is split into four topics:

  1. Salesforce Ecosystem: 32%
  2. Navigation: 28%
  3. Data Model: 25%
  4. Reports & Dashboards: 15%

Key Topics​

1. Salesforce Ecosystem: 32%

This is the largest section with the highest weighting on the exam. You will be tested on your knowledge of the Salesforce ecosystem including:

  • Resources to learn and apply Salesforce learnings:
    • Trailhead
    • Trailhead Playgrounds
    • Developer Orgs
    • Trailblazer Community
    • Community Groups
    • Salesforce Help
  • The Salesforce product suite and when a particular product or cloud is required:
    • Use cases for Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Health Cloud, Experience Cloud, NonProfit Cloud and CRM Analytics
  • How companies use Salesforce, including what Customer 360 is
  • What CRM (customer relationship management) platforms do and the business needs they solve
  • Salesforce architecture and multi-tenancy platforms
  • Career paths and what specific roles do, including Administrators, Developers, and Business Analysts

2. Navigation: 28%​

This scenario based section will test your understanding of how and where to find information such as licenses, company information and org settings, list views (including Kanban use-cases), Search, and personalization (tabs, language, timezone).

In addition to being familiar with where to make changes at a more global level, you should also be able to identify where end-users can make changes such as adding a phone number, changing their default locale, resetting their password or amending their App navigation tabs.

You’ll be expected to know about the AppExchange, user management, and where basic customization takes place in Setup e.g. the Lighting App Builder.

3. Data Model: 25%

In this section you’ll demonstrate your understanding of Salesforce architecture, standard objects, and their relationships. You should be comfortable with Accounts, Contacts, Leads, Opportunities, and Cases.

Based on a scenario, you’ll identify how visibility is being controlled, so you’ll need to understand features including roles, role hierarchy, profiles, permission sets, record types, page layouts, and field visibility.

You should also be familiar with how to ensure data integrity, for example, default values, required fields, and validation rules.

4. Reports & Dashboards: 15%

To ace this section, get hands-on and get familiar with reports, dashboards and their features.

Reports:

  • Report formats e.g. Tabular, Summary, Matrix, Joined
  • When to create and use custom report types
  • Bucket fields
  • Conditional formatting
  • Report formulas
  • Report limitations, e.g. how many records are displayed in a report
  • Subscriptions

Dashboards:

  • Components
  • Filters
  • Subscriptions

Study Strategy

You should first get 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 you should take the exam. This can be used as your revision plan – tick off sections once you have fully understood each concept.

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 with it!

For hands on experience, we recommend you complete both Prepare for Your Salesforce Certified Associate Credential and Cert Prep: Salesforce Certified Associate on Trailhead. These have been specifically designed by Salesforce to guide you through the most important topics of the exam.

Question Format

The Salesforce Certified Associate consists of 40 multiple choice/multiple-select questions, each with three possible answers. In this sense, it is slightly easier than other exams that would typically have a minimum of four potential answers.

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 that you are struggling to get to grips with, then 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 as to what the correct answer actually is. If you need to (and are taking the exam in an 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 curve-balls, with 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.

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 to go 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 official Trailhead Exam Guide and use this as your master revision list.
  • Complete the Trailmix and Cert Prep Modules on Trailhead.
  • Test out features and concepts in a Dev Org or Trailhead Playground.
  • Once you start to feel confident, book your exam so that you have a date to aim for and keep you motivated!

Final Thoughts​

This certification is a great introduction to Salesforce and a way to demonstrate a clear understanding of CRM platforms, the business needs they support, and the professional roles available. It’s a great stepping stone on your way to becoming a Salesforce Certified Professional.

Although Salesforce suggest this exam requires no “technical expertise”, do not mistakenly believe that this is an easy exam. In typical Salesforce style, the questions and possible answers are tricky and worded in a way to deliberately confuse you. You’ll need a solid understanding of the product suite and more technical savvy than you may expect.

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