From Dental to Salesforce Certified Administrator – experience and resources along my path

I passed the Salesforce Certified Administrator exam December 2022 and fellow test preppers have asked a couple questions that I decided to share as a resource for others, based on my personal experience.

  1. What study resources were the most valuable?
  2. What are some tips for studying for the Salesforce exam?

My background is in the healthcare industry, where I have specialized for the past… years in Dental Assisting, Dental Administration, Management, Dental Insurance Billing, Dental Data Analytics, Project Management and Process Improvement. Basically, any hat needed to keep a dental office running. At the start of the COVID pandemic, dental practices were shut down and I was able to flex my background as a Certified Dental Assistant and Front Office Manager to do any and everything to ensure that patients received emergency care, dental claims were processed so bills could be paid during the closure, and we followed the CDC, ADA and state guidelines that constantly changed. I was already at burnout prior to COVID, and this sped up my transition to working remotely focusing on dental insurance billing. Two years later, mental fatigue set in due to the limited scope of work required in the role, and I found myself seeking something new to learn.

My journey into the Salesforce Ecosystem started in April 2022. I had never heard of #Salesforce, how to become certified, or what resources were even available. I aimlessly wandered through trailheads and quests (won my voucher to take the Admin Certification!!!). My progress was slow due to exhausting my brain and eyes on the computer all day for work. In September, I finally completed the Prepare for Your Salesforce Administrator Credential Trailhead and was highly unsuccessful taking the practice exam!

I Googled to find additional study resources. My search led me to Udemy Courses, where I completed David Massey’s Salesforce Administrator Certification – Pass in 2022. The videos are very easy to understand, and on topic to the exam breakdown. It really helped contextualize how the disparate modules in the Trailhead worked together. I personally turned every slide into flashcards. The course provided a great outline on recommended study practices.

I revisited the free practice exams from Trailhead and Salesforce Ben, still not scoring well. I attended the Salesforce Certification Days, compiling tons of notes and highlighting topics that I had not mastered. Fear of failure got me, and I postponed the admin exam for the second time. I refused to let fear completely win and scheduled the Salesforce Certified Associate Exam for the same weekend! Although the Salesforce Certified Associate is geared towards the End User, with no prior Salesforce experience, I gained a broader understanding of the Salesforce ecosystem as well as easing back into standardized testing.

In early November, I attended a Salesforce event which caused a massive case of Imposter Syndrome, adding to my natural test anxiety. I spent a couple weeks at a loss for how to study, what to study… Confusion! I was spinning my wheels and making no progress. I kept remembering hearing about the Talent Stacker Career Development Program during the Salesforce Event and looked it up. They provide step-by-step guidance for navigating Salesforce, provide access to a network of like-minded individuals who are hyper focused on breaking into Salesforce or have recently joined the Salesforce workforce, provide study sessions and access to create or sign up for study groups. Talent Stacker also helps with LinkedIn branding, crafting your resume, and mock interviews as well as access to hands on experience guided by a mentor.

I scheduled a meeting to learn more about Talend Stacker and joined that day! If you decide to look into joining, I highly recommend scheduling a meeting as they may have promotions available. Talent Stacker Free 5-day Challenge.

Talent Stacker realigned my brain and got me back on track! I joined a live study group and watched the pre-recorded study sessions. I also purchased additional study resources: Salesforce Ben: Practice ExamsFocus on Force: Study Guide and Practice Exams, and SaasGuru: Study Guide and Practice Exams.

 I will admit that since I finished David Massey’s course in full, it was not my intent to complete any of the resources I purchased, but to gain access to more study material and practice tests for variety.

It is not necessary to purchase all resources that are available (I went excessive!) but having at least one good resource outside of Trailhead will help connect some dots that are skipped during the modules. Which resource will work best for you, will also depend on your learning style.

I attended Salesforce Certification Days, for the second time (2 x 6 hrs.!). It’s worth it! I added to my original notes, reinforced the topics I now understood better and which topics I needed to home in on.

I sat for the Official Salesforce Practice Exam administered by Webassessor 2 days prior to my scheduled certification exam. The official practice exam does not give a detailed score breakdown, but thanks to recommendations from other LinkedIn members, the Focus on Force Salesforce Certification Score Checker can provide the missing details!

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Practice exam: Focus on Force Salesforce Certification Score Checker

Taking the practice exam ($20) may not be a necessary step for everyone but I found a lot of value in it for myself. 1) Revisit the Webassessor test experience, shake out those test taking nerves. 2) Writing style is very similar to questions in the certification test. I got a lot of answers wrong that I should not have, based on becoming familiar with the terms that are used by outside resources and not reviewing direct Salesforce/Trailhead content recently. Many of these questions are familiar if you review the Study for the Administrator Certification Exam Trailhead. 3) Workflows were referenced, which had been significantly reduced in a lot of the study material practice quizzes I was using.

The week prior to the exam, I created an excel sheet and tracked all of my scores for each exam topic. I used the information I gained from the official practice exam, combined with my tracked scores and highly focused my final study sessions on only the topics that I scored below 75% on. I also, only studied from source material and the flashcards I made from David Massey’s Udemy course. I went back to Trailhead and focused on the Study for the Administrator Certification Exam Trailhead, visited the Help pages for specific topics and terminology review. I also reviewed my notes from attending the Salesforce Certification Days.

I am thrilled to say that my focused, intentional final study paid off!

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Focus on Force Salesforce Certification Score Checker
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Here are my personal take aways regarding the study materials I used. Keep in mind, that the only material I completed 100% was David Massey’s Udemy course.

  • David Massey: Udemy – Salesforce Administrator Certification – Pass in 2022: Video walkthroughs of each section of the exam. Easy to understand, clear and concise. Shows examples in Salesforce playground. Easy to watch in short spurts of time. Unless you take notes, I recommend referencing back to specific video sections to beef up any sections that are scoring low on practice exams.
  • Focus on Force: Administrator Certification Study Guide & Practice Exams: Videos and corresponding Power point slides. I personally am glad that this was not the first resource I used as it is the most comprehensive and overwhelming material. There are a number of topics that were never addressed in the Trailhead, which is beneficial. The videos and slides provided context that was missing in Trailhead. I found that Focus on Force helped me understand steps required to go back into Trailhead and complete Superbadges that I was stuck on. I don’t think this would have been a good first resource for me, but I still find it highly valuable for learning the more challenging modules and concepts.
  • SalesforceBen: Administrator Practice Exam Questions: I did not take the version that included the Administrator Course, I am not sure if it was available when I made my purchase. I liked the writing style of the SalesforceBen questions and found them similar to the actual Salesforce writing style. This was my first purchase after taking David Massey’s course, I think it is a great option in conjunction with a course. If I was purchasing again, I would purchase the version with the course and practice exams. Includes 5 full length timed exams and 7 topic level exams. Comprehensive answers can be provided at the end of the quiz or end of each question.
  • SaasGuru: Salesforce Certified System Administrator Exam Course: I came across SaasGuru as I was nearing the end of my study prep and saw great reviews on Linkedin from other members. It was not necessary for me to make this purchase, but I was very curious about the program. They offer a free practice exam and the first couple pages of Topic 1 to try out. Each topic is broken into categories so that they can be reviewed in 5–30-minute increments. I really liked the layout of this program. They also provide full length practice exams and topic level exams. Supposedly there are flashcards available for studying, but I never reached them in the program. I will likely try this out as one of my first resources for my next certification study prep as I enjoyed the format.

 Some of the tips and tricks that I learned or used for studying during this process:

  1. Practice in the sandbox! Get hands on experience, it helps walking through the process physically.
  2. Study intentionally: set a time limit, have a goal to accomplish. Even if it is only a 10-minute session, pick a topic or task and focus on it fully.
  3. Understand key concepts first: Be ok with taking a step back to easier modules or refresh original topics if there are key/core topics that you have not mastered yet.
  4. Take notes, flashcards (physical or digital): Having something to reference back for quick study moments is awesome, as well as for last minute refresh before going into the exam.
  5. Take regular breaks to reset your concentration. I found that taking a 5-10 min break every 30-45 minutes really did help keep the brain focused and able to absorb more information.
  6. It is recommended to used space repetition – repeat the material every few days. I did not do this, but I did take a practice exam 1 x 2-3 days, which kept topics rotating in my brain and repeated information.
  7. Try practice exams from multiple resources. I found that it is very easy to learn the questions/answers combinations, but if you change the writing style it really tests if you actually know the material. I tend to recognize patterns, which is why I purchased so many practice exams. I learn best from reviewing questions/answers, but I also need multiple resources so that I do not memorize the word combinations and actually learn the material.
  8. Give yourself grace! If you are exhausted or sick, you will likely not retain new material. Stick to refreshing easy topics or take topic quizzes to reinforce the sections you know best.

The Ohana is amazing and so many friendly helpers are happy to answer questions! Make connections on LinkedIn, participate in groups. Many of the resources I found were through posts, participating in events and sharing advice with other members.

I am now a Salesforce Certified Administrator and am now on a mission to gain hands on experience working in Salesforce! I am excited to find out how many #x Certifications I can have by the end of next year!

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Responses

  1. Wow Jessica, I love this detailed walk through of your journey to get certified. What a persistence!! I am definitely going to come back to reference it, as I am in the same boat as you were last year.

  2. Hi Jessica.
    That was a massive comment! I’m wondering if this is for me now. All your previous experience in the dental field I thought would well equip you for the SF administration certificate. You have made heaps of different pathways to get to your goal. Well done! Thankyou for sharing the details.