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There are several schools of thought around certifications in the Salesforce world, as there are in many IT segments.  Often in the Big #(who can keep up with how many there are today) category, certs are a prerequisite for employment and they count during selection.

There is another school of thought around certs.  It says they are all more or less meaningless.  While there is merit to both arguments, you won’t find many certified technical architects in the latter category.  They had to prove real knowledge in front of a board of experts which is no small task.

Of course, some certs are harder than others.  We’ve all seen a Certified Admin who took the test 5 times and finally passed it.  That said, one of my favorite certs to see in a peer is far from the hardest.  This cert doesn’t ask that you code anything, it doesn’t ask that you translate security models into weird sharing groups for community cloud, and it doesn’t require you to learn the 180 degree switch in framework that is marketing cloud.  This cert simply asks you to show an understanding of the very principles that Salesforce operates on.  You’ve probably guessed since the title that I’m referring to the Platform App Builder certification.

So, what is it?  Apple did a pretty good job branding the word “app” as a mobile application for the iPhone, but an app is really just anything you interact with on a device that has a processor in it.  As such, when we build something for users to access and interact with inside of Salesforce, we’re essentially building an application.

The Platform App Builder Cert is ultimately designed to test your ability to build an application inside of Salesforce.  To explain what it is, I’d like to describe the individual test sections.  The % refers to the approximate portion of questions on the exam that will cover that topic.  There are 60 scored questions.

Salesforce Fundamentals: 23% of the exam or ~14 questions

When you can’t find the solution on Salesforce, visit the App Exchange.
Do you understand roles, profiles, sharing rules, and how to manage logins?
Do you know enough to experiment with reports and dashboards, and will you share them correctly?
People have different screen sizes.  Some small enough to fit in their pockets.  Do you know how to account for that?
Chatter is great, but only if people use it.  Can you get them to use Chatter with customizations?

Data Modeling and Management: 22% of the exam or ~13 questions

Do you understand what a data model is?
Junction objects are crazy.  If you really understand them, then you understand relationships.
Do you find yourself using the word cardinality in casual conversation? (One to Many, One to One, Junction Object Magic, etc…)
The relationship type questions are most of this section and they make you think.  They deserve a third line.
What happens when you change field types, delete fields, and in general mess around with objects?
Can you read a schema builder?

Business Logic and Process Automation: 28% of the exam or ~17 questions

Who doesn’t love a formula field?  Do you know how to use them correctly?
Roll-Up Summaries are even more powerful, and even more complicated.  We’ll test that knowledge.
Validation Rules or an Approval Process?  That is the question.  How do you implement each?
When should you use Flow?  What unfortunate scenarios force you to resort to a workflow or Process Builder?  When you have to use them together can you keep them from breaking each other?
Some questions that tie it all together round this out.  Understanding this section will really help you avoid using code unnecessarily.  I’m glad it has the most questions.

User Interface: 17% of the exam or ~10 questions

Since it is the App builder cert exam can you create an app?
A basic understanding of buttons, links, and actions is key to this section.
Can you do things declaratively?
Lightning is objectively better.  Can you customize it to show that?

App Deployment: 10% of the exam or ~6 questions

We’ll give you some use cases, you explain:

  • Change Sets
  • The Deployment Plan
  • Managed Package &  Unmanaged Package

​This section makes sure that we can get things in production without failing QA.

As I read through those areas, I don’t think they’re restricted to any role.  I think anyone from a Jr. Admin to the CIO could benefit from understanding these core tenants of how Salesforce works.  And for a dev coming from outside of Salesforce, what could better show that you understand Ohana?

The passing score is 63%.  This is probably where a lot of the hate comes in.  The exam is merely meant to show that you have a basic understanding.  Of course, we’re always aiming higher than a basic understanding.

But, while you could get lucky and pass the exam, more likely you studied a bunch of things that had to have helped you understand the “Salesforce Way” of doing things.  A thing I’ve always loved about Salesforce is that it draws together people from all walks of life, industries, and career backgrounds.  But, the starting point of buying into Salesforce is actually buying into Salesforce.  I think Platform App Builder shows that a person has.

Happy Trails on your journey to better understand Salesforce and the great things it can do for your business and career!  I hope you’ll look at the Platform App Builder Certification as an upcoming step!  If it is, visit the Trailhead page below to begin!

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