Preparing Your Maintenance Exam

A few weeks after the roll-out of a new release, Salesforce publishes the new certification maintenance exams. It used to be a simple story of "red" or "blue" (respectively "admin" or "dev") but thanks to all the newly created certifications things are getting a bit more complicated. And of course, this is not going stop as Salesforce acquires new companies or come up with their own innovation, adding new clouds, etc...

How Often?

You can find the reference article on the Salesforce certification site, but the tables below summarise who should maintain what and how frequently.

3 exams a year

Release Exam Salesforce Certifications
Administrator - Administrator
- Advanced Administrator
- Sales Cloud Consultant
- Service Cloud Consultant
- Community Cloud Consultant
Force.com Developer - Force.com Developer
- Force.com Advanced Developer
- Technical Architect*
Platform App Builder - Platform App Builder
- Technical Architect*"
Platform Developer - Platform Developer I
- Platform Developer II"
Pardot Consultant - Pardot Consultant

1 exam a year

Release Exam Salesforce Certifications
Pardot Specialist - Pardot Specialist
Marketing Cloud Email Specialist - Marketing Cloud Email Specialist
- Marketing Cloud Consultant
Marketing Cloud Social Specialist - Marketing Cloud Social Specialist
Data Architecture and Management Designer - Data Architecture and Management Designer
Integration Architecture Designer - Integration Architecture Designer
Development Lifecycle and Deployment Designer - Development Lifecycle and Deployment Designer
Sharing and Visibility Designer - Sharing and Visibility Designer
Identity and Access Management Designer - Identity and Access Management Designer
Mobile Solutions Architecture Designer - Mobile Solutions Architecture Designer

Depending on how many certifications you hold you may end up having to go through quite a few maintenance exams... The good news is that the Administrator maintenance refreshes in one go several certifications (Administrator, Advanced Administrator, Sales Cloud and Service Cloud) and same for the Developer maintenance (Developer, Advanced Developer and Technical Architect.

Learn The New Capabilities

The certification maintenance exams are usually rather short ones (20 questions max). They arenโ€™t proctored and support material is authorised. So in theory, you could google your way through to victory... But then of course, as a Salesforce professional, it's not your interest! My recommendation would be that you take the opportunity of the maintenance to study, learn and remember the new features released and use of them in one of your next projects.

In this post, Iโ€™ll go beyond the minimum requirements to keep your badge and consider the real need of a Salesforce consultant to stay on top of their art.

Exams Schedule

๐Ÿ“… First of all, let's see when can you schedule your maintenance. The table below lists the exams start and end dates:

Release Exam Date Available Completion Deadline
Spring โ€˜16 Available Now! October 28, 2016
Summer โ€˜16 Available Now! March 24, 2017
Winter โ€˜17 October 31, 2016 June 23, 2017

I strongly recommend that you refresh your certifications as soon as the maintenance exam is open.

  • The first reason being that soon after the certification maintenance exams are made available, start appearing information about the next release. The last thing you want is to get confused about which feature was released when. So do your maintenance exam for the current release and turn the page.
  • The other reason is that playing with the completion deadline may lead you to be unable to attend on the last few days and lose all your certifications! I know a couple of people who've done it and are still fuming about it. Don't be that guy...

Pre-release Organisation

๐Ÿ˜Ž If you've got time to prepare early, go for it! Get early access to new features using either a standalone pre-release org (6 weeks before release) or a sandbox preview (3 weeks before release). The latter is more about regression testing existing business logic than learning.

Video Tutorials

๐Ÿ“บ Since recently Salesforce is maintaining a dedicated YouTube channel. These are short 5 minutes video presentations centered around a specific module (Sales, Service, Marketing, Force.com). The advantage of this material is that in a short period you get a vision for the biggest changes in the new-release. Donโ€™t expect to be ready to tackle immediately the maintenance exam but I found it to be a good start of the learning process.

Trailhead

Trailhead Badge: Summer '16 ๐ŸŒฒ Since Spring '16 the Trailhead team is creating new release modules. Although not enough in themselves to get a full understanding of all the new features, they're a mandatory stop for all Salesforce Professionals. Come on, don't tell me you don't have any Trailhead release badge?

Salesforce Resources

๐Ÿ“˜ At every new release, the Partner community updates their Release for Partners page which is a great place to access a lot of release focused information. They're officially aimed at ISV's and SI's but, to be honest, can be useful to customers as well.

Release Notes

๐Ÿ„ Here they are! Six weeks before each major release Salesforce publishes the always long awaited Release Notes. Not so long ago they were the only resource available to learn about the new features in Salesforce. They are now still the reference but at the same Salesforce is releasing so many features per new release that people tend to prefer alternative ways to learn. I would recommend to stick with it though and read them from top to bottom. I usually upload them to my iPad and read them in the train.

The original document can be downloaded in PDF form but since Winter โ€™14, they are also available in HTML form:

I believe that at this point you must not only be ready to successfully take your maintenance exam but also be prepared to tackle your next Salesforce challenge making the most of the new features!

Suggestions For The Exam

  1. Use a second monitor:
    With WebAssessor on your main screen and (1) the Release Notes HTML version plus (2) a DE org already authenticated and (3) a Google search page on the second screen, you should be able to go through the maintenance exam thanks to your fresh knowledge plus the help of resources on the second screen if necessary.
  2. In case you fail:
    In theory, you are only allowed 3 iterations of the same exam before contacting Salesforce and begging for more attempts. Iโ€™ve never been there so I donโ€™t quite know what happens next but I wouldn't risk it! If you fail the exam, it means that something's wrong with your preparation or that the Q&A were phrased in a complicated way. Donโ€™t take any more risk and capture screenshots of all the questions with your answers during the second attempt. That way youโ€™ll be able to review each question one after another and find the right answer at your own pace should you fail a second time. This will prevent a third failure in a row and all the associated burden.

My Release Posts

And to finish, here is my series of posts targeting different releases. They're designed to help you reach new release mastery and improve your solution design skills with the help of the new features available.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Don't hesitate to ping me on Twitter if you have any comment or question. Bye for now!

Fab ๐Ÿธ