Journey to CTASalesforceTips & Tricks

Passing the Platform App Builder & Platform Developer I Exams

First steps on the journey to Certified Technical Architect

Sometimes overconfidence catches up to you when you least expect it.  That is probably really obvious.  But for me recently it was about two months ago, when I sat both the Platform App Builder Transition exam and the Platform Developer I exam.  When I went into the exam centre here in London, sat down and clicked the ‘Begin Exam’ button, only to find I was woefully unprepared for the exams…

The result of that day, two exams failed.  But the story doesn’t end there.

So I am going to share some of my personal Salesforce experiences leading up to this point and more importantly my lessons learned and resources which helped me ultimately pass both exams.

Journey To Certified Technical Architect

Stepping back in time for a moment, I passed my first exams back in 2012.  And I do say exams, as in plural.

In May 2012, I decided to sit both the Salesforce Admin (ADM-201) & Developer (DEV-401) exams on the same day.

I decided to take the plunge after working with Salesforce for around a year and get certified.

Passes for both the Certified Administrator & Developer exams...
Passes for both the Certified Administrator & Developer exams…


My objective was simple enough, and I wanted to get a recognised credential I could take with me when I moved to the UK.  I figured having a globally recognised certification would help the transition and ultimately help me find employment.

My plane to Abu Dhabi on the way to London…

It was a time of massive change (picking up and moving to the other side of the world).  But my main ambition was to set up in London and travel around Europe.  And if you know many Aussies in London, this is a little stereotypical 🙂

But those first steps I took, have set me on a path I have never looked back on.

And over the last year, I have been continued planning next steps and my future direction within the Salesforce community and ecosystem.

With the launch of the new certifications from Salesforce in late 2016, I have decided (like a lot of people) to slowly start working towards the goal of becoming a Salesforce Certified Technical Architect.

Patterns are easy to form

With a couple of other certifications over the last 18 months (like the Advanced Admin & Sales Cloud Consultant) – I relied more on my personal experiences and knowledge of the platform, rather than directly studying for the exams.

Platform App Builder & Platform Developer I are both on the pathway to Certified Technical Artchitect
Platform App Builder & Platform Developer I certifications are both on the pathway to Certified Technical Architect

Sure, I ended up referencing the study guides, but after running through some practice quizzes, I was relatively sure I wouldn’t need further study.  But with this, I started to build a pattern of not taking the exams seriously enough.  Taking for granted my hands-on experiences and knowledge over the years getting me across the line.

And so, I found myself eagerly booking in my App Builder transition exam & the Platform Developer I exam…

Overconfidence and failure

Why was I so unprepared?  You can probably guess where we are heading with this next part!

I made the first mistake of where I expected the Platform App Builder exam to be the easier of the two exams that day.  In my head I just assumed it was just like the Developer Exam (DEV-401), which it was replacing.

The transition exam is only 20 questions, but there is new material which is covered by the exam (and rightly so!).  But with only 20 questions, and being over-confident blinded me to the fact I should have studied.

Overconfidence can get you in trouble

Secondly I had booked both exams on the same day…  Which isn’t generally a great idea in the first place.  As it doesn’t leave you time to deal with a negative result before moving straight onto the next exam.  The unexpected failure on the Platform App Builder transition knocked me for six (a cricket metaphor for those who don’t know what this means).

And I knew going into the exams that the Platform Developer I exam was going to be the weaker of two…  But even still, I assumed by developer experience of the last year would be enough to get by.

Leaving the exam centre that day, I took the result badly.  I was being very hard on myself and kicked myself for not taking the exams seriously enough.  How could I have just expected to coast by?  Did I not know Salesforce at all?

With my anxiety, my mind was the harshest critic and it tore me to shreds…  But I vowed to make sure not to repeat the mistakes again.  And to do that I needed acknowledge what went wrong, and plan a way forward.

Take Two: Adam Strikes Back

So quietly I made preparations to re-sit both exams.

After coming up with a study plan and finding a number of helpful resources (which are shared below).  I can proudly say I am back on track and have passed both exams.

row of traffic lights, green lights illuminated (digital composite) - source: TelegraphI must be a glutton for punishment as I still re-booked both exams on the same day, but the exam centre isn’t that easy for me to get to, so I ensured I booked time slots which would give me some time in between if needed.

And as a funny/side anecdote  – as I was driving to the test centre, I had a ‘green light’ run.  Where every traffic light was either green or turned green on my way…  That never happens in London!

Salesforce Platform App Builder Platform App Builder: Where did I go wrong?

Now this may come from my past experiences and working with Salesforce now for over 7 years (hence over-confidence) but some of the questions on the Platform App Builder exam are easy… I mean really easy.  And almost make you second guess the answer as it is so obvious you think it is a trick question.

I second guessed my answer about sandboxes the first time round, and ended up over thinking it and picking the wrong option… **DOH**

But the area that really sunk me the first time around, generally related to the setting up of External Objects.  As I haven’t used these features of Salesforce, I was guessing.  And after studying External Objects, I know I got these completely wrong in that fateful first go of the exam!

Also understanding the system limitations re: changing field data types was important as I had a couple of questions on this topic.

Platform App Builder: Study Resources

  • SalesforceBen is pretty much a one stop shop for most certification exams nowadays, and the Platform App Builder was no exception.
  • Trailhead has a Trailmix specifically aimed at this certification
  • Salesforce888 & SalesforceMike both have a breakdown of the Platform App Builder Transition Exam

And the Quizlet also has a number of flashcards/practise exams, but I found some of them had incorrect answers… So not 100% useful if you don’t know the answers.  Personally I used this one, and they seemed correct.

Salesforce Platform Developer IPlatform Developer I: Where did I go wrong?

There were a couple of areas, but the biggest areas I found when I failed needed to work on were the test execution/design patterns.  As I have never used Test Factory Data design or stored test data in Static Resources. Instead I have generally included a test method in the code I have written… But this isn’t very efficient in the long run!

I also forgot topics in the exam that I know.  As an example I forgot the Order of Execution during the exam… Does a validation rule fire after a workflow?  I went completely blank…  I put this down to sitting this exam directly after failing the Platform App Builder.

There are also five ‘product related questions’ throughout the exam, which actually have no bearing on the end-result.  At the time I did my exam, these related to Heroku (and I assume I got these wrong).  And I remember getting most of these early in the exam and this combined with the early failure in the exam before left me mentally panicking and I was freaking out that I knew nothing!  It was like reading another language!

Platform Developer I: Study Resources

  • Order of Execution is key knowledge which is tested multiple times in the exam.  The questions I got in the test related to workflows, validation rules and triggers specifically.  But there could be other questions testing your understanding of this, and how to avoid recursion.
  • Vandevelde Jan’s blog post about the Platform Developer I exam was one of the most comprehensive I found online.  I can’t recommend it highly enough for those studying for this exam.
  • As mentioned above, SalesforceBen is also a go-to resource for certification resources and unsurprisingly has a post dedicated to the Platform Developer I.
  • There are additional resources available in this Trailblazer Community post.
  • And finally there is also a Trailmix focused on the Platform Developer I certification

If you have access to Premier Support, you also have this online course for the Platform Developer I available to you.  It is an extensive overview of the course and exam questions.

Have you got any resources relating to these exams to share?

Please feel free to add them in the comments section below.

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