Best Practices When Preparing for a Marketing Cloud Certification

Whether you are brand new to the possibility of considering taking a Salesforce certification, or you are a seasoned veteran, this quick read is designed to help provide you with helpful knowledge and considerations so that you can enter a test feeling more confident and prepared. 

What Marketing Cloud Certifications Exist?

There are four (4) Marketing Cloud Certifications that exist: Email Specialist, Administrator, Developer, and Consultant.

Entry Level Certifications:

  • Marketing Cloud Email Specialist: focuses on in-depth knowledge of a single studio, Email Studio.
  • Marketing Cloud Administrator: focuses on mastering foundational knowledge of Marketing Cloud’s many studios and general account administration.

The entry-level certifications are aimed at users with some specific hands on knowledge with the platform and have no prerequisites for completion. They are aimed at users with a moderate amount of hands on experience. It is recommended you have 3-6 months for the Marketing Cloud Administrator certification and 6-12 months for the Marketing Cloud Email Specialist Certification.

Expert Certifications:

  • Marketing Cloud Developer: focuses on Marketing Cloud scripting languages, data configuration, manipulations and advance segmentation.
  • Marketing Cloud Consultant: focuses on the set up and implementation of Marketing Cloud from a tactical and strategic vantagepoint.

The expert certifications are aimed at advanced users and have prior certification requirements as outlined above. Marketing Cloud (MC) Administrator is required for the Marketing Cloud Consultant Exam (this changed from the previous Marketing Cloud Email Specialist requirement Q4 2020). Marketing Cloud (MC) Email Specialist is required for the Marketing Cloud Developer Certification. Salesforce suggests 6+ months experience for MC Consultant Certification and at least a year for the MC Developer Certification.

Originally presented at the Philadelphia Marketing Cloud User Group Meeting

Why you may want to take the Marketing Cloud Email Specialist Exam first!

  • Companies generally will start with email automation before moving into other channels, so the use case is more obvious 
  • Email Specialist is a great tool for non-technical marketing roles at it focuses on concepts like building campaigns, integration, security and data compliance
  • Because it focuses on a single studio, studying for the Email Specialist may require less of a learning curve for new users
  • The Email Specialist exam has been around for several years and has more learning resources available as a result
  • BUT – starting with the Administrator Exam is also a solid choice if you are more advanced/comfortable with the platform overall to test your skills beyond email.

Considerations Before Scheduling a Certification Exam:

  1. What is your current skill – set in relation to the platform and what do you anticipate your level of preparation will be as it is required for the specific exam?
  2. Building your resource library – What will help you study and prepare? Where does that live? Are there costs associated with it? Salesforce offers preparation courses and webinars. There are also third-party sites that offer preparation materials, but accuracy cannot always be guaranteed.
  3. Making Marketing Cloud a part of your routine – Practice makes perfect! The best way to learn a tool is to dive right into using it. Even if you do no have exposure to every Marketing Cloud offering to prepare, the best way to commit material to memory (especially if you are a visual learner) is to walk through and experience the platform first-hand.
  4. Cost, discount codes, certification vouchers – There is a cost associated with taking an Exam. Some Salesforce exam costs may vary, but Marketing Cloud Exams (full price) are $200. Salesforce webinars and Salesforce-related events (such as User Group Meetings) can sometimes offer free or discounted voucher codes that can be applied towards an exam when purchasing it through Webassessor. Keep in mind two things: 1- some codes are multi-use so you can use them on multiple exams; 2- an exam is usually $100 cheaper after you have taken it the first time, so if you do not pass on your first try you can re-schedule at a discounted rate.
  5. Test version(s) or changes – As you prepare for an exam, take note of which version you are preparing for based on the test date you have scheduled. On the rare occasion, a test will have a complete overhaul of categories and topics within the exam; but, more often than not, the exam may include a question or two from the latest release(s) and updates.

Note: some of these are general considerations that are useful for any Salesforce certification and are not Marketing Cloud specific.

Set Goals for Yourself

  • Consider scheduling your exam early to secure a day and time of your choosing. You can always reschedule the exam, but with many more people taking the exams proctored online, the virtual spots fill up quickly and can be difficult to find for small windows of time out.
  • Having a goal to work towards can be motivating especially if you select a test date that is not too far in the future where you forget about it, but just enough time where you begin to plan for taking it. This can fluctuate based on current experience and level of comfort, but I find that scheduling an exam 1-2 months out is a nice window of time to prepare and take the exam.
  • Having a goal date to aim towards also allows you to budget your study time accordingly around your daily life so that you can break down the learning into smaller, achievable segments to tackle as time allows without feeling rushed or overly stressed.
  • Telling others about your plans (especially a mentor) can keep you on track. Finding a mentor or a resource that is familiar with the exam you are about to take is ideal. A mentor can not only help give you tips and tricks for preparing, but they can also serve as a checkpoint for making sure that you are staying on course for your goal date and that you feel prepared going into the test. In addition to mentorship, there are many group resources available for studying — some may be officially organized by Salesforce-related groups such as User Group training sessions, while others may be unofficially organized such as a local study group or meetup.

Tips for Studying:

  1. Pay close attention to the category/topic weights for your specific test and the number of questions that will appear in each category. This is essential especially if you are re-taking the test and are only a question or two away from passing–those heavier weighted topics might be your key to passing!
  2. Highlight key areas for review that you know give you difficulty and study those areas more often than others so that knowledge starts to stick.
  3. Factor in time for a final, day-of review of notes prior to the test. You may review key points that stick out to you more clearly during a test that you may have otherwise been a bit hazy on.
  4. When in doubt, reschedule! … or re-take! If you have studied and you do not feel that you had enough time to cover the material or find that there are areas you wish to re-review, feel free to reschedule the test; see the exam cancellation and reschedule policy. Or, if you took the test and did not pass — do not worry, you are allowed to take the test up to 3 times within that release cycle; after that if you have still not passed, you must wait until the next release cycle to try again.

Tips for Test Taking:

  1. Answer all of the questions and mark those you are unsure of as you go. Once you’ve made it to the end of the test, go back and review those ‘marked for review’ as remaining time allows and make any final decisions you need to.
  2. In a multi-select question, start with the answers you know are definitely correct, determine which remaining answers are definitely incorrect, and which are possibly true. This will help you to narrow down your potential selections and have a better shot at selecting the correct answer(s).
  3. Pay very close attention to the questions. Sometimes the specific question wording can influence your answer. It helps to re-review the question and provided potential answers for phrasing that may guide you in one direction over another. Additionally, sometimes other test questions (and answer selections) can help provide clues to other questions — are there similar selections across similar questions? what is missing? what is the same?

Additional Resources:

Published by Lori Trzcinski

Lori Trzcinski is a Salesforce Marketing Champion and leads the Philadelphia Salesforce Marketing Cloud Marketers Group. She is a Certified Marketing Cloud and Pardot Consultant who is also a Salesforce Advanced Administrator. She is a marketing manager turned consultant with a passion for all things martech—especially helping people to bring their marketing goals to life through the use of the ever-growing number of technology options available.

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