Almost five years ago, when I began doing voluntary Salesforce administration work for my employer, I never imagined that I would become so fully involved in the Salesforce world one day, let alone become an MVP. It all started when I volunteered to clean up our Salesforce org, creating custom objects and page layouts, etc. But I found that the more I worked with the platform, the more powerful I discovered it was and the more passionate I became about it!

Fast forward a few years, and I am now a Senior Salesforce Consultant with 22 certifications (yes, 22!), all thanks to folks like David Liu, Jackie Travieso, and Deepak Anand, who were there to constantly guide me through my journey. My certification obsession all began with David Liu’s session at Dreamforce, triggering my decision to get certified as soon as possible upon returning home. For almost six weeks, I spent day and night studying for five exams—Salesforce Administrator, Advanced Administrator, Developer, Sales Cloud, and Service Cloud Consultant. And I'm pleased to say I was able to crack them all in the first attempt.

My career then took a whole different turn once I added my treasured certification logos to my LinkedIn profile and resume. I was inundated with calls and messages from recruiters wanting to hire me with unbelievable salary offers. It was then that I realized the value Salesforce certifications offered, both from a learning and career growth perspective. I promised myself that no matter how much time it took, I would grab all the Salesforce certifications within a year or two.

After the support from the Salesforce community, together with the confidence boost earning these certifications gave me, I decided that it was time to give back. I became immensely active on the Success Community in March 2015. Two years and 10,000+ Answers (including 3,000+ Best Answers) on the community later, I can confidently say that this was one of the best things I could have done. Helping the community members find the right answers and guiding them to the correct information has been a fantastic learning experience for me. And knowing that I am able to assist someone to successfully accomplish a task cannot adequately be expressed in words.

After a 10-month hiatus of not taking any exams, I decided to start another certification-grabbing spree and ended up cracking 15 more exams between November 2015 and February 2017, bringing my certification portfolio up to 22. With all these certifications now in my arsenal, I decided to take my community contribution a step further and launched a pro bono Salesforce certification study group in the Tri-State area.

The first couple of study sessions took place in coffee shops or rented conference rooms where we all could gather to run through the PowerPoint decks and practice questions I had prepared. Given the overwhelming response and deep-rooted interest of the initial session members, I began conducting the study groups in a public library, which provided us with a much better study environment to do live demos and collaborate effectively. So far, across the six study session groups that I have hosted, all of my 40 members have passed their Administrator and Advanced Administrator exams, thus leading to a 100% success rate—a great achievement for all of us.

Based on my experience with these study groups, here are my 5 top tips to help you prepare for the Salesforce certification exams:

1. The official exam study guide and Salesforce Help & Training
These are the most reliable sources of information when preparing for your exam. The topic weighting mentioned in the study guide is quite accurate and will help you focus on the key areas most vital for the exam. Most of the knowledge-based questions in the exam have answers within the Help & Training features and functionality articles, so you can imagine how critical these are from an exam perspective.

2. Set an exam date as your goal
Register for your exam after thoroughly analyzing where you stand from a preparation perspective. Setting a firm date helps you better work towards a goal without letting you slack off or think that you can take your time to prepare for the exam, which may just result in procrastination.

3. Get hands-on in a Developer org
If you haven’t worked hands-on with a certain area in Salesforce and that happens to be an important topic for the exam, I highly recommend signing up for a free Developer Edition and playing around with the unfamiliar feature to learn more about it. Trailhead is one of the best resources that can be very well leveraged for building your skills with the platform. Map the topics in the study guide with the relevant Trailhead module and make sure you complete the latter as a part of your exam preparation. These badges are a key part of the homework assignments that I hand out to my study group members and it has undoubtedly helped all of my students with their exam preparation.

4. Make notes
I can’t stress enough the importance of noting down anything you deem crucial or have trouble memorizing. Think of these as the last-minute revision resources for you to refer to a night or two before the exam.

5. Practice, practice, practice
Did I mention practice? You need to get to a point where you feel comfortable with all aspects of the exam—there are no shortcuts here!

And last but not least, if you fail an exam, don't be disheartened or think that it’s the end of the world. With the recent addition of section-level feedback with your exam results, it’s easy to learn from your mistakes, tighten your grip on the areas that need more attention, and then re-take the exam in a more prepared state. And hey, don’t forget to go out and celebrate after passing your exam. You worked hard, so enjoy!

Good luck and best wishes in your endeavors on your own certification journey. As for me, I only have a few to go until I have all the certs! See you in the Certified Professional Community.