Salesforce Certified Platform Developer I: Annotated Study Guide

Recently I earned my Salesforce Certified Platform Developer I credential! The first of the Salesforce credentials that include a good bit of code in addition to admin and declarative matters. Since this is my first technical certification — silly me, I thought my dissertation defense was the last test I’d ever take — I’m bubbling over with tech-certy thoughts I want to share. And since I’ve written a good number of exams in the past, I’d like to offer some induction-driven opinions about what I think this test is really trying to evaluate.

My thoughts are presented in two blog posts. In this post, I’ll explain which study materials helped me pass the exam. (This post will contain the only comprehensive annotated bibliography (that I know of) for this exam.) In the second post, I’ll offer some general thoughts about how the test was designed, what skills I think it was intended to test, and what this platform-specific certification means about developers who have earned it.

 

Annotated Study Guide

Of course, the web is full of study materials for the Salesforce Certified Platform Developer I exam, official and unofficial. The official Salesforce study guide is very high-level; the official Salesforce training course isn’t free; and a Google search produces a much larger set of overlapping, unofficial study guides than would be efficient for anyone to study in full. This post represents as concise a ‘test-comprehensive’ curation as I’ve been able to make — a slightly annotated list of the resources I found most helpful, filtered additionally in light of the exam I actually took.

  • Salesforce.com’s official exam guide [pdf]
    • Broad overview of what will be on the test; seemed quite accurate to my test
    • Not very granular; doesn’t get more specific than e.g.:
      • Describe the primitive and complex Apex data types and when to use them.
      • Describe how to write unit tests for triggers, controllers, and classes.
    • Doesn’t link to study resources beyond docs, Trailheads, and the DEV450 training course (which I didn’t take)
  • Ruben Ortiz’ guide & tips
    • This was my ‘Bible’ — the best single go-to page (that I was able to find) on what to study for the exam
    • Actionably granular lists of resources, study and test-taking strategies, and topics covered
    • Sketch of exam coverage matched my exam instance remarkably well
  • Force.com Platform Fundamentals [home] [pdf]
    • 404page book aimed at admins and ‘declarative’ developers; you do need to know what the platform can do without code
      • OK to skim text and skip exercises if reasonably familiar with SObjects at admin level
    • Lots on schema design within Salesforce constraints (standard 1+NF plus the types of relations, cross-object formulae, roll-up summary fields, etc. specific to SObjects); the exam is pretty heavy on schema issues (both directly and indirectly)
    • Not much about Apex/VF itself, but if you’re basically okay with simple control and data structures and server-side web apps (e.g. JSF, which I think VF is based on anyway) then the Force.com platform is where you need to put the most study effort anyway
  • Visualforce in Practice [pdf]
    • 224pg book aimed at intermediate developers; assumes you’re already familiar with Apex, but controller examples are pretty simple
    • Very hands-on (tons of code) but still more explanation than docs or Trailheads; maybe less useful if you’re already deeply familiar with JSF (I’m not)
    • Strong discussions of view state, workload location issues (how much to do in Apex controller vs. on-page in JavaScript?), performance & best practices
    • If you’re already reasonably comfortable with VF and just want to study minimum for exam, just read chapter 1 (‘Thinking in Visualforce’) and maybe chapter 13 (‘Visualforce Performance and Best Practices’)
  • Gregory Cook’s mindmap for the (much more difficult) Certified Salesforce Technical Architect exam [post] [png]
    • Best ‘platform in a single picture’ I know; if you like mindmaps or ontologies (or just are a generally ‘architectonic’ thinker) then this may be the best place to start
    • My instance of the Salesforce Certified Platform Developer I exam covered parts (never all) of ever top-level branch in this mindmap except:
      • Application Architecture
      • Integration Architecture
      • Infrastructure Architecture
      • Security Architecture
      • Communication Skills
      • Industry Knowledge
  • Patricio Penaherrera’s Quizlet flash cards
    • Good way to find your current weaknesses
    • Use the ‘match’ function to quiz yourself (the ‘test’ option picks random or semi-random answer options, which makes guessing by elimination unhelpfully easy)
    • Question/flashcard contents don’t actually resemble exam questions, so just use as diagnostic and list of key terms
    • Start with the massive 299 card set, write down what you don’t get right and study up on those topics; take each topic-specific smaller set as you become more comfortable with each topic
  • Snehal Surti’s annotated links to Trailheads for each topic covered on the exam
    • Basically, the topics listed in official study guide with some fleshing-out and links to corresponding Trailheads
    • This is the most granular resource I used; all the study resources suggested here were probably max one or two clicks away from Ruben’s guide, but Snehal’s matching of resource to official study guide coverage helped me know when my study scope was broad enough
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