Saturday 3 December 2011

Certified Advanced Developer

As of 3rd December 2011 I'm a Certified Advanced Developer! This post gives an overview of the exam and a few tips to hopefully assist others.  Please don't ask for or post any exam questions/answers, as this is contravenes the test taker agreement that we all sign up to at the beginning of the exam and devalues the certification.

The first step is to join the Certified Professionals group on Linked In.  This is where a lot of information around the exams is disseminated (the assignment registration windows, for example) and the Salesforce certification team often comment in the discussions around test taking.

You'll need to know the following documents intimately:
  • Apex Code Developer's Guide
  • Visualforce Developer's Guide
I also made sure I had a broad understanding of the following - not so much to know them inside out, but when each particular one should be used:
  • Web Service API
  • Metadata API
  • Migration Too

There are three parts to the exam - multiple choice, programming assignment and essay.

Multiple Choice

This is an online proctored exam lasting up to 2 hours. There are 69 Questions and the pass rate is 73%, which means that you need to get just over 50 of the answers right.  This is different to most of the other exams that I've taken, in that you needed to know reference material in detail (e.g. triggers and orders of execution), plus there was a lot more to take in for the scenarios for most questions.

One thing I found particularly useful was the amount of time that I spend on the Developerforce Discussion boards - being able to quickly comprehend unfamiliar code and spot errors is a definite advantage.

Programming Assignment

After passing the multiple choice, you the have the opportunity to register for the programming assignment. Assignments are available several times a year, but spaces are limited, so my advice would be keep your eyes peeled for the announcement that the window is open and register immediately.  The last window was open for around 6 days and fully subscribed in 48 hours.

Assuming you are successful in registering, you'll receive the assignment requirements.  They are very detailed and give you clear instructions as to what you need to focus on and what you shouldn't waste time on as you'll gain no extra marks.  The assignments have a deadline date, but you don't have to wait until that date to submit it if you are finished in advance.

The recommendation is to spend 20 hours on the assignment. I spent more than this, initially on research to check the approach that I was using was the correct one (in my opinion at least!) and the rest on revisiting my unit tests as other scenarios occurred to me. I find that once I start coding unit tests it's difficult to stop!

I approached this as I would any customer project:
  • Read the specs carefully and understand the requirements
  • Produce a design
  •  Implement the solution and unit tests
  • Write a formal QA plan to cover all of the scenarios mentioned in the specs, plus as many others as I can think of, paying attention to security and scalability.
  • Use the system for some real-world scenarios
Development is carried out in a sandbox and deployed to production.  If the deadline is around one of the three release windows for Salesforce, its best to allow plenty of time for deployment, as this can be fragile once sandboxes and production are at different versions, as I've covered before in one of my earlier posts.

Once you are happy with the assignment, you notify Salesforce that it is ready for assessment and proceed to the final component of the exam.


The essay portion of the exam is also online proctored and has an allotted time of 1 hour.  Its important to stay focused for this exam - I found myself writing long paragraphs on the actual code I'd written, which I ended up deleting as it wasn't really relevant to the question.

While an essay exam sounds intimidating, you can expect questions that ask you to explain your approach, how you handled particular requirements and what compromises were made, so as long as you've taken the assignment seriously it shouldn't be a problem.  It is possible that the essay questions will make you think of something that you've missed, in which case you have the opportunity to try to come up with a plausible explanation as part of the answer.

The cynical side of me says that the essay questions are to ensure that whoever has submitted the project has actually written it, and isn't simply riding off other peoples's efforts.

Once this is done, there's a wait of around 6 weeks before the results get sent out.


  1. Nice one dude, Congratulations once again!
    This reminds me of my university project submission though :)

  2. Congratulationssssssssssssssss. I will start preparing for this exam soon and for sure if I faced any problem I may ask you if you don't mind :).

  3. Thanks. Feel free to post up questions in the comments section and I'll do the best I can to help.

    Good luck.

  4. Congrats Bob, and many thanks for sharing your experience. I need your input on following things-

    # What not to study for multiple choice exam. There are topics like salesforce mobile, apex chart, visual workflow these are not specified in study guide so can I ignore these topics?

    # from start to end, ie appearing for 1st exam to receiving the result whats the total duration it took for you?

    # if somebody fails in programming assignment than he/she has appear again for multiple choice again?

    # the 20 hrs of timeline is actually restricted to 20 hrs by monitoring login time or you can take more time and login to sandbox/production anytime for your assignment?

    Please find time to answer my queries, it would be help for me.


  5. Nice moves! I'm sitting the exam for this next week, hoping 2 years of development on the platform will be enough to get me through it!

  6. All the best Matt! do share your experience with us.

  7. I'm pushing up the questions from the comments and other channels with my answers into a separate blog post at:

    Feel free to keep posting questions here, or on the comments section of that blog, or via twitter, facebook etc.

  8. Thanks for this info. How much time do you get to deliver the assignment?


  9. I am reading both apex and visualforce guide but not concetrating on reference chapters from both guides. Do you think it should be enough to pass the first stage of DEV501?



    1. I made sure I knew the reference material as well. There were some very detailed questions from what I remember.

    2. Thanks, will read all material.

  10. Is it necessary to submit Assignment at the time of giving essay exam or we can also submit after essay exam ?

    1. When I took the exam you had to submit the project, then take the essay. However I have been told by people who have taken it more recently that they were able to take the essay prior to submitting the project. You should ask the certification team, as they are the only ones that know for sure.