Preparing For The Adwords Certification Exams

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3 years ago, I wrote a post about preparing for the Adwords Fundamentals exam. Looking back, it’s amazing how much has changed in 3 years. So, I figured I’d update my recommendations for preparing for the Adwords Certification Exams.

What’s Changed:

  • The exams are now free, but are associated with Google Partners. You need to sign up for Google Partners to take the tests – which is also new. Badges for individual qualifications have gone the way of the dinosaur. That said, free exams are a nice benefit for companies with multiple PPC managers, or for those who want to take more than one exam (there are 3 Adwords certification exams: Fundamentals, Advanced Search, and Advanced Display).
  • > Recommendation: If you’re an experienced PPC manager, take each Adwords Certification exam once without studying. Chances are, you’ll pass; and if you don’t, you can take them again for free, knowing which sections you need to bone up on.
  • The test runs in a browser, but it no longer locks your computer – leaving you free to open another browser for an “open book” test. The test is still timed, though, so if you’re very new to Adwords or are unsure of your test-taking skills, don’t expect to be able to look up the answer to every question.
  • > Recommendation: Have 2 different browsers open when you start the exam. As with most things Google, the test runs well in Chrome, so use that for the test, and either Firefox or Internet Explorer for the help files.
  • There is no way to mark questions you’re unsure about for further review. This one frustrates me. One of the most effective ways to take standardized tests is to complete the questions you’re certain about, mark those you’re not, and then go back and work those questions until time runs out. With a test using paper and pencil, that’s easy. Online, it’s tougher.
  • > Recommendation: Have a piece of scratch paper handy to write down the numbers of questions you’re not sure about. Then go back and review them.

What’s The Same:

  • The test is still timed, although you now have 120 minutes to complete it. While experienced PPC managers can easily finish much quicker (I think it took me 45 minutes tops), if you’re fairly new to PPC it might take you the whole time.
  • >Recommendation: Use your time wisely. Dredge up your ACT and SAT test-taking skills and don’t dwell too long on any one question, and don’t look up all the questions in the help files. Trust your knowledge!
  • Newer PPC managers will want to study for the exam, using Google’s study materials.
  • > Recommendation: Unless you’re brand-new to PPC, don’t review every section. Skip topics you already know and focus on those you’re not familiar with.
  • Standardized test-taking best practices still apply!
  • > Recommendation:
  • >> Skip questions you’re not sure of and come back to them
  • >> Your first impression is usually correct
  • >> On true/false questions, you have a 50/50 chance of getting the answer right
  • >> And so on

You’re now up to date on the latest and greatest on preparing for the Adwords Certification exams. So are the exams worthwhile?

Caleb Hutchins over at WordStream wrote a great post this week pointing out the flaws with the Adwords Certification exams. It’s a must-read: the post itself and the comments are fascinating and discuss the pros and cons of the exams.

I tend to agree with Caleb that the exams are poorly-designed, biased toward Google, and a poor predictor of actual PPC management success. That said, being certified is a big deal for prospective clients. I’ve had countless prospects ask me if I’m certified – although I’d been doing PPC successfully for several years before the exams even existed! Still, it’s really all we have to say that we actually know what we’re doing.

Do you have any tips for passing the Adwords Certification exams? Got a beef with them you want to air out? Share in the comments!

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  1. I would also add…

    For questions like the following :-

    2+2 = ?
    1. 5
    2. 3

    Don’t waste too much time pondering which is the least wrong answer…

  2. Great article, as always!!
    Only caveat is that you can no longer go back and change answers. So not only does it not let you mark them for review, you only get the one crack at it. I noticed this when I got re-certified recently.

  3. Chouaib est says

    Great article. I didn’t get one thing and I hope you could help me. When you said that badges for individual certification… So a freelancer can’t have Certification by just having an adwords account? Because I am new to PPC and I want to have certification so I can show in my freelance work?

  4. HI Melissa

    There have indeed been many changes to the exams and the test taking system in general! I agree with many of your tips and recommendations, however I don’t necessarily think it’s a good approach to sit the exams without doing any study first, even when you are an experienced account manager. The exams are trickily worded, the questions can be pretty specific in certain cases too. Whilst I don’t think that passing the exams should be used by a candidate as a declaration to the world that they are now a certified AdWords expert, they should allow a candidate to demonstrate that they have studied and gained the knowledge required to satisfy a ‘benchmark’ that Google have set. As you have stated above, a person could have been very successfully managing PPC campaigns for years prior to achieving certification but potential clients will still always like to ask that account manager if they are AdWords certified before choosing them to do the job.

    I’m aware that an unsuccessful candidate only has to wait seven days before they can resit, but surely a candidate should be aiming to have the knowledge in order to pass it first time? Also, because it’s no longer possible to navigate back to unanswered questions or edit the answers of previously answered questions, I think it’s essential to make every single answer count. No-one really wants to see that they have failed at the end of the test, especially when you have been doing the job for a number of years!

    • Melissa Mackey says

      Hi Helen, thanks for your comment. I still maintain that it’s not necessary for experienced PPC managers to waste time studying for questions they can answer in their sleep. I’ve taken the exams multiple times without studying, and passed with a 97% score.

      Less experienced PPC’ers will want to study, but not everyone has to.

  5. I was wondering if it was the same questions as the old test or did they completely redo them? Thanks.

    • Melissa Mackey says

      Hi Justin – the questions are different. In fact, the questions will be different every time you take the exam. You’ll see the same *type* of questions, but not the exact same questions. The new test has been updated to cover new features in Adwords. Hope that helps!

  6. Oluwagbenga says

    I just wrote the Adwords Fundamentals exam recently and unfortunately, i had 75%, so i failed it! I need helpful advice and suggestions from you to help me make 85% and above in my next try. Thanks Melisa

  7. I am beginner in google ads advertising (Just started with it). How long does it take to prepare for exam if you are beginner?

    • Melissa Mackey says

      Hi Joao, if you’re brand new, I suggest allowing 4-6 weeks of study prior to taking the exam. Use the time to review the Google help files, read the Adwords Community forum, and get some hands-on experience. I can’t stress “getting your hands dirty” enough. It’s nearly impossible to pass the exam if you’ve never worked in Adwords, so focus on getting actual experience using it.

  8. Thanks for the information. As I am planning for the Adwords exams. Your advice will be great help to me for preparing.
    Thanks alot.


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