The time has come! You’re ready (or not) to take your first AdWords certification exam! Where to start? How to begin? There are a few introductory steps, some changes you’ll want to be wary of, and, of course, suggestions for where to focus and how to approach this exam!

Practice for The AdWords Fundamentals Exam

Step 1 – Get the Fundamentals Guide. Google wants you to succeed. They provide this guide for a reason and you should take full advantage.

Step 2 – Watch the videos. When your eyes start to stray from the AdWords Fundamentals Bible, that is the perfect time to switch modes and spend anywhere from 5-60 minutes watching training videos that prepare you for the exam.

Step 3 – Practice exams. Around the water cooler, we often chat about the usefulness of the iPassExam resource. Sure it’s not free, but it does a great job preparing you for all the varying questions you’ll encounter, including the Advanced Search and Display exams!

Step 4 – Sign in and go!

The new AdWords certification process requires that you create a Google Partners account. Whether you work for an agency or under an established My Client Center (MCC) – or – if you are an individual with no other affiliation, you’ll start with the “I’m an Agency” option. From there you’ll sign in to the profile under which you’ll be taking the exam, not your MCC. You’ll be asked for your email, position and interests and then move into the agency/company details. If you’re not affiliated with an agency, just select “skip for now” and continue with your individual profile. From there you’ll choose the Certification tab and see the choice of exams!

Fundamentals Requirements

WARNING: You’ll see a difference between newer and older guides. One of the most important things you can do when using external prep guides is to consider how dated they may be. Areas that are different now from prior years and even months will include:

  • Enhanced campaigns. While most of those taking the Fundamentals exam may have missed the pre-enhanced campaigns world of PPC,  if your guide or practice test predates April 2013, you’re going to be under some major false assumptions.
  • Test format. You’re still timed and the minimum score is the same. However, your browser is no longer locked. This means if you’re not entirely sure of yourself, you can keep another window open with the guide or your study materials at your fingertips. Now many agencies will prefer that you’re taking this exam on the up&up (meaning no use of study materials during the exam), but if you’re able to keep some resources available, it’s always a nice safety net. To compensate for this more flexible layout, Google has also taken away the option to go back and change an answer. No longer can you give a tentative answer and review it prior to submitting your finished test.

PRO TIP: Take this test like any other high stakes multiple choice exam. Know your material. Know what you know. And if you come upon a question that you just don’t know, take a minute to really think it through (and consult your resources, if that’s the way you’re playing). Don’t waste time looking up and verifying each and every question, because you’ll find that you’ve run out of time.

  • No more multiple answer questions! Who doesn’t hate the old “choose the best answer” type of question? It’s ambiguous enough that an overthinker who’s already feeling the pressure will very potentially choose a good-but-not-great option. Thank you, Google, for saving us from ourselves.

So Where To Start?

When they say “fundamentals,” that’s just what they mean. Make sure you get what PPC is and how it begins. How do you set up an account? What’s required? What are the bones of an account and how is this different from the other sources that generate online traffic?

Beginner strategy – If you want XYZ, how do you achieve that goal? While this might seem like an overwhelming unknown, your AdWords Fundamentals guide will walk you through it. They give the specific exams for a reason. Familiarize yourself with them and you’ll be delightfully surprised at their reappearance.

Display – While there is an advanced Display exam in your future, when taking your Fundamentals you can focus on the basics of Display, such as:

BASIC TARGETING – Contextual keywords, topics, interests, and placements

IMAGE ADS – Where they appear, what are their specifications, and what are the variations?

VIDEO ADS – While there’s more to come in the Advanced Display Exam, familiarize yourself with the intro to YouTube ads.

Numerical trivia – One of the easiest slip-ups is numerical answers. How many _____ can you have? What is the formula for ________? While these formulas and limitations may seem a little excessive for memorization, they are worth the 2 or 3 minutes it’ll take to lock these figures in. And really, in your account management, you’ll want to remember a lot of these facts as well.

Account Limits

Before you go losing sleep, remember these points:

  • There are certainly people who have to take exams more than once. While it doesn’t do much for your confidence or your reputation, it reminds you that

PPC isn’t just a “set it and forget it” business.

  • It’s a pretty biased test. Google is going to cram your brain with all sorts of Googley tools, tips, and features. While these are important to learn for the sake of the test, it’s also essential that you use critical thinking and basic problem solving when navigating real world PPC issues. Google’s amazing tools, tips, and features won’t swoop in and save you. You need to use what you have (by that I mean the skills you’ve learned) to optimize performance and reach those goals!
  • After taking the exam, you’ll realize why your certified colleagues smirked when you said you were taking your first AdWords exam.

Mona Lisa Smirk

After working in the industry for a while, these concepts will be second nature. And if they’re not, you’ll realize that they reside in the information bucket of “tools Google wants me to use but I currently elect to not use.”

Once you’ve completed your exam, you’ll not only feel like a real champ but you won’t have to waste any time before preparing for your next AdWords certification exam: Advanced Search! Stay tuned for the next installment that will cover how to conquer and reign victorious over yet another AdWords challenge!