After successfully completing the AdWords Fundamental and the Advanced Search exam, I thought I would share my experiences as although both exams required various levels of caffeine, my approach to both was pretty similar.
Thankfully I passed both with relative ease, but am extremely glad that I invested a couple of hours of revision to refresh my knowledge of certain aspects of the AdWords system that are not always part of my day to day decisions for campaign management.
I suppose it depends on how much AdWords experience you have as to how much time to invest, but even for the very experienced, an hour or so to brush up on topics that are not common PPC tasks is time well spent in my opinion (billing and invoicing for example!).
The excellent resources at the Exam Study Learning Center are extremely useful and I would also recommend making use of the AdWords Online Classroom Webinars, especially if you are relatively new to the AdWords system or taking your first exam.
As ever the AdWords Blog is always full of valuable articles and guidance with clear explanations to keep you updated on the latest developments. For those wishing to brush up on interpreting data and improving conversion rate performance, I have found the Conversion Room Blog extremely useful.
My Exam Approach
I suppose simply acquiring the knowledge to pass the exam can be achieved with hours of study and revision, although the exam will mean very little if individuals are unable to put their knowledge into practice and deliver better campaigns for their clients.
This is why putting your revision knowledge into practice prior to taking the exam is probably the most important aspect of revision as rather than simply answering questions and trying to remember the right answer, you will be thinking about your own experience and the decisions you have made to improve campaign performance.
For my revision I selected 3 client accounts and applied the exam questions to these real life campaigns, which in most cases made the answers extremely obvious. By using an ecommerce client, a B2B national advertiser and one of my smaller client campaigns who rely heavily localised search traffic, I was able to apply each question to a real life scenario which made the exam seem much easier.
Prior to the exams I made sure I created additional display campaigns, ran impression share reports, made use of the bid incremental feature, set up mobile campaigns etc as this refreshed my memory and re enforced much of what I already knew.
AdWords Fundamental Exam
This was extremely straight forward with a required pass mark of 85%. You have 2 hours to complete 120 questions, which I found a very generous amount of time. If you are unsure of any questions you can mark them and return at the end of the exam, which I highly recommend if you are spending too much time worrying about an individual question.
Much of the content was basic AdWords strategies and covered a range of topics, although a common theme throughout included;
- The benefits of using AdWords
- Keyword matching strategies
- CPM and CPC pricing
- Search and Display
- Automatic v managed Placements
- Campaign Settings
- Targeting strategies
I am sure no 2 exams are the same, so I suppose it's safer to ensure you are confident in all areas before taking the exam. Although the fact that you have 2 hours to complete and can even afford the luxury of getting 18 questions wrong, means that providing you have a good understanding of AdWords, there is a very good chance of passing the Fundamental exam.
AdWords Advanced Search Exam
The advanced search exam was much more taxing with questions that required a greater level of concentration. Once again the format was 2 hours, 120 questions and a required pass mark of 85%. I used the full 2 hours (1hour 45 on the test and 15 mins reviewing my marked questions) and there were certainly questions which in my opinion were there to catch you out!
Although I passed the exam with a bit of breathing space, I certainly had to work harder for this one and whilst I had time for a quick cup of coffee during the Fundamental exam, there was no such luck with this one!
Although my revision strategy was very similar I had invested additional time on mobile, video, image ads as well as spending additional time using the various campaign tools and running a variety of campaign, ad group and keyword reports.
Unfortunately for me, very few questions actually appeared to cover these subjects and many of the first 20 (and last 15) were heavily geared to using the API, Advanced AdWords Editor strategies and functionality within an MCC.
Another of the differences with the advanced exam was the similarity with the answers and the way they were written, which if you were not careful, you could quite easily select the wrong answer without thinking it through properly.
This is where applying questions to real life client campaigns became extremely beneficial as this helped with deciding what answers to dismiss, which usually resulted in 2 answers that could conceivably be correct!
There were a couple of times I could not choose between 2 answers and even found myself answering a question that I knew was the correct Google answer, but not exactly what I would recommend for a new client (broad match keyword strategy!!).
Overall, the exam was challenging but perfectly passable if time is dedicated to brushing up on your weaknesses (and we all have them!).
Other areas that cropped up were;
- Landing page optimisation
- Invalid clicks / fraudulent clicks
- Google places / ad extensions
- Policy and editorial guidelines
- Optimization techniques
- Impact of Quality score / Ad rank on CPC
- Smart pricing / AdWords Discounter
Once you have become an AdWords Professional you are rewarded with a shiny certificate, a profile page and a listing in the Individual Suppliers Directory, which isn't too bad at all I suppose!
I personally enjoyed the challenge of the new exam format and becoming a Qualified AdWords professional again and have certainly increased my knowledge in areas that I may have normally overlooked.
I am looking forward to taking the Advanced Display Advertising and Reporting & Analysis exams and will feedback my thoughts on both.
I'd be extremely interested in other people's thoughts on any of the exams taken so far, so feel free to share your experiences!
Best of luck