How I Studied for the Platform Developer I (Beta) Exam

This post covers how I studied for the Platform Developer I beta exam and the resources I used to become a certified Salesforce Platform Developer I and Certified Application Architect on January 16 and February 8, 2020, respectively.



What is a beta exam, you ask? A beta exam is a revision to the current certification exam, to cover new topics and retire obsolete or old questions.

Occasionally, Salesforce will offer certifications in a “beta” version of the exam. These are free exams, but you have to qualify to take them. Salesforce uses the data and comments gathered from the beta version of an exam to make sure the certifications they publish are fair and reliable. You get twice the number of questions and twice the amount of time to complete the exam. You get to shape the exam questions by providing feedback on each exam question. Salesforce then reviews the feedback, how users tested on the questions along with other factors to determine the final set of questions for the new certification exam. You receive your exam results a month to a couple of months later. So, there is no instant gratification like a normal certification exam. Your results email only tells you whether you passed or failed (remember the days when you only saw “Pass” or “Fail” on that final exam screen?). It does not get the section breakdown that you get when taking the regular exams.

The beta exam I took is now in effect.

From the exam guide

“The Salesforce Platform Developer I exam is intended for an individual who has experience developing and deploying basic business logic and user interfaces using the programmatic capabilities of the Lightning Platform, including practical application of the skills and concepts noted in the exam objectives below.

The Salesforce Platform Developer I generally has 1 to 2 years of experience as a developer and at least 6 months of experience on the Lightning Platform and has invested time in studying the resources listed in this exam guide.”

The Salesforce Platform Developer I candidate has the experience, skills, and knowledge outlined below:

  • Has experience with object-oriented languages such as Apex, Java, JavaScript, C#, and Ruby.
  • Has experience with data-driven applications and relational databases.
  • Has experience with Model View Controller (MVC) architecture and component-based architecture.
  • Knows the capabilities of the core objects in the Salesforce schema.
  • Knows the capabilities and use cases for formula fields and roll-up summary fields.
  • Is familiar with and able to leverage relevant declarative capabilities of the platform, where appropriate.
  • Knows when to use declarative vs. programmatic methods.
  • Knows when to use the Lightning Process Builder vs. an Apex trigger.
  • Is familiar with the basics of the Lightning framework.
  • Can use the fundamental programmatic capabilities of the Lightning Platform to develop custom interfaces to extend Salesforce capabilities and develop custom business logic.
  • Can extend the Lightning Platform using Apex, Visualforce, and basic Lightning Components.
  • Is familiar with the development lifecycle from development to testing, and has knowledge of the available environments.

Important information about the exam:

  • Content: 60 multiple-choice/multiple-select questions
  • Time allotted to complete the exam: 110 minutes
  • Passing score: 62%
  • Registration fee: $200 with a retake fee of $100, plus applicable taxes per local law.

1. Review the Concepts in the Platform Developer I Exam Guide & Group Objectives by Their Weightings

Here is the exam outline:


View full image

In reviewing the exam outline with the category weightings, anticipate approximately these many questions per exam category:

Salesforce Fundamentals: 7% (~6 questions)

Data Modeling and Management: 13% (~11 questions)

Process Automation and Logic: 38% (~31 questions)

User Interface: 25% (20 questions)

Testing, Debugging, and Deployment: 17% (~14 questions)

In doing the math, your best bet is to focus your studies on the ones with the highest weighings and know those topics well: process automation and logic, user interface and testing, debugging and deployment. It is ok for you to get a couple wrong on the lower weighed topics and still pass the exam – ~65 questions correct.

2. Perform a Self Assessment on the Objectives and ID Areas Needing Knowledge Improvement

I reviewed the exam outline and determined how comfortable I was in each bullet point. Unlike exams that were more declarative in nature, I knew this exam will be tough. I’m not a programmatic developer. But I do build flows (which requires that you understand good apex best practices to build good flows), am a RADWomen graduate and took Ohad Idan and Luke Cushanick virtual Apex class, plus I am part of the Governance team at work. We establish Salesforce declarative and programmatic best practices and perform design solution reviews for all our Salesforce squads. I get to learn from my technical peers on the team about the programmatic side of things from sitting in on these design discussions.

Identify your strengths and just refresh your memory on those topics. For me, I felt fairly comfortable with most of the topics under Salesforce Fundamentals – when to use declarative versus programmatic and considerations for developing in a multi-tenant environment (i.e. understand what the governor limits are). I was also comfortable with the topics under Data Modeling and Management, had to study those recently for the Data Management & Architecture exam and know the various relationships for the administrator type exams. Under the process automation and logic section, I’m good with the declarative process automation features, programmatic techniques for preventing security vulnerabilities (from my studies for the Sharing & Visibility Designer exam) and have some familiarity on apex from RADWomen and the Apex Webinar series. Under the Testing, Debugging and Deployment section, I understand environments, process for deploying code/configuration and things to consider when writing test classes. Just needed to brush up on them.

Identify areas you are weak on or have no experience and ramp up your knowledge on that. As I mentioned before, I’m not a programmatic developer so I don’t use these concepts on a day-to-day basis so many of the concepts, best practices in this exam I have to learn and study.

3. Increase Your Knowledge. Hit the Trails, Play in Your Dev Org and Get “Focused.”

The resources I used are not listed in any specific order…

Look through the Trailhead Trailmix “Prepare for Your Salesforce Platform Developer I Credential.” Take the modules as new, as a refresher and read the content links in the trailmix.

For $19, I recommend the Focus on Force Platform Developer 1 Study Guide. (Note: since the publication of this blog post, FoF has updated their PD1 study guide.) FoF does a great job with focusing on the key concepts that are important to know for the exam explained in a simple to understand way. Love the visuals with the screenshots and diagrams to drive the concepts home. It also includes links to Salesforce documentation for more information.

For another $19 and money I feel is well spent, purchase the Focus on Force Platform Developer 1 Exams. (Note: At the time of publication, the mock exams reflect questions for the previous exam. They have since been updated.) These mock exams put me into the exam taking mindset, thinking about the various use cases and choosing the best answer. There are 4 full mock exams with 60 questions each and exam questions to test your knowledge on each objective. There is a detailed explanation with screenshots and reference links for each question. I would take these exams or the topic ones to see how I’m doing progress wise on each topic.  I recommend investing in the paid exam resources (you are paying the company to keep the material updated and present accurate information) rather than rely on quizlets people put together, which may or may not be correct. If you then base your studying off of potential wrong answers, that can throw you to a loop.

Ladies Be Architect PD1 study group recordings, led by Blanca Leon-Carter.

Jan Vandevelde’s Salesforce Platform Developer I Certification Guide available at www.packt.com. At publication time, the eBook is available for $31.99 and the Print + eBook for $39.99.

Two blog posts by CapTech’s Osman Mazhar:

Other Salesforce Resources – I did deeper dives on the topics that were covered in the FoF material, Ladies Be Architect or Osman’s blog posts or on the PD1 newer topics:

Ohad’s and Luke’s NYC Developer User Group Apex Workshop Webinars on YouTube

Nothing is better than actual work experience. However, if you do not have that, I recommend playing around with the concepts in a developer sandbox, using Trailhead projects, where you can. Play around in Setup, in the Developer Console, Visual Studio Code.

If you need instructor led training, you can take these classes:

Lastly, as you work through the concepts, Google is your friend. Use it.

4. Bottom Line, Here’s What You Need to Know…

It’s been a month since I took the beta exam. So, this is what I recall…

  • Order of execution! Need a way to memorize it?
  • Know what the MVC architecture is, what falls into each category.
  • You need to understand the various relationships (mostly, master-detail and lookup, when to use which one based on the use case scenario, what happens during a delete operation). You may also need to know external lookup, indirect lookup and hierarchical.
  • Know the capabilities of declarative automation and when to not use it, use it in place of or with code.
  • Know what can be done in code to prevent security vulnerabilities.
  • Know how many levels of records you can traverse with a formula versus apex code.
  • Describe when to use and how to write triggers, best practice.
  • Understand apex flow statements.
    • Conditional (If-Else Statements)
    • Switch Statements
    • 5 types of procedural loops (do while, while, for loop that increments, uses an array or set and inline SOQL query) and loop control structures (what happens with a break and continue)
  • Understand the apex class definition:
    • Understand what is defined in the top-level class versus inner class
    • Access modifiers (what they are and where they are used)
    • Optional definition modifiers (virtual, abstract, etc.)
    • Optional extensions/and or implementations
    • With, without sharing and inherited sharing keywords
    • Know how to enforce OWD, role hierarchy, sharing rules, object and field level permissions in code.
  • Understand class variables (syntax for defining a variable – required vs optional)
  • Describe primitive and complex apex data types and when to use them.
  • Understand class methods (syntax used – required vs optional)
  • You need to know code for this exam. You will need to be able to read code and determine where it will fail and why; determine the correct code syntax from a list of code snippets; read code and determine the output.
  • Know the circumstances of when you need to use a standard controller, custom controller or controller extension in a Visualforce page.
  • Understand interfaces.
  • Understand Try/Catch block, how to write custom exceptions.
  • Understand best coding practices as it relates to DML actions, transaction/governor limits, partial database save or allofnothing saves.
  • Understand what makes up an aura component bundle and what each component does.
  • Understand code coverage and the minimum allowable code coverage to deploy to Production, what is lines of code are covered in a test class and what are not.
  • Know what these are and when to use them: @testSetup, TestVisible, IsTest, @IsTest (seeAllData = true), startTest(), stopTest(), test data generation, loading test data as a static resource
  • Best practices for writing test classes
  • Know the differences between invoking Apex in execute anonymous apex versus unit tests
  • Navigating around the developer console and its features (and how to access them).
  • Understand the benefits of the Lightning Component framework.
  • Understand what Lightning Web components are.

5. Game Time!

Read the questions CAREFULLY. I cannot stress that enough, so I am going to repeat it. Read the questions CAREFULLY. This is especially important when given 4 answers of code snippets and determining the right answer and what is different between the 4 answers. Do not jump to conclusions. If you miss a keyword, you can end up answering the questions incorrectly. Sometimes, it helps to read the question a second time.

For questions I found that I had no idea or may be stuck on the multi-select answers questions, I will set those to “Mark for Review” to come back to it later. Try and rule out answers that are clearly incorrect. Don’t spend too much time on any given question. You can always come back to it. You have 60 questions to answer.

After you’ve gone through the exam questions the first time, go back to the ones “Mark for Review.” Go with your gut when answering questions. Try not to start second guessing yourself. You may be changing correct answers to incorrect ones.

Best of luck to you and let me know how you do!

4 thoughts on “How I Studied for the Platform Developer I (Beta) Exam

  1. Great Article!
    I also took the BETA I test and passed! It was challenging and I finished with just 10 minutes left on the clock. I agree with the Focus on Force recommendation. I’ve used their material for each of my certifications so far and found them immensely helpful.


  2. Hi Jen,

    Given all the great resources you’ve provided, about how long would you estimate that this would take to get through thoroughly? 2-3 months? Knowing that I have a FT Job, and likely studying evenings and weekends. Thanks!


  3. It really depends on your experience with the topics. I spent about about a couple of months or so studying and dedicated several hours every night, many hours on the weekends working on Trailhead, focus on force, watching videos. I also have exposure to some topics via work as well. The mock exams are extremely helpful in helping get me in the testing mindset.


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