I was never a very good test taker. I would easily ace papers and homework assignments, but please do not ask me to reveal my SAT scores. This is a post for all of those that can share in my pain – tests are not fun.
In the PPC industry, there are several certification exams that one can take: the Microsoft adExcellence Exam, the Google Advertising Fundamentals Exam, and of course the king of them all – the Google Analytics Individual Qualification (IQ) Test.
We recently celebrated when our newest member, Jen Barrett, passed the analytics exam (any excuse for Happy Hour on a Tuesday, right?). She is now ready to conquer the world of analytics, SEO and PPC consulting and I thought we would help you all do the same with a few tips and tricks for passing these industry exams. Some of these points are from Jen herself, and others come from my own experience with certification exams. Get out your pen and paper and take some notes!Top 5 PPC Certification Tips:
People often study after work or on the weekends, and it is easy to put yourself in a "cram" mode. The more time you give yourself to study, the more information you will retain. Plus, extra time will allow you to actually practice in some of your accounts and implement the skills that you are learning, which I’ll discuss a little bit more in point three. The amount of time you’ll need to prepare depends on your current experience. If you are fairly new to the industry, give yourself at least a couple of weeks to prepare. There is no point in paying to take the test too early if you are not ready.
The Google AdWords Learning Center  recently removed the practice tests once offered, but there are still very good resources to be found here. Read through all of the information and pay special attention to areas where you do not have a lot of experience. For instance, I do not handle billing in my company so when it came time to study for the exam I paid extra attention to this section of the guide, which was incredibly helpful when it came time for the test. WordStream also has a few tips in their AdWords Learning Center .
The Google Analytics Conversion University  offers a series of short videos that will help you prepare. As you are going through the videos you will find information that is repetitive – this is a good indication that it will be included on the test. It is also very likely that you will see situational questions about those topics. These questions are worded in such a way that they are able to test you on your ability to apply the knowledge instead of just give a definition. It’s important that you understand not only what a topic is, but also how to apply it.
The adExcellence Classroom  also offers a series of videos that serve as a nice study guide. The videos, like the analytics videos, are separated into various sections so you can easily hone in on those topics you are less familiar with.
This is mentioned in point one, but working extensively in the interface before you take the test is important enough that is deserves its own section. If you are like me, and most other PPC consultants, most of your time is spent in Google accounts. It is also where most of your spend goes so that makes sense. But, when it comes time for you to take the MSN exam, be sure you have spent enough time exploring its features. You can even set up a dummy account just for practice. Experience will give you a leg up, because you will have real life examples to help you retain the information. For advanced topics covered in the analytics test, this is particularly important.
Don’t wait until test day to read the test guidelines. Time can be more or less of an issue depending on what exam you are taking. The Google AdWords Exam gives you two hours to answer 120 questions. That is one question every minute. The Analytics exam, however, currently lets you pause the test – you can actually pause your test for multiple days. Know your time restrictions before you start so you know when to stay focused on the questions and not the stopwatch.
Because important topics are usually covered in more than one question, if you don't know the answer, skip it and see if there is a different question later on that helps jog your memory. Many of the tests will flag which questions you skipped so you can always go back at the end of the test. Having answered the rest of the questions, you’ll also know how much time you have left to spend thinking about your answer to those tough few.
These certification exams are not cheap and if you fail, you will have to pay again to retake them, so be sure you are more than prepared. As my 7th grade teacher would say, I also recommend getting a good night’s sleep beforehand and a healthy breakfast in the morning. Good luck to you!
Jenny Anderson is a search marketing, SEO and PPC consultant at Hanapin Marketing. She works with a variety of clients and writes for Hanapin’s blogs, PPC Hero and SEO Boy.