How to Pass the AdWords Advanced Display Exam & Earn Google Partner Status


We’ve already delved into surviving the AdWords Advanced Search exam, thanks to Margot da Cunha’s post last December, so now let’s take a look at the other advanced exam, Advanced Display. 

Display seems to be a bit of a great unknown, the dividing line between the hardcore search geeks and the creative, right-brained people who cringe at all the spreadsheets and analysis that accompany search. It bears mentioning here that 95 percent of people’s online time is spent consuming content, so learning about display (and video) can be a nice upsell to your clients, or it could be a career path you carve for yourself. Here’s an interesting fact: YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine – and it’s a major component of the Advanced Display exam.

Let’s assume you’ve already cruised through the fundamentals exam and get right to some Advanced Display overview and exam preparation steps. I’ll close with some information on what passing the exam means as it relates to actually becoming a Google Partner (hint: you have to do more than just pass the exams).

Related: 6 Ways to Learn AdWords Without Getting Certified

Advanced Display Exam Overview

Here’s the skinny on the display exam and what you must score to pass it:

  • 120 minutes
  • 90 questions
  • 70% passing score
  • 4 lessons

Now, one of the four lessons mentioned above is actually the PDF download that you study with, so there are really only three sections. And, yes, you only need to score a 70 percent to pass. You might infer it’s possibly a very challenging test, or one that’s supremely easy to pass. I’d say it’s a bit of both: You do need to study and understand the material, especially if this is brand-new territory for you, but passing it isn’t going to break your brain. We’re in PPC, folks—this isn’t the bar exam or medical boards.

Here’s the Google study area for Advanced Display, and you’ll notice the guide I mentioned:

AdWords Advanced Display Exam

Of the three main focus areas from above, and I’d say the split for the exam is about 45 percent Google Display Network, 45 percent YouTube, and 10 percent mobile devices.

The exam itself is very rule- and capabilities-oriented as opposed to calculations and analysis. By that I mean you spend most of your study time learning what all AdWords and YouTube can do—and it’s a lot.

For example, if you’ve ever wondered how all those text ads show up in your Gmail, or how you’re forced to watch an advertisement with the little “You can close this ad in ____ seconds” notices before you watch your content, or how you start noticing stalker ads from sites you’ve visited, you’ll learn all that in the Advanced Display material.

You’ll also learn the various specifications for ad sizes, how to create video and display ads with Google’s tools, how to measure performance, and all the necessary things you’d need to know to be considered worthy of Google Partner status.

How I Passed the AdWords Advanced Display Exam

When you dive into the study material that Google has provided, you’ll notice an abundance of links, links, and more links to even more material. Soon you find yourself so deep in Google pages you start to wonder, Am I the first person who’s ever visited this page?

Instead of taking that route, I chose a bit more strategic path. These are the exact steps I took to pass the exam:

1. Invested in iPassExam’s $98 package for access to all their exams: fundamentals, advanced search, and advanced display. I justified this expense by telling myself that a.) the exam is free and b.) I don’t want to have to retake it, so I’m doing everything I can to avoid that.

2. Focused on the iPass question bank instead of reading through all the Google material. The bank has 313 questions from the exam, and it even provides explanations and links to more information.

Here’s a sample question from iPass with the link to the source below it:

advanced display exam example question

3. Took the iPass practice exam. This revealed my weak areas, which allowed me to then dive into the material and absorb it. At this point I did look at Google’s material and even created my own “study book,” which was nothing more than about 40 pages of copied-and-pasted material from Google into a Word document (not available in book stores).

4. Read back through my mini study guide, went back through the iPass question bank, and retook the practice exam. At this point I’d seen the practice questions four times and knew what the gotcha questions were (yes, there’s a bit of misdirection in the exam that’s meant to confuse you).

5. Crushed the actual exam. I studied too much, and that was mostly fear-driven. Don’t worry, you’ll do fine on the exam.

Advanced Display Exam: The Key Takeaways

You could likely pore through all of the free information that Google provides and still pass the exam. I’d also add that iPass isn’t perfect because Google is constantly changing the exams and where they keep their information, and iPass is in catch-up mode all the time. Even in Google’s own material you might see outdated information occasionally, such as reference to the display ad builder even though it’s now called ad gallery.

The final analysis of the exam is that it’s not only a test of your knowledge, but also a test of your ability to take tests. It’s for this reason, I believe, Google has layered on additional requirements to become a Google Partner. Not only must you pass the exam, you also must meet the following criteria:

A.) Follow best practices, which is vaguely defined as “add exact match keywords,” “add text ads to each ad group,” and “raise your position and lower costs – improve quality score.” How Google determines this is beyond me, and I imagine they either manually review your accounts or use an automated checker.

B.) You must be managing at least $10K in spend over a 90-day period. Google will look at your MCC account (it’s preferred that you use an MCC but not a requirement) to review this. This is what my Partner page looks like:

advanced display exam study guide

If you’re ready to get started, use the resources below to learn more about the exams and Google Partner status.

AdWords Advanced Display Exam Resources

Information from Google about the exams

Achieve partner status as a company

Join as an individual

Let me know if you have any questions about passing the AdWords exam or becoming a Google Partner. Both experiences are fresh in my mind now, but I can’t guarantee that will be the case a month from now.

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Feb 10, 2014

Hi, I'm preparing the Exam while I found there are two kind of learning guide provided by Google.One is the learning center , other is exam study guide .I'm getting confused - which one sould I learn for the exam? Thank you!

Brad McMillen
Feb 10, 2014

Hi Vivian,The learning center is more of a "how AdWords works" and is a basic introduction to AdWords. You should focus on the exam study guide, and don't be suprised if the study guide references material in the learning center. Hope that helps!Brad 

Keith Penn
Feb 10, 2014

I can cetainly identify when you say:"Soon you find yourself so deep in Google pages you start to wonder, Am I the first person who’s ever visited this page?"It's been a few months since I last took the Advanced Display renewal, and it looks from your experiences like it's still pretty similar, though a lot else has changed.

Brad McMillen
Feb 10, 2014

That's true, Keith -- a lot has changed, but the study process still leaves a bit to be desired.   

Bethany Downes
Feb 11, 2014

This kind of post is what I'm looking for. Thanks for the share. Hope to read more about this topic from you.

Courtenay Probert
Feb 11, 2014

Hi Brad Great article.  I'm from , your kind words regarding our service are appreciated :)   Relating to you point on out of date content.  The actual Adwords Exam always lags behind the Adwords interface.  So where we pitch our questions is a difficult balance to strike. If we are too cutting edge our questions will match the current interface but not match the actual exam.  Our primary purpose is to prepare people to pass their exam so it makes sense to be as close to the exam as possible. But like wise we don't want to only match the exam as we will be perceived as out of date.  so we aim for somewhere between the two.  We constantly add new questions that cover new features but we keep some questions that we know are in the exam but are no longer pertinent to real life.  As the exam gets updated we then remove these questions. I'd be interested to here what strategy your readers would prefer us to adopt.   

Feb 11, 2014

Hi, Thanks for great info. I dont have any MCC accont and can i go with Individual  certification. Also please suggest about the exam. On iPassExam’s there will be three option 1 month 3 month 6 month...which one i select  

Brad McMillen
Feb 11, 2014

Hi Sameer,You're better off to create an MCC account for yourself even if you're getting certified as an individual. An MCC allows you access to all the features in the Partner program. The individual link in the article will take you to the right place to get this set up.For iPass, sign up for the program that will allow you sufficient time to study and pass the exam, and build in a buffer of extra time in case you get super busy and can't find time to study and in case you need to retake the exam. The cost difference isn't too great between the different packages they offer. I used iPass for both the Fundamentals and Display exams, so buying a package made sense for me.Brad    

Feb 11, 2014

Hi Brad:This certification is a bit confusing.  I passed both the fundementals and the advanced search exams.(I also used ipassexam and highly recccomend them)  Do you still need to take the display portion to gain partner status?  Of couse I'm assuming you meet the best practices and spend requiement.  Thanks,Michele 

Brad McMillen
Feb 11, 2014

Hi Michele,No, you don't need to take display. All you need to do is pass the fundamentals and either advanced search or display, but not both. Of course, if you're an overachiever, you can take both advanced search and display ... but that's not a requirement. Hope this helps!Brad 

Zeshan Ahmer
Feb 12, 2014

Wow!Now this was the exact story i was searching for! Thanks Brad for posting the valuable post!Keep up the good work.

Feb 13, 2014

Hi Brad, I loved your post.Inspired by the post, yesterday I took the fundamental exam, you know what .. socored just 82%... AW!! See below. 

Brad McMillen
Feb 14, 2014

Hi Satya,So close. At least the exam is free, and now you know what to expect! Good luck!Brad

Feb 21, 2014

Hey Brad, guess what.. I made it :).See this, half way done but thanks for your inspiring post.

Brad McMillen
Feb 23, 2014

Great! Glad to hear it. Good luck with the second half!

May 13, 2014

Can anybody please explain that where to go to take this exam.

Aug 08, 2014

Hi Brad,I have passed Fundamental exam but failed in Search, I see an open option for taking Display exam so does that mean if I take display exam and pass it then I will get the certification even if I have failed Search exam or should I retake Search and pass it to get the certification?Thanks 

Apr 09, 2015

Good post! Hope to read more about this topic. Keep up the good work.

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