Whether you’re new to Google AdWords or just seeking re-certification, this guide will help you understand what’s required for certification, what to expect on the exams, which exams to take, how to prepare, and how to pass on the first try.

Unless you’ve used AdWords extensively, the new interface and features may present a challenge unless you actively manage different types of campaigns. So I don’t suggest winging. If you’re also working on getting a Google Analytics certification, be sure to read our primer on that test: How to Pass the 2016 Google Analytics Exam.

Let’s get started, shall we?

What’s required for certification? 

To get your Google AdWords certification you (or your company) will need to register as a Google Partner if you haven’t already. Once registered, you’ll have to pass two exams: The AdWords Fundamentals Exam and an additional exam on one of the following topics: Search, Display, Video, Mobile, or Shopping Advertising. You can read more about each on the AdWords Certification page.

For the AdWords Fundamentals, Search, and Display Advertising exams, you have 120 minutes to answer 100 questions, and you have to score 80% or higher. For Video, Mobile, and Shopping Advertising, you have 90 minutes to complete the exams, which vary in length from 74 to 63 questions, and you have to score 80% or higher.

What should I expect to see on the exams, and which ones should I take?

I’ve taken and passed four out of six of the Adwords Exams. Keep in mind that you only need to pass two to be certified, so I suggest choosing the exams that are most relevant to your business, industry, or job function. Here’s what you can expect to see on each:

  • AdWords Fundamentals: You’ll see a lot of questions about what AdWords is, how it works (AdRank, Quality Score, bidding strategies), and how to use it to its full potential. There are also questions about writing effective text ads, using ad extensions, choosing campaign types, and making bid adjustments.
  • Search Advertising: Expect to answer a lot of questions about how to set up search network campaigns, including choosing keywords, organizing ad groups, and selecting bidding strategies. This exam will also cover AdWords Fundamentals basics, as well as high-level questions about how search network campaigns can be optimized for mobile, and how these campaigns can work with display, video, and shopping campaigns.
  • Mobile: You’ll see a lot of questions about mobile advertising best practices, including writing mobile friendly ads, setting up mobile bid adjustments, and mobile landing page best practices. There are also a lot (like, A LOT) of questions about apps, including conversion tracking, deep linking, remarketing, and advertising your app.
  • Video: This exam is very heavily focused on how to build and manage successful video campaigns through YouTube and AdWords. You can expect to see a ton of questions about how YouTube is crushing TV and how to use video to reach your audience through auction, reserved, and programmatic buying. There are also questions about TrueView in-stream and discovery ads, bidding, measurement, remarketing, and targeting with the Display Network.
  • Shopping: While I haven’t taken this one, context clues from other courses and exams lead me to believe this exam is focused on the Merchant Center and product data feed, as well as how product listing ads work and how this campaign can be used with others, like video or display.
  • Display: I also haven’t taken this one, but based on what I’ve seen on the exams and courses, you can expect it to cover best practices for setting up, running, measuring, and optimizing a display campaign, as well as more specific questions about ad sizes, audience targeting, and remarketing.  

How Can I Prepare? Do I really need to study?

For those who use AdWords on a daily basis to run and manage multiple campaigns or campaign types across multiple devices, you can likely get certified or re-certified with little preparation. However, Google rolls out new features on a regular basis, and the courses do a good job of making you familiar with how to take advantage of these new features. It’s worth reviewing the materials available in the Academy for Ads or Google Partners Help Center before taking the exams.

For those who are new to AdWords, are somewhat unfamiliar with how to set up and manage campaigns, or who only have limited access and experience using the platform, it’s definitely best to study beforehand. For exam prep, you have two options: Academy for Ads or Google Partners Help Center.

Academy for Ads

The Academy for Ads is an incredibly useful resource, both for passing the exams and for running effective campaigns. You can get started here. You’ll just need to login with your Google Partners credentials to access the material.

Once you’re in, I suggest starting with the AdWords Basics course, which will prepare you for the AdWords Fundamentals Exam. It’s helpful to take the assessments first. It will establish a baseline and tell you which lessons within the courses to focus on. This is probably best for returning users seeking re-certification, so you know what areas need improvement.

You can work through the courses at your own pace, and it will save your progress. The courses are interactive, and cater to a variety of learning styles. They include text, narrative, and storytelling elements, slides to click through, illustrations, videos, quizzes, collapsible lists, and pop-ups to help you retain the information. It’s much more engaging than just reading through text on a page.

Take the assessment once more after you’ve completed the courses so you can see how you improved, and then you can log in to take the actual exam.

Google Partners LESSONS and study guides

If you just need a refresher, or don’t want to spend as much time working through interactive courses, the lessons and study guides offer a more straightforward learning experience. There’s a series of articles to read, and a study guide to download as well. Once you’ve signed in to Google Partners, you can access these lessons on the AdWords Certifications page.

Tips for passing on the first try

If you don’t pass the first time, you can retake the exam after seven days. But, here’s how to make sure you pass on the first attempt:

  • Take the AdWords Fundamentals course first. Everything builds on what you learn here.
  • Take all of the assessments in the Academy for Ads and be sure to check out the questions that you got wrong. You’ll be able to see which questions you missed, and which lessons to revisit to make sure you understand the material. Dig into topics that you don’t understand, and take notes or screenshots to reference later.
  • If you have access to an AdWords account with historical data and ongoing campaigns, use that account to bolster your knowledge and provide real-life insight into what you’re reading.
  • Read each question and each possible answer carefully. I also find that reading them out loud helps. Even if you think the first answer you read is the correct one, keep reading. Sometimes there is more than one right answer, but you should choose the best answer.
  • If you haven’t already, spend some time interacting with the new AdWords interface. The old interface is not included in these courses or exams at all.

You’ll want to pay special attention to these topics:

  • Remarketing: Make you sure understand what remarketing is, how it works, its use cases, and how to set it up. This is most important for the Fundamentals, Search, and Mobile Advertising exams.
  • AdWords Editor and API: For the Fundamentals course, you’ll need to understand how the AdWords Editor and API function, even if you don’t plan to use these tools much.
  • Bidding strategies: While all bidding strategies are covered, there were a lot of questions about CPA and CPC bidding in the AdWords Fundamentals and Search Advertising exams.
  • TrueView in-stream and discovery ads: The Video Advertising exam focuses largely on TrueView campaigns and how to use in-stream and discovery ads to reach your target audience.
  • Apps: For the Mobile Advertising exam, you’ll need to understand how to advertise your app with AdWords, when to use an app or when to use a mobile site, how to track conversions related to your app, and how to engage customers with mobile sites and apps.

Taking the exam 

When it’s time to take the exam, make sure your internet connection is stable and let your co-workers know that you can’t be disturbed during the exam. You’ll also want to have the following resources open on your browser:

In addition to the resources listed above, you can also search the internet when you’re stuck on a question—but since you’re being timed, I do not suggest relying on this method to pass the exam without proper preparation. There is some fairly basic math required, so it’d be helpful to have a calculator on hand, too.

Make it Work 

Preparing for and taking these exams does require a lot of uninterrupted time, so be sure to do what you need to make it work: block your calendar, sign out of email, book a conference room—whatever helps you focus.

If you have questions about the exam, or want to talk digital strategy with us, we’re definitely here for it. Give us a shout or leave a comment and we’ll get back to you.

Good luck, test-takers! We hope the Google gods are on your side.