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How to Prepare for (and Pass!) Your AdWords Certification Exams

July 24, 2013

A few months ago, I achieved a major milestone in my growth as an Online Marketer at Apex – I passed the exams in the Google Certification Program to become AdWords certified! Achieving this qualification is no easy feat. If you’re preparing for the Google AdWords exams, I hope you’ll find my experiences and recommendations helpful.

A little bit about the exam

In order to become AdWords certified, you need to pass the Google Fundamentals exam and one other exam of your choice. I chose the Search Advanced exam. Other options included the Display Advertising Advance Exam and the Reporting and Analysis Advance Exam. To pass the Google AdWords Fundamentals, you must answer 85% of the 95 questions correctly. The Search advance exam requires a pass rate of 80% over 100 questions.

It’s a good idea to sit each exam on different days – I recommend allowing at least one week between exams so you aren’t trying to study all the material at once. Each exam has a time limit of two hours, of which 1 hour 59 minutes of it will be intense concentration (the other 1 minute will be when you click ‘submit’) – you’ll have no mental energy left to sit the next one straight away!

You can sit the exams anywhere where you have access to a computer for at least 2 hours and are away from noise and distraction – sitting this at home is generally the best option. Both exams are “open book” which means you can refer to your own written notes during the exam. While you can access your own hard-copy notes in front of you, you can’t access any other programs or browser on your computer once you hit ‘start’, which means no ‘Google-ing’ the answers!

What are the benefits of becoming a Google AdWords Qualified Individual?

 There are some great benefits for holding such a certification:

  • Having this certification helps improve your knowledge and proficiency of handling your clients’ AdWords accounts.
  • You get a fancy branded certificate from Google, which in turn can be showcased with your C.V or blog – after all, it’s not every day you get an award from Google!
  • You have the option of becoming part of the Google Certified Partner Search, which allows potential customers to find you so they can benefit from your AdWords expertise.

Google AdWords Qualified Individual logo


My results

Because I work as an Online Marketer, I’d had some prior experience with AdWords campaign management, but knew I didn’t know enough to pass the exams without some serious studying. This included studying the online material, writing notes, and taking sample tests. In addition, I worked with my manager to put some of the revision into practise so I’d have some hands-on experience to draw from during the exams.  

The studying certainly paid off. I achieved scores of 86% and 82% - great success!

Thumbs Up


I want to become Google AdWords certified. What should I do to ensure I pass?

Glad you asked! I’m keen to share my experiences so they can benefit others. Below are some of my personal tips and tricks on how I prepared for a very nerve-wracking two hours in front of the computer!

  • Space out the exams. From personal experience, I found that spreading the two exams out over a couple of weeks gave me time to digest the material for each exam properly. The study material for the Fundamentals exam covered a wide variety of topics, while the Search Advanced study material primarily focused on the Search aspect of AdWords.
  • Give yourself enough time to study. I spent WEEKS studying this material. Not only did I spend a lot of time reading, but I also took extensive notes (which I would use later during the exam). I certainly wouldn’t recommend spending only a couple of nights studying and then sitting the exam!
  • Use the Google AdWords Learning Centre. I found it very helpful to work through each topic under the Fundamentals and Search Advanced category at my own pace. Each topic offered very clear explanations, examples, and mini tutorials on various components of AdWords, making the content much easier to understand. You’ll find the link to the AdWords Learning Centre under your own Google login.
  • Sign up for an account with iPassExam.This paid tool is an excellent resource to help you prepare for your exam. While The Learning Centre provided me with all the materials I needed to pass, this programme actually gave me multiple-choice style questions that were nearly identical to what I was going to see in the real exam. Any questions that I got wrong were supported by an explanation as to why my answer was incorrect.

    Another great thing about iPassExam was that I could re-sit questions I got wrong or I could re-sit the whole topic to try for a better score. Once I felt competent with the practise questions, I had a go at the mock exams. The mock exams were timed for two hours each, so it felt like I was sitting the real exams. The only downside to the mock exam tool is that this tool didn’t tell me which questions I got wrong. Nonetheless, I found iPassExam to be an invaluable resource in my preparation for the exam.
  •  Get some hands-on experience using the AdWords interface. I am fortunate to work  at a company that encourages professional growth. My manager coached me through the  set-up of AdWords campaigns and then guided me through the management of these        campaigns. I became familiar with a tool called AdWords editor, which is where campaigns  are set up (budget, Ad Groups, Keywords, Ad Text, etc.). Over time, I became increasingly  confident using this tool, which was essential because the exams – particularly the Search  Advanced exam – did cover a few AdWords Editor questions. I was ready for those!

    The exam will also include questions around different functions and what can be added or edited at the Campaign and Ad Group levels, so if you have access to an active AdWords   account, you will benefit greatly from studying it. I had also been helping with various client   AdWords accounts and familiarising myself with the AdWords interface, so these questions were easy enough for me. But without this hands-on experience, I may not have seen the same success. 

Screenshot of Google AdWords Interface


Exam Day 

If you can prepare yourself over the course of several weeks using my learning techniques as a guide, you should be ready to sit the online exams! Here are some pointers and tricks that will help you get through exam day:

  • As the exam is “open book,” you can have your written notes on standby – trust me, you WILL need them! Make sure all of your notes are in some sort of order that will work for you. I had my notes ordered by topic and used lots of bright colours throughout my work so that key points would stand out.

Study Notes

  • Go to the toilet and grab a glass of water, coffee or tea – whatever will keep you alert during the exam. Leave your phone in another room or turn it off altogether so you have no distractions. Once that timer starts, you cannot pause it or re-start it.

Cup of Coffee

  • Read each question thoroughly! Read it 2 or 3 times if you need to – it’s far better to take a few seconds to read the question properly and select the right answer than skimming over it and then selecting the wrong answer. You cannot afford to make silly little mistakes by selecting the wrong answer on the easier questions. Mark the questions you are unsure about for review. If you find that you are spending more than a minute on a question, it should be a signal that you aren’t 100% sure about the answer. Once you have completed the rest of the questions in the exam, you can bring up the questions you have marked for review and have another think about them (provided you have allowed yourself enough time, of course!).

  • Last piece of advice - take a few deep breaths and just RELAX! (Easier said than done, I know!). I can assure you that once the exam starts and you start working your way through the questions, you will actually be pleasantly surprised at how much you do know. If you have spent a good amount of time studying and understanding the material and working through practice exam questions, you have nothing to worry about.

Sleeping cat

I hope this post has been insightful and provided you with an idea of how to best prepare for your AdWords exams. As I mentioned earlier, if this is your first time sitting your exams, I highly recommend spacing them out over a week or two so that you can concentrate on the necessary material for each exam. I wish you all the best with your exam preparation – if you have any feedback or questions, I would love to hear from you!


Personal Notes on Call to Action Buttons: Examples and Best Practices by Jacob Gube, CC-BY-2.0

Lazy Cat by Todd McCann, CC-BY-2.0




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Filed under Digital Marketing

Written by

Tess is one of our Digital Marketers and has been with us since February 2012. Being Google AdWords qualified, Tess enjoys managing client AdWords campaigns as well as carrying out on-page optimisation techniques to ensure that client websites can perform at their peak in the search engines.

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Add a comment1 Comment

Reply Courtenay Probert | March 23rd, 2016 at 10:33pm
Hi Tessa
I'm the owner of - thanks for the kind words about our service.
I'd like to respond to your comment: "The only downside to the mock exam tool is that this tool didn’t tell me which questions I got wrong".

Once you complete the mock exam your taken to the overview screen that shows your score. On the top of the page there's a blue button labeled [Review]. Clicking this shows you the exam fully marked showing the correct answers and provides a full explanation for each question. You can also click the thumbs up/down icons to open a comment box should you want to get further clarification from the author.

I'll have to take a look at the UI see if I can highlight this better so other customers don't miss it in future.

If any of your readers would like to try iPassExam for themselves we have a free "Introduction to AdWords" resource that they can use to get a better idea about what we do:

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