Computer Malfunctions and Killer Insects: Sitting the Adwords Exams

Sorry to leave you hanging in suspense like that. So, did we pass?

The Fundamentals exam was, for me, the more nerve wracking of the two – mostly because I didn’t study for it per se (although obviously, I was training Christina on it, so I touched on most of the key points). For anyone who’s not sat an official Google Adwords exam before, you download a programme and when you start the test, the program takes over your computer, feeding you the multi-choice questions and counting down a timer (two hours). You can’t pause the timer – even if you need to go to the loo – which adds to the dramatics of it all. I was doubly nervous – for my own results, and also to know if I’d equipped Christina well enough to pass. I’ve always felt that studying for exams makes you better at the exams themselves, not necessarily what you’ve studied. I knew Christina was a great Adwords student, but I didn’t know how proficient she was with time-management, keeping cool under pressure and ticking boxes. Luckily, we both passed the first exam with flying colours.

Sitting the Adwords Exam - after

Christina concentrating. I like the writing on the flip chart behind her.

After a short break for lunch, we threw ourselves straight into the Advanced Search exam. I was maybe a little cocky now, having scored 98% on the first one and finishing 45 minutes early. And I’d actually studied for the Search Advanced exam. But it was harder. The questions were much longer and more complex. Here’s an example:

You are a CEO of a small e-commerce shop and your team is debating Adwords performance metrics to maximise profit. Budget is unlimited as long as ROI is positive. Whose recommendations most effectively position you for maximum profit?

A) Lou: “We get a CPA of $15 on our e-mail campaign. Let’s meet or beat the benchmark across all marketing platforms.”

B) Joe: “An MBA class once suggested ad-spend should always be 9% of revenue. Let’s use that as our target ROI.”

C) Jane: “A $15 CPA is okay, but if we could get it down to $10 that would give us more profit-per-customer.”

D) Pete: “Let’s start by verifying our campaign is profitable, then test different CPA targets to find which maximises total profit.”

Simple, huh? To be fair this does correlate with some of the Adwords training, but it takes a lot of unpacking to understand it, and when you’re under pressure, it just turns into a jumble of acronyms. They weren’t all like this, but I think the readability of some of the Search Advanced questions need to be looked at and the copy simplified.

There were some other distractions too. My computer kept disconnecting from the internet (we were taking the exams in one of Livety’s lovely bright meeting rooms) which meant I’d be thrown out of the Adwords programme. The computer froze and my heart stopped. Luckily, when I restarted the programme each time it opened on the question I’d been working on, the timer resuming from the moment it had frozen.

Then there was a very loud, very angry wasp. I couldn’t concentrate with all its buzzing, but as I was trying to scoop it out of the window as the wasp bucked and writhed – the exam timer ticking away – I realised there was a strong chance I might get stung. High stakes, indeed.

Fortunately computer failure and a swarm of locusts (well, one wasp) didn’t stop me from finishing. I only had a ten minutes spare this time. I’d stopped calling over to Christina in the first exam to ask how it was going – because I could tell it annoyed her. I submitted the exam and got the results immediately – I passed (the pass mark is 85%, I got 87%), and quietly waited for Christina to finish. She looked up. “87%” she said. We’d done it. We were both Adwords Certified Professionals (as you can see here and here).

I was over the moon for Christina. She’s really put in the hard work, and become a mighty fine Adwords specialist. I’m pretty finicky and a bit of a perfectionist, but I would definitely entrust her with any of my Adwords campaigns, and I look forward to working with her in the future.