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Google Exams – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Anna Lewis

by Anna Lewis on 12th April 2011

AdWords Certified PartnerWe had a target to achieve as a company – by the end of March 2011 everyone working on PPC accounts was to have taken both the AdWords Fundamentals Exam and the AdWords Advanced Exam. In addition to this, I was also aiming to take the Google Analytics Individual Qualification. I’m very pleased to report that we all took the exams and passed, but this post is here to go in a bit more detail than that.

We now have 9 AdWords Qualified staff who work on clients PPC accounts and we also have me – a Google Analytics Qualified Individual to help the team out with all things analytical; although I have to admit they’re all pretty good without me, I’m just the one who gets excited about it and in to the really techy bits. I wanted to write this blog post to explain my experiences with the two exams – one was easier and the other harder than anticipated.

Google AdWords Advanced Exam Review

Preparation for the exams was a bit hasty for me. I’d taken the AdWords Fundamentals exam last year and have a very busy schedule at the moment; luckily Tara, who had taken the Advanced exam before me, lent me her notes so I decided to take this exam after only a couple of hours revision. I was very surprised with the level of this exam, everything was much easier than I anticipated and I flew through it in just an hour.

The surprising thing about the exam was the order of the questions. I would have thought Google would be clever enough to assign a random order to all questions rather than displaying the questions in groups that relate to each other. For example, the first 7 questions for me were all about the Google AdWords API and later on there was a set of questions all about location targeting. So when you get a question within one of these chunks that asks ‘What would you use to …’ you know that the answer is going to be related to the previous questions.

Maybe Google want the exam to be easy? I guess if people know it is easy they are more likely to take it, thus providing a higher revenue for Google. However, I should add that there were some questions in there that weren’t obvious, that couldn’t be answered using common sense and that even plenty of experience in AdWords didn’t mean you would know the answer.

There are probably just enough of these to ensure a certain percentage of people fail the exam, for not knowing the niche areas of AdWords. But if you have done revision on the areas that you don’t use so much you can whizz through the questions that you do know and then come back to those you struggled on to take more time to work out what these answers could be.

One thing that was mentioned across the team was that the questions were a little out of date. Most of us have been using AdWords long enough to know the old interface and spot the questions that referred to something that was no longer available; but if people were to take the exams after only a few months of AdWords use, they might struggle to know the answers to questions that should have been updated to reflect the changes to AdWords – and we all know how many updates there have been over recent months!

Google Analytics Individual Qualification Exam (GAIQ)

As the designated geek Analytics member of the team I had set myself the goal of taking the GAIQ exam, but again, didn’t have much time to revise for this one. I didn’t even have time to research what sort of things are in the exam, although if I had done I probably would have delayed taking it! As it was, I ploughed in to it without a clue and just a lot of faith in my Analytics knowledge.

Once I’d gone through the payment stage and hit start I was surprised to see that it didn’t shut down my other programmes like the Adwords exams did. I thought this is going to be too easy having access to the internet and all my documents – but then I read the first question and was immediately filled with dread.

There were questions asking what modifications you would make to cookies to overwrite certain information; which example of the ecommerce tracking code fit the requirements that the question outlines; customisations to tracking codes; and plenty of other things too complicated for me to remember!

Luckily I had been on a Google Analytics training course earlier in the year, which had taught me quite a bit about cookies and for the other tricky questions there was always Google. I found myself needing help (often in the form of confirmation that my instinct was right) on about one in every three questions. I still managed to finish this exam in time, but as there was only 1.5 hours (for 70 questions) I felt under pressure and may not have passed if I had to look for answers to any more questions.

Due to the shock of the early questions and a smattering of scary looking questions throughout, which all started to make sense when I read them a second or third time, I was convinced that I’d failed. It was a scary moment when I clicked the End button with my boss stood behind me to see the result. It was a brilliant feeling of shock, excitement and relief when I saw that I had passed with 92%!

I would not recommend that the everyday Google Analytics user takes this exam; it’s definitely for those of us to delve deeper in to the functionality and customisations. It was a good experience for me all in all, as it gave me some insight in to a few things that didn’t already know that I am now going to try out. It also gave me the reassurance that I do actually know what I’m talking about, even if I did have to Google for some things, only a few of these were because I hadn’t got a clue – a number of these were to check I had the right idea, and I was surprised at the number of times I actually had it right.

Proof and Certification of the Google Analytics Exams

Having passed the exams I was disappointed that there wasn’t a way of showing this on our website – Google state that:

“If you complete the test successfully, you will be provided with an official certificate from Google that is valid for 18 months. You may indicate on your website, resume, and on job applications that you are qualified in Google Analytics and have passed the Google Analytics IQ Test. Please note that due to restrictions on use of Google’s trade marks (and that includes using “Google Analytics”), we ask that you not create your own badges or logos to show off your new qualification.”

Google Analytics IQ Exam BadgeThere are many websites out there using this badge illegally, which we obviously don’t want to do. Having paid to take this exam and wanting to use it to promote your experience with Google’s services and your ability to help clients in this area, it is confusing as to why Google will not let you display this fact clearly and easily with a little badge. Surely it would be a good thing for them to allow?

Instead of a badge, I can give you the following link to my Google Exam centre, which shows which exams I have taken, whether or not I have passed and when they expire. I also get a certificate that I could print and hang on my wall if I really wanted to, but that would only increase the increase the level of geek-ery that my friends and family view me with!

My Google Exams

So there you have it, my experiences with the Google AdWords Advanced Exam and Google Analytics Individual Qualification Exam. Have you taken yours yet or are you getting ready for it? Let me know how your experience has been. Alternatively, if you’re looking for qualified individuals to work on your AdWords PPC campaigns or analyse your website statistics, you know who to call!

Anna Lewis

Anna Lewis

Our resident analytics specialist is Anna Lewis. Anna is unbelievably attuned to anything analytical and can fill you in on all the latest news, tips and advice to get ahead in this evolving market.


  • Samantha Noble

    Sam 12th April 2011

    Could not agree with you more on this. There was one question in particular that came up for most people here which could easily have been one of two answers. It was something like the below:

    To improve the quality score of a keyword, would you send traffic to
    a) A page with information about the product or service
    b) A page with a description of the product or service

    I also sat the exam a few years back and have to say that the new exams are a massive improvement on the previous ones but Google still need to keep up with the changes in the interface and tools and get the exam to match.

    Reply to this comment

  • Joffin Joy 12th April 2011

    First of all Anna – you said it all, completely agree with you!
    @ Sam – There were other tricky questions which are still bogging me!
    For the above question you mentioned, I would be going with option B. Not because I’m sure this answer will bring in a better Quality Score compared with option A – This point is not what I am looking at [and probably thats what Adwords wants us to!], rather the fact that if a visitor arrives searching some specific term to a page, he actually knows about the specific product/ service he wants, So I would rather be giving him details/ description of the Product/ Service.

    Reply to this comment

  • Samantha Noble

    Sam 12th April 2011

    Thanks for your feedback. What questions did you find tricky. When I took the exam almost a year ago I did leave a comment on the exam about a few of the questions, but since then the team here have been stumped with the same ones so doesn’t look like Google are taking the feedback on board.

    Reply to this comment

  • Anna Lewis

    Anna 12th April 2011

    Thanks for the comments and feedback. I remember the question you mention Sam, I’d read something in the morning that said “Provide substantial information.” [on your landing page] so I went with that – even though a description also makes perfect sense. There’s also a bit that says:

    “Link to the page on your site that provides the most useful information about the product or service in your ad. For instance, direct users to the page where they can buy the advertised product, rather than to a page with a description of several products.” From here.

    This also suggests that descriptions aren’t enough. It’s such a trick question because logically both make sense, and both would be beneficial to your customers, however Google decide that you should focus on just the one.

    Also – how does Google differentiate between Information and a Description? I’m sure they have an algorithm for it, but brains work best in this kind of situation, and if they can’t replicate the differentiation that we would make then this question shouldn’t exist at all as it is inaccurate.

    So many reasons why so many things are wrong in this exam!

    A comment from Tom Barker on Twitter was “The Google Exams were more of an attention span test for me. GG slightly changing questions to catch you out” which is a great way of describing them. Is it right that Google test you in a way that purely tests your common sense and ability to pay attention to their little tricks?

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  • Joffin Joy 12th April 2011

    Well Anna I have to say this again – you said it all !
    Specifically for the above question posted by Sam, the Conversion Rate could change w.r.t. the content on a page, we know that this doesn’t make any difference to the Quality Score, CTR could be the factor which Google wants to test us on that question, but hey – how can CTR change because of the Content on a Landing Page!

    So I guess many questions in the test are debatable, It would have been very nice if at the end of the test, we could get an explanation on what exactly they wanted us to justify our answers on.

    @Sam – There were some questions which frankly I couldn’t recollect right now, wish I could copy-paste the questions for later reference!

    I wonder though – how right is it to disclose Questions of the test [like what we are doing now!], considering you cant find a single websites with data on these, I guess Google just blocks them.

    Somewhere down the line, I feel there are factors on which Google constructed the Test – Just wished they could explain us the factors for the tricky type of Questions though!

    Rightly Said Anna – ‘Google Exams – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’

    Reply to this comment

  • Frank 7th August 2011

    I felt the same way while doing the exam… where the questions were bunched together… “Which tool is used to manage your campaigns offline….” and the next questions is “The Adwords Editor is used to…”
    Hmmm… gee I wonder what it could be! I’m preparing for the GAIQ test, wondering if the material in the conversion university alone was enough to pass the test or are there other resources you could point me to that might help? thanks :)

    Reply to this comment

  • Anna Lewis

    Anna 12th August 2011

    Hi Frank,

    Resources were hard to find for this exam, and to be honest, I didn’t do much revision. I used the Analytics learning centre and I’d also been on a course that helped when it came to certain questions. However, Distilled have just written a nice guide as to what areas you need to know about, which can be found here, this should help you spot the areas you still need to brush up on. Also, as you can still use your computer while you’re taking the exam it would be an idea to save some bookmarks on these topics for reference if you need to check something.

    Good luck with your exam!

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