The AdWords and Bing exams: What’s the difference?

Two of the big contenders in the PPC world are Google AdWords and Bing Ads. In terms of certification, both have programs in place, but what exactly is the difference?

Is Bing certification easier to achieve than AdWords certification?
Does the AdWords certification hold more kudos than the Bing certification?

If you are considering PPC certification as part of your next career move and you would like to discover the difference between these exams before choosing whether to go down the AdWords or Bing route first, then read on …

All About The Bing Exam

The Bing exam is a single exam that attempts to cover all aspects of account management within the Bing ads interface. There are no costs involved in taking the exam itself, however if you are taking the certification process seriously and want to study to pass the exam through your own merit rather than ‘winging it’ or cheating, it’s advisable to create a Bing ads account and run an advertising campaign (which would cost money in the form of a daily or monthly budget) to achieve a clearer understanding of the topics and concepts provided in the learning center.
When studying for the exam, all of the theory that you need to learn is held in the Bing ads training pages. When taking the exam, you will automatically be directed to a third party site. Upon clicking the start exam button, you can expect to be presented with 100 questions in a mixture of question formats, from multiple choice questions (MCQ) with 4 options (or more in some cases), as well as True/False style questions too. To pass the exam, you will need to achieve a score of at least 80%.

Now for the ‘Unconventional’ parts of the Bing ‘exam’

Considering that Bing do refer to the final component of their certification program as an ‘exam’, I will admit that I find the following details a little puzzling! In all my years of exam taking, I’ve never encountered ‘exam’ conditions quite like this …

  • When taking the Bing Ads exam, here is no time limit to complete it, so you can start it, stop the exam by exiting and signing out, come back to it when you are ready (say next week, or next month even!).
  • You can mark answers for review, navigate back to a previous question and forwards without answering a question too.
  • Here’s another ‘unconventional’ fact of the ‘exam’. Not sure of the answer to a question? Each question you are presented with lists a page title of the study guide where the correct answer can be found.
  • Upon passing/failing the exam you have the option to review the questions you answered incorrectly and see what the correct answer should have been.
  • Once you pass the exam you are considered an accredited professional, but if you fail you can resit immediately!

(It’s my personal feeling that the last two points listed above leave the Bing exam open to a level of deception, in that a candidate could sit the exam, take note of the answers that were incorrect and then resit to get a much higher score than originally achieved. Where is the merit in that?)

Upon passing, you can click to download a certificate to hang on your wall, which will remain valid for one year from the date of passing. You can download an‘Accredited Professionals’ badge too. You can also visit your Bing Ads accredited dashboard where you can see your passing score and certification validity period, as well as being provided with the option to enter a public directory of qualified individuals.

Taking It Seriously …

When it comes to taking an exam, should the exam provider (Bing in this case) make the exam conditions more rigorous for an exam candidate to actually pass with some merit? Not that I’m implying that everyone who holds this certification has cheated to get it, far from the truth. I know that the vast majority of PPCer’s who take their jobs seriously would have studied and have had hands on experience prior to taking the exam and have honestly earned the pass. I do feel however that Bing have made their exam particularly easy for anyone who was inclined to abuse the system and cheat. But what’s the point in taking a certification to demonstrate knowledge and some level of proficiency if you haven’t really earned it?

Now, if you think that the Bing certification process sounds just too easy, don’t be fooled into thinking that Google have taken the same attitude with their certification program …

All About The AdWords Exams

The AdWords certification consists of a group of 5 exams: Fundamentals, Search Advanced, Display Advanced, Video and Shopping. Unlike the Bing certification, you must pass two of the five (one of which must be Fundamentals) to call yourself a ‘qualified individual’.
There is no cost to taking the exams and all exams have an 80% pass requirement.
You can study to pass the exams using the learning material provided at the Google certification center. The Advertising Fundamentals, Search Advanced and Display Advanced exams all contain questions that are MCQ format, whereas the Video advertising and Shopping exams contain a mix of MCQ and True/False questions. When you are ready to take the exam, you will need to sign into your Google Partners account as the exams are hosted there.

Now for the main AdWords Exam Details …

If the thought of 5 different exams wasn’t enough to contend with, here’s where the AdWords exams get much more challenging compared to the Bing Certification:

  • There is a time limit when taking the exams, and it varies per exam: there’s a 2 hour time limit to complete Fundamentals, Search and Display, whereas 1 hour 30 mins is the allotted time limit for Video and Shopping (don’t panic! the video and shopping exams contains a significantly lower number of questions). A timer in the bottom left of the screen will allow you to see how much time you have left when answering questions.
  • You cannot mark answers for review, navigate backwards to a previous question or move forward without answering the current question first.
  • You cannot stop exam once it has started, if you exit the browser window in which you are taking the exam, the timer keeps counting down until the allotted time has expired. You can re enter the exam within the (still counting down) time limit should you want to though. If you don’t complete the exam within the allotted time frame, it will be marked automatically according to the answers you did submit, you will be presented with a score and a ‘passed’ or ‘failed’ status will appear for the specific exam in the ‘exams’ section of your Google Partners profile.
  • Unlike the Bing exam, there’s no hint of where you could find a learning center page where you could find the correct answer to a question, so if you choose that method of researching answers, you will find that you will not have enough time to complete the exam within the allotted time frame.
  • Upon passing/failing the exam you will not be shown the questions you answered incorrectly.
  • After passing two of the exams, you will become individually qualified, however if you fail you must wait seven days from the date of your attempt to resit any failed exam.Each exam will stay valid for 1 year from the date in which it was taken.

Upon passing two exams and becoming individually qualified, you will be able to access and print a certificate to hang on your wall. You can also set your Partners profile to ‘public’ if you wish, so you can show others your certification status and its validity period.


I think it’s fair to conclude after looking at the Bing and AdWords certification programs, that Bing really have quite a lax attitude towards the certification exam process in comparison to Google.

In terms of which certification program to start with when entering PPC exam land, I honestly think the best approach is to start with Google AdWords. The AdWords certification program at least sets boundaries in which you must learn before you can attempt the exams. Once you have successfully prepared for, taken on and passed the AdWords exams, you should have a reasonable understanding of what PPC is about, how an account works etc. Hands on experience is essential in the learning process and really helps to hammer in the finer points of what you need to know. Once you have conquered that challenge, moving forward to the Bing certification could be your next move.

From which ever path you wish to move forward in your PPC certification journey, good luck!