When I started preparing for the SFDC DEV-401 certification few months back, initially I was lost. How and where to start preparation from, were the first few questions in my mind. However as a freelance consultant the only thing I was having was my past project development experiences, though it doesn’t have any kind of relation with Force.com certification questions but helped me understanding this platform quite well.
I followed consistent steps for clearing SFDC dev-401 certification and thought of discussing with folks, who are just beginners and started preparing for certification under no guidance, so as I did.
Firstly create your developer account here and download the following books:
1) Force.com Platform Fundamentals
2) The Developer's Guide to the Force.com Platform
Force.com Platform Fundamentals guide us to develop Recruiting application by just point and clicks, no programming involved. Remember certification doesn’t require deep understanding of programming language (APEX) and User Interface Markup language (Visualforce) of force.com platform, basics will be helpful and you can find them in next book provided - The Developer's Guide to the Force.com Platform. Focus on declarative ways of MVC (Model, View and Controller) provided by salesforce.com.
Now once you have gone through these two books, spend some time in giving mock tests. Following links helped me a lot for preparing and testing my knowledge for the certification, once I completed the books listed above.
2) http://www.proprofs.com/quiz-school/story.php?title=salesforce-developer- 401-exam-quiz
Damm!!! I failed the very first time when I gave the Mock Tests, but failure is the only key for success (I feel so!!! :) ). I studied quite hard again and focused on developing my concepts; just developing Recruiting application didn’t helped much. Go through the tutorials here which really assist me clearing the certification in first attempt.