I passed the Force.com certified developer exam in Nov 2013. I was at Dreamforce and took the exam there for a discounted price. This was my first certification exam.
As the exam date approached, I was a little worried. I was not able to devote much time to studying and I frequented many blogs online to get some understanding of how this exam worked.
I realized that to pass this exam, one had to simple read one Salesforce resource and understand the concepts well.
That resource was the Force.com platform fundamentals.
So here are the important things to remember about the exam.
1. This exam does not test your development skills in great detail. If you just know the basics like for example, what a Visualforce page and APEX trigger are – then that should be enough.
2. The best course of action is to get a developer org set up and work your way through this book and try out all the exercises in your org.
3. Follow the official study guide and pay attention to the topics which have the highest percentage of questions.
4. Lot of dumps/questions for this exam are available online but be careful as some questions could be outdated and I found many of them to have wrong answers.
5. Prepare for the exam not just to pass it but to really understand the concepts of Salesforce if you are serious about furthering a career in this platform.
6. Pay special attention to Security in the platform. Difference between object level security and record level security..You wont believe how many interviews I have seen where people stress on this. It is very important to know this.
7. The exam itself will be very easy if you review the platform fundamentals. Pay attention to all the notes and other highlighted portions of the book. If you read this book you will pass this exam guaranteed.
I had posted a question about this exam in the Salesforce stack exchange back when I was planning to take it. It got an overwhelming response. Check it out and see what works best for you.
Good luck with the exam. Trust me its pretty easy to achieve.