I have been anxiously waiting for four weeks now to be able to write this blog. Before I started at The Data School Down Under (around 9 weeks ago), I have never heard about or used Tableau before. Now, I cannot imagine my life without it. It is a huge part of my everyday life along with Alteryx.
Here at The Data School, we must complete a few certifications in the initial four-month training phase. The Tableau Desktop Certified Associate certification is one of them. In this blog, I will discuss my personal experience preparing and taking the exam. If you want a more comprehensive list of preparation material for the exam, see this blog written by Jason Hu.
Registering for the exam
Anyone can register for the Tableau certification exams, just go to this page and choose your desired exam. There are five options in total. Three for Tableau Desktop and two for Tableau Server. The Tableau Desktop Certified Specialist is the beginner exam, the Tableau Desktop Certified Associate is the advanced exam, and the Tableau Desktop Certified Expert is of course the expert exam. For the purposes of this blog, I will be focusing on the Tableau Desktop Certified Associate exam.
On the next page, you will see details on the exam you have chosen. The cost, the suggested training, suggested experience time with Tableau and most importantly the version of Tableau Desktop the exam is currently testing on.
This is important as newer versions of Tableau have a few new features (like relationship connections and map layers) that does not exist in the exam version. So, it is a good idea to download the version of Tableau Desktop that the exam will be using.
To register, click on the orange “REGISTER NOW” button and create a Loyalist Exam Services profile. Have your credit card handy as you must pay for your exam to register. You can book your exam date and time at a later stage.
Preparing for the exam
I would highly recommend the Tableau How-To Training Videos, I have picked up a few things going through them that helped me understand some things a little better. I would also recommend going through the prep guide for more links to preparation material.
The best way to prepare though is through experience. Use Tableau Desktop on a variety of different data sources and practice data joins, unions and blending. As I have mentioned before, the current exam version does not test on relationships. The best way to practice is to do a few Makeover Monday challenges and use Tableau e-learning and follow along.
There are a couple of courses out there that provides mock exams or practice exams, I found these extremely helpful throughout my preparation phase. Here is a list of a few practice exams worth checking out:
- Tableau Desktop Certified Associate Practice Exam | Testprep
- Certified Tableau Qualified Associate Certification Course | Udemy
- Learning Tableau
There are loads more resources out there.
The hour before the exam
I must admit, the most stressful part of the entire exam, personally, was setting up the system with the proctor. If you don’t know this yet, you will be connected to a proctor through zoom or another platform and he/she will be watching you the entire time. You will connect to the proctor through your Loyalist Exam Services portal (15 minutes before your exam booking). There are a few rules about your exam session that your internet and physical environment must comply with. You can find all the details here. You will need to show the proctor your physical surroundings so he/she can determine if it is fit for the exam. The proctor will also test your internet speed and latency connecting with the server. It sounds fairly simple but there were a few technical difficulties during my setup and it the whole set up process actually lasted around 45 minutes. When it was all done and I could finally start my exam, I was so stressed. I had to sit back and take a few deep breaths before clicking on the “start exam” button.
The actual exam
Overall, the exam was quite diverse with question types and topics. Personally, I found the theory questions among the most difficult questions in the exam. They were structured in such a way that I found myself extremely confused. I had a little extra time after finishing all the questions to go back and review them. I spent quite a bit of this extra time google searching the topics to make sure I have the right answer.
In comparison, the hands-on questions were easier to understand. The questions were pretty straight forward and if you have spent some time in tableau you will find them workable. I did find myself in a few knots at times and I will be discussing a few issues I experienced with the hands-on questions next.
Map: find the distance between two points
I have practised doing this before, but for some reason, the distance did not show. After a quick google search during my exam I found out that if you don’t zoom in far enough, the distance won’t come up. So just zoom in a bit more until the distance measure comes up.
Distance in miles instead of kilometres
For the question I had to measure the distance between two cities (shown above), they wanted to have the distance in miles and not kilometres. It took me a minute to find the locations to change this setting. Just go to Map> Map Options… and click on the U.S. in the unit dropdown menu. Now when you draw your radius, the distance will be measured in miles.
No records coming up if you drag a geographic field into the canvas
At the bottom right of the screen, click on the nulls and edit your location. Mine was set to Australia but my cities were US cities. Just change the country from Australia (or whatever yours is set to) to US. That should fix the issue. This is also the place to change city names if the question asks you to. Do not change city names as aliases, that will give you the wrong answer.
Extra tips for the exam:
- You can flag questions by using the flag symbol at the bottom of the screen, so you can easily return to the questions you are unsure about.
- During the exam, name your sheets in Tableau according to the question number (Q1, Q2…), so you can easily locate the charts you want to come back to.
- Before you click on the button to start your exam, open the two dashboards in separate Tableau Desktop tabs and have a quick look at what they are showing, leave them open in the background so you can easily come back to them to answer the dashboard questions.
- Use a large screen during the exam so you can split the screen so you can clearly see Tableau Desktop and the exam page at the same time.
- Leave all your google searching for the end. Don’t waste precious time scrolling and searching for answers. Flag questions you don’t know and go to the next questions and finish the exam, then come back and use google to search for answers in your extra time.
- Sometimes it’s hard to know if you should join datasets or union them. If the questions ask to “combine” two datasets, you most likely have to do a union. Quickly view the data to see if they have multiple common fields.
- When the theory questions have a round tick mark, choose one answer. If there is a square tick mark you CAN choose multiple BUT you don’t have to. Sometimes there is still only ONE right answer.
After the exam
After I reviewed my flagged questions and clicked the submit button, the blood drained from my face as I knew I will be getting my results. Anxiously waiting for the load screen to present me with a “Congratulations!” or “Sorry, you did not pass”, I found myself on a page with a few multiple-choice questions about my experience…
This is the worst time to throw in a review questionnaire! I scrambled through the questions leaving reviews as fast as I can just to get to my results page. Finally! “Congratulations! You have passed the Tableau Desktop Certified Associate exam.” Yes!!! What a great feeling.
The proctor asked me to log out and to have a nice day. After she disconnected my screen displayed my personal computer again and I could log into my email to look for my certificate. I only received it about four hours later, so don’t worry if you don’t receive it right away.
Overall, when I look back at the exam it was quite a roller coaster. There were some easy questions and some hard questions, but the good news is that you have plenty of time. My advice would be to try and finish all the questions you know first and come back to those you need to spend a little extra time on.