How to clear Tableau Desktop Certified Associate Exam : Tips & Alerts

I recently cleared my Tableau Desktop Certified Qualified Associate Exam on 9th of May 2020 and i just managed to scrape through the exam with a passing score of 76%. Had i cleared the exam with a good score, i probably would not have bothered to write this article. Considering the difficultly level of the exam i faced , i thought i should share my inputs for aspirants of this exam. More so, since the Tableau Exam fee is higher at $ 250. With $250 , one could clear AWS Cloud Practitioner Exam(Foundation level, charges $100) and this gives a 50% discount on AWS Specialty Exams ($300)like Data Analytics, Databases , Machine Learning etc coming to $150. I strongly feel Tableau should revise the exam fees !

Before i dive into the exam prep, let me briefly share my background. I have worked extensively on various visualization tools like SAP BO, Cognos BI, SSRS, TIBCO Spotfire and off late with Tableau. So, in terms of visualization science, Tableau wasn’t new to me. So my approach to learn Tableau was more of thinking all the use cases i had done before on other BI tools and checking how to implement them in Tableau.

Lets dive in to the exam prep and the test day strategies,

I used the Desktop I and Desktop II as recommended by Tableau to start off. Unlike the other exams which are theory based, Tableau requires us to work hands-on and come up with solutions for some of the questions. So, these kind of exams require lot of mock exams to perfect our exam taking skills.

To this end, i enrolled in Tableau Course by Lukas Halim and took the sectional and Full Practice Tests. I was looking for more practice exams and found a good collection of full length practice exams in take this course site.

I had made notes from the courses and made special note of the questions that i had gone wrong and practiced them repeatedly. By identifying the questions and concepts we go wrong in the practice exams and practicing them repeatedly helps us to minimize the errors in the actual exam. This i feel is the single most important suggestion for aspirants of Tableau Desktop Qualified Exam.

My strategy to take the exam, was not to make mistakes on the simple and medium difficulty questions, generally these form 70%–80% of most of exams and getting a few difficult ones should help me sail through.

With these preparation, i thought i would score well in the exam and started the exam without much anxiety.

Few questions into the exam i was in store for a lot of surprise, i faced a lot of higher difficulty questions upfront on custom geocding, spatial files etc. I was just skimming through the questions to find some quick wins based on the concepts i had practiced. I realized the exam had almost 12 to 14 higher difficulty questions (around 30% -40 %) and this unnerved me a bit.

In such a scenario we generally tend to make mistakes even in the questions that are of simple and medium difficulty and this adds to the anxiety.

I was checking , rechecking some of the theory based questions in the net and most of them were testing one the latest features that i had not gone through.

Half way through the exam , the sinking feeling crept in and i thought i had lost it ! I paused myself for a few minutes and drank a glass of water , took a few deep breaths and resumed the exam. This time around, i solved each question based on the merit and used all my previous experience to eliminate the options and arrive at the result.

This way i could solve a lot of questions towards the closing end of the exam. I probably might have solved around 10 questions in the last 20 minutes. I was not hoping to pass the exam when i clicked the final submit button and was expecting the typical “ Sorry, better luck next time” message. To my utmost dismay, i saw the ‘Congratulations on successfully completing the exam’ message. I went crazy for a moment, before realizing there was a lady proctor who was monitoring me :-)

Few key takeaways,

Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. I feel Tableau Exams are getting updated and some of the courses on Udemy have now lived their utility and they may not be a sole source of preparation anymore. You can use them for practice exams and the takethiscourse site

Practice the hands-on questions as much as possible to the extent it becomes a muscle memory on cross database joins, blending, Dashboard action based, reference lines , forecasting, different combinations on LOD etc.

Make sure you go through the latest features of Tableau desktop and be familiar with them and make a note of them for quick revision.

Do not fall into the trap on the option of googling the answers. Use it discreetly and even during your preparation do not take too much refuge in this option for theory based questions. Checking for each option and toggling between the screens in the test environment adds a lot to the anxiety.

Approach the exam with an open mind and solve each question based on the merit. It is fine, if you get a few wrong in the first few that you attempt, ensure this doesn’t unnerve you on the simple and medium difficulty questions.

Reach out to people who have cleared Tableau certification recently and collect their feedback and accordingly gauge your preparation and make adjustments accordingly.

When you feel you are ready with the skills and a strong desire to go for it attempt the exam and i am sure you will make it!

Data enthusiast with passion for building enterprise data solutions