Passing the Tableau Desktop Certified Associate Exam: My Journey

I’m Tableau certified and with some study time and focus, you can become Tableau certified as well.

As of this year, I can say that I, Anthony B. Smoak passed the Tableau Desktop Certified Associate exam. I already hold the Certified Business Professional (CBIP) designation which is product agnostic and a great certification for a data consultant and data blogger to showcase (apologies for the humblebrag). Read up on my experiences with that certification here.

Although my Tableau certification aim started as a mere whim, it morphed into a full time goal by the time 2020 rolled around. We all know 2020 has been a challenging year for most of us, I’ve tried to do my best to make it redeemable by continuing to learn and up-skill. And because you’re reading this post, my assumption is you are too! Great minds think alike.

Why did I want to pursue the Tableau Desktop Certified Associate certification?

  • I run a YouTube Channel and blog focused on data tools; Tableau content is the most salient feature of these passion projects. Becoming Tableau Certified helps convince you that I know what I’m talking about.
  • Clients respect credibility. I recently delivered a data visualization workshop at a well known Fortune 20 company and being certified as well being a Tableau Public Ambassador helped establish my bona fides.
  • The more you study, the more you learn. It was refreshing to brush up on some basic functionality and even learn some new intermediate tricks while prepping for the exam.
  • Just like you, I found myself with a bit more time in 2020 to start acting on neglected data goals. When the world shakes off 2020 (please make it stop) and starts getting back to normal, people will ask ‘How did you better yourself during the downtime’. My answer will be Tableau (and fostering a boxer puppy, but that is for another blog post).

As my exam time came about, I logged in to the testing website and my proctor had me share my license to prove that it was indeed me taking the test. I also had to show that my physical table (not in the Tableau context) was clear of any papers or other materials. Once that was clear it was off to the races. Although you will have 2 hours to complete the exam, make sure to account for at least 30 minutes of setup time before you actually start the test.

Of course I don’t remember exact questions and wouldn’t share any even if I did but I do recall thinking that I had a good handle on most of the material. There were only two questions where I was completely stumped and had to take a guess. The test is timed and by the time I finished answering every question, there was only about 10 minutes left to review my 36 answers.

For some of the more esoteric questions on product minutiae, Google is your friend. The test is mostly open internet which can be helpful on these small detail-like questions. But remember, you are balancing Google searching against test answering time.

I did not need to use Google during the hands-on assessment questions. You either need to confidently know how Tableau works or you’ll find yourself playing defense and guessing.

Fun Fact: the Firefox browser on the virtual machine only displayed search results in Japanese (ども ありがと) and it took me awhile to figure out how to set English as the default language.

In short, the test was by no means easy, but with time and adequate preparation you’ll be successful. I’d say a good 7-8 months of Tableau use and 3 to 4 weeks of study time should get you where you need to be.

To prepare for the test, take a look at the official Exam Guide.

However, here is the section you came for, my abridged list of test focus areas.

How to Get Started with Tableau

Using Tableau Public is the best way to get started learning Tableau if you don’t have a Desktop license. Download Tableau Public and practice at home because it’s free to use! The functionality is practically the same as Tableau Desktop, you just have to save your content to the cloud instead of locally.

Practice on this dataset. It is the default dataset (Tableau Superstore) that comes with the licensed version of Tableau, but you can download it from data.world thanks to Tableau Zen Master Ann Jackson.

Fast Track:

If you just want to jump right in to dash-boarding you can start with two video series I have in this playlist:

  • Build a Tableau Dashboard Parts 1-4
  • Tableau How to Build A Dashboard 
  • Tableau How to Format A Dashboard 

Slower Track to learn functionality:

Watch everything in the Creator section except Tableau Prep which is a separate tool.

https://www.tableau.com/learn/training/20202

https://www.tableau.com/learn/starter-kits

Linkedin also has 4.5 hours of free Tableau training in a course here:

https://www.linkedin.com/learning/paths/become-a-data-analyst

Visualization Techniques:

I took this course when I was first starting out. It’s a bit more academic with respect to visualization techniques but useful nonetheless.

https://www.coursera.org/specializations/data-visualization

Then after about 3 months take the Tableau Specialist Certification.

https://www.tableau.com/learn/certification/desktop-specialist

Once you’ve built up confidence after passing the Tableau Desktop Specialist Exam, keep practicing and then sit for the Tableau Desktop Certified Associate Exam.

Heed my advice and you will become Tableau Certified! Keep at it and one day you’ll be opening up Ambassador Swag from Tableau.

I’m rooting for you!

All views and opinions are solely my own and do NOT necessarily reflect those my employer.

“Do Great Things with Your Data!”

Anthony B. Smoak

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

My Journey to Obtaining the Certified Business Information Professional (CBIP) Certification

As of the date of this blog post I can proudly say that I have completed the certification suite of exams that comprise the Certified Business Intelligence Professional (CBIP) designation. My aim in taking the test was threefold.

  1. Discover how my knowledge and experience stacked up against professional standards issued by a reputable body in data and computing.
  2. Find additional motivation to constantly educate myself regarding data and business intelligence since the certification requires renewal.
  3. Bolster credentials, because it never hurts one’s bottom line to show you have expertise in your profession.

If you’ve found this page via search, you’re no doubt already acquainted with this certification offered by The Data Warehouse Institute (TDWI). I started with what I though would be the most difficult test based upon what I have researched; the Information Systems Core (i.e. IS Core). However, this was not the case as the specialty exam was the most difficult in my opinion.

Test 1: Information Systems Core (i.e. IS Core):

12/15/17: I wish I could share some detailed information about the test but that is not allowed per CBIP guidelines. All I can say is that the scope of information covered is very broad.

“The IS Core examination (Information Systems Technology) covers the base 4 year model curriculum from ACM and AIS for information systems – the entire spectrum of organizational and professional skills, teams and supervision, strategic organizational systems development and project management, systems development, web development, databases and systems integration – the subject matter, testing your ability to recognize, differentiate, and understand the definitions of the concepts covered.” – CBIP Examinations Guide

For adequate preparation, you’ll first need to spend $135 on the examinations guide. Unfortunately, the examinations guide is not something you can simply study and then go sit for the test. It is basically a reference book that points you to other sources to consider for test preparation. The guide also outlines the various subject areas that will appear on the test. Let me stress that you should not sit for this test without pertinent work experience and education. You will need to draw upon your knowledge and experiences to have a legitimate shot at passing.

My intent was to devote about 3 weeks’ worth of study time to tackle the IS Core but my work severely got in the way of that plan. I ended up devoting only ten hours of study time in total, but this was certainly not by design.

First I took the sample test of 42 questions in the examinations guide and fared pretty well. This gave me some confidence to continue with my scheduled exam date when I found out that my work was going to shorten my available study time.

The test was difficult. I’m not going to sugar coat this aspect. While I was taking the proctored exam, I could count on two hands where I was confident that I had chosen the correct answer (out of 110 questions). Part of the difficulty of the exam is the fact that you are presented with 4 choices where at least two of these choices could be a satisfactory answer.

Test 2: Data Foundations

12/31/17: I performed much better on the Data Foundations test, scoring well above the mastery level threshold of 70%. I was buoyed by my performance on the Information Systems Core test and only scheduled about 10 hours of study time in preparation for Data Foundations. I used one reference book to prepare. My advice for this test would be to have an understanding of metadata concepts; (this is listed as a subject area already cited in the CBIP Examinations Guide). Make the DAMA Guide to the Data Management Body of Knowledge your best friend. I used the 1st edition in lieu of the 2nd edition in my preparation since I already had the 1st edition in my possession.

Test 3: Specialty Exam: Data Management

1/14/18: This was the most difficult of the three exams that I sat. It may have been a function of my limited preparation as I only put in about 3 hours of study time. The scope of topics regarding this exam is so broad that I planned to again leverage my experience and knowledge to power me through. The majority of questions on this exam required narrowing down the answers to the two best answers and then selecting one. There is a persistent overlap between what could be acceptable and what the exam decrees is the one right answer. I’m not giving away anything that isn’t already on the outline shared by TDWI but you’ll really need to brush up on your knowledge of data governance, data management, data warehousing and master/reference data.

My Background:

Not to be immodest (I only want to share my mindset for sitting the exam with somewhat minimal study) but I’ve been working with data for 15 plus years and hold both an MBA and a Masters in Information Management. Before becoming a BI/data and analytics consultant, I worked back office in a bank supporting the monthly update of three credit risk data marts. Thankfully all of that hard gained experience working in a financial institution’s back office paid-off. Surprisingly, the number of right answers I gained from study time were minimal. Your mileage may vary in this regard.

Reference Material:

Here are the reference materials I used in my preparation; fortunately, (with the exception of the CBIP manual) I already had these in my library due to graduate studies. Depending upon your level of experience, you may need to supplement your effort with additional books. I will say that both Wikipedia and Search Business Analytics were very helpful for looking up unfamiliar terms.

 

Best of luck to you on your journey to CBIP certification!

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