I recently became a qualified Tableau Desktop associate, passing the exam without making a single mistake. I wrote up all the steps I took in preparation of the exam in this blog post so you can do the same!
The Tableau Desktop Qualified Associate exam is a test of your technical skills and knowledge of Tableau. The exam can be taken in person at specific Tableau conferences, but the majority of the candidates take the test online.
Tableau suggests at least five months of Tableau Desktop experience, but they don’t specify whether this is full-time. They also advise you take the (quite expensive) Desktop I: Fundamentals and Desktop II: Intermediate courses they provide. Finally, they provide an exam prep guide which contains a lot of topics and several exercises (with answers).
The exam consists of 36 questions, both theoretical and practical. All questions must be answered to complete the test, but there is no penalty for wrong answers. A score of 75% is needed to pass, and practical questions are worth more points. Questions are either multiple-choice, multiple-answer, or true/false. There is a strict time limit of 2 hours.
I had about three months of full time (40+hours per week) Tableau experience before I attempted the exam. This includes:
Time Saving tip: download the transcript of a video if you’re looking for a specific answer!
The videos provide a detailed basis on how to start with Tableau, and present several scenarios that came in handy when building dashboards for customers. I really advise watching them again (or at least a selection of topics you find complicated) when you’re preparing for the exam.
Customer dashboards are often very specific, and are often nothing like the example dashboards you find on Tableau Public or other websites. I learned a great deal trying to fulfil the (very specific) wishes of customers. Try building dashboards when there’s someone from the business side sitting next to you, giving feedback and requiring specific KPI’s.
The Tableau community forums hold a wide variety of user questions. Some are very specific, some are more theoretical, and some are complete nonsense. Try answering as many questions as you can: if you don’t know an answer, search for it on the web. This way, you’ll not only learn a lot by answering, but you’ll also hone your searching skills – did you already know you’re allowed to search the web for answers during your exam? Simple and specific questions are great to measure your skill, and whenever you’re encountering a question that strikes you as complete nonsense, try to explain why. Theoretical questions (genre “would this option be futureproof for my 500 billion record Microsoft Access database”) offer you a chance to search the web for possible answers and let you discover some of the strengths and limitations of Tableau.
Visit the Tableau Community forums to receive (and give) some love from other users!
If you really can’t answer a question, follow it to get updates from more experienced users – that way you might still learn something!
Point distribution of the Tableau exam. (your experience may vary)
Besides the experience with Tableau I build over these three months, I checked their exam guide thoroughly (since it’s… you know… an exam guide). There are too many topics to learn everything by heart, but I looked up every topic to see how much information was available, and at least realise specific topics existed and how Tableau referred to them.
The exam guide also provided several sample questions (both theoretical and practical). You should be able to solve these without problem. Finally, I also found several sample questions on the website www.learningtableau.com.
Things you should definitely check (or know where to find on the web) before the exam:
Trend lines - While studying formulas might seem a bit too detailed, the first line of the extract here IS relevant: “R-squared is a measure of how well the data fits the linear model”. Source
Finally, keep in mind that – even though some things might take a lot of time to do and will probably not be asked in hands-on questions – they might still show up in a theoretical question.
If you’re like me, you don’t really want to run into any surprises when taking the exam. Since the exam is taken on a virtual computer via remote connection, it’s important to follow all the guidelines and do all the tests that are recommended by Loyalist Exam Services (LES), the service Tableau uses to conduct its exams.