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How to Ace the Tableau Server Certified Professional Exam

Written by Timothy
Friday 17 April, 2020

The following is a blog post by former Biztory employee Matthew Miller, who has now joined the Tableau/Salesforce family. The origin of this content is a certification recommendations document he had created back in 2018 as several Biztory employees were getting ready to be Server certified. He has graciously accepted for this content to be shared on the Biztory blog. A few [notes] have been made regarding terms or concepts that may have changed since then. Thank you Matthew!

As a freshly minted Tableau Server Certified Professional, I thought you might want to hear my thoughts on how to ace this grueling exam. For those new to Tableau certifications, there are two levels of Tableau Desktop certification and two levels of Tableau Server certification:

  • Qualified Associate [now called Certified Associate]

  • Certified Professional

The Qualified Associate (or “QA”) exams are multiple-choice exam and can be completed by someone who has spent three to six months with the respective product. In other words, they demonstrate knowledge but not necessarily experience.

The Certified Professional exams, on the other hand, are a way of establishing your comprehensive mastery of the product, so they are designed with real-world scenarios in an open-ended format. You have to prove that you know not only how to achieve something with the tool, but also that you know the best practices for achieving that thing.

Now, I’m prohibited from sharing any specifics about the exam itself: questions, formats, etc. Mercifully, Tableau has made much of this information public in the form of the super-useful Server Certified Professional Exam Guide. Building from that, then, let me see if I can share useful tips and tricks that won’t get me in hot water with the powers that be... I give you “Matthew’s Five Tips to Ace the Server Certified Professional Exam”:

Tip #1: Google-fu

As with the other Tableau exams, you are allowed to use the internet during the exam. This is of course quite real-world; take away Stack Overflow, and the pace of global software development would plummet overnight.

Naturally, you can’t use chat apps or email or anything like that to get help, but you can certainly leverage the collective brain of the Server community. You should have the following websites ready:

 

Don’t forget that you can search within a site using Google syntax such as site:vizninja.com OR site:tableaulove.com backgrounder. This will tell you everything Russell or Paul know about the backgrounder process -- and it’s a lot!

Tip #2: Think Real-World

I can’t be terribly specific here, but just bear in mind that this exam is aimed at testing your real-world Tableau knowledge. As the guide explains, this is in part a hands-on exam. You’ll be working with real servers (well, VMs) doing things with Tableau Server. You should expect normal stuff to go wrong. If you don’t know what sort of normal things can go wrong, well, ask someone with more experience, and/or brush up on the troubleshooting guides for Tableau Server:

Tip #3: Multi-task

Read the exam instructions thoroughly. I’m used to just plowing through an exam in a linear fashion from first question to last, but that’s not the best way to approach this exam. Read all of the exam questions through before answering any of them. Some of the hands-on questions involve actions that take a while (I’m looking at you, tabadmin restart [now tsm restart]). You’ll save time if you perform some of these actions in parallel while working on other parts of the exam. You can even throw several of these actions into a .BAT file so they can run unattended.

Label your servers

I could have probably shaved at least an hour off of the exam duration if I’d realized this sooner.

Tip #4: Leverage the Hints

If you’re nervous about this exam, remember: Tableau actually wants you to succeed. There are hints in the exam questions that help you figure out the solution or figure out what to google. There are hints in the Exam Guide that help you know what to prepare for. Without divulging specifics, I’ll just say: use these.

Tip #5: Know Your Stuff

Ok, this isn’t really a tip or trick. What I mean, though, is that you can’t expect to just wing this exam. If you don’t know at a granular and specific level what happens under the hood, step by step, when users perform actions like viewing dashboards, publishing datasources, signing in, etc., you’ll struggle to pass this exam. You should know all of the processes in Tableau Server by heart, including how they interact with each other.

To prepare for this exam, a colleague of mine and I took the list of topics at the end of the Exam Guide and pasted it into a spreadsheet. And of course I made a very simple Tableau worksheet based on this to help me prioritize:

https://public.tableau.com/profile/biztory.team#!/vizhome/TableauServerSelf-Assessment-Example/Self-Assessment

[Note that the above is from 2018 and may not reflect all actual content of the exam]

Before you mock how little effort I put into that worksheet, may I remind you that I wasn’t going for Desktop Certified Pro...

Summary

Read the exam guide. Have your favorite Tableau Server blogs on speed dial. Google things. Don’t be like a backgrounder; do more than one thing at a time. Read the questions thoroughly, all of them, before you begin. Know your stuff.

Do those things, and you’ll easily ace the Tableau Server Certified Professional exam.

Good luck!