Last week I’m thrilled to say that I passed my Tableau QA exam. As well as being able to put ‘Tableau Qualified Associate Certified’ on my Linkedin page (which I did within the first 30 seconds of finding out I had passed!) and share my shiny new badge on Twitter – this marks a big step in my data journey, which just a few months ago I couldn’t have imagined myself undertaking.

For me however the road to passing the QA exam was a real challenge. The first time I took the exam was actually a week before, and I missed out by just 1% which was bitterly disappointing! Exam stress for me has always been a struggle (for my last year of university, I picked entirely coursework- based modules so as to avoid any exams!) and this time around was no different. Around halfway through the exam I could feel the fear/panic setting in, and from that point onwards I found it almost impossible to focus on the questions.

Lesson 1: Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

One thing I will say is that everyone at The Data School was incredibly supportive – and so my first point of advice for any future data schoolers who also struggle with exams is to simply ask for help.

As soon as I spoke to my mentor (JMAC – LEGEND) and a few members of the core team, Steph volunteered to spend an entire morning with me going through LODs and data blending – areas where I missed out on most of the marks. This session really helped me to gain confidence in these areas, and I ended up scoring 100% on both sections the second time around!

Lesson 2: Practice!

There are so many resources online to help you get started with revision – although I did look through most of these sources the first time around, I would recommend going over the same questions 2 or 3 times. The exam is notorious for having questions that are very strangely worded – to the point of feeling like you’re being assessed on how well you can unpick the question, rather than what you’re actually being asked to do in Tableau. The more you can get used to way the questions are worded the better you will do in the exam whilst under pressure!

Lesson 3: Don’t just practice – actually do the past exam papers!

There are plenty of past papers/ online quizzes out there – the one I would recommend is https://learningtableau.com/

The practice exams are multiple choice style, and if you want to emulate the real thing, simply set yourself a 2-hour time limit.  I found these were really helpful in terms of prepping me for the real exam. I also completed them in the same room I would be taking the QA, so I could get used to the room which helped to reduce my stress levels.

Lesson 4: If you don’t know the answer to a question – move on.

As mentioned before, some of the questions are very strangely worded. For example during my second attempt, I took one look at question 6 and thought NOPE and simply moved on to question 7. You can’t submit the exam until all questions are answered anyway and so I just went back to that question at the end with fresh eyes and managed to figure it out okay.

One good tip I’ve learned is too flag it as red in your Tableau workbook so you remember to go back at the end – this brings me to my next point of advise.

Lesson 5: Flagging is the way forward

The second time around, I was very strict when it came to labelling. For each practical question, I opened a new sheet in Tableau and labelled it with the question number. I also labelled each data source that I brought into the workbook with the question number. This not only helped me keep track of missed questions (when I decided I would go back to a question at the end I coloured the tab red!), it also helped me keep track of my already blended/joined data sources. This ensured that the practical questions that involved cross-database joins etc. were not sources that had already been blended before.

Lesson 6: Learn how to Google!

This last lesson sounds silly, but ultimately this is an open book exam. The trick with this one is to know what to google and make sure that you aren’t going down a rabbit hole. This was especially true for me when I was faced with the a very specific knowledge-based question about Tableau Server. If you ever find yourself in the same position, take a step back and really think about what the question is asking you. DON’T JUST PANIC GOOGLE as ultimately this will waste time! A good way to practice your Googling is to do the past papers!!

I hope that this blog helps you guys out with your exams! Any questions please feel free to get in touch 😊