The first month of our DS training revolved mainly around our two new favorite software, Alteryx for our data preparation and Tableau for our data visualization. Apart from familiarizing ourselves with these powerful tools and building up the essential skills needed for our future data analyst careers, one central objective was in our sights: Obtaining the core certifications for both software.
We all had a first hand experience with Tableau thanks to the application process for the Data School, however Alteryx was a brand new experience. My first impression was that it is a comprehensive, versatile, easy to use and somewhat intuitive software for data preparation. Comprehensive due to the large quantity of databases that can be accessed, data types that can be treated and volume of data that can be imported. Versatile because of the sheer amount of operations and manipulations that can be applied on our datasets thanks to the high number of tools offered in Alteryx which I must say can be quite overwhelming at first glance. And finally quite straightforward and intuitive as most tools functionalities can be understood and configured rather quickly, albeit some more complex tools will definitely require that you spend some extra time to fully grasp the extent of their action (i.e CrossTab, Formula, Join…).
The first couple of weeks of Alteryx leading to the certification centered around learning the fundamentals of the software, recognizing the basic tools and what they perform, understanding the interface, how to build a workflow, how to configure the tools, and looking at the options and information available to us whether on the tools, the canvas, the results or the configuration pane. A good knowledge of the options available to users and the type of information available in the results pane will surely secure you some easy extra points during the exam. Yet more importantly, knowing how to configure each tool covered in the core certification is key to pass the certification. Tools covered in the exam (In rare cases some other tools will come up in the exam!):
Although the theoretical aspect on how to use and configure these tools is important, there is nothing better to understand them than using them in practical use cases. I Learned it the hard way as I failed the exam the first time due to a lack of practice and awful time management. To remedy this, I used a hands-on approach thanks to a particularly helpful resource provided by the Alteryx community, i.e the Alteryx challenges. These data preparation challenges allow you to familiarize with the tools, get a deeper understanding of the various actions they can perform and greatly help in the selection of the right tools to respond to specific problems. Doing challenges regularly had by far the biggest impact on my Alteryx skills and knowledge and if I had one advice to prepare the certification, it would be to have some hands-on experience with practical use cases. In other words, theory is good, practice is better!
This method paid dividends since I successfully obtained the Alteryx certification the second time thanks to a greater knowledge and an ability to quickly choose the right tool at the right time. Time management didn’t seem such an impediment in the end and I passed with a fairly good margin. A few other tips that can and will help you during the exam is to use the tools documentation help that can be accessed easily by right clicking on each tool and then “help”. Something I found more useful however was to have workflows open with the examples of the more complex tools (i.e having many configuration options) as these examples are really comprehensive, easy to work through and cover all the configuration options. They can be accessed by right clicking on a tool and then selecting “open example”. You may also want to drag some “Input text” tools on your canvas before starting the exam as you’ll be able to answer a non-negligeable amount of question by simulating them via this tool. A good trick (special thanks to Jyoti G. 😉) would be to pre-build a table containing fields with each data types covered in the exam: String, numeric, date and Boolean. For instance:
I think I covered most of the tips that I believe will prepare you for a successful Alteryx core certification. Build your confidence with some Alteryx challenges, be calm, collected and manage your time efficiently, you can go back to a question later on during the exam. Yet if you do so, it’s good practice to select a first answer before coming back to the question as any unanswered question amount to 0 points and you may not have time to review the latter, whereas you may be lucky by randomly selecting an answer. This tip would have arguably get me through my first certification as I left a dozen unanswered question and finished really close to the 80% threshold.
For all of those Alteryx beginners out there looking to get the core certification in the future I wish you good luck and hope this post will help you prepare and get a few (potentially decisive) extra points!!!