How to Prepare for your Tableau Specialist or Qualified Associate Exam

by Louise Le

I passed the Tableau Desktop Qualified Associate exam today! 😀


In this post, I will go through:

  1. The resources I found helpful while preparing for the exam
  2. My experience of taking the exam
  3. My top tips for passing!


What types of Tableau certifications are there?

For Tableau Desktop, Tableau offers three types of certification (Figure 1), with Specialist (newest exam type) being the entry-level option and Certified Professional being the most advanced exam. You can take both the Specialist and Qualified Associate exam without any prerequisites. However, to take the Certified Professional exam, you must have an active Qualified Associate title.

For me, I took the Qualified Associate exam without having a Specialist title first.


Fig 1. Tableau Desktop certification options (link here)



Tableau also offers exams for Tableau Server at Qualified Associate and Certified Professional level.



Should you take the Specialist exam first or go straight to the QA exam?

This is entirely up to you! There is no obligation to take the Specialist exam first. If you are very new to Tableau and feel more comfortable taking the Specialist first and then developing your skills further for the QA then that’s fine. Note that the Specialist exam is a new exam type and the QA has not increased in difficulty with the entrance of the Specialist.

The Specialist exam is a great option if you’re a student/job seeker looking to gain certifications in order to improve your job prospects. If you are funding yourself, the exams can be quite the investment so take some time to think about whether you could probably pass the QA or whether you’re more confident taking the Specialist first.

Tip: Download the sample questions for both the Specialist and Qualified Associate exam and try to answer them. If the Specialist questions feels more your speed then go for that. If they feel too basic then maybe take the QA instead.


Specialist guide and sample questions here

QA guide and sample questions here



How do you book?

To book a Tableau exam, you will have to book through Loyalist Exam Services (link to book here).

You will be asked to make an account with them. After doing so, login and navigate to the “Order a New Exam” option. There will be a dropdown menu with all the available certifications. Follow through the instructions to purchase your exam.

Note: you will not be able to see the available time slots until after you have purchased an exam. Don’t worry, there are lots of times available (even weekends and out of work hours) so you’ll be able to book your exam within a week if you’d like.

Your purchase will expire in 6 months so will have to complete your exam before then.

After you’ve purchased your exam, there will be instructions for how to book. Once you’ve booked a time slot, you can begin revising!


Fig 2. Book through Loyalist Exam Services



How to prepare

There is an abundance of resources available online. Here I will list the resources I’ve used and/or recommend.

  • If you haven’t already, take a look at Tableau’s training resources (videos here and starker kit here)
  • Read through and practice the Exam Guides (linked above). These will give you a good idea of what the exam will be like
  • A brilliant resource for me was learningtableau. There are lots of mini test questions to practice on and there’s a practice paper you could purchase. The questions are designed to be similar to the real exam questions. Note: I found the questions on this site slightly easier than the real exam ones. But I still recommend going through these practice papers as I learned a lot from them!
  • Watch this YouTube video on the online exam experience. It’ll give you an idea of the set up and proctoring during the exam.
  • Take a look at other blogs on the Tableau Certifications, including one from Ellie of DS11 and Nick of DS11.


Fig 3. A super useful resource: learningtableau



What is the actual exam like?

To access your exam, you will have to wait for the countdown on your Loyalist Exam Services account to reach zero (this will happen 1 minute before your scheduled exam start time). Once this happens, you’ll see a red “Take Your Exam” button. Clicking this, you will be asked to run some connection and speed tests to ensure your internet and softwares are good enough. After this, you will be asked to join GoToMeeting (don’t worry, you do not need to pre-install). Here you will meet your proctor. The GoToMeeting allows your proctor to see and hear you (through your webcam). Your proctor will take you through how everything works and ask you to verify you understand the rules of the exam.

Some rules to be aware of (not an exhaustive list):

  • No phones
  • Empty, quiet room where you will not be interrupted
  • No notes, including clean whiteboards
  • No talking, except to your proctor
  • You must not leave your chair during the exam
  • No headphones


You must have government issued photo ID to verify your identity.


Your proctor will ask you to show them the room by rotating your webcam. This is to confirm you are abiding by the exam rules.

While you are not allowed notes, you are allowed access to Google.

To take the exam, you will be in a virtual machine (your proctor sets this up for you). This is a computer emulation that does not contain any of your files, etc.., only the exam environment. Your exam is multiple choice and you’ll fill in your answers in a web page.

Tableau and the required data sources will be loaded on the virtual machine desktop.

There will be a guide at the beginning of the exam, detailing how to fill in the multiple choice and how to access your files. You will be given an extra 5 minutes (on top of the 2 hrs) to read these instructions.



Exam top tips

  • Do all the sample questions in the guides and utilise the practice questions on learningtableau
  • Take your exam in a location with internet connection you’re confident with. My worst nightmare would be it cutting out in the middle of the exam.
  • The questions will be phrased in weird, confusing ways. Don’t be caught out!
  • Take your time reading the questions and understanding what they are asking of you. I’ve been fooled more than once during the practice exams (and the real one too!)
  • Don’t be afraid to use Google! Especially for the knowledge-based questions.
  • But don’t waste all your time googling
  • A good strategy is to do all the questions that you can without Google first, then come back to the questions you haven’t answered yet and use Google.
  • Create a new data source for every question (and new sheets!). This ensures your joins are correct for each question and you can go back and check your answers.
  • You’ve got two hours, stay calm and breathe. Don’t rush it and make silly mistakes.
  • Have a (non-alcoholic) drink with you! I had tea to calm my nerves.



Best of luck with your exam!

Please tag me on Twitter if this helped you prepare for your exam!



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4 mins read

Thu 31 Jan 2019