Guest Post: Passing the Tableau Desktop Qualified Associate Exam:  Recapping my TC18 Exam Experience!

Claire -2

Passing the Tableau Desktop Qualified Associate Exam:  Recapping my TC18 Exam Experience!

Claire Smith

For those of you who read my previous guest blog post on how I prepared for the Desktop Qualified Associate Exam (DQA), and have been waiting with bated breath, the wait is over: I PASSED MY DQA EXAM!!! Such a sense of accomplishment and relief! While maintaining respect for the exam and the integrity of the process, I’d love to share with you my own personal experience.

Proving the Hypothesis

I can confidently say that all the recommendations I made for self-study in my first guest post fully prepared me for the exam! All the practice exams I took were accurate mirrors of the type of questions I encountered, and the tips and tricks I’d learned allowed me to keep an eye out for those pitfalls that lead to common mistakes. Without this foundation of study, familiarity with the types of questions asked, and time-saving tips, I would not have been so successful. Take a look at my recommendations as you set out on your own journey of prepping for the exam!

Without this foundation of study, familiarity with the types of questions asked, and time-saving tips, I would not have been so successful.

Testing at the Tableau Conference

When I first started studying, I found most of the resources out there outline what it’s like to take the exam at your own desk/office/home. I did not find much information about what it’s like to take the exam at a Tableau Conference, so I’d like to walk you through my experience testing at TC18!

When you check in for your exam, you’re given a slip of paper with login information to get you into the testing site. At check-in, they also have foam earplugs, which I highly recommend grabbing! You then head to the testing area, which is a large room with rows of tables and laptops. Your slip of paper has all the rules (such as “eyes on your own screen”), and clearly states that you are allowed to use Google! You log in, and begin!

I immediately put my earplugs in and found that the silence really allowed me to focus. When I pulled them out at the end of the exam, I couldn’t believe how loud the room was with 100+ people typing away on keyboards! The testing room was not broken up by type, so there was a mix of people going for their Tableau Desktop QA and for their Certified Professional.

Pros: I believe there are a lot of pros when it comes to testing at the end of a Tableau Conference (I took my exam the last day). The Tableau Conference is an entire week of incredible sessions, meeting mentors and like-minded peers, experiencing a complete immersion in the world of data, and being inspired every minute of every day! Having an amazing week of being fired up about everything Tableau really put me in a positive, confident mindset for the exam! You’re basically taking all those good vibes into the room with you 😊.

Cons:  You take the exam on a laptop. There were quite a few questions where I needed a split screen and that can be a challenge when you’re working on one small monitor. If you’re easily distracted, I would say this is a big con for you. I was not at all bothered by the large testing room with lots of people (especially with my earplugs in), and in fact, really liked the sense that “we’re all in this together”. However, I can see how it would be less than ideal for some testers!

So, what was the exam like?

There’s no question about it, Tableau makes you work for your cert! They are not giving these away for free. I definitely had butterflies going into it, and a couple moments of panic when a question or two blindsided me! However, the variety of practice exams I had taken offered some familiarity in the cadence of the questions and that helped calm my nerves! You will encounter:

  • A combination of multiple choice and true/false.
  • Knowledge-based questions which are ALL found on Tableau’s online help site. But read carefully! The phrasing of a true/false question is everything!
  • You are provided with 5+ datasets where you have to answer questions similar to this one: What was the percent increase in orders for customers who placed more than 3 orders in 2013?
  • You are not JUST using Superstore data! My practice and studying for the exam prepared me for this.  You are answering questions using datasets you’ve never seen before.
  • Analyzing pre-built dashboards to answer questions.
  • Analyzing pre-built maps to replicate results and answer questions.

I cannot stress this enough: if you do not study, you will not pass!

I cannot stress this enough: if you do not study, you will not pass! This test is less about how well you know Tableau and more about your ability to analyze data and make actionable decisions. Tableau wants to ensure that by passing this exam, you’re not only certifying that you know the difference between a dimension and measure, but that you can be counted on to provide accurate results to your end user. While studying, I definitely learned a lot more about Tableau, but more importantly, I gained confidence in my abilities as an analyst to tackle a problem and infer insight from unknown data.

Lessons Learned

The question that blindsided me…. I’ll just call it “The Volcano Problem”. It required you to look at a picture of a map that had custom regions, replicate the image to create your own regions, then solve a problem using your custom groupings. Out of the 92 minutes I spent taking the exam, a good 10 minutes were spent on this question alone….. I found it challenging for a number of reasons:

  • The split screen on the small laptop and LOTS of zooming in and out to compare the picture to my own groupings.
  • Some of the countries were so small, I couldn’t tell if they were part of the map I was supposed to replicate or not.
  • Even when I got three regions hobbled together, I could not figure out how to get ONE sum for my entire group and was forced to count the numbers I was seeing on the screen to get an estimate.

In the end, I made a best guess and (feeling quite frustrated) moved on. None of my studying had prepped me for a question like this. Image my surprise when I got 100% in the mapping portion of the exam. Haha! However, I believe this problem fell under “Dashboards” or “Analytics”, which were my two lowest scored categories.

I also spent more time than I would have liked second guessing myself!  There were a few times when I didn’t feel confident in my answer and tried to solve the problem another way. If the answer stayed consistent, I moved on. On one specific question, my attempt to solve it another way resulted in two different numbers, and guess what? Both answers were an option on the exam! The DQA exam is sprinkled with these scenarios! When a question prompts a very common error, Tableau includes the wrong answer as one of the choices. What saved me from falling into that trap was all the studying I’d done! I thought back to a similar question on one of the practice exams I’d taken, and based on the solution to that problem, I was able to make an informed decision about which one of my results was correct.

My Exam Results!

Like any Tableau junkie, I analyzed my exam results in Tableau and created a viz, as shown in the screenshot, and link to Tableau Public, below 😊.  Overall, I’m very proud of my scores and know that the hard work I put in paid off! If you’re thinking of taking the exam, set yourself up for success and put in the time to study. Also, find some additional map and country grouping problems you can practice on. 😊. Good luck to you, and be sure to mention me in a tweet when you pass your exam! It’s a huge accomplishment and I’d love to celebrate with you!

Link: Interactive Viz

Exam Results



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