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Tableau Certification: Everything You Wanted To Know But Were Afraid To Ask

Tableau Certification: Everything You Wanted To Know But Were Afraid To Ask

Getting your first step on the Tableau Certification ladder can be a daunting experience. How do you know whether your skill level is sufficient to have a good chance of passing? How tough are the questions? What’s the best way to prepare? Is it even worth it?

If Google’s predictive search algorithm is to be believed, these are all questions that others have already wanted to know the answers to. This blogpost is an attempt to answer the most common ones.

I’ve written previously about the experience of taking the Desktop Associate level exam at Tableau Conference in 2017, and then the Desktop Professional level remotely in early 2019. I’ve also taken the Desktop Specialist exam, and helped guide a number of colleagues and connections through their preparations. The guidance offered here is mostly generic, suitable across all levels and is also applicable to the Server exams.

Can I Take A Practice Test First?
There are some websites out there which claim to offer Tableau mock exams. For the purposes of research, I’ve taken a few of these myself, and while they are better than nothing I would argue that these are not the best preparation. They do not accurately replicate the conditions that you might expect during the test, the questions are not representative of those you will get, even differing in style, and there are much better official resources out there. If you lapse into assuming that taking one of these is sufficient preparation then I fear you could come unstuck.

What’s The Best Way To Prepare?
The official exam prep guides are excellent, for two main reasons. Firstly, the practice questions are highly representative of the types you can expect to get in the exam. And, secondly, they come along with a very good syllabus listing the range of topics you can expect to be examined on. Use this to your advantage – if there is something on that list you are unsure of then focus your preparation on developing those skills. This could be specific Tableau terminology, functionality or even chart types. The main thing I would like to get across to anyone considering taking the test is to devour these documents – not doing so could be the difference between passing and failing.

Are There Discounts To Be Had?
From time to time Tableau have made generous discounts available for the certification exams, particularly the Desktop Specialist. These tend to be timed alongside events, such as Tableau Conference, or #CertifiablyTableau month (in July 2020, for example, Associate level exams are discounted by 10%).

Can I Defer The Exam If I Don’t Feel Ready?
Yes! The wonderful thing about the registration system is that once you sign up for an exam you then have a window of up to six months to take it! In my case, that meant I could book the exam to force myself into preparation for it, defer it a few times until I was happy, and only then go ahead with it. This costs nothing additional (unless you don’t show up for your pre-booked exam!).

Will My Home Working Setup Be Suitable For Taking The Exam?
You can find out NOW. Tableau provide recommended ways to check both your connectivity and speed, via this page. Quality of connection is responsible for 90% of all the issues I’ve ever heard related to Tableau certification exams, so nail this early and put aside most of your technical fears about taking an exam remotely.

What Could Happen If I Fail?
There’s actually some good news here. You’ll have had immersive exam experience, and afterwards you’ll get feedback on areas to improve by way of a results breakdown by topic area. And it’s not as if the names of those who failed an exam are posted online. Only those who actively opt-in to having their successes added to the directory are publicly available.

Can Anyone Help Me With More Questions?
Definitely. The certification team at Tableau are always helpful, and I’ve also collated a list of active community members who’ve already contributed blogs, talks and other content relating to certification. This is not an exhaustive list, but you should be able to find someone at the right level among these to help out if you feel you need it:

Is It Worth It?
I believe that for most people, obtaining an official Tableau Certification is extremely valuable, and value for money. The exams are not cheap, but the rewards are real. For me, this comes in two parts – how others perceive your skills, and how you perceive your own abilities. In some roles it might actually mean a pay increase or a promotion, such is your proven expertise now. Or it could lead to a new job entirely – there are recruiters who actively search for certified Tableau talent because they know that many employers value skills that can be pointed to, not just claimed.

And for you as an individual, the self-actualisation that can be gained through passing an exam is huge. Impostor syndrome is real, and plenty of people have written or talked eloquently on the subject. Making inroads to certify your expertise can help you to realise your own abilities, and then to be more confident, whether that’s in the workplace or within your wider network.

What Else?
Is there something you wanted to ask? Go ahead – either post the question in a comment below, or by DM to me on Twitter. I will be only too happy to answer them, and then add them to the list for others to benefit from too.

About The Author

Mark Edwards

A statistician at heart, Mark’s approach is always numbers-led. Already visualising data in other side-projects, Mark was introduced to the world of Tableau in 2016, when he and Pablo started working together in UK financial services. A keen participant in social Tableau challenges, Mark is building his skills and appreciation of clean and simple visuals, discovering interesting and untapped data sets, a path that has already led to a new career and a range of further opportunities. Mark is a Tableau Desktop Certified Professional, a Tableau Social Ambassador and an annual attendee of the Tableau Conference in the US.

1 Comment

  1. Melinda

    Thank you for your very helpful article. I’m seriously considering going for the Certified Associate level, but I wonder if you know of any actual numbers to support potential pay increases. I’m having trouble finding any concrete evidence that the certification can impact salary. Thanks again!


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