Taking the Tableau Desktop Specialist Exam

Over the years, Tableau has become a very popular BI tool for companies. The software allows users to easily connect to a number of data sources and create a wide range of visualisations; it is very intuitive to use but also comes with a lot of features which allows users to create very cool looking dashboards.

Candidates can also get certified so they can show employers and clients that they have attained a certain level of mastery in using this product. In this post I will be writing about the Tableau Desktop Specialist exam which is the foundational exam. Details regarding this certification can be found here. The exam is aimed at candidates with at least 3 months of experience in using Tableau and it costs $100 to take which is relatively low. The certification also has no expiry (compared to the other Tableau exams). Taking into account the cost and preparation time, I think this certificate is a good investment and could be an added bonus to a candidate’s CV as more and more companies are starting to implement Tableau.

Change in the Exam Format
I would like to stress this point first since it will affect the way in which you prepare to tackle this exam. Reddit threads such as this one aren’t uncommon where candidates realise that rules have changed and are forced to update their study plans. In a nutshell, the old version was more hands on and close to an open book exam (you had access to external websites such as Google). This meant that your success on exam day didn’t just depend on your ability in using Tableau but also on your ability in being able to find the right information. This has changed now. In the latest exam which I took, test takers do not have access to external websites and there are no hands on questions, i.e. no access to Tableau so no fiddling around with settings and workbooks to test answer choices. Before checking other blogs that explain how to pass this exam, please make sure to check the official Tableau website so you clearly understand the latest exam format. The exam that I took and which you will be taking if you register now, will require you to answer 45 multiple choice questions which will ALL be theoretical.

How do I prepare?
This might vary based of whether you are a complete beginner or whether you have some months of experience under your belt like I did. However in my opinion, the quickest way is solving questions and familiarising yourself with the question types that you can expect on the exam. I would like to stress that this is a theoretical exam and all the questions are multiple choice; most of the time you will either know an answer straight away or you will have no clue and your best bet will be an educated guess. I am not a fan of this exam as I think it’s a memory test rather a test of a candidate’s ability to use the software.

I spent around two weeks in preparing for this exam using the following Q-Bank (I am not affiliated with the creator of this course) that I found on Udemy:

Title: Tableau Desktop Specialist Certification Exam Prep 2021
Link: https://www.udemy.com/share/103V20/

The Q-Bank questions were very similar to the ones that I encountered on exam day. The instructor also has a Discord channel and is very responsive towards student question. I think in terms of exam preparation, this Q-Bank offers the best value for money.

If you need a general overview of the software, I strongly recommend going through the free videos that Tableau provides before considering any other paid training.

Concepts that you must absolutely know
Although these are partly a repetition of the topics that Tableau lists in its curriculum, I cannot stress enough how important these topics are:

– differences between measures and dimensions
– different tableau files, extensions,
– differences between extracts and live connections
– data tab
– analysis tab
– how to export images
– continuous vs discrete data types

On Exam Day
You will be registering with Pearson Vue to which Tableau outsources the proctoring of the exam. Once you register, you will have the ability to perform a system test so I strongly recommend that you do this. If you take your exam remotely, the proctor will be monitoring you via a webcam.

My experience wasn’t the best on test day as I found the proctoring staff to be rude; if you are sitting exams with Pearson Vue you might want to be aware of the following points:

(1) Before starting the exam you will need to move your webcam around your room to show the proctor that you don’t have any objects which might allow you to cheat, yes this includes fruit as my proctor suspected that I could ask my bowl of apples and bananas some trick questions relating to Tableau.

(2) If you find it hard to see the questions (which you will do because you will encounter questions with tiny screenshots of the Tableau interface) and you have bad eyesight like myself and lean forward, the proctor will ask you over chat to lean back or risk getting disqualified.

(3) You will be asked by the proctor to disconnect cables near your desk (yes including those cables which might be powering your PC, microphones, etc.)

The overall experience at least for me was extremely uncomfortable so if you are a reader who is considering taking this exam, I hope you have a more pleasant experience.

Overall, this is the most basic Tableau exam so after passing it, you won’t be getting a job as a Tableau consultant and the new exam format definitely comes across as a step backwards from a testing point of view but I think $100 is relatively cheap to have some form of certificate for a software that is strongly in demand at the moment. If you do have any questions about the exam please let me know and I would be more than happy to share more details. Good luck with your preparation.

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