Hello Data Rockstars!
So, you’re a Certified Associate now, how about becoming Certified Professional?
I want to start off by stating that this post is a reflection on my own experience and does not contain the absolute truth nor a 100% guaranteed pass, but tips I found useful when preparing for it.
What’s in it for me?
A good challenge, a fancy title, some extra bragging in your annual review, eternal glory... And, of course, a sticker.
What’s it like?
Now, that’s where things get interesting. So far Specialist and Associate were multiple choice questions and whatever views you built to help you answer were not part of the assessment. Well that time is over. Certified Professional is about visual analytics best practices. The exam is 3 hours long and you complete it by submitting a workbook. Unlike Associate, you will need to wait up to 3 weeks for your results as your workbook is being reviewed.
Forget it, I’m no calculation guru…
Good news, you don’t have to be. Again, visual analytics best practices. This is key to remember.
How do I prepare?
First, take a look at the Exam Guide. It will give you a great overview of the exam, along with sample questions.
Next have a look at the Calculations free training videos. The Tableau Desktop III: Advanced (paid training) is also a very good resource. I know, I said it’s not about being a calculation guru and these trainings have LODs and table calcs all over the place. Again, this is not the goal of the exam, but you’ll need to be comfortable as time flies when you’re having fun, or when you’re taking this exam. Which is sort of fun. -ish. In a stressful kind of way.
If you’re not already familiar with Tableau’s Dashboard and Stories, watch the videos! For the core topic, you need to get acquainted with visual analytics best practices. I recommend the following whitepapers: Visual Analysis Best Practices and Tableau Visual Guidebook. Also, our Online Help is a great resource with Analytics Best Practices in Tableau. This part really depends where you’re coming from. Personally, as a Tableau Tech Support engineer, I help customers tweaking their workbooks, but I am never building anything, so this was a whole new topic for me. If you have a background of data analyst, you might find these resources quite obvious.
The challenges are also a great way to practice. Don’t be shy, try the jedi! The views you will be asked to build for the exam are easier than those challenges, but they will definitely teach you a thing or two.
For the first part of the exam, the less-than-ideal views, I can’t recommend enough the Choose the Right Chart Type for Your Data page from our Online Help. It feels from my experience that what’s really expected is to get the right type chart for the question.
For the second part, building views, the challenge starts with building the dashboard. Pay attention to the order of sheets, the colour scheme, the annotations… I won’t make an exhaustive list of all best practices, it’s all in the whitepapers/online help, but this is what you need to focus on. You will likely be provided with some graphical elements, a logo or custom shapes to use in your dashboard, make sure your choice of colours accounts for it.
The last part of the exam is the story, and as of today I am still confused about it. Not losing-sleep confused, but still. At this stage, you have minimal guidance, something along the lines of “Build a story to show insight you found in the dataset”. Ah yeah, the “insight”, that Aha! moment you’re so excited about. Well, I haven’t talked about the dataset, but be sure that whatever you’re passionate about, it will NOT be that.
The story is 4 to 6 slides, you can reuse your views and dashboard if you want, or not if you have a better idea. Like I said, I don’t have much advice on it. I would just quote the Online Help: In Tableau, a story is a sequence of visualisations that work together to convey information. You can create stories to tell a data narrative, provide context, demonstrate how decisions relate to outcomes or to simply make a compelling case.
My takeaway from this is that it’s not really about interactivity and exploration, but about telling YOUR story.
How can I practice?
My recommendation is to build views/dashboards/stories and focus on all the little details. To help you, Kaggle is your friend. Kaggle provides tons of datasets on all possible topics. While it doesn’t hurt to start with data that appeals to you, make the effort to practice on the most boring topic. Finding insight is much easier when you have a personal interest in a topic, you’ll be curious about it and will be more enthusiast to dig into the data. This is unlikely to happen in the exam. Also, Kaggle rates the cleanliness of their data set. Don’t bother practicing with dirty data, there is no data preparation in the exam.
Practice with a timer. You will need to submit a workbook, so it’s not like a multiple choice questions where whatever you’ve answered when the time is up gets automatically submitted. Make sure you have a few minutes left to upload the workbook. The exam is not recorded, it’s only the workbook that matters, so if you don’t submit it in time, you just lost 3 hours.
The first part about rebuilding the view should be the shortest (I believe the initial instructions when you start will provide some reference times but can’t find it…). The dashboard and story are what really matter.
How will I be graded?
After up to 3 weeks you will receive an email that is basically Pass (yay!) or Fail (Nooooo). No feedback is provided, as this is not a training but an assessment of your skill. Yeah, I know, that ‘Fail’ email made me cry in despair (ok, just curse a little bit), it’s really disappointing to find that you fail without any tips to improve for next time. But it made the ‘Pass’ email even sweeter. Remember: Eternal Glory. And stickers!
Ok, bring it on!