By Morgan Hogenmiller, Jr. Data Scientist
I began using Tableau in college via an educational license I acquired as a Data Analytics student I primarily used the software to create visuals for my research and analytics projects. However, Tableau Desktop’s continuously evolving data cleaning, calculation, and prediction capabilities began to pique my interest as I transitioned into my role as a Jr. Data Scientist at CSpring. As a Tableau partner, CSpring encouraged me to learn more about Tableau’s capabilities by becoming a Desktop Certified Associate.
Tableau Prep is for cleansing and (re)shaping the data you would like to analyze with Tableau Desktop. It’s a bit like a very simple ETL tool, focusing on data cleansing and lightweight transformation. Tableau Desktop is then the actual analysis and visualization tool. Tableau Prep is a beta tool at best. I’d recommend “pausing” the workflow using the button at the top of Prep, this makes it so the flow doesn’t need to load/regenerate data at each step. Although if you want to inspect your calculations you’ll need to resume the flow.
Tableau Prep Builder 2019.3 is currently in beta and I’m loving it! (along with all the other goodies: Tableau Desktop, Tableau Server, Tableau Catalog, Project McKinley). One of the coolest new features is the ability to use Python in Tableau Prep, giving you the ability to transform your data with Python Scripts.
Tableau recommends 5+ months of practice for those who want to take the Desktop Certified Associate exam, but I made it happen in a little less than three without taking any of Tableau’s paid preparatory courses. I didn’t pass the exam on my first go around, but that failure taught me valuable lessons about what it takes to be a skilled Tableau user. A dedicated study method helped me pass the exam on my second attempt.
I started studying for the Tableau Desktop Certified Associate exam by reading others’ blog posts about their Tableau journeys. Hopefully, I’m able to add some lessons I learned from my experience to help others who are searching for similar insights on how to prepare for the Tableau Certified Associate Exam.
Use Tableau’s prep guide
This guide is an outline for what you should practice before you take the exam. It’s a comprehensive list of all that might be included in your test, but some topics will likely not appear. For example, if you are confused by LOD expressions, focus mainly on FIXED LODs. INCLUDE and EXCLUDE LOD expressions did not appear in any exam prep or practice test I encountered.
Take practice exams
This Udemy course ($10.99) includes two full-length practice tests, and while the course itself is not as useful as Tableau’s study materials, these timed practice tests are very helpful. You must be able to solve questions quickly on the CA exam. Timing yourself when you take these practice tests is a great way to identify where you’re getting tripped up.
Watch and engage with training videos
If you utilize training videos, it’s important that you actually practice along with the hands-on examples. It will take a few extra minutes, but it will be worth it when you begin to effortlessly glide through complex calculations and functions of the tool from added practice.
Here are some of our favorite resources:
Organize your study materials
I wish I would have saved a Tableau workbook with sheets for each topic I learned. Inevitably you will want to go back to a topic or two that is challenging for you, so staying organized with your studying will be key!
Learn all Tableau Desktop has to offer
Before I took my test the second time, I took a deep dive into the Tableau Desktop UI and made sure I knew what each button on the screen did and all of the options available. If you need help navigating Tableau Desktop and find yourself having questions, resources like Tableau Doctor Office Hours are a great place to ask Tableau Certified Consultants questions about how to use the software and get feedback on the functionality of your dashboards.
What Is Tableau Desktop
Apply your Tableau skills on data that interests you
Working through examples in Tableau yourself is truly the best way to improve your skills. Luckily, there are a plethora of places to find public data that you can upload into Tableau and analyze for free. Just a few of these resources are:
Tableau Prep Builder To Tableau Desktop
All the resources you need to pass the Tableau Desktop Certification Exam are available online if you have a Desktop License. Once you get a good grasp on the core topics in Tableau’s prep guide, get creative with the tool, and develop practice projects of your own to test out functionalities that challenge you. Couple this application work with some structured practice tests, and you will boost your test-taking confidence. Good luck!