Step 1: Choose a Certification Level
If you’re starting with Tableau you should plan on the Tableau Specialist certification. The Specialist exam covers the fundamentals of Tableau Desktop, so it’s probably the place to start if you’re a beginner.
If you’ve had at least a few months of experience and already have some familiarity with more advanced features like level of detail calculations, trendlines, and dashboard actions, then go for the Data Analyst exam. The Data Analyst exam covers more than just Tableau Desktop – it also has questions related to two other Tableau products: Tableau Prep and Tableau Server.
Still not sure? Download both the Specialist and the Data Analyst exam guides. Read through the topics and work through the sample questions. If you’re still feeling unsure, flip a coin and start studying with that exam. If you start studying and the exam doesn’t seem like a good fit (too hard or too basic) just switch to the other exam.
Step 2: Get Setup with Tableau
Once you’ve decided whether you’re doing the Specialist or Data Analyst exam, it’s time to start doing some hands-on practice of the skills in the exam guide. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can just watch videos and do lots of multiple-choice questions and then take the exam. You need to spend time actually using Tableau to really understand the software.
And to do that, you need a copy of Tableau Desktop running on your computer. Tableau will run on almost any Windows or Mac operating system (sorry Linux!).
If you’re a full-time student at an accredited academic institution, you should use Tableau Student, the free one-year license to Tableau Desktop and Tableau Prep. If you don’t qualify as a student and don’t have access to Tableau through your employer, you’ll probably want to use Tableau Public, the free version of Tableau Desktop.
Using Tableau Public is fine if you’re preparing for the Tableau Specialist exam, since that exam tests only Tableau Desktop.
But the Data Analyst exam tests not only Tableau Desktop but also Tableau Prep. And Tableau Prep is not included with Tableau Public. It would be better to have hands-on experience with Tableau Prep before taking the Data Analyst exam. However, I was able to pass the Data Analyst exam without hands-on practice with Tableau Prep. It’s certainly not ideal, but I don’t think it should hold you back from attempting the Data Analyst certification.
Step 3: Hands-on Practice
I said this in Step 2 and I’ll say it again here – you really do need to have experience creating visualizations in Tableau in order to be prepared for either the Specialist exam or the Data Analyst exam. You don’t actually use Tableau during the Specialist exam, but a lot of the questions ask what steps you need to take in Tableau to accomplish a particular task. Answering those types of questions will be much, much easier if you’ve actually performed the task in Tableau.
Instead of, for example, memorizing the steps to create a stacked bar chart, you should create stacked bar charts in Tableau. There’s more than one way to create a stacked bar chart, so ideally see how many different ways you can do it.
Go through the exam guide for your chosen certification, and for each topic determine if it’s something you’re able to do in your version of Tableau. For example, topic 2.3.3 in the Data Analyst exam guide is to create a custom year-over-year table calculation. When you install Tableau, a folder called, “My Tableau Repository” is created in your documents folder. There’s a sample “Superstore” dataset in that folder. You should be able to connect to that data and try out the features on the exam guide. Tableau’s free training videos use the Superstore to demonstrate many of the basic concepts using the Superstore data, and what you can’t find there you can easily find with google.
Step 3: Practice Questions & Exams
Doing a few practice tests will certainly improve your chances of passing. I’d recommend starting with these Tableau Desktop Specialist questions and you can find data analyst questions on the same site.
Because it’s such a drag to sit an exam and not pass, I recommend overstudying a little. Keep going with the practice until you feel almost bored of the questions.
Step 4: Computer Setup
If you’re taking the exam online from your home computer, make sure you have a good reliable internet connection. You don’t want to get disconnected during the exam. If you can use an ethernet cable that’s better than relying on wifi.
You need a webcam and mic so that you can communicate with the proctor. The proctor will need you to use the webcam to show your test area is clear of notes and other material. Your desk should just have your computer on it, with only one monitor during the exam.
Step 5: Register
When you’re feeling confident in your preparation and your computer setup, go ahead and pay the exam fee and schedule a time to take the exam.
Step 6: Crush It!
If you’ve followed the steps above, you’ll sail through the exam! As soon as you submit the Specialist exam you’ll find out you passed. The Data Analyst exam will take a little longer – a few hours or maybe a day. You’ll get a certification “badge” from Credly. Congratulations on being Tableau Certified!