My tips about Tableau Desktop Certified Associate and Desktop Specialist Certifications

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Last week I passed my Tableau Desktop Certified Associate Specialist Exams. I hope that I can give some tips back to the community. I got a lot of help from free online resources for my exams which I would like to give the same.

(You can also find this story at my web page, where I also post many other blog posts about Business Intelligence)

First and foremost, I think everyone have to set their own phase for how long they need to prepare, especially in times like this. I think this blog post by Eva Murray sums it up very well. Everyone also have different background and different level of work experience.

Therefore I have tried to make this blog post universal, no matter how long you decide to study or your work experience, I think a lot of the information here would apply for you.

I would say that studying for an these exams is similar when you
are creating a viz.

You should:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the subject
  2. Have a clear agenda on what you want to do
  3. Remove all the clutter surrounding the task
  4. Make use of online resources of people that have done similar things before

One more think before we go through all of these aspects, Book the Exam!

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Before you begin with all the preparations I would recommend to book a time slot for the exam, no matter when you will take it. You will feel more pressure to begin to prepare when you have a hard deadline to work towards.

The three types of Tableau Exams for the desktop level are:

The desktop specialist exam have no expiration day, while the Certified Associate is valid in two years. As most of the resources for the desktop specialist are also valid for the certified associate I felt that it was “easiest” to prepare for both.

This blog post is both for the Desktop Specialist and Certified Associate exams.

1. Familiarize yourself with the subject

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Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

The first step of your journey is to understand the fundamentals of visualization and Tableau. The primary source that I used to get this understanding is the chart chat rounds on YouTube.

There are 15 hour of videos out at the moment and they have also written a very good book called The Big Book of Dashboards.

Besides this, I would recommend to watch anything on Andy Kriebels YouTube channel. If you don’t find any answer of your Tableau question there, you will not find it anywhere.

Finally there is also a great community on Twitter and Social media. Look after the hashtags #Tableau or #datafam and begin to follow people there to get inspirations on different visualizations.

2. Have a clear agenda on what you want to do

As a second step I would recommend to first go through the Exam Prep Guide thoroughly, especially the “Skills Measured” paragraph. Below is an extract from the Desktop Specialist exam Skills Measured Section.

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I think a aim is to understand all the bullet points in the skill paragraph before you take the exam. Once again, you can use Andy Kriebels YouTube channel to search for specific topics, but I will mention other good resources later as well.

After this is done, have a clear agenda for what you want to do:

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I decided that I would spend a lot of my time preparing by taking the two Udemy courses Tableau 2020, 19, 18 & 10: Certified Associate certification and Tableau for Beginners: Get CA Certified, Grow Your Career.

I think it is good to take both as they offers different angels and gives a lot of practice problems, and you will get good amount of material for the money. Try to really do all the practices problems before looking at the solutions.

3. Remove all the clutter

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Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash

It is important to study effective and doing things that gives result and that you learn from. I did spend most of my practices on Udemy courses, Prep Exams, Youtube videos and books as I found these to be the most effective.

One tips I would recommend to whenever you watch a youtube video or read a book about Tableau, to have Tableau open and try to do the same things yourself. The brains ability to memorize figures is great, but it is even better if you are doing things practical.

4. Make use of online resources of people that have done similar things before

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel

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Photo by Crawford Jolly on Unsplash

Below is a list of all the online resources that I used to prepare for the exam:

(I skipped the Desktop 1:Fundamentals and Desktop 2: Intermediate courses, as I am still a student, but as the Tableau documentation is good the courses are probably also good, but keep in mind that they are quite expensive.)

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I did not go through all videos, but I looked through the one I though was interesting. If you want to watch the video on 2x speed you can press the mp4 button below the video, download the video, and then play it on VLC player or similar with chosen speed.

Very good resource, I think Tableau have done a very good job to document all the different parts of the application.This is also the site I used most during the exam, as Google is available during the exam.

You should still prepare so you think you know all the questions, but if you are stuck you can search “measures” or similar, and you will come directly to the tableau documentation about measures.

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As I said before, I went through two Udemy courses on how to get certified associate for Tableau. I think both of the two courses are good and complement each other.

You can use the coupon below for the first course, buy Philip Burton:

The same person that have one of the Udemy courses also have a website where he has mock exams for the Tableau exam that you can buy. If you buy the Udemy course you already got the mock exams for the Certified Associate exam. I would recommend to buy the mock exam for the Desktop Specialist exam on the homepage.

This was probably what prepared me best for the exams, besides the Udemy courses. There are answers to all the questions and explanations on how to solve them using Tableau which is very nice.

The level of the exams are quite hard. I got 70% on average on these exams, while 95% on the real exams, so don’t be too discourage if you get a low score, but try to understand what you did wrong so you don’t do it later. Try to practice like a real exam, google things you get stuck with, use Tableau to solve both practical and theoretical questions, and take your time.

Another site where you can prepare for the Tableau tests is on the Tableau Practice Tests. You can chose which price level you want to take, but if you take the free version for example you will already get two attempts on an Exam-like environment from one dataset. It is a good complementary to the LearningTableau Exams.

As mentioned earlier, I looked through a lot of Youtube videos to prepare for my exams. Some examples are all the Chart chat round videos, Andy Kriebel videos, this video, Tableau in two minutes and Emin Cengay videos,

There are also some great videos from Tableau conferences as the two minute Tableau tips and tricks and 50 tips in 50 minutes or Tips and Tricks from a Tableau Jedi.

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There are many other blog posts that describe the exam experience that are worth taking a look at. Some that I used are this one, this one and this one.

There are several good summaries on Github such as this one that are worth a read.

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I have always loved to read, and there are a lot of good books out there on visualization. Depending on how long you are preparing for the exam, there are a lot that could be considered, above are the ones I read at the moment:

The day before the exam

As for all exams, there will be no use to study anything new the day before the exam, as you will not have time to learn anything new and it will just make you more stressed.

The best thing is to go through a summary or make a summary/mind map of everything you have done before. Besides this, try to go for a run or workout, go for a walk, eat healthy, clean the house, watch some series, be with your family or do anything but studying.

For me at least, this has always gave me much better outcome during my studies than if I would study the day before the exam.

I would highly recommend to go through this video to understand how the exam experience is.

The exam day

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Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

Here are some tips on what to expect on the exam day and how to handle the stress and other things that can come up. First, the rules for the exam is as following:

Some tips for the exam day below:

  1. Online exam

You will be connected to a prompter as they are going through in this video. Double check so that you have good internet connection and that you have a good microphone and speaker, without headset.

For me the setup took around 5–10 minutes both times before I could begin the exam, but some people say it can take up to an hour.

You will need to have zoom as well installed as the people that will watch you online during the exam are working from home during the COVID-19.

2. Bookmark

You will have the possibility to bookmark things and go back to questions later during the exam, USE THIS FEATURE! This is one of the most important features to pass the exam.

Example on references to remember for the exams:

Performance optimization, File Types, Shadow Extracts, Bar in Bar charts, Sparklines, Edit Axes, Mark Labels, Calculations, LOD Expressions, Types of LOD, Ad-hoc calculations, Joins in Calculations , Reference Lines, Bands and distributions , Summary card, Publishing and sharing options, drill down, Visual best practices

I used the strategy to only do the easy hands-on/practical questions, and bookmark all the other questions first. Then I went back to the bookmarked questions one after one afterwards.

3. Name and color worksheets and datasets

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Another thing that helped me a lot during the exam, especially the Certified Associate exam, was to name every worksheet after the question as the picture above. I also marked the questions green if it was finished, yellow if I had some clue, and Red if I would have to spend much time on it later.

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The other tips is to name the worksheets similar as above:

<Datasource >— <Join Condition> —<Table Name>

This helped me a lot, especially during the Tableau Certified Associate Exam.

4. Use Google!

As I mentioned before, use google if you are a bit unsure on a question, especially during the theoretical questions.


This blog post came to be a bit longer than expected :)
But let’s conclude the post:

I hope this will be helpful for someone in the future to pass the exams! :)



Tableau References to remember for the exam

Udemy Courses:


Youtube Channels/Videos:

Medium Posts




Business Intelligence Consultant. Previous MSc in Economics and Finance. Love problem solving/analytics and to teach data to other people.

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