My tips about the DA-100 Certification: Analyzing data with Power BI

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Last summer I wrote an article with tips about passing the Tableau Certification exams, which was well received in the medium sphere. The article was regarding resources, study plans and how to think about the exam on both the exam day and the day before.

As I took the DA-100 exam for Microsoft Power BI a couple of months later I will write a similar article here, but aimed towards the DA-100 certification and Power BI.

(You can find both of these articles on my website eliasnordlinder.com)

My aim with this article is to help the people pass the DA-100 certification by preparing in the best possible way for the exam. A lot of my preparation for this exam was from free resources and I want to both give back to the community and make other people see these resources.

One of the things that I recommend to read before this exam is this blog post by Eva Murray. Don’t rush the preparation of the exam, everyone has different work experience leading up to the exam.

I felt that the DA-100 exam was more skewed towards practical experience than the Tableau exams. I will still try to make this blog post for everyone, but if you have practical experience before taking the DA-100 exam it will be great benefit.

I will keep the steps that need to be taken to pass this exam from my last article, as I followed the same path. But I will include all the good resources that I used to pass this exam.

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

It is also really important that you Book the Exam!

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Photo by Kourosh Qaffari on Unsplash

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.

Let us go through some basic information about the DA-100 Exam before going through the different topics.

Cost, length and expiration date of exam:

  • Alt 1: Exam DA-100: Analyzing Data with Microsoft Power BI (3 Hours, $165 pre tax in Sweden, changed depending on Country of Resident)
  • The expiration date for the DA-100 exam is two years after you have passed it.

Retake Policy:

You can find the retake policy at Microsoft official docs, which is as following:

  • If a candidate is not able to clear the exam in the first attempt, the candidate must wait at least 24 hours before retaking the exam.
  • If a candidate does not clear the exam the second time, candidate must wait at least 14 days before retaking the exam a third time.
  • A 14-day waiting period is also there for the fourth and fifth subsequent exam retakes.

1. Familiarize yourself with the subject

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Photo by CardMapr on Unsplash

The first step of your journey is to understand the fundamentals of visualization and Power BI. Besides working with Power BI practically, a resource that I really like on youtube is Curbal on YouTube. This is one of the resources I haves used the most to learn Power BI. You have the New to Power BI playlist as well as over 200 videos about the DAX language in the DAX Fridays playlist.

Two other must go places to learn Power BI is Guy in a Cube and SQLBI respectively. Guy in a Cube helped me a lot with the administrative and premium questions that I had to prepare for the DA-100 Certification. SQLBI are the two most knowledgeable people about the DAX language out there. Even if it is not that big part of the exam they have a lot of interesting videos.

Finally I would also recommend Radacad which I missed when preparing for the exam, but have began to follow more and more the last couple of months. They are really good at explaining different Power BI subjects and I would definitely recommend it to get familiar with Power BI.

If you are somewhat familiar with the subject of Power BI I think the premium features and administrative features of the exam are two things that often needs some more familiarization.

Finally there is also a great community on Twitter and Social media. Look after the hashtag #Powerbi on twitter.

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

As a second step I would recommend to first go through the Skills Measured paragraph at Microsoft learn. Below is a snippet from the first page of the document.

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I would aim to understand all the bullet points in the skill paragraph before you take the exam. I would also recommend to really think about the five big topics that will come:

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Prepare the data, Model the data, Visualize the data, Analyze the data and Deploy and maintain deliverables will be the five main topics on the certification. Ruth at Curbal and Guy in a Cube touch on many of these subjects, but I will describe more resources for this later as well.

After you have gone through the skills outline, set up a clear agenda of what you want to do next:

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Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

For me, the best platform for online courses have always been Udemy. I like to take two different certification courses before taking on any certifications and there were no difference this time.

The two Udemy courses that I took were Microsoft Certified: Data Analyst Associate with Power BI and Microsoft Power BI — A complete Introduction (2021 Edition).

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. John David Ariansen is a great teacher and also has a youtube video where he has several interviews with people that have taken the DA-100 Exam.

3. Remove all the clutter

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Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

It is important to study effective and doing things that gives result and that you learn from. I do like Microsoft’s learning paths and would definitely go through all of that.

One tips I would recommend to whenever you watch a youtube video or read a book about Power BI, is to have Power BI 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

(Sorry, I liked the irony of using exactly the same picture as in my Tableau article to prove a point.)

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

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As this learning path is created for the DA-100 exam it is natural to begin your studying for the DA-100 exam by going through this learning path. Try to not rush through the learning path, but take it chapter by chapter and write down what you read while you are going through it. I think Microsoft have done a good way to prepare this path for the exam.

The Power BI documentation by Microsoft also includes all the parts that are needed for this certification. You are not allowed to google during this exam as for the Tableau certification, but try to remember different parts of this platform, especially lesser known bullet points in the skill outline above.

  • Real Life Experience
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Photo by Iswanto Arif on Unsplash

This is a different kind of resource than the other that I recommend here, but it is important for this certification. As both I felt, and many other pointing out after the Certification, there are several parts of this Certification where real world experience will help a lot. Both in the different case studies of the exam and many questions that you just “know” about.

This was why I took this certification after I had worked several months with Power BI, while I took the Tableau Certifications without any work experience.

I want to write these paragraphs more as a tip than a warning. If you want to take the certification before you start working it is really helpful if you could get almost similar experience from home.

I would recommend to download Power BI, test Power BI Pro free from home, which now upgrades to Power BI Premium Per User. Try to find different datasets online and do some small projects. Try to do all the steps from Power Query to Publishing and administrating the project on the web.

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As I mentioned earlier, I went through two Udemy courses before I took the DA-100 exam. I think both of the two courses are good and complement each other.

Try to follow through both Udemy courses on your computer and Power BI Desktop to do all the steps that the teachers are doing.

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These are two community projects that previously have been a big part of the Tableau Community. Spencer Baucke have this year begin with Workout Wednesday for Power BI as well which is a great way to learn different features inside Power BI.

In Makeover Monday you will learn how to polish your design skills by getting a data set, a visualization and an article, by Andy Kriebel and Eva Murray, every Sunday. There is oftentimes the visualization does not following best practices, and you will get a chance to improve the visualization with the same data set.

Even though a lot of people are contributing to Makeover Monday by Tableau, it is program independent, and you might as well try it out in Power BI to learn all the different visual elements inside Power BI. I would really recommend to by the Makeover Monday Book as well.

Microsoft has this thing called Dashboard in a Day. This is a one day training content which also includes a data set which you can work with more later. There are different Microsoft Partners that holds the training where CSG Pro which I follow quite extensively is one of them.

  • Youtube Videos
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I always like to watch a lot of Youtube videos to learn new subjects. Some examples are Curbal, Guy in a Cube, Radacad, sqlbi, CSG Pro, Enterprise DNA, this video, MyOnlineTrainingHub.

If you want to learn more about DAX I have also written an article going through good resources for learning DAX.

If you want to watch some high level videos I would recommend the Power BI Summit videos by Planilheiros and videos from Microsoft conferences such as this one with Marco Russo.

  • Other Blog posts
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There are a lot of other blog posts that describe the exam experience that are worth taking a look at.
Some that I used are this one by CSG Pro, this one and this one.

  • GitHub

There are several good summaries on Github for the DA-100 exam as well.
I really like this one for a summary of a lot of good Power BI Resources

  • Books
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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:

  • No phones
  • Empty, quiet room where you will not be interrupted
  • No notes, including clean whiteboards
  • No talking, except to your proctor
  • You must not leave your chair during the exam
  • No headphones

Some tips for the exam day below:

You will be connected to a prompter as you will see 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 have two case studies during the exam that you will not have the possibility to go back to when you have finished them. For all the other questions you will have the possibility to bookmark things and go back to questions later during the exam.

This is a very important feature that I would really recommend to use for this exam.

Conclusion

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

  • Familiarize yourself with the subject of Power BI, for example with youtube videos from Curbal.
  • Have a clear agenda on what to study for, read through the skills measured on the Microsoft Page.
  • Remove all the clutter and focus on things that you will learn from, as Udemy courses, Youtube and Microsoft Learn.
  • Make a draft on how you want to study, I decided early that I wanted to go through Youtube and Udemy courses together with real life experience.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel, use online resources and other peoples blogs.
  • Don’t study the day before the exam, only make summarize if you have to do anything, go for a long walk/run instead
  • Make bookmarks during the exam, go back to questions later that you do not fully understand (Besides the case studies).

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

Questions or inquiries

If you have any questions or input please leave an input or contact me on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/elias-nordlinder
Email: Elias.Nordlinder@gmail.com
Webpage: eliasnordlinder.com

Have a great week everybody
//Elias

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

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