There are three levels of Tableau Desktop certifications (Specialist, Certified Associate, and Certified Professional). Recently, I passed the Tableau Desktop Specialist and Desktop Certified Associate (formerly known as the ‘Qualified Associate’ or ‘QA’) exams and wanted to share my experience, tips from my exam, and resources that I found helpful when preparing.

What are the Tableau Desktop certification exams and why should I take them?

What are they?

The Tableau Desktop Specialist and Certified Associate exams are certification exams that Tableau offers in order to earn the title of Tableau Desktop Specialist or Tableau Desktop Certified Associate. They are a great way to show your knowledge of the features within Tableau. You can read more about the different Tableau certifications here.

Why should you get certified?

There are a bunch of reasons! You may want to get certified in order to:

  • Gauge your knowledge of Tableau

  • Validate your knowledge to potential clients, customers, or colleagues

  • Demonstrate growth within Tableau to further your career

  • Gain confidence

    • Preparing for and passing the exam gave me confidence that my skills were on a similar level as those around me, giving me an additional boost of confidence.

If you want to read more about the importance of certification, I recommend reading Tableau Zen Master Ann Jackson’s post on the topic.


My Experience

When I was preparing to take the two Tableau certification exams, I read all the blog posts I could on how to prepare and what to expect. Each post was different and offered insights that helped me pass my exam. My hope is that this post will help someone in a similar position.

Test Experience

I won’t go into the details around the logistical aspects of taking the exam. For this, I highly recommend reading the Exam Setup PDF from Tableau themselves, found here.

Michael Sandberg (@michaelangeles on twitter) has a great slide deck detailing his experience taking the Tableau Desktop Specialist exam. There are a ton of great tips that apply to the both the Desktop Specialist and Certified Associate exams including a lot of detail on the realities of taking a proctored exam. Check it out here.


Exam strategies

If you have strategies for taking multiple choice tests that have worked well for you in the past, do not forget to apply them! Here are a few of mine that I found helpful.

  • Flag the questions that you do not immediately know the answer to. There is a built-in feature in the test taking environment that allows you to do this. This was so helpful that I based my entire exam strategy off of it. As I went through my first pass of the exam questions, I flagged the ones that I was not 100% sure of. After the first pass, I used the remaining time to go back and research the answers to my flagged questions (online research is totally allowed during the exam).

  • Break down each piece of the question into an action within Tableau. Read the questions carefully and multiple times to make sure that you understand what they are asking for. Then deconstruct the question. Each one of the pieces is there for a reason and you will need to translate them into actions within Tableau to get the correct answer. Give it a shot with this practice question from the exam prep PDF.

What is the percent of total Sales for the ‘Home Office’ Customer Segment in July of 2012?

Question Breakdown
  • Understand how much time you have per question. With 36 questions to answer in 120 minutes (for the Certified Associate exam), you have an average of 3:20 to answer each question. Having this thought in the back of my head made me feel less stressed about how much time I had available. You will likely answer many of the questions in less than 3:20. When you do, make a mental note that you can add that time gained towards your remaining questions.

Additional Tips

  • You can use Tableau to check responses to knowledge questions. If you’re asked what options are available in a certain feature, just go into Tableau and look!

  • Be comfortable bringing in multiple data sources. All of the data sources required during the exam are available in a folder on the desktop of the virtual machine. Prior to the exam, I did not have much experience bringing in new data sources on the fly. I practiced up a little bit and instantly felt better about my ability to do it during the test.

  • Practice using one screen only. Know that use of multiple monitors is not allowed during the exam and do any practice exams using one monitor (or just a laptop) to get comfortable with it.


Resources for Preparation

Here are a few of the resources that I found myself coming back to while preparing for the exam.

  • Tableau Exam Guide PDFs - Desktop Specialist - Certified Associate

    • I was worried that certain types of questions during the exam would catch me off guard and would be vastly different from the sample questions in the exam prep guide. Worry not! The sample questions in the exam prep guide are representative of what is on the exam, though the themes of the questions may change.

  • Tableau’s Free Training Videos and Help Guide

    • After reading through the ‘Skills Measured’ portion of the exam prep guide listed above, I made note of the topics that I did not feel completely comfortable with. I then went back and watched the free training videos and help guides on those topics. This rounded out my knowledge and helped to give me more confidence.


    • This site contains short practice quizzes which helped me to feel more comfortable with the types of questions that would be asked during the exam.

    • If you are itching for more practice questions like I was, this site also gives you the option of purchasing two full length practice exams.

  • Sarah Bartlett’s QA Exam Blog

    • Tableau Ambassador Sarah Bartlett has a great blog post on the QA exam that contains a TON of valuable resources.

  • Anna Foard’s Post on Box Plots

    • Anna Foard is a former statistics teacher turned statistics consultant who puts out tons of quality content. Knowledge of box plots might just help you during the exam and this post does a great job of explaining how to interpret them.

  • Paula Muñoz’ Viz on Prepping for the QA Exam

    • I found myself coming back to this one in order to get to some other great resources. Someone created a viz on Tableau Public with more resources. I found the blog posts under #5 the most helpful and did not do any of the Udemy suggestions.


    • Because you can NEVER have too many practice questions. Check out the quiz portion of the site to find them.

Good luck!

I hope that reading about my exam experience is able to help you with yours. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter, LinkedIn, or by carrier pigeon if you have any questions. I would be happy to help in any way that I can!


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