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Despite a track record of having zero students listen to my advice before an exam, I thought I’d try my luck with a slightly more forgiving audience…the Alteryx Community. You’re all with me aren’t you – learning is fun! (and now you’ve all left…)
Everyone learns and prepares for exams in different ways; this is how I prepared for the certification, but there’s many other (probably better) ways to prepare. I was really proud to hear I’d passed, but for me the most rewarding part was seeing the 12 other people listed as the other experts: not because I was pleased for them (I struggle with empathy), but because I’d met many of the other 12 through conferences/user groups, so am well aware how expert, and much better than me they actually are.
You may have used the spatial palette to help locate UFOs in the Advanced exam, but are there any other spatial tools and techniques you haven’t been tested on???
What Is the Exam?
For context, the Expert exam is the 3rd and final installment in the certification trilogy, so you’ll need to make sure you’ve passed the Core and Advanced exams first.
The first two exams follow a fairly similar structure: a series of multiple-choice questions which test your knowledge on pre-determined aspects of the platform, and in the case of the advanced exam only, require some need to go into Alteryx Designer and solve some interesting problems about UFOs and Pilots (separate sightings and questions, or so Alteryx lead us to believe).
The 3rd installment in Disney's Toy Story trilogy sees Jessie use her expertise to guide the misplaced characters back home to the stressed-out Andy. The 3rd Alteryx certification was a similar story for me: full of nerves before going into the exam, I (Andy) had some well-timed guidance from “the Alteryx Expert” Jesse Clark (@Claje) before heading in to my exam.
Jess(i)e dishing out expert advice to a confused Andy
Jesse was kind enough to share his hints and tips with me, so in the interest of playing nice (nobody likes a Sid), here are my top five tips for taking the exam:
Understand What’s Expected of You Ahead of the Exam
All the questions are practical and none of the questions are multiple choice (unlike the previous exams)
There are only six questions
You can only answer 5 out of the 6 questions, intentionally disregarding one of your choice
The questions cover any and all aspects of Alteryx designer, so you need to (in theory) be familiar with all tools in the palette
You can (right now anyway) only take the exam at the INSPIRE conferences
You must get 4/5 or 5/5 to pass
Pace Yourself and Do the Questions in the Order That Suits You
The exam is two hours long. In theory this divides into 5 x 20 min sections (+ some time for checking at the end). Pacing like this is useful in timed exams, but the reality is that some questions can be done much quicker than this, and others might take longer
Before the exam timer officially starts, the invigilator will talk the whole room through all the of the questions. Pay attention here (don’t start skipping ahead to read the questions yourself) as the invigilator will be offering invaluable advice on ways in which you might wish to interpret the questions, plus any hazards you need to be aware of (e.g. banned tools or techniques that will score you 0, or ways to present your answers to get the correct mark)
You know you need to get at least all but one question correct. I was confident after having read all the questions that there were three clear brackets: some questions I was confident I could answer; one I had a good idea of how to approach (but not whether I’d be able to do it in time); and one that felt quite intimidating. It was clear which I’d be leaving as the ‘untouched’ question, so I could get underway with the others. Though I was tempted to dive straight in with the questions I knew I’d find the most challenging (as really these would be the crux of whether I’d pass or not), I resisted temptation and quickly got the ones I knew I out of the way early. This allowed me to have a realistic perception of how long I had for the remaining questions I knew would be more challenging for me
As stated above, I rushed through the first two questions to move onto the harder ones. Make sure you leave even 10 minutes at the end to check your answers. I found a really basic error in my rushed logic on Q1 in this check; I suspect if I hadn’t checked and corrected this in the final minutes, my exam outcome would’ve been very different!
Mark your own work! Use the time you’ve allocated at the end to decide which answers you think are correct, which will in turn inform how to spend those vital final minutesCelebrate your expert status with the Expert badge on your community profile
How do you revise for something where anything could come up? If only there were existing resources that cover all the possible topics…the Alteryx weekly challenges are an excellent resource! In fact, they are now conveniently bucketed into tool types (spatial, predictive etc.), as well as suggested difficulty. There are 100s of brilliant challenges available here; you don’t need to do them all, but it’s probably worth having a go at the sections you know you’re less familiar with in your day-to-day Alteryx-ing.
Anything could come up, but what might actually come up? You’ve already done two exams to get to this point; what would you consider an ‘advanced or expert’ technique be that hasn’t come up yet? Naturally I can’t say what came up on my exam, but I probably am allowed to say that many of the questions required tools from the palettes not tested on the advanced exam.
Revision doesn’t end when you enter the exam room. Like the other exams, this is open book. I genuinely left the expert exam knowing how to use more tools than I did when I went into it! If you’re truly an Alteryx expert (which I suspect the other 13 experts are) then you can probably complete the exam in half the time you’re given. So why do they give you two hours to do it? Because that’s what real-world Alteryx-ing is about: use the community and use the Alteryx Help to cross check you’re using some of the more complex tools in the correct ways! I used Alteryx’s own help workflows during the exams to help me check I was approaching the exam in the best way. The reality is, you don’t necessarily need to know how to use every single tool, you just need to know what tool it is you would use (and learn on the job!)
Go in Expecting to Learn, Not to Pass
This is obviously a mindset rather than a technical tip. I looked around in the room and saw some brilliant analysts, but rather than make me feel out of my depth, I decided I’d treat the exam as a learning experience (and like I’ve said, I learnt some new skills during the exam itself) – this mindset really helped me relax throughout the exam; panicked thinking really isn’t going to help you.
Don’t Let It Become Your Conference’s Only Priority
As you know, you can only take the Expert Exam during the INSPIRE conferences. But the exam is one of many brilliant learning experiences at the conference; I was tempted to miss the sessions leading up to the exam, so I could ‘prepare’, but I’m pleased I didn’t. There’s so much going on, and you never know, you might learn something that you need for the exam at the end of the conference!
Good luck to anyone taking the exam this year in Nashville or London!