community
cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Alter.Nation Blog

Community news, customer stories, and more!
Bolide

 

Prior to working in analytics, I was a secondary school teacher, so I’m much more familiar with preparing others for exams than I am taking them myself. In fact, I’ve got a newfound respect for students everywhere taking exams: it’s not easy to know the best, most appropriate, and most efficient way to prepare and can sometimes feel quite intimidating. As one of the lucky 13 people to have passed the expert exam in 2018, I have been asked for advice ahead of the 2019 Expert sittings in Nashville and London. We had another person pass at Inspire APAC in Sydney (@ryan_lambert) making the number now 14.

 

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.

 

Pic 1 (2).jpgYou 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.

2.JPGJess(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:

 

  1. Understand What’s Expected of You Ahead of the Exam

    1. All the questions are practical and none of the questions are multiple choice (unlike the previous exams)
    2. There are only six questions
    3. You can only answer 5 out of the 6 questions, intentionally disregarding one of your choice
    4. The questions cover any and all aspects of Alteryx designer, so you need to (in theory) be familiar with all tools in the palette
    5. You can (right now anyway) only take the exam at the INSPIRE conferences
    6. You must get 4/5 or 5/5 to pass
  2.  

    Pace Yourself and Do the Questions in the Order That Suits You

    1. 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
    2. 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)
    3. 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
    4. 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!
    5. 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 minutes3.JPGCelebrate your expert status with the Expert badge on your community profile
  3.  

    Revision

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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!)
  4.  

    Go in Expecting to Learn, Not to Pass

    1. 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.
  5.  

    Don’t Let It Become Your Conference’s Only Priority

    1. 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!

Comments
Alteryx Certified Partner
Alteryx Certified Partner

Thank you so much for your tips, @andyuttley 

 

I do confess I'm quite tense to take the exam, but I've been preparing myself for a while. 

The way you approached the whole thing makes me think if I should consider this such a big deal. I will try to relax a little bit and continue to focus on what I'm not so good at.

Also, the strategy to handle time and picking up the questions is very appreciated.

 

Cheers,

Magnetar
Magnetar

Great article @andyuttley .

 

The one piece of advice I would add for anyone looking to take the Expert Exam (in addition to the excellent advice listed above) is to remember that it is a test.  I think this is really easy to forget, especially mid-exam, and it can lead you down a rabbit hole.

 

Every question has an answer, and all of the pieces required are available to you.  If a problem seems like it is impossible (or like you can't complete it in an hour), rethink your assumptions and try to find what is missing.  This could be a key piece of logic, a problem that is simpler than it looks, or a tool you've never explored before.

Community Manager
Community Manager

Such good tips @andyuttley! The advice is also quite relevant to folks who are getting ready to take the Core and Advanced exams as well 😉

 

Also... because I cannot miss out on an opportunity to get sentimental...

 

Look at Andy and @Claje's pass day photo's!  I've never seen such genuine smiles ☺️

 

andyuttley.pngAndy - Pass Day Photo, Inspire Europe '18      Jesse-Expert-Cert_small.jpgJesse - Pass Day Photo, Inspire US '18

Asteroid

Thanks Andy.

 

Having taken the exam in London and not being one of the 12 to pass, I just want to add that I agree with your point 4 - “go in expecting to learn, not to pass”. I came out of the exam frustrated having not passed, but since the exam I’ve had reason to use some of the tools which were new to me in the exam and have been able to use them with confidence.

 

Across all three levels of exams I’ve found I’ve learnt something new, and I always encourage new Alteryx users to take the core exam as another way to learn.

 

I can’t wait until October when I can have another crack in London, and good luck to those taking it in Nashville.

Alteryx Certified Partner

If you are not familiar with spatial, predictive, or some other tools you need to learn them before trying and that includes batch macros, app chaining, and iterative macros. Also, best advice I can give; bring a mouse; in Sydney I brought mine and they were not provided so everyone else used the trackpad.

Alteryx Certified Partner

Thanks very much Andy, very useful.

Really looking forward to the exam in Nashville in a learning mindset - sadly i currently spend most of my time developing in Outlook and Word (!!!) but will be ploughing into some weekly challenges before the conference so fingers crossed !

 

Ref Ryan's point on mice, this is in the prep email that was sent on Saturday;

"Please note that we will be providing pre-configured machines with mice for completing the exam, you do not need to bring your own machine. You’re welcome to bring your own mouse if you’d like."

Meteor

Nice write up.

 

I am confident that I will bomb this exam tomorrow as even the Advanced was a struggle for me, but I am using it to learn what I need to work on to be considered an expert.

 

I still very much feel like a hack after listening to what others can do with this tool this week in Nashville, but will look forward to taking it again next year with the knowledge I gain tomorrow and another year's worth of experience in the tool.

 

Also, I want to know who scheduled 3 and a half hours on rooftop bars in Nashville the night before an exam?  The struggle to keep my priorities in line is REAL.  haha.

Bolide

Thanks @DanielG 

 

Good point, the first challenge starts tonight! 

 

Good luck tomorrow