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As one of the 17 people who holds the Alteryx Expert Certification, I feel incredibly privileged to have had the help and resources I needed to learn and gain the qualifications along the way. Since I passed the exam in June 2019, many data analysts around the world who share similar passion and ambition have connected with me about my experience. I thought I could help to share some tips on the certification exam ahead of the 2019 Inspire London, where the exam will be offered on Tue, 15th Oct. Register today.
To be 100% honest, I did not have much time to prepare for the exam. Therefore, I am writing this blog with a retrospective view of what I think is important in order to achieve a good result, knowing the exam format and content.
What to Expect
The exam is 2 hours long and consists of 6 practical application questions that require you to build workflows to arrive at the correct answers. On average, you can spend 24-30 minutes on each question, depending on if you want to attempt 4 or 5 questions (you are allowed to attempt all 6 questions, but most people complete 4-5 in the limited time).
You either pass or fail each question, which means even if your logic and majority of the execution is correct, if you make one small mistake which takes you to a different answer, you will fail that question. Therefore, it’s extremely important to leave time to check the workflow after you finished building it, either at the end of the exam or when you finish each workflow. I actually did both, just to stay on the safe side, and picked up a few small things while going through them.
The exam will build on the knowledge and skills you demonstrated on the Advanced Exam, and more. It aims to cover the broad capability Alteryx has to offer. Therefore, it is important to ensure you are comfortable with a range of topics (I will come back to this with more details further down), especially if there are “blind spots” due to the nature of your everyday work.
The exam will be “open book”, which means you can Google, read on Help pages (right click on a tool and click on Help – super useful), read community posts and knowledge base, or any other resources that you use to learn and upskill. Forget about memorising all the formulas and RegEx Syntax, the key here is to “understand” and “know how and where to find answers quickly”.
As always, I like to organise things in a structured way. So I am going to give some more detailed tips on what to do Before, During and After the exam. Take what you need and what works for you – giving those tips means I believe they are helpful; it doesn’t mean I actually did them all!
Before the Exam:
Cover the full ground as much as you can. Be really comfortable with at least 3-4 (preferably all) topics from the list below:
Example exam point
In DB tools can be intimidating, but they are actually not that complex. Once you invest a bit of time to learn about them and some of the basic SQL queries (depending on the experience, this can range from 2 hours to a couple of days), they are really quite straightforward.
That said, setting up the connection can be tricky, so make sure you practice with an example that involves configuring a database connection.
Connecting and writing to a database, using In-DB tools, and integrating In-DB processes with data from standard tools. In-DB tools are not that
Get familiarise with the models that Alteryx’s Predictive Suite has to offer. Know what model can be used to answer what kind of question (classification/regression/correlation/…). Know how to evaluate and compare model results.
You might be tested for the breadth of your knowledge (for using models) rather than depth.
Using Predictive tools to identify suitable variables for predicting a target variable, compare model outcomes, and predict the result of a promotional sale.
Batch macros is another one of those areas in Alteryx that can be intimidating, but once understood becomes very straightforward and useful.
Start with the simplest example (even I myself go back to this batch macro 101 if I become rusty on how it works).
Building batch macros to batch process files
Iterative / Standard Macros
I find it easiest to learn iterative macro with an example. There are many examples available on the Alteryx Community or the tutorials/ sample workflows. Those who passed the Advanced Certification probably have already seen at least one example. Understand one fully, then you can apply it to other situations.
Building and troubleshooting complex macros
Alteryx has tutorials on building Apps. It’s a step up from building macros, if you are already familiar with them. It might be worth looking into how to create chained Apps.
Creating complex, dynamic apps and configuring an app's user interface.
I learned about Spatial mainly with Concentra’s own training materials, and strengthened the understanding by teaching it.
Alteryx Tutorials and Sample Workflows: in Alteryx, under “Help” you can see “Tutorials” and “Sample Workflows”
Your colleagues, trainers, and fellow Alteryx-loving strangers (e.g. me!)
During the Exam:
Take time to read the questions carefully. It will be worthwhile to make sure you spend time and energy solving the right problem!
Have a strategy. After reading all the questions, I made some simple notes on what topic each question covered, and ordered them by how much time I think it will take me to solve them. Then I started with what I thought was the simplest question. This strategy worked really well for me because after getting the simpler ones done and out of the way, I had all the remaining time to tackle the harder ones. It also gave me peace of mind knowing that I (think I) have some points in the pocket already.
QA your solution. Check through the logic after completion – remember that if you miss one thing, the whole solution goes down the drain.
Since it’s open book, you will be able to use all the resources on the internet to your benefit. If you are like me, it will be very tempting to solve any problem you are on, just because it looks so solvable! However, be agile and manage your time. If a question is taking too long, and doesn’t look like you are close to the solution, move on. Solve the other ones first, and you might have time to come back to it.
Don’t overly stress about it. Relax and have fun! It's like those escape room challenges - it’s fun and enjoy it. Also, the calmer you are, the better you will probably be able to use the full capability of your brain.
After the Exam:
Celebrate! Regardless of the result, you have learned something!
Continue the learning journey and give back to the generous community if you can.
Please let me know if you have any questions or if you find this useful! Good luck to anyone taking the exam!