Considering the Tableau Desktop Specialist exam? It’s a relatively small time investment for a potentially big career payoff. There’s an enormous amount you can accomplish with Tableau, particularly if you also have strong SQL skills. And particularly if you don’t have prior work experience using Tableau, the Specialist certification is a great way to prove your skill to prospective employers. So here are my three keys to passing the exam.

#1 – Do practice problems until you feel confident in your abilities

Although students often prefer passive studying methods (highlighting, rereading the textbook), research has demonstrated that the best way to prepare for a test is to take a test. So do all the Tableau Specialist practice problems you can find, and keep doing them until you’re getting 90%+ correct and you feel confident in your abilities. Better to overstudy and truly master the material than to pay the exam fee and not come out with a passing score.

#2 – Try things out with Tableau Desktop or Tableau Public

The current Specialist exam doesn’t have any hands-on questions, and in fact, while you’re taking the exam the only software you’re allowed to use is Pearson OnVue, the application that displays the questions and lets you submit your answers. So, technically you could try to pass the exam without ever actually starting Tableau, connecting to a dataset, and creating charts and dashboards.

But practicing with Tableau will help build your knowledge of the software. And a good portion of the exam questions ask you for the steps to complete a task, so you need to be pretty familiar with the user interface. You might be asked where to drag a dimension to create a stacked bar chart, or how to calculate a moving average on time series data. You’ll be a lot more likely to be able to answer those questions if you’ve spent time using the Tableau user interface.

And to take it further, try to figure out as many different ways as possible to do the same task. For example, you can create a calculated field by going to the toolbar and selecting “Analysis” and then “Calculated field,” or you can right-click on the data pane as select “Create” and then you get several options, including calculated fields, groups, sets, and parameters. 

#3 – Take the time to set up your computer and workspace

If you’re taking the exam online rather than at a test center, you’re responsible for making sure your computer is configured correctly to run the Pearson OnVue app and communicate with the proctor. Make sure to run Pearson’s tool to test your system before your scheduled exam date.

The proctor needs to be able to observe you on a webcam while you’re taking the exam, to ensure you’re not getting outside help or using notes. You’re only allowed to use a single monitor, and you’ll want a reasonably fast and very reliable internet connection. Probably best to disable any VPN or anything else that might complicate your ability to connect to the proctor.

Make sure your work area is clear, with nothing but your computer and your identification within arms reach. Let family members or coworkers know that they aren’t allowed to disturb you during the exam. You can’t get up from your seat while taking the exam, so best to use the restroom before getting started.

Take the Exam and Get your Specialist Badge.

Unless you run into a technical hiccup during the exam, I’d be very surprised if you don’t pass if you follow this guide.