I signed up to take the new version of the Tableau Desktop Specialist exam as soon it launched. Here are my notes on the experience of taking the new Pearson-administered version of the Specialist exam.
Initially, I had trouble with the system test and wasted a bunch of time retrying with different computers and fruitlessly calling Pearson for support. Without making any changes, I retried the system test this morning and was able to pass. I immediately scheduled to take the exam with Pearson. The proctor wanted EVERYTHING off of my desk aside from my landline phone and asked me to close the blinds on my window to reduce the glare. I had to retake my driver’s license photo… my webcam didn’t want to focus the first time. Checkin took 10 – 15 minutes… there’s no virtual machine to set up with the Pearson Specialist exam.
Once I got logged in to the exam, the interface was easy to use… just click through the questions use radio buttons and checkboxes to answer the questions. A timer in the upper right shows how much time is left in the exam, and I think there were around 39 minutes left when I clicked Finish. I found out immediately that I’d passed.
I’m disappointed with the change. The new exam has absolutely no hands-on questions, and some questions are asking for minutia about how the menus work. In real life, if I’m trying to remember how to to change the font on a particular part of my workbook, I’ll click around in the menus or in the data pane until I find what I need. It’s nice to remember where all the options are, but is it that important? I preferred the old version of the Specialist exam, where you had to use Tableau to answer questions about sample datasets.
I’m not sure what motivated Tableau to switch to Pearson, but it seems to me that Tableau decided providing a quality Specialist exam to test basic Tableau skill is not a priority.
I’m reminded of a conversation about the base SAS exam. The story I heard was that someone who’d been using SAS productively for YEARS and could not pass the base SAS exam. The story resonated with me as I was studying for and taking the base SAS certification. It was easy to see how a very experienced and productive SAS developer but fail the exam due to a lack of knowledge of SAS arcana such as the “Program Data Vector.”
In any case, the new Specialist exam is probably here to stay, so I’ll be updating my practice tests for the new format.