“Learning is a process, a method, an area of mastery, and with effort, focus, and practice, we can get a lot better at gaining expertise.” – Ulrich Boser
Today I am going to speak to you about Exam DA-100: Analyzing Data with Microsoft Power BI. I will talk about my experience, how I passed the exam, and then give you some tips to help you be successful too. All the links needed to access a suggestion is located on the last page. Enjoy!
I started working in the Business Intelligence field in July 2010. Having a background in Business and Communication, I was very excited to start working especially since I would be in the Information Technology field. I held various roles but exceled in the data side – and grew a passion for it. As time progressed, I wanted to become certified to show I mastered the skills needed to be a data analyst. I wasn’t sure what data certification to get and after doing some research I finally decided I would work towards earning a Microsoft (MSFT) Data Analyst Associate certification. At the time I decided this was the certification I wanted; SQL PASS had an opportunity for experienced data users to take the beta exam. I decided to take the challenge, not knowing what I was in for. I only had less than a month to review and the only available resource to study from was the Skills Outline. I must admit I struggled because of this. I took the test on May 26th, and a few months later I received the results that I didn’t pass. I felt upset and lost some of my confidence because I had always wanted to earn a certification and I felt like I had let down my colleagues. However, as the days went on, I realized I was being way too hard on myself. I had to remember I took a beta exam and MSFT used it as a platform to evaluate the reliability of the test. With some encouragement from family and friends, I decided to take the test again. Before studying for the exam, I came out with a plan on what I would do. After following it, in December I took the test again and passed with an 810/1000. I felt so accomplished. I now want to share with you my plan I used to study and pass.
Tips to Succeed
This will give you an idea of what concepts you will be tested on, and how much each topic is worth. The learning path will cover these skills in depth. I recommend you either print it and take notes or do it digitally on Notepad, Microsoft Word, OneNote whichever you like and write a brief summary about each skill after completing each module.
One option is to complete the self-paced online learning path. The learning paths consists of 6 paths and they are broken down into modules and even further broken down into units. All this material is what you need to know for the exam. Additionally, some of the modules contain labs. The labs provide you with an environment where you can practice what you have learnt in the modules, which is a great way to reinforce concepts. I also recommend creating a schedule to help keep you on pace. I planned to do each path within a week. If you would like to see my notes, please see below. And remember the concepts covered here are the topics in the skills outline, so summarize in your notes what each concept is about.
If you feel that Microsoft Learn will not be the best path for you or you need more help, then I recommend the second path which is instructor-led training. The course Analyzing Data with Power BI is taught by qualified MSFT Learning Partners. I did not take this specific course so I can’t tell you about my experience with it. If you are wondering if I did have any paid training for Power BI, I did. In the Summer of 2020, I took the course Virtual DAX Boot Camp by Pragmatic Works. Even though the course focused on DAX, I found it extremely helpful in understanding the language and beneficial to helping give me the skills I needed for the test.
Many experts who specialize in the education field recommend one of the best ways to learn is by self-quizzing. As a previous adjunct professor, I couldn’t agree more. For most of my college courses, I scored higher on exams when there was a practice test available that I could take. Therefore, I always advise to take a practice exam. Fortunately, one just came out a week before I took the test. I can’t say enough how much this has helped me. I really enjoyed this practice exam because I was able to familiarize myself with the environment and what type of questions there were. By answering the questions and getting immediate feedback on whether I was right or wrong, I was able to see where my weak areas were and what I needed to focus on. I really feel this immediate feedback helps enforce your understanding of a skill. Also, below the answer is an explanation of the concept and links given to help further your understanding. I recommend to not only take the practice exam just once, but at least two or three times until you master the concepts and you truly understand why that choice is the correct answer to the question.
If you feel a bit nervous about the test, and don’t want to buy the practice test then I suggest purchasing the exam replay. It may ease your nerves knowing you have two chances to pass the exam. I purchased this in case I didn’t pass the first time and it seemed to reduce my stress. I do know MSFT offers two different type of exam replays. One option allows you to take the test twice and the other option gives you an Exam Replay as well as a Practice Test.
I decided to join a study group for many reasons. To tell you a little bit about our group, we met once a week and.. oh yes ..we had homework. Our homework would be to read the Learning Paths, do the labs included, and then speak about a unit in the module. I found the study group to be very helpful because my peers assisted me in solidifying my understanding of certain topics as well as helped point out important concepts I may have not noticed. It’s important to remember people may be more skilled in certain areas of Power BI due to the requirements of their positions. Also, I found the group to be motivating because we received weekly reminders to do our homework. And inspiring in that we were able to understand new concepts, which at once seemed difficult. I can’t recommend enough how important it is to have a study group.
You can also gain skills for the test, by looking at other Power BI blog sites and videos. There’s an array of information about Power BI. And there are many experts who can help you understand difficult concepts.
If you are a Power BI newbie or have only used the platform occasionally, don’t try to cram all the information in a month or less. If you do this, you are just stressing and cheating yourself. Remember what you were taught as a young child…PATIENCE! To really have a deep understanding of the concepts and the software, you need to take it slow. It takes time to learn a lot of the concepts on the test. I like to compare learning to the gym because it has been said your brain is like a muscle in your body. You can’t go to the gym and in a month or less expect to go from lifting 5lb weights to 100lb weights. It takes time for your muscles and body to heal and grow strong. The same is for learning. By challenging and exercising your brain, you’ll work at your best. The best way to exercise your brain and to become great at Power BI is to get on the job experience, and if you don’t have a job then practice with Microsoft’s learning path and their labs. I feel learning this way is truly rewarding because you’ll learn to understand and master the material. With such a great understanding, the test will be much easier and less stressful.
Test Day Preparations
Be familiar with the structure of the test – This is another reason why I recommend getting the practice test. You will only be allowed to take digital notes.. no paper notes. The digital notepad and pen is provided on the exam for you, but I have found this tool not easy to use. Also, as you are taking the test, there are scroll bars and other icons you need to take advantage of. I know this may seem obvious, but you may become so consumed in reading the questions, you may not notice the icons or scroll bars which provide additional information. Remember to pace yourself. You have about 50 questions and 3 hours to complete the test. Give yourself an estimate on how long it should take you to answer each question. Remember some questions will be harder than others and you will need more time for them. Therefore, I recommend from time to time look at the clock to see how you are doing.
Know your environment – Will you be taking the exam in person or virtually? The rules will vary depending on where you take the exam. I elected to take the exam virtually. I had to check in online about 30 minutes before the test. I also needed my driver’s license and had to take pictures of the room where I would be taking the test. Also, the proctor will be asking to see your work desk and watching you the entire exam, so make sure you have a camera! I don’t recommend using your work computer for the exam. There is a certain software to run the test that you may not be able to download on your work computer without a system administrator’s permission, so use your personal device.
Make sure you are comfortable – Here are some more things to think about while planning for the exam. When you schedule the test, know what day and time works best for you. Are you a morning, afternoon, or evening person? Make sure you get a good night’s sleep, and you aren’t hungry before the test. And if you are taking the test virtually at your home, make sure it is quiet because you don’t want to be distracted during the exam. Use the restroom before the test. When I first took the beta exam, I had drunk so much water and was unable to leave for the restroom. I had a lot of questions remaining and it made for a long last hour. It was a very uncomfortable experience. The next time I took the exam, I didn’t make this mistake.
Support and Encouragement
In today’s society, Americans are considered an individualist culture, where people take pride in saying they’re proud to have done it all by themselves. But let’s admit we all need and probably have a support system, so use it! We can’t do it alone and there’s nothing wrong with this. To tell you a little more about myself I am a wife, a full-time employee, and a mother to three beautiful children. And although I love data, I have other hobbies as well. All of this keeps me busy, which I love! As you can tell, my free time is limited. Because of this, I really needed the support from my family to be able to study. My husband temporarily took over on more parenting duties and my children were understanding enough to give their mom time to study. I am so grateful for their compassion. Furthermore, I also had great friends who encouraged me to take the test again when I had my doubts. I am very blessed to have all of them in my life. Please make sure you have a support system and use it whether it be from family or friends.
I decided to add this part because I suffer from anxiety and I know many other people whether they feel comfortable enough to openly admit do too. When I take a test I feel is very important, I get nervous due to the pressure! I think “what if I fail?” and “what will people think?” My heartrate increases right before the test and my breathing gets shallow. This slows the oxygen to my brain and as a result I can’t think. And all of a sudden, 1 + 1 = 3 lol. Well not really, but you know what I mean. Being this nervous, before a test is not good if it’s to the point where it affects your focus. Please make sure you know how to calm your anxiety before a test. Find something that makes you calm! I practice yoga regularly to help ease the tension I receive from stress and anxiety. I also practice meditation and breathing techniques. If you take deep slow breaths, your mind will automatically calm down and relax. And then you will be able to think clearly. Another important thing to reduce anxiety is to think positive! This does work! Reassure yourself that you have practiced, know your material, and you will be successful. Think of your friends and family as being your cheerleaders. And if you pass great, but if you don’t pass guess what? If you decide to take the exam again while studying, you get to learn even more and become even better at Power BI. And most importantly, everyone still loves and believes in you!