At the time of this writing, I’ve had about a year of experience using Power BI at work previously. They are all internships where my main tool was Power BI. But I feel like I’m learning and using Power BI a lot more in my current job (internship but soon to be a permanent position). I’ve never been a Power BI admin though.
My experience with Power BI is mainly in the visualization layer as well as data preparation and data modelling in Power BI Desktop with Power Query. I have experience in publishing apps in the Power BI service. I’ve implemented Row Level Security as well. I’ve given a training on Python integration within Power BI for the whole department at one of my internships. So I’d say I had a good amount of experience using Power BI prior to taking the exam.
Aside from Power BI, I’ve used Tableau, SQL, and Python extensively at work previously. My undergrad degree is in Computer Science with minors in Information Systems & IT and Applied Data Analytics (still in progress 😂).
How I Prepared for the Exam
Since I had some experience with Power BI, I didn’t study as much as I should’ve, but here are some resources I used to prepare for the exam:
- Exam DA-100: Analyzing Data with Microsoft Power BI (learning modules on Microsoft website)
- Practice quizzes on Learn Data Insights
- Exam DA-100 – Skills Measured
I firstly went through and finished learning modules for DA100 exam on Microsoft website so that I could get a free attempt for the exam (Microsoft Ignite Challenge 2021). And I did get the free attempt which I used this morning (6/25/2021) to take the exam. I knew most of the concepts in these modules, but there were quite a few parts I didn’t know or how to do. So it was definitely a great refresher and learning opportunity for me to have gone through all the modules outlined for the exam.
It was the end of March 2021 I worked on those modules for the first time and I actually went through them again 1 week prior to the exam date (6/25/2021). This time around, I used them to make sure I understand the concepts I wasn’t sure of and I skipped some of the parts I already knew.
Another resource I used is Learn Data Insights website where you could take practice quizzes for DA-100 exam. Quizzes are broken down into each section and you could take up to 5 quizzes in every 24 hours. As I look back on these quizzes, I feel these helped me learn the structure of multiple choice / multiple answer questions that were on my exam. I even think that some of the questions on this website were harder than that of the actual exam. This website is completely free, and all you need to do is to create an account.
I also used Exam DA-100 – Skills Measured which outlines the concepts that’ll be on the exam. I didn’t use this except for one time, a few days before the exam to see if I actually knew stuff that would be on the exam. To be honest, there were some stuff I didn’t really understand what it is or how to implement (e.g. XMLA end point), but I called it good since I knew most of the stuff on the list.
Aside from those things, I did buy a Udemy course on Power BI, which I hoped to help supplement some knowledge I lacked, but I feel like it didn’t really help nor I use it much. One thing that helped me though, is to get a free trial of Pro or Premium license and play with the features that a free Power BI account doesn’t have. I particularly learned how to use Deployment Pipelines in Power BI. You may have to pay for a domain in order to do this unless you have your Power BI account through your company or school.
This is pretty much all I did to prepare for the exam. A few days before the exam, I scheduled my exam and set its time at 7 am in the morning because I saw some articles saying it’s better to take the exam in the morning to get better performance. And after having scheduled my exam, I made sure my machine works fine by going through some machine testing provided by the testing company.
The Day of the Exam / During the Exam
I sat at my desk 30 min prior to the exam (recommended). I needed to clean up my desk so I won’t be caught for cheating or get any complaints.
As I followed the instructions, I needed to take pictures of my surroundings as well as ID and uploaded them on the app. An operator actually called me to make sure the cord for my monitor was unplugged (I had my monitor and work laptop on the desk). I had to show her me unplugging the cord. She didn’t mention anything else other than that. I can’t remember if it was at the beginning of end of all this process that I learned this, but I noticed that it said there was only 130 min or so for the exam. I thought the exam length was 180 min, but it looks like it wasn’t the case. I think it was 180 min including all the other administrative stuff.
As the exam started, and I saw a case study question right off the bat, which makes me a little panic because the way it was presented wasn’t easy to follow for me. What’s worse was that after having answered my first case study question, the exam app stopped working. Precisely, it was just that I couldn’t go forward or backward within the exam. Luckily, there was a chat button you can click on and ask for help. So I got some help and ended up restarting my machine and I was able to back in to the exam.
The structure of the exam was:
- Case studies (a few case studies, around 2-3 questions for each)
- Multiple choice / Multiple answer questions (around 40-50 questions)
- Questions on specific a few scenarios given (around 3 questions for each scenario)
It was around 62 questions for the total. You can’t go back and change your answers for 1 and 3.
To me, case studies were the hardest. They were the very first questions of the exam + you need to understand the business context in order to answer questions. There will be all the context given for each case study, so make sure you read it thoroughly. I thought that there won’t be enough time towards the end of exam, and I kinda rushed this case studies section. But I had plenty of time to go through all the multiple choice / multiple answers questions later. I don’t know if this is the case for other people though.
For multiple choice / multiple answers questions, there were a few question whose answer was obvious, but there were quite a few question that were pretty tricky in that you almost think there are 2 right answers. You only choose one answer for multiple choice questions, but you choose a few for multiple answers questions. When it’s a multiple answers question, it’ll prompt you, so make sure you actually read the text and then answer.
At the end of the exam, you’ll see questions around specific scenarios, where you’d be asked a few question on the same context, if that makes sense. You can’t go back to questions for this section as well as the case studies section, so make sure you take the time to read the text and answer.
I had about 1 hour left after I had gone through all the questions. I went through all the multiple questions again and submitted it. One thing to note is that you’ll have an ability to mark as “Review” for each question so as to easily go back to those questions.
Right after the exam, my score popped up on the screen saying that I had passed the exam with the scores of a little over 80%.
Although I passed, I didn’t get the data analyst associate badge right away. It was 10 or 15 minutes later I got the badge so don’t panic if that’s the case for you as well.
Overall, I felt like exam takers should have knowledge of when to use what, depending on each business case. Having actual work experience with Power BI is a huge advantage. I feel like case studies were a little harder than other questions, but you need to be able to apply your knowledge in some contexts in order to answer most of the questions.
There were quite a few questions where I needed to know how to do some stuff with optimization in mind, so knowing the limitations and some optimization techniques of features and functionalities in Power BI is useful.
If you’re experienced Power BI user, then you can mimic how I approached to prepare for the exam, and probably pass it, but if you’re new to Power BI, I’d advise that you study until you feel comfortable in actually implementing what you’re learning in Power BI.