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Alteryx Certification Progression: Core, Advanced, Expert

In the past few months, I have re-taken (and passed!) all three of Alteryx Certifications. I have decided to share my thoughts and experience here…

In September 2020, I was supporting some of my fellow Data Schoolers on passing Alteryx Core Certification. Given I have taken mine over a year prior, I decided to retake the certification to remind myself what the exam looks like. Later that year, Expert exam made its way to an online setting (previously it was only available at Alteryx conferences). I started to practice towards that, taking Advanced in December, and Expert itself in January 2021.

What I wanted to share was a comparison of these three levels of certification from a perspective of taking them recently, and how I would approach each of them.

Context

First of all, let’s take a look about some formalities around the certifications.

CoreAdvancedExpert
questions80447
practical Qs74all
duration2h2h3h
pass mark80%80%4/7
costfreefree$150
retake after7 days7 days2-3 months
users with this
certification as of
10th of March ’21
21,6482,54631
There are 32 Expert badges – Jesse Clark is now an Alteryx employee and has a new community account. Hence one extra badge issued (http://bit.ly/37NhGIN)

I had taken each of them once before and I have still found all of them pretty intense. Even Core and Advanced! The reason Core and Advanced were stressful for me is that I wanted to max out the exam – I was double-checking things I also knew by heart. This approach can be time-consuming and requires you to be quick with Alteryx. But it also pays off and you get to learn A LOT while taking the exam. Expert on the other hand was intense because there simply is barely enough time to pass it, not to mention maxing it out. And I did not pass it at my first attempt (Inspire Europ 2019) so wasn’t 100% I would pass it this time.

How to prepare

Before we get into specific recommendations there are prep guides for all of the certifications – make sure to familiarise yourself with them to know what the exams focus on. That way you can make a plan for learning and revision prior to the exam.

Core

The main resource I used for learning Alteryx was Weekly Challenges. If you haven’t heard of them before, they are set tasks with given input and what the output should look like. The goal is to build the process with alteryx. At the moment there are 250+ challenges in ranging levels of difficulty and topics. They are very helpful to learn how to use new tools and solve problems outside of your day-to-day work. For start, beginner level challenges should be enough but if you’re up for a challenge, try an intermediate one too!

Another resource I would highly recommend for Core exam are sample workflows. Most of the tools in Alteryx will have a sample workflow with examples of how it’s used and its configuration. There are two routes to access them:

  1. Help → Sample Workflows → Learn one tool at a time → [Select a tool category] → [Select a tool]
  1. Click on a tool in the ribbon at the top, tool description should show up with Open Example link if the sample workflow is available for that tool

The sample workflows are great if you are not sure how a particular tool works or how to set it up.

Advanced

For Advanced certification, I am going to suggest even more Weekly Challenges. Especially that this certification checks your knowledge in a broader range of the tools – some that might not be familiar based solely on your work. Definitely go into intermediate challenges and work through macros, apps, and spatial tasks. This is also motivated by more complex practical questions than in Core exam.

If some of the topics covered in Advanced are completely new to you, Interactive Lessons might come in handy. They will be great to get the taste of how things work and you can move on to Weekly Challenges afterwards!

At this point, it might be also useful to think about some personal projects you can work on that incorporate advanced topics. This is how I learn best at least.

Expert

Stepping up! My approach for Expert was to do all Weekly Challenges. If not all all, aim for all advanced ones. Practice is key here as all questions on the exam are practical.

Again, you can look at Interactive Lessons. Especially that there are more topics added now.

If you want to practice solving wildcard problems with Alteryx, give the Community forum a go – you will have the chance to help someone else while also learning a lot! I know many people find it helpful and enjoyable.

Just like with Advanced certification, try to come up with some personal projects and tasks that would require using various categories of tools. Particularly the ones you are not familiar with them. In many cases, you can build your own data sets (hello APIs and webscraping!) or find free data sets ready to use. I think the most difficult category to practice is In-DB tools – a solution might be spinning up a local instance of a DB, eg. MySQL or PostgreSQL. A thing to keep in mind is that SQL syntax and functionality might vary among those different frameworks. Either learn all of them OR (and I would lean towards that) get a basic understanding of SQL and be prepared for some quick web search when needed.

Finally, know what’s available to you during the exam and prepare for that too. Being successful in using Alteryx is not about knowing things by heart – it’s about knowing how to find solutions. That might be articles, the Alteryx Community forum, sample workflows, and anything that can come to mind. In terms of online resources, you can use anything that’s publically available and does not require a login (and Alteryx Community at all times). However, you are not allowed to download things. When you’re learning a new topic, find what online resources are available that you might want to get back to (during the exam or some other time!).

Sample workflows are also allowed and they are a great source of information. Similar to suggestion for Core, you might want to look at sample workflows for specific tools. There are also workflows introducing predictive and prescriptive analytics, as well as a starter kit which will take you through a process step by step.

Strategy

Now that you know what the learning plan is, let’s talk exam strategy.

Core & Advanced

For these two certifications, I had pretty much the same approach. Which was go in the order of questions, I use this as a sort of warm-up before practical ones which are usually later in the exam. That is to say that if you don’t know the answer and checking it takes too long, move on. It’s important to remember that the practical questions count more than multiple-choice ones. Some might be suggesting starting with the practical ones first. Your choice.

Because I have internal pressure to max out Core and Advanced, I tend to double-check everything in Alteryx. That can be time-consuming, especially if you don’t know where to look. But that way you can use certification exam as a learning opportunity!

Before the exam itself, I like to take a piece of paper and write down a number for each question coming up, so that I can make notes of whether the question is answered or if I am not confident about my response. There is a system in place that you can use on the exam platform, but I prefer pen and paper. It’s just easier for me.

After the exam, you will get information whether you passed or not. But you should also get category breakdown on how well you did in terms of tool categories. Take note of the categories that you didn’t score well for – that way you can target your future learning (even if you passed)!

Expert

The Expert exam layout is significantly different to Core and Advanced. For details, please refer to User Guide. The exam is proctored (meaning you’re being watched while taking it), it lasts three hours and consist of seven practical questions. The questions can be from any area of Alteryx Designer (although the Prep Guide will direct you towards some more defined topics). This means the strategy needs to be different.

Any of the questions can be a complete wildcard, so it’s very important to read through all of the questions. Assess whether you know how to approach it, what might be necessary to solve it and, very importantly, how long might it take to solve it. You need four correct answers to pass the exam so being able to assess whether the solution is correct will come in handy too (for example answering an open question is more difficult to confirm you’ve done good versus replicating an output).

Once I knew my questions, I was very happy to realise that I was confident in being able to solve any of them (unlike at my first attempt, I attribute the difference to mostly more intensive prep I did the second time). This is why I focused on the questions I thought I could solve in the shortest time. I ended up attempting five questions and having four correct answers, so trying to squeeze in that one more solution might be exactly what you’ll need too.

During my exam, I had a problem with one of the questions. I was getting errors in Alteryx and troubleshooting was not going as I would have hoped. I decided to move on (and hoped I’ll have enough time to get back and fix that workflow). I started to think about what other question I should work on instead, and the sinking feeling of having spent 20-30 minutes on a potentially fruitless solution… But with a three-hour exam, ain’t nobody got time for that. I took a deep breath and continued. Focusing on something else helped me shift my perspective enough that I managed to get the troubling workflow to work! The point is, you might need to make a difficult decision, so know what’s best for you – whether to persevere with the question until it’s solved, or work on something else and retry later.

By the way, I found Expert exam so exhausting mentally that I could barely do any work later that day. Make sure you’re rested and have a slower day. Or take the time off if you can!

That’s it from me! Good luck with taking any Alteryx Certifications and have fun with it 😊

Hanna Nykowska

London, UK

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