I did my Microsoft DA-100 Power BI exam this morning and I passed! My 2020 milestone has finally been achieved after working with Power BI for the last 9 months or so. It took about 1 month for me to prepare and revise before taking the courage to pull the trigger. This explains why TheBabylonians blog has been pretty inactive lately.
1. What is the Microsoft DA-100 Power BI Certification?
To start off, this DA-100 cert is actually a new certification released by Microsoft in 2020. This exam would replace the old 70-778 Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Microsoft Power BI. The difference is Microsoft wants to focus certification more towards role-based rather than specific skill sets.
DA-100 is a data analyst associate role that tests your understanding and ability to use Power BI to generate business value.
Power BI is not difficult to learn and get started, but the learning curve can get steep when it comes to DAX and evaluation context. They say that once you understand evaluation context you master DAX.
I started on my new job wanting to do data analytics with zero experience. My boss suggested Power BI and that is the very first time I heard of that term. Fortunately, I was given a chance to be on a project for a trial period and see if there is a fit. The contract got extended and here I am today.
Most of my learning was through YouTube videos and trials & errors. Visualisations are easy and that is something you can start immediately. Data cleaning, structuring and writing complex measures are more advance topics but it is possible with time and effort.
So I believe anyone can learn Power BI today easily, especially when resources are more widely available today. Plus it is free to download and use. I have also written some blog posts on how to use Power BI for stock analysis. That can be a good starting point for learning purposes.
2. Demand for Power BI Skills
Power BI is increasingly becoming more popular as businesses are looking to tap into unutilised data. There is no better time to be in this industry that is growing at a considerable pace.
Power BI is also being recognised as a leader and it ranks higher than Tableau in terms of vendor’s innovation and vendor’s market responsiveness, product development among many others. There are always new tools, features and Power BI is increasingly becoming more powerful over each monthly update.
You can have all the data you want in an organisation, but if it is not translated into anything, it is an opportunity forgone. Management would have no idea what went wrong, what is the trend, what to improve. It would be unconscious incompetence. We don’t know what we don’t know.
In the past, machinery efficiency is evaluated to convert raw materials into products. In the future, data analysts and algorithms will be evaluated to convert raw data into strategic insights.
That is the field of business intelligence within the broad field of data science. Do consider this certification if you are venturing into the field of data analytics in general.
3. DA-100 Exam Experience
Speaking of the exam, it is relatively tough but manageable. Based on my research and sources, people who have experienced working with Power BI all mentioned that it is not easy for them. You need a minimum of 700 points out of 1000 to get a pass.
There are a total of 56 questions for me and you are given 180 minutes to complete the questions. You have more than enough time to do the test so don’t rush. I completed everything in about 2 hours and 40 minutes.
You would know your results immediately after you submit the test.
The questions are divided into 2 case studies and the rest are general questions. It can come in the form of MCQs, drag and drop, binary yes/no or sorting the orders. The advantage of such format is you can do the elimination method to narrow down your choices.
The second advantage is Microsoft gives you an exam outline on what you are being tested. If you follow tightly and master every single pointer, you are off a good start. The weightage allocation and questions that came out are accurately depicted from the guidelines. It is as if the lecturer told you what exactly would be tested in the exam.
The rest is really based on experience and hands-on practice. If you are in the field for more than 6 months like myself, some of the answers would come to you intuitively. If you are completely new, you need a lot of practice to get familiar with the way things are done in Power BI.
That’s why you see it is a 2-star badge with the associate title. It is designed for people who are already in the industry with some level of experience. It’s not like those where you can just watch some videos and follow along with the tutorials before checking out to a badge at the end.
The exam costs US$165 to take and it is valid for 2 years.
After knowing how the exam questions are, I imagined myself being an employer. If someone walks in the door with the DA-100 cert, I will be quite convinced that he or she has a good understanding of Power BI.
4. Tips & Advice for DA-100 Exam Preparations
Here are some tips I have for those who are interested in taking the exam.
Your foundation must be strong and Power BI fundamentals start with relationships in data structures. If you are unsure of how relationships work, it is going to be tough. Also get comfortable with data cleansing, table transformations, data wrangling, manipulation and how each DAX measure works.
If you can wrap your head around the above concepts, it is easy for you to breakdown the questions and analyses each of the available options. You have to mentally picture and rehearse the process of what would happen and what is the outcome. So your foundational concepts must be strong.
Additionally, remember that this is a data analyst role-based certification. So it means you should not only know how to create reports but also maintain security issues and administrative rights within the workspace and Power BI service.
The DA-100 really does its job well in making the exam a role-based one. This means it is insufficient that you are a master of DAX, a visualisation designer or a SQL expert. It requires you to know the end-to-end process and your goal is to be the jack-of-all-trades within Power BI. If you can’t connect the dots, you won’t have a good understanding of the question.
For those who are new and keen to take this examination, I would imagine you need a lot of practice and experience. For me personally, I have been doing Power BI work on a daily basis since the early start of this year. And I still do struggle with some of the questions. So practice is extremely important if you are new.
Lastly, go through the learning paths and modules about Power BI on Microsoft’s website. Read through all the documentation and cross-check your knowledge against the exam outlines. Read and re-read. Practice and re-practice. Repeat until stagnation and strengthen your foundation. After which, I am confident you will pass this exam.
Good luck and all the best!