Want to gain notoriety for your Power BI prowess? Looking to pad your resume with Microsoft certifications? Or, are you ready to transition your career into the world of business intelligence? The DA-100 exam is the game-changer you’re looking for.
A game-changing Microsoft certification exam may sound sappy, but stay with me. The value in devoting your time to this particular Microsoft exam is more about gaining knowledge in all the stages of a business intelligence solution, rather than checking something off your to-do list.
Preparing for the DA-100 exam opens your eyes to concepts much greater than the Power BI platform—like star-schema data modeling, data cleansing, row-level security, performance tuning, and advanced analytics. Power BI is different because the platform spans the full spectrum of business intelligence, not just data visualization. Instead of getting on my soapbox about Power BI, I will simply link to my BI tool comparison chart and rest my case.
The point is…you’re here today because you made the decision to improve your data skills and gain knowledge in a crazy competitive workforce. You’ve taken that first important step. Now let’s help you prep and pass the DA-100 Microsoft exam.
What is DA-100 and Why is It Relevant?
I have been thoroughly impressed with Microsoft’s learning and certification overhaul that provides comprehensive tools for a hungry workforce seeking to re-skill in the wake of COVID-19.
Microsoft has moved away from technology-specific certifications to a more real-world approach, broken down into these classifications:
- Role-Based – Associate Level and Expert Level
These classifications fall under four main groups:
- Microsoft 365
- Modern Workplace
- Business Applications
Exam DA-100 is a role-based, associate-level certification for Data Analysts under the Azure certification hierarchy. (See the complete list and groupings here.) Another thing to note is that Exam DA-100 Analyzing Data with Power BI is a replacement of Exam 70-778: Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Microsoft Power BI.
The median salary for an entry-level Data Analyst is north of $60K…not too shabby, right? That’s why the DA-100 exam is relevant today. Becoming a Microsoft certified data analyst is obviously a smart career move as it will help you stand out and move up.
How to Prep and Pass the Microsoft DA-100 Exam
There is no easy button to push here. If you want to pass the Microsoft DA-100 exam, you’ll need to prep beforehand. I recently passed the DA-100 exam and I learned many things along the way. Hopefully these suggestions will help you succeed with your exam.
1. Find a study partner or study group
Find a study partner or get a study group together to stay accountable for continuing your progress. I was fortunate to find a study group of Power BI enthusiasts on Twitter, led by the wonderful Cecilia Brusatori. We met once a week for six weeks to keep our studies on track and share our learnings before I sat down for my DA-100 exam.
So, how do you find a study group?
- Search #PowerBI on Twitter or LinkedIn.
- Post on the community Power BI forums.
- Find a local Power BI user group and post on their forum.
- Feel free to join our Portland Power BI User Group community.
- Or, explore other Meetup groups in your area.
2. Review the exam content
DO NOT—I repeat—DO NOT feel overwhelmed! I understand the scope of the DA-100 exam may seem daunting, but I promise you this exam is doable. Also remember that preparing for this Microsoft certification exam will make you a better data analyst and business intelligence professional.
Okay, now that all of THAT is out of the way. When you’re ready, you can find the DA-100 exam content under “Skills measured” on the exam home page.
3. Run through Dashboard in a Day
Microsoft has built, maintained, and continually enhanced a self-paced training called Dashboard in a Day (DIAD). The Dashboard in a Day training content provides a great data set you can use for future tinkering and hands-on experience after you finish the self-paced portion.
There are trainings from Microsoft partners (like us!) happening all over the world in virtually every time zone. Find the next CSG Pro Dashboard in a Day training on our Events Calendar or watch the self-paced video series by Brian Grant.
4. Complete the DA-100 Learning Path
The self-paced modules Microsoft provides for free really blew me away. They are comprehensive, rich with real-world examples, and the learning modules provide robust lab portions to build solutions. Seriously, what more can you ask for?
All you have to do is navigate to the DA-100 homepage, scroll down to the bottom, and under “Two ways to prepare” make sure you have “Online-Free” selected to see all the modules.
Complete every single module, take every mini-quiz, and probe further to test your understanding if anything doesn’t make sense. Community forums and Google search are your new best friends.
5. Gain real-world experience
Nothing can top synthesizing all of your learning than gaining real-world experience. If your background is in business intelligence, or if you currently are a data analyst that has built and published a Power BI solution, you can skip this section and go right to the DA-100 exam—you are ready!
For those who don’t have the luxury of real-world experience, or if you’re switching careers, it’s time to get creative. In my opinion, this is a much better route than paying for instructor-led training. You can pad your resume with experience and get a shiny certification, also known as a win-win.
Some great ways to find an achievable Power BI project is to network on community forums or social networks looking for a gig. Most non-profits or advocacy groups would be overjoyed to have someone build a Power BI report and explain how to use it. You might strike gold and get compensated for your time or even be provided email credentials for a Power BI Pro license. It never hurts to ask.
You could also do a pet project with public data sets like data.gov, Airbnb, or Azure open datasets to experiment with connecting to a wide array of data from exports to APIs. Try and think of a business case or data story to tell based on your data sources.
As long as you’re using non-sensitive, public data, you can use the publish to the web feature of Power BI to save from licensing costs to share your report with others. Once published, you can add your solution to the community Data Stories Gallery or even your LinkedIn profile.
7. Purchase and schedule the DA-100 exam
Before you schedule your exam, consider purchasing an “Exam Replay” or “Exam Replay with Practice Test” from the Microsoft certifications deals hub. Unfortunately, at the time I took my DA-100 exam, there was no practice test available. So I went with the Exam Replay.
Why shell out more money when we have pinched pennies throughout all of our DA-100 prep so far? Simply put, the anxiety of only having one-shot to pass may be the reason you fail. The less you double-guess your intuition and feel more relaxed…the better you will do. And, if you fail? Dust yourself off and try again.
Navigate to the DA-100 homepage and follow the button “Schedule with Pearson VUE”. You will be taken to a totally separate portal to complete the scheduling for your exam. I recommend scheduling for the morning if you can to avoid cognitive fatigue before the exam gauntlet.
8. Know what to expect with the DA-100 exam
In my honest opinion, I feel like the structure of the exam was more difficult than the content being tested. Here is the DA-100 exam structure I experienced:
- Two case studies—once you advance you cannot go back. Expect lots of extraneous details. Read the question first then explore the exhibit and datasets before answering.
- Question/answer series without being able to return to the previous question.
- Real-world data situation for a Power BI solution, with team roles asking you to make the best recommendation.
- Typical multiple choice.
- Arrange steps towards solving a data problem or creating a report element.
- Fill in the blank DAX formulas with a key.
The best advice I can give you on exam day is this: Take a deep breath, read the questions, formulate an answer before looking at the options, pick and move on.
Look…if I can pass the Microsoft DA-100 exam, so can you. I hope these tips help you become a Microsoft certified data analyst one day soon. And, when you do? Share your glory by adding your certification to LinkedIn and posting on social channels to promote others to follow your path.