(FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR OWN HOME!)
Industry certifications are a great way to prove to your employer, colleagues, clients – and sometimes most importantly – yourself, that you have the skills and knowledge to work with key tools and technologies to a high standard.
Microsoft’s role-based certifications are as good a place as any to start, as regardless of whether you’re looking to advance in your field, take a bit of a side-step or pursue something new and different – it’s unlikely you’ll escape Microsoft and their wide range of products and services.
Power BI is one of our favourite Microsoft tools, and research shows that it’s growing rapidly in use across a wide range of sectors and industries. Gartner identified it to be the analytics and business intelligence tool for 2021. And for good reason – it’s a flexible yet powerful tool, with an intuitive interface that empowers users to extract, model, transform, visualise and analyse data effectively.
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It’s now more important than ever to get to grips with the software and upskill in data analysis.
- Rising customer expectations mean that we need to make decisions faster, and by harnessing and tapping into data we can make better, smarter decisions.
- We have access to an alarming amount of data – the vastly increasing types and complexity of data will continue to grow.
- Power BI allows us to do something different to what we’ve done before. Historically, data was transformed, visualised and analysed by IT resources. With tools like Power BI, which are geared to the wider consumer market – taking complex operations and functions and making them available in an intuitive graphical user interface – anyone can process and analyse the data. And when specialist resources, such as accountants and geologists and engineers are empowered to analyse their own data, they know exactly what to look for, what it means and what actions need to be taken.
The DA-100 Data Analyst certification is the Power BI certification and allows users the opportunity to broaden their experience in working with the Power BI Service and Desktop application interface and build skills in preparing, modelling, visualising and analysing data.
Okay, let’s get started on what you need to do to get certified for free.
Step 1: Complete a Microsoft Ignite Cloud Skills Challenge
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- Go to the Microsoft Ignite Cloud Skills Challenge page
- Create an account or log in with your credentials
- Choose a challenge and get started – we’d recommend the Data Analyst challenge as this focuses on helping you to build the skills you need to pass the DA-100 exam. Remember to complete all of the modules in the collection
- Can I use my existing work email Microsoft account? You can use a Microsoft account or create a new account – but the account used to log in will receive the free exam voucher.
- How long does it take to complete a challenge? This depends on the challenge you choose. The Data Analyst Challenge takes roughly 18 hours – some other challenges are estimated to take longer, some take less time.
- What’s the deadline? It’s a pretty tight deadline to get through all of the materials – the Microsoft Ignite Cloud Skills Challenge starts on March 2, 2021, at 4:00 PM UTC and ends on March 30, 2021, at 4:00 PM UTC. You have to complete all modules within the challenge before the deadline. But, if you’re tight for time and need to click through modules quite quickly, and you don’t feel as though you’ve learned the content well enough, don’t worry! In Step 3, we’ll revise all of this information!
Step 2: Redeem your Free Certification Exam
- Follow the instructions in the email from Microsoft to book your exam with Pearson VUE
- Schedule the online proctored exam for a time that suits you – remember to consider the estimated duration of the exam when scheduling around other commitments
- What are the terms and conditions? They’re all listed on the Microsoft Docs page
- How does the online proctored exam work? This page explains all the pre-requisites (including system prep and requirements) as well as what to expect on the day of the exam. The best advice that we can give would be to sit the exam on your own personal laptop or computer. Avoid using a computer or laptop issued by your work (even if you are logging in using your work email credentials). There can potentially be an issue with the firewalls that your work has installed on the network that will prevent the Pearson VUE system from running smoothly.
- What other certifications can I take? There are a wide range of certifications that are eligible across Azure, Microsoft 365 and Security, Compliance and Identity:
AZ-104: Microsoft Azure Administrator
DP-100: Designing and Implementing a Data Science Solution on Azure
MS-700: Managing Microsoft Teams
MS-100: Microsoft 365 Identity and Services
MS-101: Microsoft 365 Mobility and Security
DA-100: Analyzing Data with Microsoft Power BI
SC-200: Microsoft Security Operations Analyst (beta)
SC-300: Microsoft Identity and Access Administrator (beta)
SC-400: Microsoft Information Protection Administrator (beta)
Step 3: Get Studying
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- The Microsoft Learning Path is the best way to prepare for the exam, as it contains all the outcomes included in the skills measured for the certification. The Learning Path breaks down the content into manageable chunks that you can easily work-through as well as hands on exercises that put your skills and knowledge into practice. Look familiar? It’s the same content included in the Ignite Challenge.
- In addition to the Learning Path, it’s also important to supplement your learning by putting some of the learning into practice with your own data. Use the data to ask and answer questions about your subject-matter.
- It’s also important to prepare for the exam by practicing exam questions – you can do this for free on the Learn Data Insights website. The quizzes can help you to identify any areas that you need to focus additional time and effort on in advance of the exam.
- Can I practice for free? The Power BI Desktop application is completely free and can be downloaded from the Microsoft Store. When working on a device issued by your work, you may need to submit a request for the application to be pushed to your device.
- Where can I find practice datasets? Its great fun to practice with data that you’re used to working with – if you’re anything like me, you have at least 10 massive spreadsheets that you’re in and out of on a day-to-day basis. Taking this data into Power BI can provide you access to new insights and allow you to see it in a way that you never have before.
- I don’t have any data, where can I search for some? There are millions of free datasets online. One of the best places to get started is the Google Dataset Search, this is essentially a search engine specifically for datasets https://datasetsearch.research.google.com/ search for topics that interest you – remember, public services and government bodies have a requirement to report on some key areas, this can be a good place to start!
Step 4: Sit and Pass the Exam
It really is as simple as that! Provided you’ve taken the steps to prepare, you should find the exam challenging but definitely not impossible. If you’ve previously sat Microsoft exams, you’ll know that a lot of it comes down to reading and re-reading the question, to make sure you’re not caught out.
Let us know how it goes! And if you have any questions, just give us a shout.