How to Prepare for Microsoft's Power BI Exam (DA-100)

November 2, 2022

What Is The DA-100 Exam?

Microsoft's DA-100 Exam for Analyzing Data with Power BI tests your knowledge of Power BI, from importing data with Power Query to certifying and promoting completed datasets to your organization.

Pass the exam to receive Microsoft's Data Analyst Associate certification, including this cool badge. The certification is good for two years. And the certification is also estimated to be worth two college credits, so it's no walk in the park even for longtime Power BI users.

A passing score on the exam is 700 out of 1000, or 70%. The exam is pass / fail, so a score of 700 gets you the same certification as someone who gets a 999.

There are paid practice exams, books and instructor-led training sessions that you could take, or you can follow these steps and get high quality preparation materials for free.

Power BI Starting Skill Level Assumptions

This method works best if you're already an intermediate Power BI user. If you are comfortable with Power Query, writing DAX expressions and designing a report in both Power BI Desktop and the Power BI service then read on. It's okay to have a few weak areas, for example mine are paginated reports and security rules. But you'll want a solid foundation to start with.

As of May 25, 2021 the exam covers the following areas:

  • Prepare the data (20-25%)
  • Model the data (25-30%)
  • Visualize the data (20-25%)
  • Analyze the data (10-15%)
  • Deploy and maintain deliverables (10-15%)

Note that every few months the exam content will be revised slightly.

How to Prepare for the Exam for Free

Depending on your free time you'll want to start studying about a month before your scheduled exam date. More than that and you'll forget key concepts, less than a month and you may not be able to review everything.

1. Download and study the latest exam skills outline

It can be found on the exam description page's Skills Measured section. This five page PDF is a bullet point list of every possible skill they may test you on. Make a note of any area you aren't very familiar with.

2. Complete the 18 Hour Self-Directed Learning Courses

Microsoft provides really detailed self-paced training on every facet of the exam. Here are the courses to complete:

Each course contains several chapters of text with screenshots showing how things look in Power BI. At the end of each learning path is a Check Your Knowledge 3 question multiple choice quiz. There may also be a Lab that asks you to complete a detailed exercise in Power BI. Of the 18 hours of content it is about half labs and half reading the training materials.

As you go through each chapter be sure to have a notes app like OneNote open on your screen to save key sentences or screenshots. Taking notes will help key concepts stick around in your brain for longer and provide a summarized, centralized repository to review before exam day.

I initially skipped the labs then completed a few the night before the exam. I mistakenly thought that the exam would have a hands-on portion in Power BI. While there are 'case studies' in the actual exam, they are still just multiple choice questions referring to a photo or an imaginary scenario. I'll say it again, in the actual exam you won't be using Power BI at all but you may be imagining the Power BI Desktop screen for some multiple choice questions. It's like the difference between playing piano and reading sheet music and humming along. For me, that made the labs in the courses less helpful test preparation tools.

3. Review Your Notes

The day before the exam, sit and read through your detailed notes and screenshots. Try and cram as many Power BI terms and definitions into your head as you can. Semantics like knowing the difference between a Viewer and Contributor role or the difference between Column Quality and Column Profile views can trip you up in the exam.

And that's it! If you sign up for the exam already comfortable with using Power BI then you won't have much work to clear the 70% passing score hurdle on exam day. Good luck!

Bonus Tips: Taking the Exam for Free / Reduced Price

Complete the Microsoft Ignite Cloud Skills Challenge for a free certification exam. For the past few years, every March Microsoft has offered this challenge as a companion to its Ignite conference. After completing the free self-directed training they will email you a code for a free certification exam.

For a limited time Microsoft is offering the exam for $15 (normally $165) for job seekers and students.

Exam Day

Exam scoring is instant on the remote testing option: you will see your score when you submit your answers.  The scoring is very simple, I hesitate to call it a report. Here is what mine looked like. It also had my total score number.