Changes in Microsoft certification offerings is to be expected, primarily because we are working with platforms, products and services that are continually evolving in our cloud-first world. A few years back, we saw a significant change with the introduction of role-based certifications, first affecting Microsoft Azure and then rolled out more generally across Microsoft 365 and Business Applications. Microsoft also put concerns around having to sit and pay for exam attempts every 1-2 years to bed, thanks to the introduction of minimum validity periods for each certification and a corresponding, free online renewal assessment to maintain a certification. This change is welcome, particularly for those who run smaller partners (like me 😉) who can’t necessarily afford the cost for continual exam attempts at £113 a pop. And also, from a learning standpoint, it’s vital that technical professionals only need to brush up on what’s new since they last passed an exam, rather than retreading old ground.
Given this background and the commitments made, it was interesting to see the introduction of a replacement exam for the current DA-100: Analyzing Data with Microsoft Power BI exam. Effective tomorrow, we will have a new exam, PL-300: Microsoft Power BI Data Analyst, introduced. Changes like these are always worth a bit of dissection, as they can impact aspiring candidates and many partner organisations across the globe who rely on these certifications and teach Microsoft Official Courses (MOCs) aligned to each exam. Let’s dive in to see how big of a change we are talking about here and whether there’s anything to worry about…
So What’s Changed?
Whenever we want to see “what’s up” with a new exam, the first port of call is the Skills Measured document, which provides a breakdown of all subject areas that the exam will cover. At a high level, the table below illustrates the fundamental difference between both exams, in terms of subjects and - crucially - weighting (i.e. the expected number of questions we may receive):
|Prepare the Data (20-25%)||Prepare the Data (15-20%)|
|Model the Data (25-30%)||Model the Data (30-35%)|
|Visualize the Data (20-25%)||Visualize and Analyze the Data (25-30%)|
|Analyze the Data (10-15%)||Deploy and Maintain Assets (20 - 25%)|
|Deploy and Maintain Deliverables (10-15%)|
So broadly speaking, not much has changed. The main effort seems to have been to consolidate the number of areas, which explains why the Analyze and Visualize topics have been condensed down to one. As a result, there is now greater coverage of all topics in the exam. Other subjects have been dropped and moved into other areas instead. For example, in the topic area titled Profile the data has been dropped entirely from PL-300 and merged into Clean, transform and load the data instead. This is a minor subject area in the grander scheme of things but does touch upon some helpful functionality that forms part of Power Query’s data profiling tools. Altogether, the effort seems to have been more towards a general re-organisation of the exam structure instead of driving to replace large portions and drop others entirely.
Hands Off Data Platform, Power BI is Power Platform Now
It’s a minor thing of note, but the change of the exam code from DA to PL does now very clearly place Power BI firmly within the Power Platform, at least from a learning and marketing standpoint. It has felt over the years that Data Platform and Power Platform have been angry parents, fighting over who has the responsibility for poor little Power BI. 🤣 Perhaps with this change, we now know which parent has won out.
How to Earn the New Microsoft Certified: Power BI Data Analyst Associate Certification
Alongside introducing the new exam, Microsoft has chosen to rename the existing Microsoft Certified: Data Analyst Associate to Microsoft Certified: Power BI Data Analyst Associate, as announced in a blog post last month. This particular change is welcome, as it means that those who have previously passed the DA-100 certification will not need to sit the new exam; instead, the name should automagically appear on your transcript once the changes go live. And, as I’ve been told, all existing holders of the certification will go through the same renewal process via an online assessment (i.e. there will be no future requirement to sit PL-300 to maintain your certification). So, in summary, you have three ways in which you can earn this certification:
- By doing simply nothing, if you’ve passed DA-100 already.
- Sit and take the DA-100 exam before its expiry on March 31st 2022.
- Sit and take the new PL-300 exam after it goes live tomorrow (February 28th 2022)
To Switch or Not to Switch?
There’s a good chance that you may be preparing or have attended a DA-100 course and are considering switching to the new exam instead. My advice here is that if you’re sitting the exam on or before March 31st, proceed as planned. As we’ve noted already, the result will still be the same, and you can be confident that the current curriculum will get you into a ready state to attain a passing score. It’s also worth noting that new exams, particularly those in beta, can sometimes be a bit of a rocky road for new learners to grapple with, as Microsoft may not have addressed all errors. An interesting thing to note is that the current exam page for PL-300, compared to other newly released exams, doesn’t make any reference to the exam being released initially in beta:
This may suggest that the new exam will not go through this formal cycle and that, content/question wise, it will be operating off the same bank that DA-100 is currently using. I’m purely speculating here, so don’t make any lazy assumptions.
One outstanding issue about switching from DA-100 to PL-300, which I’m not sure about (answers on a postcard if you know), is if candidates currently booked for a DA-100 exam on, say, March 21st can then look to rebook for PL-300 on April 6th. This could be important, as there’s a potential for candidates to lose money or the validity of any free voucher they’ve been given. To avoid this issue, I’d recommend attempting the exam at some stage in March, at the latest date you are most comfortable with.
Conclusions or Wot I Think
To summarise, the overall change here seems to be more of rebadging and marketing exercise, more than anything. Existing candidates should, I hope, have little to fear as part of their journey, and I fully expect that the new exam and resulting MOC course will be virtually indistinguishable from what we have available currently. Hopefully, this should provide some satisfaction if you worry about these changes. To quote an excellent British phrase, it very much looks like we can Keep Calm and Carry On and, indeed, if you have your DA-100 exam booked for sometime in March, go ahead as planned.
Are you planning to sit the new PL-300 exam? What do you think about these latest changes? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!