If you’re seeking Google Analytics certification and wondering if you can roll the dice on passing the exam with little to no preparation, here’s a quick answer: Probably not.

Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful and comprehensive platform, so the test covers a lot of ground. I took and passed the exam last month, and I’m here to offer you a quick and dirty guide on how to pass it, too. But first, some basics:

What Kind of Test is This Anyway?

The Google Analytics exam is a 90-minute, multiple-choice test that covers both basic and advanced Google Analytics concepts and practices. The exam is 70 questions long and requires an 80% score or higher to pass. Once you pass, your certification is valid for 18 months.

Who Should Take the Exam?

Google Analytics is a useful platform for pretty much everyone who builds, manages, or runs a website. But it’s especially useful for:

  • Small Business Owners (including e-commerce businesses)
  • Digital Marketers or Content Marketers
  • Digital Consultants or Strategists
  • SEO, Web Optimization, or Digital Analysts/Consultants

 Why Should You Take the Exam?

In order to know if your website is succeeding in reaching potential customers, driving new business, retaining customers, or selling products and services, you have to see the data. For this, Google Analytics is the way, the truth, and the light.

Even if you already use Google Analytics on a regular basis, becoming certified is a great way to learn about functionalities or capabilities that have recently been added or that you never knew existed.

 How Should I Prepare for the Exam? 

Completing courses in the Analytics Academy and gaining experience using Google Analytics are the best ways to prepare. The Analytics Academy offers five courses: Digital Analytics Fundamentals, Google Analytics Platform Principles, E-commerce Analytics, Mobile App Analytics Fundamentals, and Google Tag Manager Fundamentals.

Of these, the Digital Analytics Fundamentals and Google Analytics Platform Principles courses are crucial for passing the exam. The other three are great resources, but the bulk of the test comes from the first two courses.

Here are a few extra tips:

  • Complete the Digital Analytics Fundamentals and Google Analytics Platform Principles courses in their entirety—including all unit activities and final assessments.
  • If you miss any questions in the activities or final assessments, make sure you understand why you got them wrong. Review the lessons again and re-take the assessment. Some exam questions are lifted directly from the final assessments and activities, so you’ll want to make sure you know those answers.
  • Take notes, preferably in Word or on Google Drive, so you can do Command+F (or Control+F, if that’s how you roll) and find the answers you need quickly during the exam.
  • It’s not a bad idea to slow down the videos in the Analytics Academy so you can take notes without having to pause, rewind, and restart.
    • To slow down the video, click on the settings icon (the little gear next to the Closed Captioning Button) and choose Speed 0.5. You can also turn on Closed Captioning if you learn best by reading.

What to Know (Like, Really Well)

For the 2016 exam, you’ll want to make yourself especially familiar with the following:

  1. Measuring Business Objectives and Outcomes: Google really wants to make sure you know why the Google Analytics platform exists and why digital analytics matter. (Hint: The answer rhymes with pleasuring business objectives and outcomes.)
  2. Multi-Channel Funnels: Google is proud of this feature, so make sure you know what it is and how to use it, even if you don’t think you’ll use it much for your job. (This information is found Digital Analytics Fundamentals, lesson 6.3)
  3. Attribution: For e-commerce especially, it’s important to know which channels are responsible for conversions and which are responsible for driving awareness. This is where the attribution model comes in handy. Review these sections carefully and complete all of the activities, even if you don’t think you’ll use it much. (This information is found in Digital Analytics Fundamentals, lessons 2.3 and 6.4)

Wait, is This Test Actually Hard?

The test is not easy, but it’s no bar exam either. Let’s break it down by experience level to offer a clearer answer:

  • Noobs: If you’re new to Google Analytics, I’d suggest spending an hour or two per day, for at least a week, studying the materials and getting to know the entire Google Analytics platform and lexicon. Create a test account (this is included in the Digital Analytics Fundamentals course, lesson 4) so you can actually see how it works. You may also want to get access to an account that has historical data so you can work with real website information. Do all of the lessons in the Analytics Academy, complete all of the activities, and take the final assessments for Digital Analytics Fundamentals and Digital Analytics Platform Principles.
  • Not noobs, but not not noobs (put simply, intermediate): If you don’t use Google Analytics much or haven’t used it in years, I would suggest spending a few days studying and absorbing the materials in the Analytics Academy. Complete the lessons and activities that seem unfamiliar to you and take the final assessments for the Digital Analytics Fundamentals and Google Analytics Platform Principles.
  • Experienced users: If you already use Google Analytics or are getting re-certified, it would still be helpful to take the final assessments at the end of the Digital Analytics Fundamentals and Google Analytics Platform Principles courses. And it can’t hurt to complete the activities just to be sure you’re aware of any new features Google may have rolled out.

 Taking the Test

The test is “open book,” meaning you can use notes, the lessons themselves, and the internet. But the timer doesn’t stop once you get started, so be sure to have all of your information handy. Make sure your internet connection is stable and, if you’re at work, tell your co-workers you’ll be unavailable for the next 90 minutes. Lastly, in order to take this test, you or your company must have a Google Partners account.

Here are a few extra tips:

  • Read all of the questions carefully before selecting your answer.
  • Sometimes two answers are right, so select the one best solution.
  • You cannot skip a question, mark it for later, or go back, so be sure of your answer before you click submit.
  • You may see the same question asked two ways throughout the test, which is tricky and annoying. Try to answer the same as you did the first time.
  • Google won’t tell you which answers you got wrong at the conclusion of the exam, so keep track of any questions that really threw you for a loop, or that you weren’t sure about in case you need to re-take the exam.

Links you’ll want to have open during the test:

Additional Resources

These are not necessary to past the test, but they could be useful in your preparation— especially if you’re on the novice end of the spectrum.

  • Avinash Kaushik’s blog: If Google mentions anything related to Avinash Kaushik, there’s a good chance it will be on the exam. If you see a link to his blog in the course lessons or additional reading, it might be wise to at least scroll through and maybe jot down a few notes.
  • Volume Nine’s Google Analytics Certification Guide: I found this blog post helpful in preparing for the test! They offer a more extensive write-up of some of the exam’s sections, but the exam has changed a bit since this post was published.

Best of luck! The exam is a great way to be introduced to Google Analytics, or to learn more about it if you already use it. Keep in mind that if you don’t pass on the first try, it’s not a big deal. You can take it again after seven days!

Long live Google Analytics. When you pass, come talk data to me.