Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tips for taking Google Analytics Individual Qualification (IQ) exam

Passing the Google Analytics IQ exam is not incredibly difficult as long as you are adequately prepared. However, if you take this test for granted you will not receive a passing score. After recently taking and passing the exam, here are some tips that may help you should you decide to earn proof of proficiency in Google Analytics. Another good resource is Patrick Moogan's Passing the Google Analytics IQ Exam.

1. Whether you have years of analytics experience or none, take the time to watch all of the Google Analytics IQ Lessons. Each lesson covers a lot of material very quickly and is a great learning tool even if you do not shell out the $50 to take the qualification exam.

2. The exam is "open book" so make sure you keep a browser tab open to the Google Analytics Help Center and also another with a Google Analytics account. Many of the questions on the exam are specific to the GA interface, so it helps to be able to go into a GA dashboard to double-check your answers. Even though you can search for help, don't rely on it. For most questions, I had a pretty good idea what the answer was, but it's nice to be able to double-check.

3. The test is 90 minutes long and consists of 70 questions (as of March 14, 2010, anyway). You need to answer 56 questions (80 percent) correctly in order to pass. If you search for information on the test, you will likely see 75 percent mentioned as the passing score. This is no longer the case, as the passing score was raised to 80 percent earlier this year. Each question is multiple choice but many are of the check-as-many-that-apply variety, which can get tricky. Many questions also require you to have a strong grasp of the GA tracking code, how to modify it and also a solid understanding of regular expressions.

4. Even though the test is only 90 minutes long, you can pause the test at any time and come back (you have five days to finish after starting it). When you pause the test, it exits you completely from the exam so you are unable to see any remaining questions. However, let's say you were to use Snipping Tool or some other screen capture tool on a particular tough question BEFORE you pause the test. That would allow you to take some extra time on some of the more difficult questions.

5. Most of my analytics experience is for content-based sites that have little, if any, e-commerce conversions to track. That's probably why I found the e-commerce sections of the test to be the most difficult, so be prepared for plenty of e-commerce questions, as well as integration with Google Adwords. Again, many of the questions are interface-related, so, for example, make sure you know where to go to enable autotagging, where to add/edit user access, etc.

6. Prepare and take your time. I hate taking timed tests and found myself tempted to rush through the test as that clock ticked down. The test does allow you to mark questions if you want to come back to it later. I highly recommend taking advantage of that feature.

You might be asking yourself, "As a journalist, why would I need proof of proficiency in a web analytics program?" Good question. It's very possible you do not. But in a business that is increasingly Web-first, it certainly couldn't hurt and may give you an edge over another candidate for a job opening. For independent bloggers and news gatherers, having strong analytics skills is invaluable. It's important to know who came to your site, where your visitors came from, what they searched for and, in some cases, why and how.