Posted by Slingshot SEO
This post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.
When I hear the word, “cookies,” I generally think of warm, gooey homemade chocolate chip cookies. But when it comes to passing the Google Analytics Individual Qualification (GAIQ) test, I had to put my cravings for Mrs. Fields’ Nibblers aside and learn about the differences between first-party and third-party cookies.
Cookies are just one of the many topics covered on the exam, and passing can be a daunting task, especially for those unfamiliar with the program and its ever-changing features. The GAIQ test is one of the best ways to become a more knowledgeable user and deepen your understanding of Google Analytics. For those to new to GA or seeking additional tips & tricks, check out our Google Analytics Guide. Studying for the exam can be a fun process, and I would like to offer some advice so that you can pass as well.
The GAIQ Test
The test is limited to 90 minutes, consisting of 70 multiple choice questions with two to five answer choices. The trickiest part is that some questions ask you to select "all that apply," which means there can be up to 24 possible answer combinations for those questions (assuming you have to select one answer). The test can be accessed at the Google Testing Center, and each sitting costs $50. During the test, you have the ability to pause and come back anytime within the next five days. Although the questions vary in difficulty, it's an open book exam. The pass mark is 80%, which means you must answer at least 56 out of 70 questions correctly.
Preparing for the Exam
All the topics and content covered on the exam are available through Google’s Google Analytics IQ Lessons, formerly known as Conversion University, which consists of online lessons that are freely available for viewing at your leisure. There are 21 different presentations that are easily digestible and will last a total of roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes. However, these presentations move fairly quickly, so I recommend pausing and taking notes that you can use during the exam. A rough outline of topics is listed below:
- Accounts & Profiles
- Interface Navigation
- Tracking Code
- Interpreting Reports
- Traffic Sources
- Campaign Tracking & AdWords Integration
- Advanced Segments
- Regular Expressions
- E-Commerce Tracking
- Domains & Subdomains
- Custom Reports
- Motion Charts
- Internal Site Search
- Event Tracking & Virtual Page views
The GAIQ lessons are the best way to study for the test and should be your starting point. I recommend watching each video at least twice, and using your own Google Analytics profile in tandem with the videos, to practice and walk through each lesson to make sure you understand the topics. It is important to note that there have been many changes to Google Analytics over the past year, and Google has updated its exam in January 2012. The fundamental material covered on the exam has stayed the same, but if you are still using the old version of Analytics, you may want to get used to the new version and all of its new features before taking the exam.
I would not be surprised if Google started asking questions on features that are only available in the new version (multi-channel funnels, real-time analytics, social plugin analytics, and flow visualization). Also, there is always a chance that Google has made an update, but hasn’t changed the test question or GAIQ lesson videos. For example, the “__utmc” cookie is no longer used by the Google Analytics tracking code to determine session status, but it is still mentioned in the GAIQ lessons and could still be asked about on the exam as one of the cookies that Google sets. When in doubt, I would answer questions like this based on whatever has been taught in the GAIQ lessons. It is more likely that Google would not change the test without updating the videos first.
When Taking the Exam
For a “pass-the-exam” strategy, the most important thing to remember is to keep moving. Answer all of the easy questions first and don’t get tied down by any one question. You have roughly 1 minute and 16 seconds to answer each question, so if you answer all of the easy ones first, you can judge how much time you have left to finish the remaining, tougher questions. You have the ability to mark questions, answer them, or leave them incomplete. A good strategy is to answer the easy ones, mark the questions that require some research, and leave the questions you have absolutely no idea about blank. That way, during your second run-through, you can review all marked questions first and do the most difficult questions last. I feel safe in assuming that all questions are weighted equally in the score and that there is no penalty for guessing incorrectly.
During the test, I recommend having the following resources open on your computer: Google Analytics IQ Lessons, an Analytics account, the Google Help Center, and Jens Sorensen’s test notes. There will be some questions that require research, so keep these resources close.
I’ve included some original practice problems with solutions that will help you get ready for the exam. These problems are meant to challenge you, but do not necessarily represent how Google will test you on these topics. These problems should be a final test to take after watching all of the GAIQ lessons. They are available for download in the link below :-)
Passing the Exam
If you pass, Google sends you an email with an official certificate showing that you have passed the exam. The certificate is valid for 18 months from the date of the passed exam. Google does not give you the results for each question, but it lists the percentage of questions you answered correctly, and the four most missed topics on your exam.
Sometimes, the difference between passing and failing can be a matter of how you interpret some of Google’s questions. They can be quite tricky, so be sure to pay attention to detail on every question. If you fail, you may take the exam again, but you have to wait 14 days and can only take it twice within a 30-day period. You have to pay the $50 fee for each sitting, so do your best to pass it the first time.
If you’ve taken the exam, we’d love to hear your thoughts and study tips. Or if you have any other questions, please leave a comment!
Best of luck!
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