3 Tips for Taking the Google Analytics IQ Test, 2009 Edition

Update 12.20.11: I’ve since retaken the test; here’s an updated post with Tips for Taking the Google Analytics IQ Test, 2011 Edition.

On March 3, Google launched the Analytics Individual Qualification test, allowing web professionals a way to demonstrate their level of Google Analytics expertise to colleagues and clients.

The test is relatively inexpensive, priced at $50, and your Individual Qualification – if you pass with 75 80% or greater — is valid for 18 months. [Update 1.26.10: Google revised the minimum passing score requirement from 75% to 80%.]

So what does this mean, exactly? What can you expect? And is the test an accurate reflection of your web metrics savvy, both in general, and with this tool in particular?

My colleague Lisa King and I both recently took and passed the Individual Qualification Test, aka the IQ; based on what we learned, here are 3 tips for taking the test.

Tip 1: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

First, even if you’re a regular user of Google Analytics, make sure you prepare for the IQ Test; because there is no demo or sample test to take first, our advice is to prepare by reviewing the extensive series of Conversion University videos. Not only is each one clear and thorough, but you’ll probably learn a trick or two (I know I did). This will take a few hours of your time altogether, but it’s well worth the investment.

Furthermore, this test is meant to be comprehensive; it’s not for beginners. If you find that more than half of the material in Conversion University is new or confusing to you, I strongly recommend you apply the lessons in the videos to your current Google Analytics profiles and become more comfortable with the concepts before attempting the test.

If you find that you are less comfortable with some areas of the test prep material than others, by all means create a “cheat sheet” for yourself to refer to during the test. This could contain example regular expressions, the rules of filter order or notes on key concepts. The point is to prove you know how, why and when to apply a concept, not necessarily that you’ve memorized the reg ex symbols.

Tip 2: Give Yourself Time

Second, set aside a good, solid block of time when you won’t be interrupted and can focus – I actually managed to complete mine while trying to ignore workers jack-hammering the outside of our building but I don’t recommend this approach!

You’ll have a total of 90 elapsed minutes to complete the Analytics IQ Test’s 70 multiple-choice questions, but you can pause the IQ test and come back at any time within a 5-day period (which is actually calculated as 120 hours from the time you start the test).

If you’re uncertain if any of your responses, mark those questions for completion later. You can review the entire IQ Test before submitting. (More Frequently Asked Questions about the IQ test are answered here.)

Despite having reviewed all of the Conversion University materials just days before I took the Individual Qualification Test, I still found that I had to mark some questions for completion later, and pause the test more than once to verify my answers (or re-watch a portion of a Conversion University video)–particularly for the more technical questions.

[Update, 1.26.10: Google has updated the materials in Conversion University to reflect added Google Analytics functionality for goals.]

Tip 3: Get Comprehensive

Finally, the specific set of questions varies for each test taker, but as I mentioned above, it’s a comprehensive, advanced test. Expect to see test questions range from where to find specific information in Google Analytics, to how to change settings, and what data will answer a certain type of question.

When you’re preparing by reviewing the Conversion University materials, pay particular attention to some of the more complicated and technical aspects of Google Analytics, such as regular expressions (or “reg ex”). Not only are these more difficult to get right, but the version I took emphasized these areas–slightly to my surprise, as I’d expected the test to be more a gauge of the analysis side of the data, rather than the settings and configuration of Analytics itself.

Out of 70 IQ test questions, at least 20 were about such topics as reg ex, IP addresses, and filter order. For example, one question described a series of filters, like Include and Exclude, then asked what order they would need to be applied in to get a desired result. Another test question asked what reg ex format for IP address should be used in an Exclude filter when applied to an entire Analytics profile.

And what happens if, despite all of your dedicated preparation, you score less than the 7580% required to pass? You can take the IQ Test once more within 30 days–but you’ll have to pay again.

Our Take

The rather wide variety of question type, noted above, is our main criticism of the test. We would prefer it to be more focused on demonstrating your knowledge of how to use the tool to solve real-world problems or answer strategic web site questions, rather than proving, for example, that you can formulate a regular expression – which can be easily looked up when needed.

It’s more important to understand when and why to use a regular expression in Analytics, and even where you can do so, than the particular mechanics of escaping a back slash.

But I expect to see the question sets be refined as the test matures and becomes more widely known and accepted. I also look forward to Google’s promised delivery of a graphic badge that Individually Qualified analysts can use to promote their now-certified Analytics expertise. [Update 1.26.10: There’s still no graphic badge, but in October 2009, Google provided (somewhat cumbersome) instructions on how to create a link to to your Google Analytics IQ Proof of Qualification.]

Weaknesses aside, the Individual Qualification is an important tool both to demonstrate proficiency and to keep individual practitioners’ expertise sharp.

Your Turn

  • Have you taken the Google Analytics Individual Qualification test?
  • What did you find most challenging?
  • What kinds of questions did you have to answer?
  • What would you change about the test?

[Photo credit: Thorsten Jeck, Flickr Creative Commons]

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