Getting Certified

As a (certified) SAS platform administrator I often get asked how best to prepare for the SAS Certified Platform Administrator 9 exam.

I don’t have a magic formula other than study and experience. My standard response is to direct people to the best place I know where you can find out more: that’s the SAS support page specifically about exam preparation.

From my own experience I’d recommend the following steps:

  • Attend the SAS Platform Administration: Fast Track training course from SAS Institute. I’m an administrator, and I’m also one of the instructors for this course in Australia, so you could consider me a little biased when I say that this is one of the best courses available from SAS Institute. If you already have some SAS administration experience, but haven’t done this course, or went on an earlier version of it, then I’d still recommend attending. I believe that training courses are more than just the training materials themselves. Classroom training allows you to spend a few dedicated days talking to other administrators about mutual experiences, problems and solutions. I find courses are also very useful for filling in the gaps for broader knowledge.
  • Review the sample questions on the SAS support site to see the types of exam questions and gauge your readiness.
  • Study the SAS Intelligence Platform documentation available from the SAS web site. There’s a great deal of information available there.
  • Where possible, spend a few months either administering a SAS installation yourself, or working alongside another SAS platform administrator.

Over the years I’ve heard and read a wide variety of views around the value of certification. Some people don’t see the value in it. I’m squarely in the camp that thinks it’s a good thing (but always in combination with other factors like experience). Is it because I’m certified myself? Perhaps… but then I also valued certification prior to becoming certified. My view is that certification cannot be considered in isolation when hiring someone. Choosing a person on certification status alone would surely be foolish. As one of the many factors though, in combination with prior experience and aptitude, I believe certification is a positive indicator. In my mind certification indicates that, in addition to being able to answer the questions, a person is committed to investing in their own career, self advancement and knowledge acquisition through study, as well as a willingness to put themselves in a stressful situation to rise to a challenge – certification is optional after all. I would definitely hire someone who wasn’t certified, as long as they had suitable prior experience and spoke knowledgeably on the subject (or had a desire to learn and a general aptitude). In a situation where I might have to choose between two candidates where both had equivalent experience, both demonstrated the same level of knowledge, but one was certified and the other wasn’t, then I’d most likely have a preference for the certified individual. Naturally some people will always try to game the system but I don’t think it would take long to discover one of those individuals with a few key interview questions.

When you pass the certification exam you get the option to have your name listed in the SAS Global Certified Professional Directory on the SAS web site, so you appear in the list of certified administrators. Prospective employers can confirm someone’s certification status by looking in the directory, but they should be aware that inclusion in this directory is optional. If someone doesn’t appear in this list they might still be certified. When you do see someone’s name in the directory though you will know they are certified.

If you have any general tips for aspiring certified SAS platform administrators (excluding anything specifically about the exam itself) then please leave a comment below.

9 thoughts on “Getting Certified”

  1. Funny, I just got back from taking the exam.

    I agree with your steps and the order of them.
    The Fast Track training is a must. The SAS Intelligence Platform documentation is daunting. Impossible to use all these sources to prepare for the exam.
    Fast Track helps you get a sense of what to focus on.

    In my opinion, experience working with or as an admin is a must. Otherwise, everything seems out of context. Most SAS terms and methodologies when it comes to server administration will not make sense to anyone else.

    That said, passing grade is 69. So if you’re a lucky person who generally wins coin flips, just go for it.

  2. Thanks for letting us know your thoughts Jaime and I hope you did well in the exam.

  3. There is an online prep course you can take under the expert channel.

    SAS Certified Platform Administration for SAS9 Tutorial at Online – SAS Expert Channel
    October 1, 2012 from 4:30pm to 5:30pm

    I’ve been meaning to take the test but whatever I’m working on seems more interesting at that time. :)

  4. Thanks June, I missed that resource. For those that don’t know about the SAS professionals site here’s a link to the SAS Expert Channel (login required).

  5. Hi Paul,

    Interesting post. Being a non English speaker, at least not a native English speaker, I have to remind people around that candidates must take SAS certification exams only in the English language, which makes the matter more difficult since (too) many questions arouse logical/semantic/verbal issues based solely on the language (questions written negatively, overall sense of the sentence based on one specific adverb etc.). There might be an exception in Japan, where some (?) tests are translated into japanese but this should be the rule and not the exception imho. If you’re not an experienced English speaker, whatever your knowledge of SAS may be, it’s not even worth trying. So that, in a way, the certification exam gives a premium to the native speakers and a kind of ‘penalty’ to the non-English speakers. To be fair and comprehensive, I think the tests should be given in English with a foreign translation in a few language (e g one of the 6 foreign languages of the UN ). The same question, with an optional translation below.
    The exam fees, which are not marginally costly ;->, could include a ‘translation’ for half a dozen language without any huge extra-cost.

    From my own experience, the platform admin exam requires both admin experience at work and in-depth theoritical knownledge of the technical documentation. Unfortunately, for there are outstanding intructors in some remote parts of the world ;-), I have never been enlisted in the fast track admin training or any other SAS professional training. So if you are a self-learner, it can be done but I agree it must be ways better to attend the training. At any rate, I strongly recommend reading every SAS BI Administration Guide to the very last page. Some questions draw on small details that are obscure if you’ve never been aware of it before.

    During the exam session, I first calculate the maximum number of failures I can allow myself in order to remain within the threshold required ( 100%-69% make x questions). Then I write the question number on the plate each time I come across an answer less than 100% sure. At the end, it is quite easy to review the ‘unsure’ assertions specifically and to increase the chances piece by piece by trying to solve the clue a second time. I am usually left with a stock of 10-20 ‘doubtful’ questions, then I try to focus on each one to increase the margin of safety. Be skeptical of your answers, it’ll help you.


  6. Thanks, Paul. But, I have to admit that I might not have passed the exams in a French translation ! The SAS users in France usually prefer using original SAS words (‘Log’, ‘Output’ etc.) rather than their equivalents in French since all the doc, except user help at client-level, remains in English; translation-cost is quite high – English being ‘broadly speaking’ shorter than French – so that, as a rule, I don’t use the official translations of SAS technical concepts in French. I don’t find the technical terms in IT very appealing in French, usually. Canadian French-speakers work out the most elegant translations I know for technical terms in IT but it is a matter of taste, of course.


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