The Complete Guide to studying for the Google Analytics IQ Exam

If you’re reading this post, chances are you’re about to take the Google Analytics Individual Qualification (GAIQ) Exam (probably for the first time) and don’t really know where to begin. After being in your position not too long ago, and being fortunate enough to receive the help and direction of friends to score 97%, I felt a duty to pass on what I have learnt through compiling a complete list of resources to make the study process a little easier for anyone interested in sitting the exam.

This guide consists of 6 main sections, beginning with a basic introduction to the GAIQ Exam, and concludes with some boss pointers from 2 leading analytics experts:

  1. Introduction to the GAIQ test
  2. Where to Begin
  3. Test Your Skills
  4. Before the Test
  5. During Test
  6. Boss Tips From the Experts

1. Introduction to the GAIQ Exam

It’s proof you know what Google Analytics can do, and how it does it. Google provides a great 12 point summary of what the exam is and some answers to common questions.

A few points about the Exam

When researching information regarding the exam, the majority of posts I came across stated the test consisted of 70 questions; the test I took only had 67 questions (sat in January 2013).

Quick facts about the GAIQ:

  1. Consists of ~70 questions;
  2. In order to pass you must score at least 80% or higher;
  3. You have 90 minutes to complete the Exam;
  4. You can pause the Exam as many times as you like as well as mark questions for review;
  5. It’s multiple choice;
  6. Some questions require more than one correct answer (i.e. ‘select all that apply’) &;
  7. It costs $50USD to sit the Exam

What do you get after passing?

  1. A Digital Certificate to show your Mum;
  2. Ability to prove your score through publicly publishing your scorecard.
Google Analytics Public Scorecard
Image Courtesy of Google

2. Where to Begin

There are a lot of resources out there and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and not know where to start.

One of the things I struggled with the most was coming across out-dated information and how I should take this into consideration for the test (for example, the _utmc cookie was previously used in conjunction with the _utmb cookie to track visitor session, however this is no longer the case).

Fortunately I didn’t receive any questions of this nature but my personal advice would be to put your faith in the Google Analytics IQ Lessons (discussed below); whatever is addressed there is the information I would reference when sitting the exam as the questions are unlikely to be updated without first updating the lessons.

Google Analytics IQ Lessons

The best place to begin is Google’s own test centre which comprises of 4 subject areas, each consisting of multiple subsections. The lessons are, for the most part, presented as narrated slide shows spanning between 2-11 minutes each (~1.5 hours in total).

I had a lot of trouble getting the audio to work when using Chrome so if you have any troubleshooting issues when trying to run the lessons I recommend giving Firefox a whirl.

google analytics lessons
Image Courtesy of Google

Which lessons are the most important?

Despite what I read on numerous posts, and heard from friends about the quantity and complexity of regex questions, I was presented with only 1 or 2 and they weren’t too difficult. Although regex does not make it in my list below I’d recommend getting familiar with the syntax as the questions you do get can end up taking a lot of your time if you get stuck. Thankfully there are tools to help with this (discussed later on).

The top lessons to focus on, in my opinion, are:

  • Campaign Tracking and AdWords Integration;
  • E-commerce Tracking;
    • Required fields and syntax
  • Event Tracking and Virtual Pageviews;
  • Filters in Google Analytics &;
    • Filter ordering
    • Custom filter types
  • Working with Report Data
    • Dimensions vs Metrics

Read Posts about passing the GAIQ test

There are literally hundreds of well written and easy to follow posts out there which give a good overview of what to expect in the test. Naturally, some posts you find will be more helpful than others. I’ve done the hard work for you and shortlisted 6 posts below I found to contain the best information (if you come across others to add to this list, let me know!):

  1. Google Analytics IQ Test: How to Study, Take and Pass
    by Mitch Holt from Volacci

    Although written at the end of 2011 it’s short, to the point, and I particularly liked Mitch’s idea of setting up an ‘information database’; a summary of your study notes in a well organised word document to use as a single point of reference during the test.

    I highly recommend trialing your information database before the test with practice questions to see how you can organise and reorganise your notes to make them more accessible.

  2. Studying for the Google Analytics IQ Exam
    by Michael Wiegand from Portent

    Again written in 2011, short and to the point; Michael gives his opinion on the main subject areas to focus on when studying for the test, his picks are:

    • Cookies
    • Search and Replace Filters
    • AdWords Integration
    • UTM Variables
    • Event Tracking
  3. GAIQ Test Preparation – Tips from the Veteran + GAIQ Sample Questions
    by Himanshu Sharma from SEO takeaways

    Himanshu’s post provides a great example of what not to do; take the test lightly. Himanshu explains he was overconfident (after acing the GAIQ back in 2010) and did no preparation, scraping in a pass at 82%.

    This post is an excellent point of reference if you want a breakdown of the test and what it involves. Himanshu also provides 5 questions he received in the exam with a discussion available in the comments. It’s a great post to read if you want to learn more about how the questions are likely to be structured and a good reminder to keep moving if you can’t immediately answer a question as you only have a little over a minute to answer each.

  4. Handy Google Analytics Reference Guide (80+ Tips, Definitions & Rules)
    by Kayden from Blast Analytics Marketing

    The guide provided with this post is an excellent supplement to your research; it’s a concise 3 page document, broken down by subject, with a dot point summary of important information relating to each topic. They also have one page dedicated to regex alone… awesome! This isn’t just a great reference for when you sit the test, but for whenever using Google Analytics. Easy to read and extremely succinct – recommended.

  5. Google Analytics Certification and How to Pass the GAIQ Test
    by Slingshot SEO, on SEOmoz

    Overall a great post but what I particularly like about this one is the link to 10 practice questions (and their answers) provided by Slingshot; have a crack to see how you go. These questions are a great way to start getting a feel for how the questions are framed and a good way to test your understanding of Google Analytics so far.

  6. A Beginner’s Guide To Google Analytics
    by Slingshot SEO

    This 52 page Google Analytics overview is easy to digest and overall a great summary. I especially like the table on page 7 showing Administrative vs. User Access. I copied this one into my ‘information database’ for quick reference.

Google Developer & Support Sites

The Google Analytics IQ Lessons provide digestible summaries on Google Analytics as well as guidance on which subject areas you will be tested on during the exam. The unfortunate thing is, these lessons are typically very top level and fail to go into the finer detail, and in the exam the detail is the difference between a pass and a fail.

To really understand each subject area of Google Analytics visit Google’s own Developer and Support sites. The following areas are the ones I found most useful during my preparation for the test:

  1. Regular Expressions
  2. Cookie Usage
  3. Tracking Code Customisations
  4. Tracking Multiple Domains
  5. General Google Analytics Help
  6. Tracking Code

3. Test Your Skills

Now that you’ve powered through the Google Analytics IQ Lessons, read some amazingly insightful posts and even gone the extra mile through accessing Google’s own Developer and Support sites, it’s time to step it up a notch and test your knowledge.

The fact of the matter is you may know your stuff inside out but when you sit the test it’s pretty easy to be put off by the framing of certain questions, so I strongly recommended practising as many test questions as you can before you sit the exam. The more familiar you become with the framing of questions, the faster you will be able to fly through the exam when it’s crunch time.

If you haven’t already heard of the Google Analytics Test site (which is not endorsed or affiliated with Google’s official analytics test) I encourage you to check it out. It’s a killer resource for those who are keen to excel. Personally I found the questions in the unofficial Google Analytics Test site a lot harder than the official test itself.

One of the great things about this site is you can select questions from the areas you feel you need the most help with.

google analytics test set up your test
Image Courtesy of googleanalyticstest.com

Additionally as Google Analytics adds feature updates and changes, both answers and questions are updated to ensure they stay current and relevant. Answers are accompanied by screen shots and the majority of questions also spark debate in the comments area which is a gold mine for getting insights into how you can work your way through a question to arrive to the best possible answer.

google analytics answers and debate
Image courtesy of googleanalyticstest.com

I cannot say enough good things about this site, there are over 200 test questions for the ambitious and don’t feel bad if you score poorly on your first few tries, these questions are tough and it may take a few goes before you start getting some decent marks.

Additionally, this site is a great place to test out your information database, find holes and make the appropriate adjustments before taking the exam.

Great site; an absolute must visit.

4. Before the Test

Just a couple of pointers on set-up before you start the test.

Create a Testing Centre Account
Your normal Gmail password won’t fly here, make sure you create an account and keep a copy of your ‘Test Centre’ password for future reference.

google testing center 1
Image courtesy of Google

Make sure you have access to a Google Analytics Account Number

Google Testing Center - 2
Image courtesy of Google

5. During Test

If you live by the 5 P’s (proper preparation prevents poor performance) then you will have no problem sitting this test. Given you only have ~1 minute per question you have to make sure you don’t get bogged down on any one question for too long. Regex and profile filter questions in particular can take dangerously long but there are some nifty tools out there to help you answer questions faster. I recommend getting familiar with how these tools work before sitting the test as you don’t want to waste valuable time fiddling around while the clock is ticking:

  1. URL Builder: Need to identify the correct campaign URL given a set of variables? Easy, enter all your information in the fields provided and hey presto!
  2. Metrics vs. Dimensions: Many questions tend to present a list of dimensions and metrics and be asked to pick the odd one out. Rather than expand your information database by ~200 pages just use this tool.

    metrics vs dimensions tool
    Image courtesy of Google
  3. Google Analytics Limits: How many profiles can you have in one account? How many pageviews can you have per month before you have to view sampled data? Again no need to add all this to your information database, just have this window open for quick reference.
  4. Regex tester: Regex questions?
    Add your regex and test data into this tool to quickly identify matches.

    regex tool
    Image Courtesy of regexpal.com
  5. Regex Cheat sheet: Exactly what you think it is.
  6. IP Address Range Tool: If you have a question around IP address filtering this tool will make your life a whole lot easier.

6. Boss Tips from the experts

Rather than making this post just about me, I’ve invited a couple of guests to the Google Analytics party to hear what they have to say about the exam:

Himanshu Sharma
Image courtesy of seotakeaways.com
  1. One of the things I loved about your article ‘GAIQ Test Preparation – Tips from the Veteran + GAIQ Sample Questions’ was how honest you were about under preparing for the GAIQ exam. Given you still passed, even though only just, would you say anyone with a pretty good understanding of Google Analytics should be able to pass with minimal study?

    In my opinion there are just 5 to 10 questions which can make the difference between pass and failure and getting a GAIQ score of 95 or GAIQ score of 80. These few questions are often quite difficult and if you manage to get them right the first time you may have gotten lucky. Other than luck, the best way to prepare for GAIQ is to actually go ahead and take it. Don’t be afraid to fail. Every time you take this test, you will gain a better understanding of the type of questions you can expect.

  2. I think many people would agree with your statement that the worst part of the GAIQ test is not knowing which questions you got wrong. Do you have any suggestions for those who missed the pass grade but don’t really know where they went wrong?

    I would suggest noting down the questions you are not really sure of while taking the test. Look at the question, memorize it and then pause the test until you note it down. There is a high probability that if you are not 100% sure of the answer, you are most likely to get it wrong. However do this only for 5 to 10 questions. If you find yourself repeating this exercise for large number of questions than you need to go through the conversion university chapters all over again. After completing the test, you can look for the answers online at your leisure. You can take help of the GA books or ask people on forums. This way you will be better prepared for the GAIQ test for the next time you sit.

Anna Lewis
Image courtesy of koozai.com
  1. Let’s face it; you’re an absolute gun at all things Google Analytics, does someone at your level, or even a few levels below, really need to study for the GAIQ test?

    Firstly, thank you! I may know a heck of a lot about Google Analytics but I’ll never claim to know everything about it, especially not off the top of my head so when I retook this exam a couple of months ago I did have a brief read over some new and advanced sections of the Google Analytics IQ Lessons beforehand. I also opened up some resources that I thought I might need to reference during the exam. I was most worried about the more complex cookie questions which had scared me the first time I took the exam back in March 2011, luckily when I took it this time I didn’t find the questions anywhere near as scary as I did the first time!

    This time I managed to take it in about 40 minutes (instead of the given 90 minutes) and achieved 94% which I was very happy about. I do however think that I might have had easier questions than the first time I took it, or it might be that I got the hard questions on both occasions so I was ready for them the second time!

    There are a number of questions that most people won’t cover in their daily analytics activity and there are some things that you might have looked at once or twice but you won’t know off by heart so it’s beneficial that the exam does not lock your computer down like the other AdWords exams.

    I would recommend making sure you understand how the GA cookies work and how they can be modified before you take this exam. Other code modifications and customisations are also good to know about. I don’t think the GA IQ Lessons that Google provide cover everything so have a dig around in the developer help centre and read a few posts about the exam before you get started. In the exam, if you understand the question then answer it and move on quickly to save time for the questions that you need to read a couple of times and possibly search for confirmation/help. If you expect the unexpected you should finish the exam without a problem!

  2. Are there any subject areas in particular you find people struggle with the most when using Google Analytics? Are there any out-of-the-ordinary resources you would recommend to become a lot more confident in these areas?

    I think different people struggle in different areas. Website owners who don’t have an E-commerce site struggle to get their heads around what a conversion is and what we mean by goals. I often take to explaining this as ‘important task completions’ to help them get their heads round it. E-commerce clients sometimes struggle with knowing what data is the most useful, they might get wrapped up in bounce rate without realising that it’s natural for it to be high on certain pages.

    Amongst people who use Analytics regularly it’s common for them to understand the data but not to know how it is collected. I always try to include an introduction to how GA cookies work and how code can be customised when I run any training, even if they won’t be writing and implementing the code themselves it’s beneficial to know the possibilities and risks of the code that can affect or improve the data.

    I don’t think there are any resources that cover enough to suit everyone but I’ve outlined my Top Ten Best Web Analytics Resources which (along with the Koozai analytics posts of course) should help people find a lot of great information aimed at their level.

    I think that there is a massive scope of possibility within Google Analytics which many people who use it regularly are unaware of. To counter this we have started sharing Google Analytics tips and tricks at every search team meeting we have at Koozai, this helps everyone on the team learn something new or learn how to use something they already knew about in a different way.

    I would recommend that everyone aims to learn or expand their knowledge of something within GA every week or month. It could be that you know the basics to Event Tracking but want to cement and expand this knowledge so you could dig out a host of resources about it and read some each week for a few weeks running while implementing some tests alongside the reading to help you practice the implementation, troubleshooting and reporting.

In summary preparation is key, visit the IQ lessons, read posts and try test questions. By the end of it all you will know the material so well (which is the ultimate objective) that a pass will simply come as a by-product of all your hard work.

Good luck!

10 Responses to “The Complete Guide to studying for the Google Analytics IQ Exam”

  1. Alec 25/07/2013 at 2:54 pm #

    Awesome post guys, nice to see Anna Lewis sharing her expertise down under too.

    • Socrates Mechanicos
      Socrates Mechanicos 25/07/2013 at 3:07 pm #

      Hey Alec, yeah Anna is awesome, very kind of her to contribute – I don’t think any Analytics post is truly complete without her wisdom ;)

  2. Michael Cropper 26/07/2013 at 1:59 am #

    I also passed the test last year and found it actually a lot more detailed than I expected. The main area that surprised me is that a lot of the exam material was not contained within the study guides. If you are starting from zero and hoping the guides will get you through the exam, I honestly can’t see that happening – which is actually a good thing as it means that people who do hold the qualification then it is actually something worth while as it shows you are proficient and have been regularly using Google Analytics. (unless you cheated of course… but lets not go there :-) )

    Full thoughts here: http://www.michaelcropper.co.uk/2012/07/taking-the-google-analytics-individual-qualification-exam-1216.html

    • Socrates Mechanicos
      Socrates Mechanicos 26/07/2013 at 9:08 am #

      Hi Michael, you’re definitively right; the study guides are an excellent starting point, but they won’t help you cross the finish line. You really need to read wide, rather than depend on a single resource. I’m a strong believer in applied knowledge, that’s why I think the Google Analytics Test site is such a great resource as it not only allows you to actively apply what you’ve learnt in a simulated ‘test environment’ (which is excellent preparation for the exam itself,) but also adds to your skill set as a Google Analytics user.

  3. Clayton Nichols 26/07/2013 at 11:10 pm #

    Excellent guide! I took the test two weeks ago and passed. I as well can’t recommend the sample test enough when studying for the GAIQ. That being said, a lot of the questions I faced we’re more ecomm related rather than regex or anything like that. Make sure you study analytics entirely and don’t get sucked into a specific section like I did!

    • Socrates Mechanicos
      Socrates Mechanicos 29/07/2013 at 8:53 am #

      Thanks Clayton and congrats on passing the test! Very true, getting fixated on one subject/area can be very risky. Although the exam I sat didn’t include much on ecomm or regex, I know a few people who ended up getting a lot of questions pertaining to one subject, given you don’t really know what questions you’re going to be asked, it’s important to be across all areas.

  4. Eric Fettman 27/07/2013 at 7:10 am #

    Socrates, thanks for including googleanalyticstest.com in your study guide. (I’m the developer and admin.) Glad you found it to be a useful resource.

    • Socrates Mechanicos
      Socrates Mechanicos 29/07/2013 at 9:07 am #

      Hi Eric, you’ve done an amazing job with googleanalyticstest.com! It helped me a LOT in my preparation for the exam. I think it’s a must-visit for anyone looking to sit the exam, or for anyone wanting to brush up on their GA skills. Keep up the great work!

  5. Ramon Vilanova 27/07/2013 at 6:53 pm #

    Great post! In the past I used http://www.ipassexam.com in preparation for the Adwords certificate. This website offers a huge bank of questions and answers to prepare the different Google exams. The down site is that you must pay to get access to those questions (around $40 for a 30 days access).
    Thanks to you this time I’ll check out the Google Analytics Test site and I’ll save a few bucks to celebrate if I get certified :))

    • Socrates Mechanicos
      Socrates Mechanicos 29/07/2013 at 9:20 am #

      Thanks Ramon! ipassexam looks like a great resource, thanks for sharing :) I’m looking to take the Adwords exam sometime soon so I’ll definitely check it out in preparation beforehand. Haha yes, give the Google Analytics Test site a go and save that money to celebrate :)

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