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SAP BW certification: Tips, advice and skepticism

Our expert suggests that the best way to pass the SAP BW exam is to have hands-on job experience. But that's not all he has to say about certification.

I am about to begin a self-study program on SAP BW. How should I begin this process? Are there any books or resources you'd recommend that might help me pass the exam?

Well, the best way to be able to pass a certification exam is to have been engaged in the practice of whatever it is that you are testing for. For example, to pass the Microsoft Certified DBA exam you should have experience working as a SQL Server database administrator. Same goes for SAP BW. If you have been working with SAP BW then passing the certification exam becomes easier because you have gained on-the-job knowledge and experience that will serve you as you take the test.

I know you asked for help, and I'll give you some in a moment, but I want to use this opportunity to rail against certification for a minute. Before I continue, let me state that certification clearly can be a laudable goal. But the biggest problem with the concept is that passing a test is not really a viable indicator of being able to perform a complex IT job. Some things you just have to learn by doing. I am not saying that certification is useless. Indeed, taking the tests and focusing your subsequent practice and study on those areas where you performed poorly can help you to improve your skills. It is easier to better yourself when you know your areas of weakness. But does anyone really believe that someone passing a formalized test will be as capable as someone with several years of experience on-the-job? Organizations should hire based on past experience that indicates a level of capability. Of course, someone with both experience and certification is better than someone with only one of the two, right?

OK, now for the help part. Keep in mind that certification tests sometimes ask arcane syntax questions that are not really good indicators of skills. Getting the syntax 100% accurate is what manuals and design tools are for. There is no reason to memorize syntax because it tends to change quite often. It is better to know where to find the syntax, parameters, and answers to your questions when you need them -- That is, which manuals and textbooks contain the needed information. That being said, to pass a certification test you will need to have very good knowledge of syntax.

So how should you proceed? Well, start with the online material at sap.com, but do not stop there. Do you know anyone who currently works with SAP BW? Can you get them to let you sit down with them and observe as they do their job? Can you use your current skill levels to help that person in their job? If so, perhaps you can volunteer to work with them on a project to gain some experience.

And make sure you purchase several books on the topic so that you can keep fresh on the subject. Put them by your bedside and read them as you go to sleep. Take one with you on the bus each morning. In other words, immerse yourself in the topic. The more you read, the more you retain. The more you retain, the better you chances of passing a certification exam.

Here are several books that could help you:

Best of luck to you in your quest to pass the SAP BW exam.

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