I was lucky enough to have SAP HANA training provided for free by the SAP APJ Partner University. Whilst not the most comprehensive training in the world, I would like to thank SAP APJ for their efforts and gesture of good will.
Armed with a few free days training in SAP HANA I thought I would chance my luck at the SAP HANA certification, this was however not free. It had been over 8 years since I last took any kind of SAP certification, the last time being SAP BW back in the year 2004.
When I took my SAP BW exam I already had 3 years experience working in industry and a few project lifecycles under my belt. Moreover my employer at the time paid for the certification as they required a certain number of certified consultants to gain SAP partnership, I believe if this was not the case I would not have not have taken the certification.
Thus after 8 years i felt a little apprehensive about sitting an SAP exam especially given that I only had a few days training and no ‘real-life’ project experience. Did I study for the exam, hell no, finding the time to study whilst carrying out business as usual activities was near impossible. I did however glance through the test questions on SAP’ website and managed to get 8/10 correct so i thought it was worth a punt to pay for the exam itself.
Whilst I live in Indonesia I choose to sit my exam at SAP Malaysia mainly because I have more faith in their exam facilities and ethics, I have had bad experiences with SAP Indonesia in the past, something I will share in a future blog. When I arrived at the SAP examination facility in Malaysia I was a little shocked to find that SAP had outsourced to HCL Axon, this can’t be right an SI running SAP certifications on behalf of SAP?
Whilst waiting to enter the exam room I got chatting to a few of the exam participants, they were all very young (or maybe it is just me, old at 34). I asked the usual questions, where are you working, what is your background, how long have you being working with SAP etc… The answers to some these questions frightened me, for example over half of them had less than 1 year working with SAP, there was 1 person who had prior experience working with analytics (BW/BOBJ) and 80% of them worked for HCL Axon (noting it was an HCL Axon training facility). I would not have expected such candidates sitting an exam like HANA, in my head alarm bells started to ring.
Why you may ask was I thinking like this, well i am thinking like an SAP HANA customer would think. Any client who invests in SAP HANA wants and demands experience not only technical but also industry experience. Why do you think SAP themselves are currently reluctant to let their SI partners loose on a HANA project without involvement themselves, SAP cannot afford any bad press regarding failed HANA implementations.
The exam itself is the standard SAP exam format, 80 online multi-choice or single-choice questions, no ‘help’ material allowed, you vs a computer. You are given 3 hours to complete 80 questions, there is no negative scoring. For multi-choice question you must select all answers correctly to receive the point, you have an option to tentatively select the correct answers and go back at a later time and change them. A point to note is that question given later on in the exam will actually help give you the answer to previous questions, a bit silly but this is what happens, do not be afraid to return and change your answers.
As mentioned there is no negative marking, so if you really don’t know just take an educated guess! SAP likes to be the biggest and loudest, so with regard to marketing type questions if it puts SAP in a good light there is a high degree a certainty that it is a correct answer, there are several questions like this.
Another pertinent point, this is a 3 hour exam to answer 80 questions which is 135 seconds a question, when taking my BW exam I remember I used about 90 minutes which included re-reading the exam paper twice and revisiting several questions. I also remember being nervous about pressing the ‘final submit’ button as your result will be instantly displayed, pass or fail.
This time around I felt no nerves what so ever, i blasted through the 80 questions in about 35 minutes (26 seconds per questions). Before i pushed the ‘final submit’ button I looked around the exam room at the other candidates, they all still had their heads buried deep into the computer screens. I thought to myself I am no spring chicken but it is experience that counts, even when doing exams.
So as not to leave the room too early, i took the opportunity to write down what i thought to be the most difficult HANA exam questions in the hope to share them later. After 10 minutes of scribbling i decided that was enough and pressed the ‘final submit’ button, great I had passed.
What I found a little bit disturbing was that the pass mark for this exam is 59%, now when I did BW exam it was a respectable 70%. I thought how can the pass mark be 59%, who came up with this idea? 59% surely is not a conceivable pass mark; it means you are allowed to get 32 questions incorrect, this is nonsense.
After receiving my result, i decided it was time to leave the exam room but not before the examiner relieved me of all my scribbles, yes that’s right you are not allowed to take your scribbles with you. On the flip side, I was allowed to keep the SAP pencil, it was with this pencil after I left the examination room that I re-wrote out my scribbles, and luckily for me I have a memory span slightly longer than a goldfish.
I read a great deal of blogs and bulletin boards, I always see the same headline ‘Passed my HANA certification’ and I think ok great, some dude passed, I am sure they would like to share some of the exam questions that were given. How wrong you would be, you explore only to find out they have developed a serious case of amnesia or perhaps they are just bullshitting about passing the exam…..
There are a few decent people out there who do share presentation materials but as yet I have not found anyone sharing specific HANA exam questions, could it be they paid for the exam and thus feel cheated if they share, possibly.
On the other hand I put my 500 USD pencil to good use and wrote out some of the questions, I have compiled 50 questions in the attached PDF document; however I make no warranty that the answers are all correct – this is for you to decide!
Click link to open: REMOVED ON REQUEST
Worth the Money
Personally I do not think so; the exam was far too easy in my opinion. The only benefit I can perceive by undertaking the HANA certification is that is shows that you are genuinely interested in the SAP HANA toolsets, interested enough to blow $500+ and a day off work sitting for it.
I do feel a little cheated that someone with no prior SAP or industry experience could pass this exam; in fact there is a high degree of probability being able to pass this exam blindfolded. I would strongly suggest SAP to move up the pass mark and tighten up the questions; does SAP really want to have 1000’s of certified HANA consultants with no experience giving their flagship DB a bad name?
This is kind of like letting children drive cars on the motorway at high speed; you know it will end in tears.
If someone else is footing the bill for the exam then by all means jump right in and take it, nice excuse for a day off work at the very least. However if you are personally footing the bill then I would think more carefully, will becoming a certified HANA consultant really get you work on a project?
If you are a seasoned analytics consultant who has learnt SAP HANA through using a HANA sandbox system and by reading the copious amounts of materials available on the web then this will inevitably come across at interview. My advice would be to put the exam fee towards decent laptop, invest it in some niche skill SAP training such as BPC, PCM or SSM or even use it to have a few enjoyable evenings out.
For those that are serious about SAP HANA you can now enjoy free HANA sandbox access courteous of SAP. Moreover, if you are really die-hard HANA fanatic who wants to get project experience, I am sure if you offered your services at cost there would be several takers including SAP.
I have heard that there are more than 5000 SAP HANA certified consultants globally, this equates to over 2,500,000 USD in SAP HANA certification fees alone, a nice money spinner for SAP but I am not convinced any benefit to the HANA customer.
Finally if you believe an SAP pencil to be worth $500 then you need to get you head examined and leave the HANA certification alone.