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The New PL-300 Power BI Exam: What Has Changed?

Sam Gooderham

Getting an official Microsoft certification is an important step for anyone who works with Microsoft Power BI. While Power BI is featured in the more basic PL-900 Microsoft Power Platform Fundamentals exam, the standard exam for users of the software is DA-100: Analyzing Data with Microsoft Power BI. DA-100 is much more in-depth, much more focused and really requires you to understand how Power BI works, and the techniques and tricks which separate the novices from the experienced users. In the context of Microsoft’s overhaul of its exams, where the old suite of exams were scrapped in favour of role-oriented certifications and an emphasis on Azure, DA-100 replaced the 70-778: Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Microsoft Power BI exam. Now, only a year on, DA-100 has itself been replaced with a new exam – PL-300: Power BI Data Analyst. While DA-100 granted the “Data Analyst Associate” certification, takers of the PL-300 exam will gain the “Power BI Data Analyst Associate” certification. Not exactly a ground-breaking change – in this blog we’ll look at how these exams differ, and if there’s anything to worry about beyond a change in name. 

Microsoft have taken steps to smooth this transition. If you already have a valid DA-100 certification, then your title will automatically update on 28th February without needing to sit the new exam. The certification is only valid for a year before it needs to be renewed, however, so if you want that Data Analyst LinkedIn profile to be in tip-top shape then you will need to contend with PL-300 eventually. 

Is There a Difference Between the Two? 

The official blog post revealing the change made it clear that the exams cover the same knowledge base and that DA-100’s Microsoft Learn materials would be suitable for preparing for PL-300. This of course meant that every DA-100 online course instructor out there was quick to slap “PL-300” onto their course titles without changing anything else, even before the PL-300 syllabus was officially released. 

We can gain insights into what has changed straight away by comparing the skills outline documents of the two exams, particularly the weightings of the different topics: 



Prepare the Data (20-25%) 

Prepare the Data (15-20%) 

Model the Data (25-30%) 

Model the Data (30-35%) 

Visualize the Data (20-25%) 

Visualise and Analyse the Data (25-30%) 

Analyse the Data (10-15%) 

Deploy and Maintain Deliverables (10-15%) 

Deploy and Maintain Assets (20-25%) 


Even if nothing has changed in the actual content of the course, this change in weightings should have an impact on how you approach the exam. Immediately noticeable is that there are four skill areas rather than five; given that the “Analyse the Data” portion of DA-100 basically just involves working with certain visualisations (Key Influencers, decomposition trees) or elements of visualisations (conditional formatting, reference lines), it’s sensible that the two topics have been combined in the new exam, and a bit weird that they were separate before. 5% has been taken away from “Prepare the Data” and given to “Model the Data”, which isn’t a massive change except you can guarantee now that a solid third of your exam will be spent pulling your hair out trying to figure out how a Date table is meant to work, or where exactly the CALCULATE function is supposed to go in your nested DAX expression. 

In my opinion, the most important takeaway from this table is perhaps easy to miss – the raising of the final topic from 10-15% to 20-25%. When I took the DA-100 exam in January and looked through the very helpful breakdown you get at the end, I got an interesting bit of feedback: “Deploy and Maintain Deliverables” was my weakest subject, but I was strong on it compared to the average test-taker. The conclusion here is not that I am amazing at using Power BI and my grade was just that good – it was perfectly average – the conclusion to make is that people generally don’t do very well on that topic. That makes sense; it’s tucked away at the back end of the Microsoft Learn pathway and focuses on administrative chores instead of making cool graphs. PL-300 features twice as many questions on it as DA-100, however, so if you plan on sitting the new exam it would behove you to brush up on your data gateways, workspace roles and row-level security. 

Within the topics themselves there are some interesting changes to make note of as well. For PL-300 there is no longer any reference made to Query Diagnostics or modifying Power Query M code in the Advanced Editor – despite both being in the skills outline I’m not personally convinced that DA-100 actually had any questions on these, so this may just be a confirmation of what was already the case. Also gone is any specific mention of implementing R and Python visualisations, which there were questions on in DA-100. The main piece of knowledge there was that you need to have R installed on your computer to use R visualisations while Python visualisations work out of the box, and, thanks to reading this sentence, you know that now. So if it does happen to come up in PL-300 it won’t be too much of a curveball. 

How Should I Prepare? 

While these things (and some others) have been taken away, very little has been added to the skills outline; the change from DA-100 to PL-300 seems very much to be one of trimming the fat and focusing in on what’s important. With this in mind, PL-300 might be a little bit easier, in the sense that you’re less likely to be tripped up by something obscure. If you’ve passed DA-100 before, and you’re confident on your knowledge and memory of that exam, you should be able to tackle PL-300 with only minimal prep. 

Anyone who has taken the Azure Fundamentals exams will know there is a wealth of free resources online, chiefly YouTube courses and question dumps. As fewer people take DA-100/PL-300 compared to the Fundamentals, the quality and quantity of both of these are not as good. Beware question dumps especially: dumps are compiled purely from test-takers posting the questions they encountered in the exam, and as the exams don’t tell you what you get right or wrong, there is no guarantee that the given answer is correct in the dump. This is always true of a question dump – one of plenty of reasons to avoid them – but is particularly bad for DA-100/PL-300 as the knowledge is more specialised. A good 30-50% of the answers I saw were wrong, so if you rely solely on these for the exam then you’ll likely do more harm than good. 

Your best resource is the Microsoft Learn pathway. It’s the official syllabus, and all third-party resources – be they YouTube or Udemy or whatever – will either just rehash the content from there or supplement it with content that isn’t relevant (I paid for a set of DA-100 past papers and found they featured questions on Powershell syntax, which you’ll be relieved to know is not required for the exam). The pathway has a set of labs which are definitely worthwhile and will consolidate your learning (as opposed to, for example, the AI-900 AI Fundamentals labs which, while interesting, weren’t exactly pertinent to the exam questions). Make sure to complete the labs but make note of the fact that they don’t cover everything, so if you’re a hands-on learner it might be worth firing up Power BI Desktop and playing around with the content that isn’t covered by the labs. 


If you are considering taking the PL-300 exam, these are the main points you should take away regarding the change from DA-100: 

  • Refer to the Microsoft Learn pathway as your primary source of info – and do the labs 
  • Use the skills outline document to be confident on what the exam covers – third-party resources may be inaccurate 
  • Don’t neglect the “Deploy and Maintain Assets” material – it has more prominence now 

All in all, the change to PL-300 seems to be mostly superficial – a small change of title, some fiddling with weightings and a refinement of the skills outline – so you shouldn’t be too apprehensive about it. In the coming months we’ll get a much clearer picture of how different the exam is once people start taking it and sharing their experiences, and with any luck PL-300 will stick around for a bit longer than DA-100 did, so a larger pool of learning resources can grow.  


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