Dos and Don’ts for Passing Certification Exams

Dear Future SAS-Certified Programmer,

I came into the MSA program with little to zero experience in coding. Despite some hiccups on the way, I felt a sense of validation when I passed my SAS certification on the first try, and I write this letter to encourage you to do the same. Below are Do’s and Don’ts to help you gather the courage to tackle your first programming certification successfully.


  1. Do study a little bit every day. Divide your work into manageable chunks throughout the morning, midday, and evening. Break things down to smaller tasks. As I ran line by line of code, I was able to better follow what my program was doing. Small success boosted my momentum to complete the more challenging parts of the program.
  2. Do ask questions about the new procedures you are learning. Make sure you truly understand the intended purpose of the procedure you are learning or wanting to use in your program.
  3. Do try to understand the reason why your simple code is not working. Let mistakes be your most eye-opening learning opportunities. Document what the error was, and how you corrected it.
  4. Do take note of concepts that you do NOT understand. I made a spreadsheet with 2 simple columns: what I know and what I need to practice. These personalized notes will turn into your cheat sheet as time progresses. They are also handy to bring along on a car ride or to the park to review while you relax on the hammock.
  5. Do try to explain to someone what procedure you learned in coding. Learning by explaining proves that you are building a connection with the material. Programs solve problems, and it gave me great joy to share at the dinner table the new ways of solving a problem that I had learned that day. Sharing with a classmate was also insightful because we exchanged feedback and cleared any misconceptions together.
  6. Do start a collaborative Google worksheet where you and your fellow students put down ideas that you come across as you study together. Add links to resources, such as formula sheets, examples, and snippets of code examples and what they do. This document might sometimes highlight a procedure that you understood but needs a refresher. Collaborative learning is fun.


  1. Don’t try to memorize every single line of code in the examples. Warm up by applying procedures you know, and then proceed to look up documentation for new ideas.
  2. Don’t only be an observer in problem-solving sessions; be an active participant.
  3. Don’t read only. Read and write the code. Learning by doing is an effective way for our brains to engage. Even if the example is fully provided within the lecture, still write it out in SAS studio to see the results you get.
  4. Don’t go into a lecture without all your resources opened. Save time by having your data uploaded ahead of time, and SAS studio / Viya open ahead of time.
  5. Don’t speak over your classmates when they are sharing their insight about how to code a particular problem. Even if your lightbulb just went on! Hold your thoughts, and then add them at the appropriate time when you are not cutting off another speaker.

Best wishes and happy practicing!

Columnist: Hope Mamboleo