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My stance on SAP HANA certification

On Friday I took the exam C_HANATEC131 and passed with 65%. This came pretty close to my self-assessment that I should pass the test, but that it would be difficult.

First the basics, the SAP certification exams are fair. There is more than enough time to read the questions and trying to find the solution. There are even some questions which are extremely easy to answer if you know the basics of SAP HANA. Some others are explicit syntax questions, maybe this tries to test your hands-on experience with SAP HANA. That is not so relevant for my job, but nevertheless a valid exam topic you can prepare. Having done some certifications already, I see a common trend which leaves me wondering about. So why not writing a short blog about it? As a gut feeling, around 40% of the questions were very difficult to answer although I believe I was firm in the topic. The questions should be concise, because reading long texts with each of the 80 questions is tiresome. In gerneral I believe SAP Education is really doing a good job here. However, in my opinion many questions were ambiguously formulated. This is not just my personal opinion, but several colleagues share that feeling. You read a question and get the information that e.g. 3 answers are correct. It is very easy to spot 2 of the correct answers, but the next one is tricky. You have two candidates for the third correct answer, but both seem to be equally valid or probable! I could argue in both ways why the one or the other answer is the right one. It mainly depends on how to interpret the question. With such questions, the exam becomes more of a “what did the person asking that question have in mind when formulating the question” than a technical examination of your knowledge. I know that creating such exams is really difficult, however how can it be that it is difficult to answer a question on a topic where you are knowledgeable? I could of course take notes and explain to SAP my concerns and reasoning for each of these aprox. 30 problematic questions. Maybe I will do that next time, because there is a risk at failing in such an unfortunate way. But I will need several sheets of paper for that and hit the time limit prematurely.

SAP software is about reverse engineering, having the ABAP sources helps a lot to do bug hunting and analyzing the root cause of problems. For me, SAP exams are primarily about reverse engineering the questions. How is this question meant? How to read between the lines? Which unsaid assumptions by SAP were being made? After the exam, I still don’t know the mind setting of the people who developed the questions, I can only see that my assumptions on the assumptions of the question creators were often false. I have no problem with a low score on “Data Provisioning”, because I didn’t learn that topic well and don’t know the details there. I just wonder why just learning the stuff isn’t enough, why SAP adds an additional barrier by formulating many questions ambiguously. My memory is notoriously bad, so I cannot replicate a specific example here. (SAP Education wouldn’t want me to do so anyway.) Are there other people who took a SAP exam and wondered more about how to interpret a question than on the topic (because you were really familiar with it)?

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    • Hi Andy,

      you wouldn't want me to write exam quesions, believe me! I am somewhat puzzled by the selection process. Sometimes it would help if SAP changed the possible answers. In the review process they should see that for some questions, lots of people do the same error. So a wrong answer seems to be plausible. If this is the case, then SAP might want to check whether people who generally score well also do these errors. That could be an indicator for an ambiguously formed question and a change in the answers might help.

      Just my 5 cents.



      • Hi Mark,

        Just adding to your cents 🙂

        So SAP has to "Analyze" and "Predict". So some App designed on HANA and River should be given to them to make their life's easy 🙂


        Krishna Tangudu

      • Hi Mark,

        I don't know what the right answer is, and normally I am someone with a lot of opinions 🙂

        Thinking aloud I guess:

        . considering the volumes of exams being taken

        . and therefore the need for an examination medium which can be marked by a machine

        then the multiple guess system is the only way

        You know,  if we gave answers as written sentences which would be read and marked by human there could be more room for interpretation, but SAP would need an army of exam markers.

        Perhaps the multiple guess is the only way, and consequently, to achieve the greatest results from multiple guess then the questions have to be like this.

        One good thing is, the exam is the same for everybody, therefore it is a level playing field.

        Somewhere I slip up, is in the heat of the moment, not reading carefully, that I must choose three from four or two from four etc. And something I do is try to always read the question very slowly, word for word aloud to help that I don't skip anything and then when I finished, painfully walk through the questions again reading them word for word and making sure where they asked for three from four I selected three from four etc.


    • Hi Mark, hi Andy,

      I love this blog and would encourage anyone interested in the topic around
      writing exam questions to have a try via our Crowdsourcing Portal at writing
      your own exam questions . There is more information on that here

      There is a related Rewards program – and you will get a good deal more
      insight into what needs to be considered when writing a fair exam question. 

      That being said – our question creation and review processes are very stringent,
      which doesn’t completely eliminate the possibility that some questions can be perceived
      as being “tricky”. It is not intentional and if the exam statistics show that a
      question is proving to be extremely difficult once it is out in the field it
      gets swapped out. But, as many of our subject matter experts will confirm, the
      art is not normally in writing the question – it is in formulating the answer
      options. They cannot be too obviously right – nor can they be too obviously
      wrong. It is sometimes a fine balance getting that right.

      Best regards


      • Hi Sue,

        thanks for the link! I submitted an exam question.

        Unfortunately my memory is not really precise, I'd love to discuss a real-life exam question with you to explain what I mean. Maybe I am mistaken, but I think I spotted some examples where "not too obvisously right/wrong" must hinge on very subtle details.

        Does SAP also include unrated questions in order to evaluate them in real-life before they become standard questions?



  • Good to see that Certification exam is getting tougher and tougher day by day compared to the exam which i attempted in March,2012.

    I think it would be a challenge for SAP Education team to frame questions on SAP HANA. Especially if we follow HANA properly, you can see there will be a lot of difference to the current version when compared with version prior to 6 months.

    One more thing I saw while i wrote my exams in that time is the dependency on Versions. Somethings which are not possible in previous versions are definitely possible in the future versions and people who work on HANA and attempting the exams do get confused.


    Krishna Tangudu

    • Hi Krishna,

      as I wrote, I believe SAP Education generally does a good job with the questions. They have to take many things into account, especially the release depencency. It doesn't make sense to formulate a question for SPS6 when they know the answer would be different with SPS7. In my exam, that was really well handled, as far as I can say. (Or maybe I was just lucky not to get such version dependent questions.) Since HANA is such a fast moving target, SAP has to work really hard to keep the certification exam up to date. I am really pleased with their efforts here. I just wonder why formulating technical questions seems to be that tricky. Sometimes I think I know the topic very well, but the actual quesion confuses me.


  • Mark,

    I am taking the HANA certification exam next week.  Are there any topics yoyu recommend to study harder on that puzzled you through the exam?


    • I am a DBA, so I focused out of interest more in the DBA relevant topics of HANA. I am not interested in modeling and SLT, therefore I didn't study these topics exensively, although I knew SLT is an exam topic. I was in course HA200 recently, so I think I was well prepared. Maybe my gut feeling is just wrong and others find the questions and answers straightforward. Besides studying the HA200 material I would also recommend reading the Administration Guide. In hindsight, I wouldn't have studied differently.

      Good luck, Mark

  • Mark,

    I work for an SAP partner so when I went for HANA training my courses consisted of HA300/HA350/HA360.   I just want to zero in on the correct material to concentrate on.  I will look at the Administration guide but If there are any other topics you could recommend for me to concentrate on would be most appreciated.


    • It depends on which certification exam you want to take:

      SAP Certified Application Associate (Edition 2013) - SAP HANA [C_HANAIMP131] has as prerequsite courses HA100, HA300 and HA350

      SAP Certified Technology Associate (Edition 2014) - SAP HANA [C_HANATEC131] has as prerequisite courses HA100 and HA200

      You should consult the websites of SAP Education which of the two certifications is better suitable for you:

      Please note that during the next weeks the new 2014 edition (HANA SPS7) of the certifications becomes available.

  • A concern I have with some of the course self assessment questions is poor grammatic structure, example below.   I hope the exam questions are more carefully formed.  The multiple choice answers often help resolve the meaning of the question but there should be no need.

    Q. What are the options using which the reporting templates can be delivered?

    Also some of the multiple choice answers are poorly formed/translated:

    A. When loading new data in the table, it gets separated the existing data.

    • Hi Jon-Paul

      please don't be concerned. The processes for creating certification exam questions are very different and significantly more thorough in terms of review processes than the sample questions in the course material.


  • Hi Mark

    Congratulations for your C_HANATECH131 Exam.

    Hana Exam are getting very tougher when new version takes place with lot of changes.

    Best Regards,


  • Can anyone tell me that has taking the HANA certification exam if there where any questions on RDS.  If you so can you recommend a good document to read up on RDS.



  • Hi Mark,

    I am also planning the HANATEC131 in next month..started reading HA100 and HA200.

    But my experience for OS-DB Migration was same as yours. All the questions are like that we think all options are correct and it is difficult to find out the wrong one among them...

    I remember the anxity and fear ...clicking on last question..but frtunately I cleare that now see what happens for HANA...wish me luck 🙂



    • Hi Bimal,

      thanks for your feedback, and of course: Good luck with your exam!

      In the meantime I submitted a candidate question to SAP, and it was accepted. Hopefully, test takes will find it to be unambigously stated.



  • Hi Mark,

    I am yet to attempt a HANA Certification (I wrote the Certification exam on ABAP a few years back and have taken a few courses on ) and I had the same feeling. The questions were ambiguous and say it is a question with 3 right options, getting the 3rd one was always difficult for me as there would be more than 1 competing choice for the 3rd right option.

    Can we suggest to SAP that they frame the questions better? May be...I don't know if the questions sound ambiguous only to me ( or to the test takers) or they were deliberately framed that way to trick the test takers.

    But I developed a simple (almost silly) strategy to deal with such questions (with multiple correct answers):

    (a) I read the question and make it a point to NOT look at the options immediately (I sometimes, physically close the options with my hand 😛 ). I read the question, assimilate/digest it (read it several times if necessary), recall the important concepts related to the topic being tested. Only then I look at the options. This way, your train of thought will not be confused by the options (which are, in a way, designed to confuse you...the options and the sequence in which they appear are "engineered" to lead you to the wrong answer).

    (b) Also, I use a separate sheet of paper where I list down the options - (A), (B), (C) etc and cross out the options that are wrong first. That narrows down the choices left and helps me focus more on the relevant ones. This aggressive use of paper and elimination of options also helped me.

    These are pretty basic strategies but it helped me cope with the tricky nature of the questions (in most cases the questions are not tricky...the wordings in the options are the one creating trouble).