5 Tips for becoming a SAS® Certified Advanced Programmer in 6 Months


I had the pleasure of attending Gongwei Chen’s SAS Global Forum 2010 presentation, Get Certified as an Advanced SAS® Programmer in Six Months or Less! As you might expect, Gongwei is a Certified Advanced Programmer. To become certified at the advanced level, a programmer must pass both the SAS Base Programming Exam and SAS Advanced Programming Exam. Gongwei prepared for and passed both exams in four months, scoring 89 percent on both exams.

This is an extraordinary but not impossible feat. He had some great insight for users who are thinking of getting certified, but are worried about the length of time to certification or preparation class expenses. He even had a few words for those who are worried that they might not pass the exams. First and foremost, Gongwei said, “It will take time to get certified, but most people overestimate how hard the exam is.”

I’m am experienced user, why certify now?
There are many reasons that a SAS user would choose to get certified, including validation of skills and improved marketability for your firm and yourself “I had a lot of experience with SAS, but that doesn’t necessarily make me an advanced programmer,” said Gongwei. “I was doing the same thing for most of my 10 years as a SAS user. In San Antonio, I learned more about SAS Certification, and I said ‘I have 10 years of experience; I should become SAS Certified.’”

So he set a course for self-improvement. Gongwei says that he decided he’d use the SAS® Publishing books (Base Certification Prep Guide and Advanced SAS Certification Prep Guide) and really dig into the materials on his own. (SAS® Training offers certification preparation packages, which can include classroom, e-learning and certification with up to a 50% discount. Gongwei says that might be the best way to prepare for some; he found that the one drawback of solo training with the books is that he didn’t’ have a teacher to help with difficult questions.) It’s crucial, says Gongwei, for you to understand the principles taught in these books.

“The exam is not terribly difficult if you go through the preparation materials,” he says. In order to pass the exam, you must get 65 percent of the 70 computer-based questions correct. “That’s not too high,” he added. Based on the buzz in the room, the audience seemed to agree.

5 Tips to Zoom through SAS Certification

These tips helped Gongwei pass the certification exams very quickly!

  1. Choose a preparation method.
  2. Apply memorization techniques.
  3. Run the sample programs offered in the preparations materials. Gongwei ran the programs on the CDs in the prep books to get a full understanding of the material.
  4. Take the practice exams offered by SAS. “Passing the practice exam will be a good indicator of how you’ll perform on the actual exam,” said Gongwei. “And, it will give you the confidence that you will pass.”
  5. Study with intense repetition. “It’s easy to forget what you studied early in the book, so I constantly went back to previous chapters to reread them.” For each exam, Gongwei read each chapter about five times!

Download Gongwei’s paper and then send any questions you may have to certification@sas.com.

“It’s difficult to pass both exams in six months, but if you commit yourself, you can!” ~ Gongwei Chen, Ph.D., Washington Caseload Forecast Council, Olympia, WA.


About Author

Larry LaRusso

Principal Communications Specialist at SAS

Larry LaRusso is the editor of the SAS Tech Report and SAS Learning Report newsletters and the SAS Users, Learning Post and Analytics U blogs. He has worked at SAS since 2000 in marketing, communications, customer experience and management roles for both the Education Division and External Communications. You can follow him on Twitter @lalaru102.


  1. Hi:
    When I did the base exam, I bought the sas practice exam and some questions on the sas practice exam were on the actual base exam. So doing the sas practice exam really helped.

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