August 15, 2023

How to Pass the dbt Cloud Administrator Exam: Your Comprehensive Guide

By Bruno Souza de Lima

Ah, the dbt Cloud Administrator exam. Fun fact: My first attempt? Well, let’s just say it was a “learning experience.”

But the second time? Completely different ballgame. I was prepared, answering questions with clarity and gusto. And from those initial stumbles, I gathered a wealth of insights.

So, here’s the scoop. I’m going to share all that hard-won wisdom with you. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll head into that exam feeling ready and assured. And who knows? You might just nail it on your very first try. Let’s jump right in!

What is dbt?

dbt Labs is a robust platform that allows individuals comfortable with SQL to incorporate software engineering’s best practices into their data transformation pipelines. These practices encompass aspects such as code versioning, testing, documentation, and modular programming. By entrusting the task of data transformation to those intimately familiar with the business rules, dbt ensures a more efficient workflow.

dbt’s brilliance is manifested in its ability to delegate tasks appropriately. It assigns technical concerns and infrastructure to those with a strong technical aptitude, allowing those well-versed in the business aspects to focus on the transformation processes.

dbt offers two distinct versions: dbt Core and dbt Cloud. 

dbt Core is the open-source code that powers dbt, and dbt Cloud is the fully managed platform. dbt Cloud excels by handling complex management tasks such as Slim CI, Environments, and Jobs, effectively removing the need for a dedicated maintenance team. Moreover, dbt Cloud continually evolves by regularly rolling out new features like webhooks, notifications, and role-based access control, among others.

Curious about the advantages of dbt Cloud over dbt Core?

Check out our comprehensive blog!

What are dbt Certifications?

dbt Labs offers data professionals two primary avenues to validate their dbt expertise through certifications:

dbt Developer

The dbt Developer certification zeroes in on dbt development, appealing to professionals whether they use dbt Core or Cloud. This certification is especially suited for analytics engineers regularly engaged in projects—creating new models, incorporating fresh solutions, and ensuring sustainable maintenance.

This certification, achieved by passing the dbt Analytics Engineering Certification exam, demonstrates your proficiency in:

  • Building, testing, and maintaining models to democratize data access.

  • Utilizing dbt to integrate engineering principles into analytics infrastructure.

dbt Cloud Administrator

The dbt Cloud Administrator exam emphasizes the specifics of dbt Cloud, requiring an understanding of features exclusive to this platform, not found in dbt Core. Its focus lies in ensuring a smooth operational landscape for developers, from establishing connections and repositories to setting up permissions, notifications, and scheduling jobs.

This is the certification we’ll be focusing on in this article. Earned by passing the dbt Cloud Administrator Certification Exam, it assesses your ability to:

  • Configure, troubleshoot, and optimize projects while managing dbt Cloud connections and environments.

  • Employ dbt to infuse engineering principles into analytics infrastructure.

Select the exam that aligns with your responsibilities. But remember, if you feel up to the challenge, why not pursue both certifications and showcase your comprehensive dbt expertise?

Why Pass the dbt Cloud Administrator Exam?

Navigating the current data environment requires continuous learning and skill enhancement. The dbt Cloud Administrator Exam offers a structured path in this direction. It also provides several advantages, including:

  • Professional Validation: Mastering the intricacies of dbt Cloud positions you as an expert in your field. Earning this certification showcases your competence to peers and employers.

  • Industry Relevance: The surge in companies integrating dbt Cloud into their workflow is significant. By passing this exam, you’re staying updated with industry trends and proving your expertise.

  • Career Advancement: Beyond the intrinsic value of knowledge, the certification can pave the way for better roles and opportunities, allowing your skills to be recognized.

  • Practical Mastery: This isn’t just about theory. The exam ensures you’re capable of handling real-world challenges within the dbt Cloud ecosystem, arming you with essential practical skills.

  • Continuous Learning: In an ever-changing field, being updated is essential. Preparing for and passing this exam encourages a habit of continuous learning, ensuring you’re always aware of the latest shifts.

Lastly, the dbt Cloud Administrator Exam is not just about getting a certification; it’s about ensuring you have the right skills and knowledge for your professional growth.

How to Prepare for the dbt Cloud Administrator Exam

In this section, I’ll walk you through what I believe to be the most effective preparation strategies for the exam. While some points may seem intuitive, I aim to provide unique insights and identify crucial topics highly likely to be part of the exam.

Getting Your Hands Dirty

There’s no substitute for hands-on experience. dbt Labs advises a minimum of “6+ months administering an instance of dbt Cloud up to version 1.4”. Though passing the exam with less exposure is possible, I cannot overstate the value of practical experience.

Before delving into the exam specifics and studying the guide, familiarize yourself with dbt Cloud, understanding its user interface and basic settings.

To help with this, you could use the official dbt quickstart guide and on-demand courses. This way, you’ll gain foundational knowledge of dbt Cloud, guided by dbt Labs.

Here are my top recommendations:

  1. Work through a dbt Cloud Quickstart: If you’re unsure which one to pick, I recommend the dbt Cloud with Snowflake Quickstart as a good starting point.

  1. Take the following on-demand, complementary courses. They’re short and provide valuable knowledge:

    1. dbt Cloud and Snowflake for Admins: This course will guide you through setting up dbt Cloud and configuring jobs.

    2. Advanced Deployment with dbt Cloud: Gain a thorough understanding of Jobs, Environments, and Slim CI in this course.

    3. Webhooks: Given that webhooks form an important part of the exam content, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with them.

    4. Jinja, Macros, and Packages: Even though the exam doesn’t directly cover these topics, an understanding of macros and packages is essential for comprehending more complex topics that will appear on the exam.

  1. (Optional) dbt Fundamentals and dbt Cloud and Snowflake for Developers: These topics won’t be in the exam, but if you’re interested in gaining broader knowledge about dbt, these courses could be beneficial.

Set aside some time to experiment with dbt Cloud based on what you’ve learned in the courses. To do this, you’ll need to create a free dbt account, a Snowflake trial account (or another Data Warehouse), and a GitHub account.

Scrutinizing the Study Guide

With a practical understanding of dbt Cloud under your belt, we can now dissect the study guide together, commenting on each section for a deeper insight.

Questions Types

The exam comprises various types of questions, some of which might be unfamiliar. Let’s briefly explain each type:

  1. Multiple Choice: This format is fairly intuitive. You’re presented with several options, and you must select one or more correct answers. The number of correct choices will be specified.

  1. Fill-in-the-Blank: For this format, you’ll encounter sentences with missing words or phrases. Each gap will present a dropdown list of choices for you to select from.

  1. Matching: Similar to fill-in-the-blank, but instead of completing a sentence, you’re tasked with pairing each sentence with the most suitable option from a dropdown list. Consider it a process of establishing logical connections between sentences and options. A simplistic example could involve matching permissions descriptions to their names.

  1. Build List: This format requires you to sequence parts of a process. You’ll receive several options that you must arrange logically for the given context.

  1. Discrete Option Multiple Choice (DOMC): This final format is the most unconventional and potentially challenging. A DOMC question resembles a multiple-choice question, but rather than viewing all options simultaneously, you’re presented with one option at a time and must determine its correctness. dbt Labs seems to favor a variation of DOMC that terminates the question once an incorrect response is given to any option.

It’s essential to note that you can flag any question for later review, with the exception of DOMC questions, which cannot be revisited.


Here’s a quick rundown of the exam logistics, largely reflecting what’s outlined in the study guide:

  • Duration: 2 Hours

  • Format & Registration: online proctored or on-site at Coalesce

  • Length: 65 questions

  • Passing Score: 63% or higher. You will know your result immediately after the completion of the exam.

  • Price: $200

  • Language: Only English at this time

  • Certification Expiration: The certification expires two years after the date awarded.

For each question, you’ll earn 1 point if answered correctly and 0 if answered incorrectly. Note that the exam may contain unscored questions intended for research purposes, but you will not be informed of which these are.

And remember – don’t forget your identification document!

Topic Outline

Next up; we’ll dive into the meat of the matter – the content. The study guide provides an excellently structured learning path, complete with many links to pertinent documentation.

In this section, I’ll strive to avoid redundancy, focusing instead on sharing insights from my personal experience that might better equip you for the exam.

Please note: The advice I provide here should complement, not replace, the recommended readings in the study guide. Consider it an additional resource in your preparation process.

Topic 1: Configuring dbt Cloud Data Warehouse Connection

For the first topic, in addition to the suggested readings from the study guide, I’d like to offer some personal insights:

  • dbt Cloud Architecture: Understand the hierarchy and relationships among accounts, regions, projects, and adapters. For instance, how many database connections can you have within a project or an account? How many regions can an account encompass? Questions concerning these relationships are likely to appear.

  • Connections Setup: Ensure that you’ve already set up a project in dbt Cloud. Completing a quickstart guide can familiarize you with connecting an adapter, linking the git provider, and understanding the necessary credentials.

While this topic might seem a tad less dense, it’s still important groundwork. Now, let’s proceed to the next topic.

Topic 2: Configuring Git Connections

This topic, in my experience, can be quite challenging. In my exam, there were more questions regarding this area than I anticipated. Here are some tips to help you navigate it:

  • Custom Branches: Understand how to operate with custom branches. If you modify the branch of an environment, what will be its behavior? From which branch do you create other branches and make pull requests in a development environment? From which branch is the code cloned in a production environment? Is this branch protected? Is it read-only? How do you protect your branches? Be comfortable with these sorts of inquiries.

  • Git Buttons: Familiarize yourself with the Git buttons in the IDE. Understand their functions and when they appear. Grasp the entire process from initializing a dbt project to creating branches and making pull requests via the IDE.

  • PR Template: This topic is relatively straightforward. Simply read through the PR template page and learn how to utilize the {{ source }} and {{ destination }} variables. Additionally, review deploy keys.

  • Git Integration: Lastly, comprehend the differences between utilizing a native git integration and cloning a repo via the command line. What are the advantages of using native git integration (there are several)? What can you accomplish with the native git integration that would be impossible without it?

Topic 3: Configuring dbt Cloud Security and Licenses

Expect a substantial number of questions from this section on your exam. Here are some essential points to remember:

  • Service and User Tokens: Know how to create them, who can create them, their potential access levels, and their relation to users and/or projects.

  • Permission Sets: This is a major area of focus for the exam. Familiarize yourself with the various permission sets, their capabilities, and their relationship with licenses. A handy tip for studying: recall that ‘Stakeholder’ is the only permission set that requires only the Read-Only License; all other sets need the Developer License. Furthermore, a Read-Only license only allows the use of docs and source freshness. Also, note that Analysts can access the IDE.

  • Licenses and Self-Service Permissions: Understand the specific permissions for each license and for self-service permissions. 

  • Licenses vs. Permissions Sets: Which one is fine-grained? And which one controls the specific parts of the dbt Cloud application that a given user can access?

  • Role-Based Access Control (RBAC): Have a firm grasp of RBAC and its operation.

  • Group Permissions: Learn how to assign permissions to groups and be aware of the limitations. Know how many permissions can be assigned to a group and how many groups a user can join.

  • Mapping: Understand the purpose of SSO mappings, what you need to apply them, and how to do so. Know when they are updated.

  • Configuring Permissions: Understand where each permission is configured, whether in dbt Cloud, the data warehouse, or the git provider. For instance, know where you’d configure permissions for reading data in a specific schema.

  • Adding or Removing Users: Understand the slight differences between executing this task with the enterprise plan and the other plans.

  • Single Sign-On (SSO): Memorize the SSO process, from the attempt to log in through to being redirected to dbt Cloud. Understand what an Identity Provider (IdP) is and how it can be used with dbt Cloud.

Topic 4: Creating and Maintaining dbt Cloud Environments

This section is all about environments. Here are some tips and reminders:

  • Environment Configuration: Familiarize yourself with all aspects of environment configuration, including creation and deletion. Keep in mind you must delete jobs before deleting an environment.

  • Schemas: They appear frequently in the exam. Know how to set custom schemas in your environment and understand how the {{ generate_schema_name() }} and {{ generate_database_name() }} macros work.

  • Upgrading the dbt Version: Understand how to upgrade your dbt version for the job and environment and where this can be done.

  • Environment Variables: Grasp how to define them at different levels (project, environment, jobs) and the order of precedence. Know how to call them in a model and what the requirements for defining them are. Also, delve deep into secret environment variables.

As before, going through the advanced deployment course is strongly recommended for this topic. The detailed information provided in this section does not replace the need to go through the study guide but serves as a supplementary resource.

Topic 5: Creating and Maintaining Job Definitions

Jobs are a significant part of the exam, and this topic requires thorough preparation. Here are a few important points to consider:

Job Configuration: Thoroughly understand how to set up, schedule, and configure Slim CI jobs. Know when a single job is sufficient and when multiple jobs are required.

Threads: These are part of job configuration, so ensure you know their purpose and how to use them.

Defer: Understand its usage, and be familiar with the usage of flags like –state and –source_status. Understand the functionality of the –fail-fast flag and how it behaves when a model fails during execution.

Job Steps: Learn how to structure job steps to meet your requirements, and take a look at hooks and the on-run-start and on-run-end configurations. Know the differences between marking the docs and sources boxes instead of adding them as steps in your job.

Documentation: Know how to use jobs to set up your docs page.

Remember to read through the entire jobs page in the dbt documentation. This supplemental information should be used in conjunction with the study guide to prepare for the exam.

Topic 6: Setting up Monitoring and Alerting for Jobs

This topic is relatively straightforward, but it does require your attention. Both the notifications and webhooks pages in the dbt documentation are concise and should be read thoroughly. Here are some key points to remember for this topic:

  • Notifications: Understand who can set up notifications and for whom they can be set. There are differences between email and Slack notifications that you should be aware of. For instance, email notifications are for users, while Slack notifications can be for either users or channels. Make sure you understand these nuances.

  • Webhooks: Familiarize yourself with what webhooks are and what they are used for. The Webhooks on-demand course is a great resource for this. Additionally, understand how to set up webhooks, what attributes are required for configuration, and what events they can notify about.

  • Webhooks Applications: Lastly, be sure to familiarize yourself with the potential applications of webhooks. A comprehensive list can be found on the webhooks documentation page.

Topic 7: Monitoring Command Invocations

For the final topic, let’s break it down into several key aspects that you should focus on:

Audit Log: Start with a thorough reading of the audit log page. It is crucial to memorize the different types of events that appear in the audit log. Be aware that this can be quite tricky. For instance, the log might record credential change events, but you need to know which kind of credentials are logged. Additionally, you should understand how to export data from the audit log, as well as be aware of any time limitations that apply.

Model Timing Tab: This tab shows a chart where the X-axis represents time—specifically, the duration of each model in the execution of your job. The Y-axis is divided into different lanes, with the number of lanes corresponding to the number of threads in your job. The more elongated a model is in its lane, the longer it takes to run. This can help you identify any models that are acting as bottlenecks in your job. This chart appears for successful jobs and highlights the top 1% of model durations.

Dashboard Status Tiles: While this isn’t mentioned in the study guide, it would be helpful to learn how to configure dashboard status tiles.

DAG Audition and Job Logs Review: For this section, the readings in the study guide, along with hands-on experience, are the most helpful. There are two areas I would add to this: package errors and unpacking relationships and data lineage. These areas are covered in these links:


After a deep dive into the many facets of the dbt Cloud Administrator Exam, it’s clear that preparation is key. This exam is broad in its scope and requires a solid understanding of all the functionalities and aspects of dbt Cloud. Remember, the main goal of this exam is to certify your expertise in being a dbt Cloud Admin, so you should have hands-on experience and be comfortable navigating the platform.

This guide is NOT a replacement for the official study guide provided by dbt Labs but rather a supplement to it, offering additional insights and personal experiences. Be sure to use all of these resources: 

  • dbt Labs study guide 

  • Official documentation 

  • This blog post

Don’t forget about the importance of practical experience, either. It’s crucial to apply what you’ve learned in real-world contexts whenever possible.

Key Takeaways

  • Ensure that you have a robust understanding of all the topics in the study guide.

  • Get hands-on practice with dbt Cloud.

  • Take the time to understand how different features, functionalities, and permissions interconnect.

  • Focus not just on memorizing facts but also on understanding the underlying principles and concepts.

  • Utilize the resources mentioned in this guide to deepen your understanding of each topic.

  • Finally, remember that preparation is about more than just passing the exam. It’s about mastering the skills you’ll need as a dbt Cloud Administrator and becoming a more capable and knowledgeable data professional. With determination and focused preparation, you’re well on your way to success.

If you have any further questions regarding the dbt Cloud Administrator Exam, reach out to our team of dbt experts.

Best of luck with your dbt Cloud Administrator Exam!

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