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Tips and strategies for the A00-231 SAS Base Programming Performance-Based Certification Exam

Started ‎08-26-2019 by
Modified ‎02-25-2022 by
Views 153,088

Sitting for a performance-based exam can be a challenging experience. During your exam, coding challenges are presented and you write SAS programs to answer questions about your results. These questions are then scored to determine your grade. Straightforward, but in a timed, high-stakes exam environment, we know that this can be stressful. Here are a few strategies to help you get through the exam as calmly as possible.


For starters, please review the information on our exam website, which includes a short, 5 minute introductory video to explain the exam environment.


Next, check out this 10 minute video from the SAS User Channel. I walk you through an example coding challenge, write some code, troubleshoot it, and answer a couple of exam questions.



With the basics out of the way, here are a few more tips:

  • I'm not going to go over specific content, but please be sure to review the exam content guide and be familiar with ALL the topics. There are some projects on the exam that aren't difficult, but if you have gaps in your knowledge, they can use more clock time than is necessary.
  • I said I wasn't going to get into specific content. I lied. One pointer from the content guide: You must be able to create a SAS library with a LIBNAME statement. You are going to have a bad time if you can't do this one thing.
  • The source data sets are write protected. This is to save you from yourself and ensure that you don't corrupt the source data. So don't be surprised when you can't edit the original data sets. You are going to have to save sorted/edited data somewhere else (which is explained within the exam).
  • Stay organized. There are instructions in the exam to save each program you write before moving to the next project. Do this. Writing all of your code in one big file may feel like a time saver, but it's not. As you build up code, it gets difficult to manage and submit sections and things get all gummed up - causing more stress. Save the program, take a breath, and then start a new file for the next project. 
  • Keep an eye on the clock. I think that we as programmers can't let go of a half-finished program, or one that keeps spitting errors. It is in our DNA to keep at it. But during an exam, it is better to get the points where you can. You can mark the questions for review or skip them. Either way, these marked/skipped items will show on the "Review" page before your exam ends and and you can go back later. If you are making progress, great. If not, time to skip to the next project.

The practice exam is currently available at no cost, and there is also an On Demand webinar How to Prepare for the SAS® Programming Specialist Exam to help you with your studying. 


I hope that you find these tips helpful during your exam preparation. Make sure that you practice writing SAS programs, and good luck on your exam.




Hi @evener . I'm sorry for the poor experience.

For technical problems encountered during the delivery of your exam, please reach out to PearsonVUE via the contact information at There you will find contact information for your region and opportunities to use chat, email or phone. It may take them a few days to respond, but they are generally responsive. If you do not hear from them within 4 business days, please send an email to with your Pearson support ticket number (IR Number).

The logic statements are weird.  I'm not sure how he got away with leaving off a zero, but not worth my time. Logic statements should be logical, and make intuitive sense to someone reading the program.

Hi @Mark2010 thanks for your help. PearsonVue investigated my case and offer me a vouch to retake the exam. I went to the exam center to take that the exam and passed exam with almost full score after 14 days. Your tutorial and tips really help for preparing the exam.


I am planning to take A00-281 but have no idea how to prepare. Could you give me some tips? Thanks again.

can you provide a video on using the regular sas when taking the exam, instead of using sas studio? thanks. 

@greenpower - Sorry, as the exam topics are independent of the SAS UI, I'm not sure that videos on each UI would add enough value for the effort required. The video's purpose is to explain the overall exam environment. It is a normal PC SAS installation and the UI's all behave as you would expect from past experience with the UI that you are most comfortable with. 

can you turn off the cursor blink in the test environment? I find it difficult to work with a blinking cursor, it's distracting and quite irritating. I always disable it immediately on any computer I am using for the 1st time. Is it possible before the exam starts to turn the blink rate to zero?

@pmbrown I tested this for you and it is possible. Be familiar with how this is done on a Windows 10 computer ahead of your exam, and you can use the 10 minute introduction period to configure the computer & SAS to your preferences. For me, I clicked on the magnifying glass on the task bar and simply searched for cursor blink rate and this brought up the dialog. Setting it to 'None' eliminated the cursor blink in all 4 SAS UI's provided as part of the exam lab.

@Mark2010   fantastic! appreciate it

is sas base certification exam content guide topics are enough to prepare for certification exam? for example sas functions mentioned in content guide are few only  but there are many other  functions also. 

So it would be difficult to be exhaustive on the content guide to cover all SAS functions. We mention the most common ones that you are likely to see on an exam. Bear in mind that experience is important too. During the lab projects, you have access to SAS documentation, including shortcuts to functions, formats, and Base Procedures. A qualified SAS programmer would know how to access documentation for a function that they are not currently familiar with. 

Me around 4:57 – It’s the length! 😄  Feeling ready!


Reading through the comments, I’m thinking I might choose to take this in-person at a testing center rather than at home.  At the test center, I wouldn’t have to be concerned with installing anything, or getting around any security roadblocks, right?  I’d just show up and sit down at a desk and go for it?

There are advantages to each option, Testing Center and Remote Proctoring. Going to a test center isn't quite as simple as showing up and sitting down. There will still be some checks, photos, stowing of personal items. Here is a page that has a video for each experience

Hello Mark, 

hello SAS Colleagues 🙂


I had a Question Regarding Case Studies:

What could we expect on SAS 9.4 Base Programming Performance-Based Exam?


-1-2 tasks those are complex/longer/with more requirements (which are presented on Coursera SAS 4th course 'Practicing for the SAS Programming Certification Exam' by Peter Styliadis (&Stacey Syphus))


-several smaller programming projects -like it is presented in SAS Certification Practice Exam, and also in exam website tutorial -Intro 6 section)?



Kind regards,



@nevena_rogic The practice exam is a good representation of the actual exam. We recommend waiting to use the practice exam until after you have learned SAS through your studies and preparation. The sample questions also provide a good representation of the projects for review early in your exam preparations.

@Mark2010  Thank you very much Mark, I appreciate the precise answer. Regards, Nevena

@Mark2010 I am using the free programming 1:Essentials and thinking of buying the textbook and using the sample questions and practice exam. Would this be sufficient to prepare for the Base Programming Using SAS 9.4 exam? Side Note: I dont have access to Programming 2: Data manipulation techniques training. 


Thanks in advance 

@Thembile Sorry, no. You also must master the content of Programming 2. PG1 on its own is not enough to cover all of the material enumerated on the Exam Content Guide

@Mark2010 Thank you. 

SAS Certified Specialist Prep Guide 

1st Edition

- Does this textbook cover the content in both PG1 and 2? 




@Thembile The Prep Guide that you reference is adequately covers the material on the exam and is a good prep resource.


Let's take it up a level and talk exam prep strategies in general: Please check out this 10 minute video with 4 important pointers for SAS Certification Exam Prep: 


Kindly send the link to access SAS Studio Software.



Hi Mark,

In the exam, are we allowed to answer MC questions first, and work on the lab/programming questions afterwards?

Or do we have to answer them in the order that they are presented?


Is autocomplete enabled (or allowed) on the SAS programming platform-editor tab, that will be used during exam (I'm guessing 'not', but just curious)?


It is possible to go to the MC questions first, but awkward and not a time efficient path through the exam. And the lab questions are worth more points. I would recommend going through the exam in order. 

In exam how to copy file location to create library because we do not allow to access our local drive??


It's awesome the way SAS has it set up...the libraries are set up for you...exactly the same as the practice exam if you take that you will be good to go!



Im planning to do certification on A00-231 SAS Base Programming. Once I register for exam, how many attempts were allowed if I couldn't get through the test.



@Sri24 - That information is contained in our candidate agreement, which is stored on our Exam Integrity Page, linked here. I'd rather link you to the source than answer that here, in case the rules ever change. Plus there is lots of other good information that you should be aware of as you prepare for the exam. 

Hi Mark,

I couldn't find the answer in the link provided by you. But when I went to
the Webinar comment section, I found the details about it. Below is the

Hope this is correct. Please let me know if this is not the correct one.
Thank you for your support


Hi Mark, I am planning to take the SAS 9.4 Base Programming – Performance Based Exam in August 2024. I am basing my study around the Exam Content Guide and the SAS Certified Specialist Prep Guide. I plan to use SAS Studio and take the exam in person. During the exam, is the autocomplete option available and is there access to the SAS documentation? 

Thank you, 


Abby - The autocomplete is available and documentation is available during the lab portion of the exam.

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