Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP®) offered by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®) is the most prestigious professional certification that a business analyst can do. In order to tackle and conquer the exam you need meticulous planning, diligent and honest preparation and confidence in facing the exam.
This article intends to provide guidance on passing the examination from the time of filling up the application form.
Filling your CBAP® exam application
The journey to CBAP® certification starts with this all-important step of filling the application form. It is advisable for anyone to first of all read the CBAP® Handbook available on the IIBA® website and ensure that all requirements are met before submitting the application form.
The application form can be obtained by navigating to
- Visit www.iiba.org > Certification & Recognition > CBAP® Recognition (Certification)
- Click on CBAP® Online Application from the Quick Links box
The process of filling the application may take a good one to two weeks with the applicant having to fill multiple pieces of information including personal information, Education, Work Experience, Professional Development information and References details etc. It is important to make sure that the required number of hours for each knowledge area is properly documented and as such any guidance sheets (example the application guidance sheet provided by Watermark Learning) to assist in the same should be diligently utilized.
It is also important to make sure that you add two proper contacts as references, either your previous or current managers or preferably at least one CBAP® certified professional. Remember to accept IIBA® code of ethics and submit your application online.
The process of getting your application approved may take up to 15 days. Don’t worry in case your application is audited, in which case you just need to submit the requested documents on the specified time period. Make the payment once your application is accepted and you are good to go with the next important steps of preparing for the exam.
Registering for the exam
One additional step before you concentrate on your studies. Once your application is approved, you have a period of one year to make two attempts at passing the exam. CBAP® is available as a Computer Based Test (CBT) with only a limited number of test centers providing this capability. Search for Prometric testing centers in your preferred location / region using the following link and make the booking online.
My advice is for you to fix the exam date as early as possible and then target to do your first attempt at the exam within 3 to 6 six months. You will thus have a target in mind and will make plans to work towards it. Trust me, a major problem we, the working professionals have is the ‘student syndrome’!
Preparing for the exam
The time you spend preparing for the exam is the most important time of your journey towards getting CBAP® certified. Preparation begins from the time you start acquiring professional development hours for your application.
Ways through which you can gather the required hours are as follows-
- Follow a CBAP® certification preparation training programme conducted by a Endorsed Education Provider (EEP) of IIBA®. You can get information about EEPs in your region from the IIBA® website. Be mindful that EEPs will be scarce, especially in developing countries, in which case you would have to resort to alternative means.
- Join a study group organized by your local IIBA chapter– I personally followed this method where a group of 10 got together to form a study group endorsed by the local chapter. We read the BABOK®, prepared our own material, and during each meeting, topics were presented, discussed and argued upon. This was a really good method of going through the BABOK® with concepts being critically analyzed using our own practical experience. Be mindful that study group sessions may end up running for a good 6 to 9 months (since meetups happen at most once a week and that too, for two hours) and that you are prepared for a long but rewarding journey.
- Follow an online CBAP preparation course conducted by again an EEP. You are already at the right place with Knowledgehut ☺.
Note that an EEP will provide you with excellent learning and study techniques, access to a whole heap of practice questions, discussion of things to look for in the exam, discussion on issues that might be faced when preparing for and during an exam, test preparation strategies, test-taking strategies and other key aspects to concentrate on, remember and comprehend. EEP programs are always recommended for individuals who are pressed for time and prefer the human touch in terms of advice and guidance.
- You may also go through any other online material, videos or sites to enhance your knowledge in preparation for CBAP®.
‘Me time’ is important
Whatever said and done, reading the BABOK® guide at least 3 times is of utmost importance. My advice is for you to do the following. This actually worked for me, but you may adjust according to your needs.
Read the BABOK® once without making much effort to remember any of the concepts. Just read through the entire book once just to get a feel of the content. Before doing a second pass, critically go through the TOC to understand the structure of the guide. Then read the introduction, knowledge areas, underlying competencies and glossary sections, paying proper attention to the content. While reading the above sections I myself got the urge to refer to additional material on each area through other sources. Few tips for CBAP Exam that can help you prepare with more efficient in less time and finalize your exam preparation.
What helped me the most were the following-
There are many organizations that have published study guides and exam simulators. These study guides summarize the content in the BABOK® or are structured in such a manner with acronyms, study tips etc which makes comprehension and memorizing easy. Before making a complete 2nd pass through the BABOK® I read such a study guide once end to end making short notes, highlighting the document as well as creating my own set of flashcards. Then it was time to do a 2nd comprehensive read of the BABOK® guide.
By this time I had gained a good idea about the structure of the BABOK® and was slowly able to remember some of the key concepts.
Practice makes perfect
It is important to test your learning on the go. Make sure that you do as many practice questions as possible. I myself purchased an online exam simulator offered by Watermark learning and did over 2000 questions.
Exam simulators are structured in such a manner that you can first do questions relevant to a particular knowledge area (and that too you can attempt multiple times) before you try an actual simulation exam. Make sure you select a time slot where you can spend 4 hours when doing a practice test. This will also give an idea about your timing.
Now it is time to do your 3rd pass of the BABOK® guide. I read each knowledge area of the BABOK® and then read the related content from my study guide and immediately answered the questions related to the knowledge area. I repeated this for all 6 knowledge areas. Once this was done, I immediately took 2 practice exams. This gave me a clear idea about where I stood (Which was actually quite good in my case).
Two weeks before the exam, I read the BABOK® along with the study guide one last time and did one last simulation exam.
Taking the Exam
The exam constitutes of 200 MCQ questions to be completed within a 4 hours time period. On the exam day, make sure you arrive at the examination center at least 30 minutes prior to the scheduled start.
I wrote the exam in Singapore, which is an alien country to me coming from Sri Lanka. I made sure that I found the exam center on the day prior to the exam just to make sure that I am there on time on the exam day.
On the day prior to the exam, I only went through my short notes and flashcards (which actually had all the knowledge areas, key concepts from the BABOK®).
You will not be allowed to take anything inside the exam center; not your purse, watch, handkerchief, mobile phone, stationary and not even a bottle of water. You will be provided with a writing pad, a marker and an eraser to take down notes. The center staff will do the necessary paperwork, check you in and allocate your test computer.
The initial part of the exam is to verify some personal information followed by a few steps to familiarize you with the testing tool. Make use of that time to take down any notes on the writing pad. I myself noted down all the knowledge areas and key concepts along with the acronyms just so that I am equipped and ready to confidently answer the questions.
Take your time to read the questions carefully, mark and skip difficult questions without wasting time. The testing tool allows you to always come back and review your answers.
Once you submit the test, you will get another questionnaire about your testing experience. At the end you will immediately get to know whether you have got through or not. CBAP certification was helpful in broadening the knowledge and giving us insights on how to optimize performance of business analysis activities.
Remember! You have two attempts. But always try to get through in your first go.
All the very best for your CBAP® exams!!