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CBAP Final Step: Take Exam and…

Well it’s official, I’m certifiably a Business Analyst. Or at least IIBA thinks so! On Sept 20, I bit the bullet and took the CBAP exam…and luckily passed!!

Here are my thoughts on the exam and what worked for preparing.

  1. Know that there are really hard questions on it. Not all of them are hard, but some definitely are. I marked about 20% of the questions to come back and revisit either because I couldn’t decide between two answers or because I just wanted to be sure I hadn’t misread the question. The thing about the CBAP questions is that some of them are flat out tricky. I personally don’t think that makes for a good test, but nonetheless, it’s how it was written.
  2. Practice tests help you get used to the type of tricky questions that are on it. On these tricky questions, almost always there are 2 obviously wrong answers, but deciding between the other two is much less obvious.
  3. My practice tests took me about 2-2.5 hours to complete, but I actually used the entire 3.5 hours on the exam so I could revisit questions. I first revisited the ones I had marked. Then I used the remaining time to read the rest of them. I didn’t change many answers in that pass, but felt better knowing I hadn’t done something dumb.
  4. This is probably most important – you absolutely have to know the BABOK and know it well. I’ve read it three times through now over the last year and I spend a lot of time thinking about it in the context of working on the team creating version 3. I will say I’m not good with memorization, but rather with understanding concepts and how to apply them, and sometimes that was a disadvantage to me because you have to know exactly what something is called in the BABOK. Either way I went into the exam feeling like I knew it well and yet still found the test hard. So I can’t imagine doing it having only read it once or skimmed it.
  5. If you struggle to memorize things, then try some mnemonics to remember the tasks within each knowledge area. That worked well for me. In the days before the exam, I spent time periodically just writing down the knowledge areas and their tasks to make sure I really understood them. I also created lots of little cheat sheets to study from about stakeholders by task, techniques by task, and inputs/outputs by task.
  6. Do make sure you eat and hydrate well before the exam because you cannot take food and drink in with you and you really don’t want to waste your time during the exam on these things if you can avoid it.

In the end, I spent 22 hours on the application for the CBAP, 24 hours in training to get my credits, and 41 hours studying to prepare for the exam. If you add in the time to take the test, it was a 92 hour adventure!

During the test, I definitely had this moment of thinking “if I don’t pass this test this time, I have no idea what would I do,” because I truly felt prepared and that I wouldn’t know how to prepare any better than I had. And the things that were stumping me in the exam were such one-off topics that if I had gone back to memorize them for a retake, there’s no guarantee those would be the tricky questions on take two. So in the end, I was skeptical I’d ever want to go take it again! But luckily I passed. And let me tell you, when that screens flashes up, after all that hard work, I had an overwhelming sense of happiness, relief, and somewhat disbelief!

And since I did this while 7 months pregnant, I feel like the baby should get an honorary CBAP.

6 Responses to CBAP Final Step: Take Exam and…

  1. Mary Gerush October 11, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    Hi Joy. Congratulations on you and your baby getting your certifications! You described an experience very similar to the one I lived through getting my Project Management Professional certification. I remember when I “pushed the button” and waited until I found out I had passed. I was relieved! Certifications don’t mean you are good at what you do, but they can definitely make good performers even better performers. Thanks for sharing your experience. (And good luck!)

  2. Matt Lehman October 19, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    Way to go Joy!

  3. Laura Brandenburg October 21, 2011 at 12:23 pm #


    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I shared a lot of your experience with the exam. I really didn’t know if I had passed or failed and I do find that very, very frustrating. There were many questions where I had to do just what you say and choose between two best answers. Even though I felt I had all the knowledge to make a good choice, the question and answers available didn’t make it apparent which would be a good choice.

    Perhaps in your role on v3 you can help alleviate some of this problem?

    Here’s my story on the exam itself: http://www.bridging-the-gap.com/lauras-cbap-journey-putting-a-c-in-my-bap-week-12-part-2/

  4. Linda Erzah, CBAP October 21, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

    Congratulations!!! It’s amazing how most of us became CBAP while pregnant :). I was 2 months pregnant when I became certified. It’s definitely a good certification to have before leaving for maternity.
    Welcome to the CBAP world, I wish you much success!

  5. Lori Witzel October 21, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    Thanks, all! I will make sure Joy sees your comments – she has been a bit busy, as you all can imagine! 🙂


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