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CBAP® exam ... Where to start

Why so challenging?

The path toward CBAP® certification is very very challenging, and rightfully so. After all, as a collective, we wouldn't want someone misrepresenting our profession and giving us all CBAP® a bad name. I believe it's safe to say that it's important that IIBA® makes the certification process challenging. Not to compare Business Analyst to other professions, but imagine going to a doctor knowing that the medical industry didn't rigorously challenge their professional. Sounds scary doesn't it. Well as a BA, we may not be responsible of people's lives, but we are in part responsible for their finances. What happens when a project fails? Or an application gets shelved after the sponsors have spent millions of dollars building it? ...etc Bottom line, loss of money is what we are talking about. And this can cause a lot of turmoil in someone's life.

Hence, it's important that we BAs understand those "things" that we must do to ensure that companies do not throw away their hard-earned money. And therefore, the challenge is there to help us become the best that we can be.

What's so challenging?

The challenge that most CBAP® seekers face while preparing for the CBAP® has been about really "getting" the BABOK 2.0. If you are like me, you didn't think that the BABOK® alone was enough to help you understand all the business analysis concepts it talks about. You are not alone! It turns out that there are more BAs out there with the same dilemma. So the question I have been asked many times is: What other supplemental material should someone study prior to gaining all the knowledge necessary to sit for the CBAP®?

If you were a surgeon, preparing for the USMLE Board examination would take you at least one to two years after an intense 6 to 10 years of training. During this time, you would have read many many pages of materials. Fortunately, we are not preparing you to become surgeons.

The starting point...

When preparing for the CBAP® it's important to understand the following three main concepts:

  1. What Business Analysis is by learning the structure of the BABOK and its key definitions
  2. What it takes to perform Business Analysis by reviewing the content of each task in the BABOK and the techniques associated with them
  3. And the relationship between Business Analysis tasks and the components of the SDLC

These main concepts are found in the BABOK® and the best way to understand them by going through the BABOK® a few times. I don't usually recommend for anyone to spend more money purchasing books to increase their knowledge of Business Analysis. Though this step is very important toward professional development, it may not always be necessary when preparing for the CBAP®. And this is why: If you've come as far as getting your application approved to sit for the CBAP®, there is much you know about Business Analysis than you may think.

You need to determine what you do KNOW about Business Analysis. This is done by assessing your knowledge. So before you spend money on books, take some free sample CBAP® exam practice questions. If you Google it, you will find a few free short practice test out there. For more rigorous and sophisticated assessment, you may have to pay a small fee, and I strongly recommend it.

Obviously, you may or may not score perfectly on your initial assessment and that is OK! The initial assessment tells you the knowledge gap that you need to fill. This gives you a starting point for planning your journey towards becoming a CBAP® recipient. Reading the BABOK will help you fill this knowledge gap and if you deem necessary to get a book at this point, IIBA® has put together a great resource (The Learning Guide) for CBAP® seekers to determine the right book to purchase for each concept in the BABOK®.

And lastly, you may also be surprised by how much you didn't know that you knew :). And if that is the case, you have a head start...

Author: Linda Erzah, CBAP®. Owner of BAMentor, LLC (, a company specialized in helping business analyst become CBAP® recipients. Linda has 11 years of experience as a Business Analyst. She has pioneered CBAP® study group since 2006 and has helped a number of Business Analyst become CBAP® recipients. She is a mentor and helps professionals in their journey to mastering business analysis.

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CBAP® is a registered certification mark owned by International Institute of Business Analysis. This certification mark is used with the express permission of International Institute of Business Analysis.

Certified Business Analysis Professional™, EEP™ and the EEP logo are trademarks owned by International Institute of Business Analysis.

IIBA®, the IIBA® logo, BABOK® and Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® are registered trademarks owned by International Institute of Business Analysis. These trademarks are used with the express permission of International Institute of Business Analysis.

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