Monday, September 16, 2013

My Experience with CBAP

I'm not a big fan of professional certificates and don't like employers who put a great deal on them or who consider being accredited as an indicator to competency for a specific job. On contrary good recruiters should have their own ways to measure key skills and practical experiences that fit their desired vacancy regardless of the ability shown by someone to study, memorize and recall some knowledge in a general exam.
 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

Despite that, this year I got to prepare for 2 certificates and passed them successfully. Thanks God.
One of them is a local accreditation or recognition in Software Agile Methodologies and the other one is the recognized international certificate of business analysis CBAP. And the reason behind that move was just to take it as motive to study and enhance my knowledge about what I already practice for a while and fill gaps of areas I might be missing in my career. 

Here I'll brief my personal experience in studying and preparing for CBAP which may help newcomers in some way.

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The first time reading

Of course the first thing you'll be doing is reading the BABOK after buying it or downloading it directly if you joined IIBA as a member. Don't try to study from the softcopy, print it and let it handy with you, it won't be a one time reading and you'll need to go back and forth, annotate, write summaries the old way you used to at the days of school and college.

For this first time reading, don't worry if you find the book hard, boring or dry. It's normal to fall asleep while reading.., and it's common to find yourself starring at the same page for a while or repeating the same paragraph several times. Maybe also the language is difficult or complex and the terminology is not common. Don't panic ! You're not alone.

Just let your ultimate goal of this reading is passing by all the book once to get used to its language and its structure. No need to spend effort understanding every bit of info at this moment. And it'll be very helpful if you join (or initiate) a study group organized by a local IIBA Chapter or with any mates interested to study together.

The real preparation

You're now - to some extent - familiar with business analysis knowledge areas, tasks and techniques. So, get ready to the most important step: filling the application.
Just relax, you're not too old to set and remember 10 years back of your career history. There is a good application worksheet that will help you a lot in organizing and filling hours of the projects you worked in, in addition to avoiding mapping hours of the tricky unrelated tasks that doesn't map to any knowledge area in the IIBA application.
It's easy to finish the application in 1 or 2 weekends, but it's not a good practice. Take your time and take the opportunity to understand the BABOK more. How..? Well.., for each project you're logging its hours, take the time to remember all the activities you've done in it.., don't record project hours for each knowledge area directly.., open the book.., read each task in this knowledge area.., ask yourself did I practice it ? Which of my project activities match it ? If it's not clear enough go and read the task again. The real understanding comes from the ability to map each practical experience you've encountered in your career to the stated practices in the BABOK. And you'll never find time better than filling the application to do that.
By repeating this for each project till finishing the application you'll be more than prepared really.

Old days studying

Your application is accepted and exam date is appointed.., there is no way from recalling study mode of old past exams once you'd been a student.
There are many study guide books and flash cards available, but I relied only on the CBAP book (and without the help of its learning guide).
My way of studying was reading every chapter in the book with more concentration than the first time reading, highlighting important parts, writing some annotations and summaries and trying to recall the diagram at the beginning of each chapter from time to time.
I started first with the techniques chapter with the help of this list to build some relations about the use of techniques in tasks; and also augmented the list with the single techniques that each is used in only one task. (took around 3 days)
Then I went through the 6 knowledge areas (around 1 day for each 2 knowledge areas + 1 day for introduction and key competencies and some overall review). While some recommend you start directly with knowledge areas and when you encounter a technique you go and study it within the course of studying the knowledge area. It's up to you to go either way.
Last thing in the book, the glossary, I only passed through it quickly in the transportation in my way to the exam, just as a refreshment.
After studying, many find it indispensable to try an exam simulator like this or this. It was sufficient for me to test myself with the sample questions provided by some study groups in the IIBA community shared library in addition to some questions from this demo app (a desktop version available too).

Finally, you're now at the exam.., 1 minute will be more than enough to decide the right choice for most questions.., only a few of them could take 2 minutes.., not all questions will reflect on business analysis practical experience or theoretical study, some will be just some general knowledge like one question about Maslow's pyramid of needs.
There is no announced pass score from IIBA, but for me I was sure of my answer from the first time for 100 out of the 150 questions, while 50 questions were marked for later review. Just do the best you can, trust yourself and good luck! :)