This article is a revision of the article published in 2014 about the preparation of the CBAP certification. During these years, there have been important changes that justify an updating of its content. First of all, the appearance in 2015 of the version 3 of the BABOK Guide, and the revision of the levels and criteria of the IIBA certification during 2016 and 2017.
The Certified in Business Analysis Professional (CBAP®) certification is the most internationally recognized certification to this day in Business Analysis.
In February 2018, more than 9,000 people in 30 countries have this certification, although there are only 13 people certified in Spain (read: What are you waiting for to be certified in BA?).
The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) issues this certification, which is based in the good practices in Business Analysis of the BABOK® Guide (more information in New Changes in the BABOK Guide v3).
The CBAP is part of the four levels of certification that IIBA currently offers. These levels are the following:
This certification recognizes the holder of the CBAP as a business analysis professional, and confirms not only a wide knowledge of the BABOK Guide, but also a wide professional experience as analyst. IIBA defines the certified professional in BA as “an elite member of the BA community, as well as a renowned expert in identifying the business necessities of an organization with the purpose of setting business solutions”. We could consider it as the equivalent in BA to what is the PMP for the Project Management.
In this post we attempt to give some guides and orientation to prepare the CBAP certification.
1. Who is it addressed to?
Firstly, this certification is addressed in general to any person involved in a business analysis job that meets the requirements of the exam. In particular, it includes Analysts (business, systems, data, requirements…), product owners or product managers, trainers or consultants, and also hybrid roles: so to speak, people who practise as Project Managers, testers, QA personnel, Change Managers, designers… that will also have analyst functions while performing their usual work.
For any of them, and as always in BA, the most important question is “WHY?”, what benefits do we expect to obtain from the certification? Some benefits of having the CBAP are the following:
- The benefits for the candidate include:
- Recognition of the professional competence in Business Analysis
- Participation in a recognised professional group
- Potential advance in the professional career as a Business Analyst
- Improvement in the knowledge and experience of Business Analysis
- The benefits for the organization include:
- Advance and opportunities of recognition for the personnel
- Demonstrate to clients, competence, providers and investors that your organization uses standard practices of business analysis and that you have prepared and qualified personnel to conduct it
- Improvement of the responsibility, compromise and motivation of your personnel
- Possibility to establish a corporative framework of business analysis for the organization based in good practices internationally recognized
- Results for the business more reliable and of a higher quality, with improved efficiency and consistency because of the fact of having highly qualified personnel in the BA standards.
- Prove to clients and stakeholders the compromise with the Business Analysis, which importance is increasingly recognised in all professional fields and sectors as a key aspect in the success of projects.
2. Requirements to take the exam
To be admitted is necessary to meet the following requirements:
In the IIBA website the CBAP Certification Handbook is available for downloading with all the necessary information detailed.
- Supply a minimum of 7,500 hours (in the last 10 years) of experience
- As analyst, in activities aligned with the BABOK Guide (that implies to dispose knowledge of the contents of the Guide prior to the inscription process). This experience can be in activities that the candidate has executed directly or that the candidate has assisted to others in its execution.
- Specifically there are included as valid experiences the following:
- Working directly doing analysis (hands-on) (excluding explicitly tasks of project management)
- Coaching or mentoring analysts (excluding formal trainings)
(IIBA informs that the hours corresponding to any experience reported that does not respond to the previous activities, or that is not aligned with the BABOK, will be subtracted from the total)
- From those, a minimum of 900 hours in four of the six knowledge areas
- Supply a minimum of 35h of Professional Development in the last four years (and previously to the presentation of the application)
- Those hours must correspond to the professional field of the business analysis, the competence or the perspectives described in the BABOK Guide.
- Within these actions allowed to qualify this requirements are formal courses or easement sessions (e.g. workshops) that have a clear learning objective and measurable, insofar they allow the interaction and practices. And also as long as those practices allow an evaluation of the areas of improvement of the student.
- Supply 2 Reference endorsements from either Career Manager (two people responsible of the professional evolution of the candidate in some of the reported experiences, Project Managers are not accepted references), clients (internal or external) or CBAP recicipient.
- At least one of the references must be a current contact.
- All references must have known the applicant for at least 6 months.
- Signing the CBAP Code of Conduct
All this information must be submitted through the IIBA website.
3. Preparation and study for the exam
Once the application is accepted (and the payment is made effective), a period of 1 year is established, for which the candidate can take the exam (the date reservation is made through the website of Prometric).
The features of the exam are the following:
- Duration: 3 hours and a half
- 120 multiple choice questions (4 possible answers, just one is correct)
- The answers are based in a case study (situational), there might be “large” cases (1-1,5 pages) with several questions about the case.
- The exam assesses the practical application of the competences defined for this level of certification.
- The contents asked in the exam are indicated in the blueprint
Is advisable to take the exam having studied in a deep and complete way the BABOK Guide (including knowledge areas, competences, techniques and also the glossary), and knowing how to put them into practice, specially knowing how to use different techniques. Therefore it is important, in addition, to have real experience in the use of these practices and to realize practical activities about the Guide’s contents. The current exam is only available in English, and therefore is advisable to have a good knowledge of this language since sometimes the exact concepts are not used, but there are employed synonyms or associated concepts.
Since the role of business analyst is a role of communication with the rest of the organization, it is expected that the candidate will have knowledge about management aspects (we can expect the exam to ask questions about Project Management), knowledge of quality or Enterprise Architecture (knowledge of Fachman framework, for example) and also knowledge about soft skills (e.g. knowing the hierarchy of needs by Maslow).
Therefore, to go into more depth and to practice the knowledges, it is highly recommended to take a preparation for the certification course.
Finally, some study tips:
- Take a preparation course. Although you might have a lot of experience, it is usual that the structure and the terminology used in the BABOK Guide is unknown for candidates, and it is advisable to be familiar with it, since it is the knowledge basis of the exam. In case of not doing taking a course, it is advisable to deeply study the Guide not only understanding it, but also trying to match between contents and the real experience of the candidate
- Download the Netmind infographic of the BABOK Guide and use it as a basis for studying.
- Plan an exam date suitable to your professional and personal agenda, but setting it as soon as possible, once we have decided to take the exam. It is at the same time an incentive and a pressure to prioritize study time.
- Use an exam simulator in the last phase of your study (preferably during the month before taking the exam). You must use simulators that allow to work in question blocks that can be customised by number and by knowledge area. Remember that the marathon runners do not train by running marathons everyday: my advise is not doing complete simulations of the exam, maybe one or two at most before the exam, and they should serve to see how we manage time and nerves! Do not take the exam until you achieve a continuous percentage of correct answers in the simulator of around 65%-70%.
- Rest well and, if possible, do not study the day before the exam.