8 Steps to Becoming a CBAP

Are you interested in earning your CBAP® but not sure where to get started? I’ve spoken with several certified business analysis professionals, at least 10 CBAPs, trainers who help professionals become CBAPs, and individuals who have taken a variety of different CBAP courses or used other preparation materials. I’ve learned a lot about how people go about preparing to become a CBAP and in September of 2011 finished my own journey. There’s only about 2,000 CBAPs — this is no cake walk — and there is evidence that more people apply for the exam than actually take it or pass it.

cement steps with tiles

Prepare for the CBAP, one step at a time.

While there is no one path to becoming a CBAP and the path you take depends heavily on the time you wish to invest, your budget, and your time line for becoming certified, there are some general phases of preparation that each individual seems to pass through. For some, all of this happens in a week or two with a BootCamp-type class. For others, this process is spread out over a year or two as they use their CBAP-preparation time to become a better business analyst.

Myself? Well, I sat at step 1 for a long, long time before making the commitment to go for it. And, on September 25, 2011, successfully passed the exam, putting a “C” in my “BAP”, so to speak.

By the way, many aspiring BAs who are exploring the profession start by researching the CBAP only to get to step 2 and realize they don’t meet the experience requirements. There are alternative paths you can follow and I outline many of them in my free step-by-step course on how to kickstart your BA career.

Click here to learn more about the free BA career planning course

Step 1: Become Intimately Familiar with the BABOK®

First things first. Becoming a CBAP represents that you are a senior business analyst professional, as IIBA defines it through the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge. That means preparing for the CBAP starts with understanding the content of the BABOK. The BABOK is a dense text. It’s likely that several readings will be required to fully appreciate the information contained within it.

Many business analysts report enhanced experience at this stage from joining a BABOK study group. Study groups can be informal, and focused mostly on reading and discussing the BABOK contents, or more formal, and focused on exam preparation. Study groups can be hosted by an employer, an IIBA chapter, or anyone who wishes to coordinate one. Doug Goldberg wrote about his experience facilitating a virtual CBAP study group, Linda Erzah shares her story of helping facilitate a IIBA Chapter CBAP study group. Jennifer Banzon has also started two CBAP study groups for the Los Angeles IIBA Chapter. You can read her interview where she shared information about  how she decided to focus the efforts of the two CBAP study groups and the benefits of each type.

Step 2: Do You Meet the Business Analysis Experience Requirements?

Applying for the CBAP requires 5 years (7,500 hours) of business analysis experience, as defined by the BABOK. You must also demonstrate 900 hours of experience across at least 4 of the 6 knowledge areas.

Many professionals that have been working within a business analyst capacity for a long time, but have not been aware of the BA profession are surprised to learn that they can apply to sit for the CBAP. Read Aaron Whittenberger’s story of awakening to discover he’s a business analyst and deciding to sit for the CBAP instead of the PMP. Others find their previous roles have such a mix of non-BA responsibilities or are limited in some fashion, that even though they have held the BA title for years, they have not accumulated the appropriate experience.

Doug Goldberg shares his story of documenting his business analyst experience. His story mirrors many I’ve heard from other professionals — although they face the application with some trepidation, they find there is great value in combing through your career history and matching your experiences to a standardized professional body of knowledge.

My experience was similar – through the process of finishing the dreaded work history section you become more self-aware of yourself as a business analyst professional. I was surprised to find I could document 10,000 BA hours. And, once I got started recounting projects, it was actually difficult to stop.

Documenting your experience, in and of itself, builds confidence. (This is also a process we walk through in my Getting Hired Faster, which could be a good first step if you aren’t quite sure what aspects of your experience count as business analyst experience.)

Those interested in the CBAP who are concerned about the experience requirements might also consider the CCBA™ designation, an intermediate level certification with lesser experience requirements.

Step 3: Decide If the CBAP is Right For You

While all business analysts will benefit from a deep understanding of the BABOK, not all will necessarily benefit from certification. Adriana Beal shared her thoughts on “Is the CBAP right for you?

This might seem like an extra, maybe even unnecessary step. But let me tell you that as you get knee deep into the preparation process, it’s extremely important to have clear internal motivations to keep you going. During week 4 of my journey, as my energy for the CBAP waned, I shared my story of “finding my why for the CBAP“.

Step 4: Earn Appropriate Professional Development Hours (PDs)

To submit your CBAP application, you must have 21 documented professional development hours in the previous 4 years. Many business analysis training opportunities and some conferences qualify for professional development credits.

Bridging the Gap is an IIBA® Endorsed Education Provider™ (EEP™) and Laura’s complete line-up of virtual professional development courses qualify for PDs or CDUs (which you’ll need for recertification, but you don’t have to worry about that until step 8).

Click here to learn more about our virtual course offerings

Or, consider CBAP study groups. While it’s unlikely that you’ll find sources for free professional development units, many IIBA chapters are beginning to offer CBAP study groups that focus on exam preparation. Check with your local chapter to see if this option is available as it might provide an opportunity for you to earn PDs and prepare for the exam.

Step 5: Submit Your CBAP Application

Applications are submitted to IIBA and they have a full page on their website listing the entire CBAP certification process. In addition to work experience and professional development hours, you must provide meet the minimum education requirement (high school or equivalent) and have two references.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, Aaron Whittenberger and Doug Goldberg share your pain. You can read Aaron’s tips on documenting the CBAP requirements, as well as Doug’s story about preparing a CBAP application. And Disha Trivedi share a template she used to pull together her work experience, before putting together her CBAP application.

Linda Erzah shares her advice on how to document work experience for the CBAP application. Linda’s company, BAMentor, also offers a spreadsheet that can be used to organize your CBAP exam application information. (affiliate link)

Step 6: Schedule your CBAP exam

The advice I keep hearing is that once your application is approved, schedule an exam for 2-3 months out. You can always reschedule the exam or, if you take the exam and do not pass, you can schedule to take it again within one calendar year of your application approval. Scheduling an exam promptly helps keep you motivated through the home stretch.

In week 8 of my journey, I scheduled the CBAP exam for about 1 month out, the week after I finished my CBAP prep course. (I had dove right into step 7 after submitting my application and so had a running head start.)

Step 7: Prepare for the CBAP Exam

As you prepare to sit for the exam, you need to ensure your knowledge of the BABOK can be recalled effectively.

There are a variety of ways to assimilate the information, from study guides to prep courses.

  • If you study best independently, then a study guide or workbook might be a useful part of your prep process. I personally am a big fan of BA Mentor’s  CBAP® & CCBA™ Workbook as it helps you actively read the BABOK.
  • Exam simulations and flash cards can help confirm your assimilation of the knowledge.
  • CBAP prep courses can walk you through the BABOK and provide a forum for addressing any doubts and concerns you have.

Personally, in addition to practically rewriting out the BABOK to assimilate the knowledge and terminology, I found CBAP exam simulators to be a critical piece of my preparation. In week 3 of my journey, I share my first brush with exam simulations. By week 9, I became frustrated with exam simulators, but after passing the exam, I realized the simulators I used helped me prepare for the more, shall we say, counter-intuitive aspects of the CBAP exam.

Click here to read my reviews of the two CBAP exam simulators I used in preparing for the exam.

Step 8: Pass the CBAP Exam

Sit for the exam and do your best. If you do not pass the exam the first time, you can schedule a second exam within one calendar year of your application approval.

Take a few days and celebrate your success. You’ve earned it! Stay involved in the profession and in your own professional development. Re-certification is necessary every 3 years to stay a CBAP.

Stay informed about new articles and course offerings.

(You'll get a free step-by-step BA career planning course too).

Click here to learn more

your details are safe with us

Books and Courses You Might Be Interested In

Comments

  1. Very good and informative article Laura. I like how you pulled together the perspectives of many who have traveled the road and then added your own perspective to it. You added a lot of background information such as my article on “the awakening” and a few others about how to prepare for the CBAP. This shows how much you keep abreast of the the BA reference material (blogs and articles) that is available out there on the web. Now if anyone asks “how do I go about getting the CBAP or CCBA?”, we have one central place to point them.

    Very nice job on the article Laura, I give you my standing ovation!

  2. Thanks, Aaron. I appreciate your positive feedback — that means a lot coming from you, as an extremely well-informed CBAP.

    I’m hoping this process remains true for the CCBA as well and I suspect it generally will. But I am hoping to interview a few of the first CCBA’s to discover any variations. Can’t do that until 2011! :-)

    Laura

  3. Nice article, very succinct and useful. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Great article Laura!

    I also want to emphasize what you wrote on step 6: Schedule your CBAP exam. This is a very important step as it not only help you stay motivated but it also allows you to avoid any extra expenses.
    Not that you will not pass on the first try, but as BA, we always want to think of the what-if scenarios and you must think of what happens if you do not pass on the first try. You only have one year from the date you are approved to pass the CBAP, otherwise you must go through the application process again.
    I’ve talked to few BA who did not pass the CBAP on the first or second try. I am not trying to scare anyone, however this scenario can happen. In order to avoid the extra expenses, early scheduling is a critical step. As Laura points out, you will remain motivated and most likely you will study with more urgency and determination.
    Within your eligibility period (1 year), you have two chances at passing the CBAP exam; if you do not pass the first time, you must wait 3 months prior to sitting for the exam again.
    So if you schedule your exam 9 months after you’ve been approved and do not pass, you will not be allowed to take the exam a second time. You will have to go through the entire application over again. However, if you take the exam on the 3 – 6 months after application approval, and do not pass, you have another 6 months to prepare and sit for it again without having to re-apply.
    The moral of the story is that the earlier you schedule and take your exam, the more chances you have at staying motivated and decreasing the number of time you have pay for application fees.
    Application fee is $125
    Exam fee is $325 for IIBA members and $450 for non-IIBA members

  5. Michelle Swoboda says:

    This is my next step and I cannot wait. I know it won’t be easy but I look forward to the challenge!

  6. Steve Jones says:

    Building on what Linda said about the “what if” scenarios…
    There are some things you can control and others you can’t. You can control how much you prepare but the incentive to stay with it is definitely there after you’ve shelled out the money and scheduled a date.

    Some things you can not control – traffic, other people, weather.
    I was on my way to the exam, stopped at a red light when I was suddenly hit from behind. I wasn’t badly injured and the car was only somewhat damaged – I went on to sit for the exam 1/2 mile up the road 30 minutes later. Sure I had some doubts as I took the exam but I also had periods where I was really confident. I passed.

    The only real point of the story was to say that if you have the experience to qualify and prepare using the BABOK, you CAN pass it.

  7. Wow Steve. Good for you! I’m glad to hear an unfortunate circumstance didn’t come between you and your CBAP. This goes to show, preparation is key!

  8. My own experience of studying for and passing the exam is on my blog at http://cbap.posterous.com/ It took me around six weeks and I took the self study route. If you use good study technique and an effective exam simulator (do shop around for these – some of them are a waste of money) you have a very good chance of passing

  9. Thanks for sharing your story Brian. I would think that an exam simulator is a great way to prepare for the exam. I expect I’ll likely use flash cards or some other tool to support the memorization process.

    Your story doesn’t share how you earned CDUs or documented your experience. Any tips from that front?

    Laura

  10. Hi Laura

    I’ve done a number of courses over the last few years including Six Sigma Black Belt and a few online courses. I listed the courses and the hours on a spreadsheet. I’ll have to dig out my application form and post some examples.

    I found mnemonics and mind maps worked well – there’s a set of mind maps on my website brianhunt.co.uk – click on the CBAP tab to see them.

  11. Hi Brian. Thanks for that — makes good sense and also good to know that prior courses outside of formal BA can be relevant for your PDs. Many people I talk to are trying to find ways to earn PDs in an affordable way, so that is something to definitely keep in mind. Many CBAPs note that a spreadsheet of sorts is helpful.

  12. Allison Crossley says:

    Hi Laura, I have recently been placed in the position of Analyst, but with limited experience. I found this article very informative and so far I have acquired the BABOK and on my path to discovery

    Allison

  13. Hi Allison, Welcome to BA and good for you on starting with the BABOK. Looking forward to hearing how your journey goes!

  14. Hi Laura-

    Thanks for this super awesome and useful post. I am applying for CBAP this year( I completed my 5 years last month and i am excited about it). I have one question:

    I attended a 2 day workshop on six sigma in my previous organization, will that count for my PDs?

    Thanks
    Ranjan

  15. Hello Ranjan,

    In order for the training to count, it must be related to business analysis or its underlying competencies as defined in the BABOK 2.0. Also, if the education provider and the course is endorsed by IIBA, then you will automatically receive the PDs.

    I hope this helps

    LE

  16. Katie Metcalfe says:

    Thanks Laura. Very valuable information I can use for the CBAP exam. I am hoping that all my time spent training and testing software will still allow me to qualify for the exam.

  17. Hi Katie,
    Thanks for the feedback. That might be the case but you’ll want to do some due diligence aligning your work experience with the BA knowledge areas and pay careful attention to the tasks you select when filling out the work experience section. Linda’s work experience tool can be helpful here.

  18. syed saleemuddin says:

    Dear laura,
    pls update me
    I am working with private life insurance as a Branch manager i have more than 5yrs of experience in single insurance company in sales,
    will you suggest me to go for Business analyst course and apply for jobs in BA career.
    i have done my BE and campusa placed in the company.
    pls suggest !

    Regard
    Saleem

  19. Hi everyone,
    So much about the good aspects of becoming a CBAP and dreaming about landing a great BA job, I wonder why there are no success stories about the actual help that a CBAP certification provided in landing a relevant BA job.
    I believe, that CBAP certification is not so successful after all. After going through the BABOK, I realized the reason for that. The BABOK is so verbosely written, that a normal aspiring BA just ends up cramming a lot of text book information necessary for “passing” CBAP. But beware this knowledge in its entirety is hardly ever used in the context of actual projects. This is the reason why CBAP is not so popular with the recruiters, and has not made any foray in the past 3-4 years of its existence.

    Regards.

    • Hi Frausch,
      I would agree that the CBAP is not going to land you a BA job, especially if you are pursuing your first BA job (in which case it’s not relevant because there are also the experience requirements to meet). I often recommend aspiring BAs choose other texts to wrap their arms around business analysis before trying to conquer the BABOK, which I agree is dense and difficult to consume until you have a good understanding of the profession.

      As for alternatives, you might check out my book, How to Start a BA Career:
      http://www.bridging-the-gap.com/become-a-business-analyst/

      Software Requirements Memory Jogger or Seven Steps to Mastering Business Analysis or Steve Blais’ new book, Business Analysis: Best Practices for Success are also good reads.

  20. Janet Wood says:

    Hi Laura and Frausch

    The CBAP HAS helped with my job search, but not quite in the way that Frausch meant. I have always wanted to become an independent consultant and move into training and mentoring. Getting the CBAP gave me the confidence to take that step. I have been marketing myself for about a month and have several opportunities to investigate – at least one of them is directly because I have the CBAP certification – training companies like to be able to state that their BA courses are given by CBAPs, as it increases their credibility. No single thing will ever be enough to get you a job by itself, but I have found that the CBAP is another thing to help you on that path.

    Frausch, I have to reply to your comment that the BABOK “knowledge in its entirety is hardly ever used in the context of actual projects”. Not all BA activities will be performed in all projects and some are not often performed in a project at all (Enterprise Analysis is often outside of the project space and so is some of the Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring). That doesn’t make that information less valuable – I think that those 2 KAs are the basis for the more senior BA roles.

  21. Thirtha Prasad says:

    Hi Laura and Frausch,

    I have 4 years of BA experiance. Whether should i go for CCBA or will wait for one more year to do the CBAP. which one is the best option.

    Please suggest.

  22. Hello Thirtha Prasad,
    First and foremost in-order to be eligible for CBAP do you have the valid no. of hours as prescribed by CBAP Application?? If not apply for CCBA, get the certification and recertify the same. Once you have the confidence and the valid no. of hours for CBAP then you can apply for. Yes you with the first BA to have both the certifications cleared :) And the other great armour for you is after CCBA/CBAP even to CSPO. This would ensure that you create a benchmark among the BA’s in the world. All the best mate..Do let me know if you need any more info. Infact nobody is better than Laura :D

  23. Hi Bhaskar,
    It sounds like the CCBA might be a better fit for the work experience you have in business analysis.

  24. BIJU BEHANAN CBAP says:

    Hi Friends ,

    I thought that i would share my experience on business analysis and and how i became a CBAP . I was working on marketing roles and suddenly my company moved me to IT department as domain consultant to implement SAP ERP. My job was to understand business requirements and translate them into IT solutions . I found that there were large gaps when projects where implemented from what was asked for . Some times the requirements where not clear , sometimes it was poorly translated . All this had high impact on the IT solution and the business. I heard about IIBA in 2009 and wanted to know more , there where hardly anyone to guide . I had almost 7 years BA experience by this tinme .I joined the IIBA site as a member and toyed the idea of taking the CBAP , I went for a BA session , then took the copy of the BABOK , I could not get the whole essence in 2 to 3 readings , It took more than 2.5 months to master this . I used BABOK and Suzan weeze , In the end I brought Watermark Q bank , they where tough , practicing on this ensured that i mastered each area well , When I took the exam on Oct 16 I was sure that I would score well , As expected the I qualified , and now I am CBAP and am imparting training on business analysis