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.
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.
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.
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).
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.