Diary of a CBAP Seeker: Passing the CBAP Exam the Second Time

Editor’s Note: I’m honored to have long-time Bridging the Gap author Doug Goldberg back to finish the CBAP Diary he started sharing here back in 2010. Congrats to Doug!!

A long time ago, back when I first started working with Laura and Bridging the Gap, I sat for the CBAP exam and failed. In December of this last year, I finally sat down to try again and have achieved my certification. There were so MANY convenient and juicy excuses to put off the inevitable along the way, but I finally ran out of them. This is the last chapter in my story about seeking the certification and picks up when I was coming away from the first try on the exam.

(By the way, if you are interested in pursuing the CBAP, you’ll want to be sure you check out our overview article: 8 Steps to Becoming a CBAP.)

I learned many lessons in my first attempt and have shared them here previously. A couple really stand out through the time that has passed.

First, one must really sacrifice a period of time to properly study not just the BABOK, but also the ancillary materials that have fed the creation of that document and the practice of business analysis. One document cannot provide justice to all we need to really understand. Second, get over yourself. I had this thought process that had me convinced that I knew it all in a practical sense and simply didn’t memorize the content properly. In all honesty, I do have a lot of practical experience, but that mindset brings arrogance to the table and stands in the way of being fully open-minded about new ways to perform my craft. I was not able to learn and absorb and focus until this occurred.

Additionally, the BABOK has a lot of little tiny pieces of information that I never picked up the first fourteen times I read through it because my mind was closed off. There are small portions of sentences and direction that tie various aspects of the content in the BABOK together in order to provide the links to proper practicing of iterative business analysis. Remember, there are often multiple places to start our work, and this is highly dependent on the situations that are presented to us, and our actions are often altered as a result. Therefore, the BABOK cannot address a front-to-back approach in the written content, but it DOES hold little gems that will guide the reader toward a holistic approach IF you are open to seeing it.

Finally, I truly don’t memorize things well or test well. Only in removing my own misconception about knowing more than I did was I able to really push into the detail over and over again to pick up information.

So these are the mechanical lessons learned that I bring back from the edge of the ledge with me. Let’s delve into the other side…the emotional stuff.

When I failed the first time in trying, I really took a confidence hit. Not because I failed, but because I thought I knew more than I really did. It took me a long time to bounce back emotionally to realize that the knowledge was there all along, but it wasn’t there robustly enough to be useful for personal improvement in exam testing or even in practice. Once I had a big slice of “humble pie” and got out of my own way, I began the journey of understanding my walls and then breaking them down.

Mission accomplished. Test taken. Certification achieved. Woohoo!

Now, it’s time to tackle the final question, “Is it worth it?”

Yes and no is my response. The CBAP designation is still young and gaining influence; I notice more and more roles are requiring the certification in candidates. My own firm, Avanade, Inc., is a very strong proponent of the certification and so am I…just not for the reasons most would think.

The completion of any certification shows only one tangible thing, and that is that the student can pass a test. Nice piece of paper. I still hold this view after passing, because a test score does not make the master. What I find extremely valuable is the insight gained through learning the material in the first place, and if that insight is then put into practice there is a very powerful gain. If the new paper-holder continues with incompetent practices, then shame on the wasted opportunity to grow. Each person who takes and achieves certification must be evaluated individually for what he or she does with it.

Come to think of it, there is much we can do for ourselves even if we don’t pass. For me, I am able to bring insight from the way I studied, not to mention the volume of studying, into the workplace and immediately implement some of the learned practices. I also now have something for those who do not know me or my BA work history to make an initial evaluation that I MIGHT know what I’m doing; I can build on that first impression very rapidly. That is FAR more than I had before.

So yes, it’s worth it FOR ME. In short, if the exam is taken for the right reasons and used with good intention of improvement to the individual and profession, there is great value. If you are looking for letters or dollars as a result, find something more enjoyable to do with your time.

Thanks for joining me on the road to success.

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