Diary of a CBAP Seeker: Learning methods for absorbing the BABOK

Dear Diary: After immersing myself in multiple methods to try to absorb the BABOK content, I am only a few weeks away from sitting for the exam. As I continue to struggle to acquire all the content that I think I will need to know. I’ve definitely learned some lessons about what to do and what not to do to get it.

When I set out to begin my studies for the CBAP exam, I decided that an immersion into everything that is and was BABOK would be a good course to take in knowledge acquisition. That undertaking has taught me some lessons that I didn’t expect in my educational travels. The immersion that I experienced took several forms that all provided a method of getting BABOK-related content and experiencing it, as opposed to swallowing and regurgitating.

CBAP Study Group Facilitation

I’d heard that joining one of these groups was extremely beneficial to the study process and really helped  in understanding the material. However, when I went to go find one, there were none to be had locally. I looked online and had the same result, so I ended up starting a study group myself online. I’ve always believed that teaching is one of the best ways to learn about something, and this appeared to fit the mold. At present, I’m about to finish facilitation of the second group of fellow BABOK students. One thing that I can honestly say is that facilitation of a group and being a member in a group are two completely different worlds. As a facilitator, there is a tremendous amount of coordination and preparation with the student body that a student alone does not need to deal with. All that takes away from the content absorption time that helps a student understand the material.

While the facilitation of the groups has not achieved the purpose of learning, it has been rewarding in other ways. I also believe, based on student comments, that there was value to those that were purely participants. I felt that the sessions should be interactive and insightful, so did not provide lecture. We each produced short presentations about BABOK content and then collaboratively discussed the content while inserting life experiences. This type of discussion allowed members to obtain context of what some of the lessons were about in the BABOK and make better sense of them.

Overall Impression: Lots of work with little payoff as a facilitator. Perceived medium level of work and payoff for participant.

Business Analyst Individual and Group Mentoring

Using mentoring to again teach the teachings as a way to prepare for the CBAP exam has had similar results as the facilitation of the CBAP Study Group….for many of the same reasons. Depending on the level of the mentee’s business acumen and skills, the mentor could again focus on some of the basics in the teachings delivered to the student, but that is highly dependent on the student’s previous experience and is by no means a sure thing that the mentor can rely on.

Conversely, I have reached out to acquire a mentor for myself in the study process, and I would recommend this to other students preparing to sit for the exam as well for a couple of reasons. First, the student needs to be held accountable, and there are many distractions that prevent us from holding ourselves accountable. The other reason is that the mentor may typically perform planning and coordination duties for the student, which allows the student purely on the task at hand: learning. One other potential reason is dependent on the type of mentor. I chose one that had taken the exam and passed already. This has been a great help with regard to expectation setting and resolving any fears of the unknown or test anxiety.

Overall Impression: Lots of work with little payoff as a mentor. Position yourself as a student, not a teacher, when studying for an exam and reach out for guidance and accountability.

Flashcard Creation and Use

As part of my grand idea to immerse myself in content, I figured that since I was reading the BABOK, I would go ahead and write about it as well. The creation of the flashcards was extremely time-consuming, but also forced me to go through the material line by line and read everything very thoroughly. Additionally, I now have a study resource that can be reused repetitively.

Overall Impression: Lots of work with lots of payoff. Flashcards are an excellent resource and worth taking the time to develop and/or use.

Reading and Active Memorization with Available Resources

Just like in our younger years, there is no substitution for hitting the books, so to speak. Students preparing for the exam must remember,  as I had to remind myself, that the exam is based on the content defined and contained in the BABOK. It is NOT based on the way one has been performing a particular task over the last 10 years. Hence, there is a fair degree of retraining and memorization that must take place in order to pass the test and allow the IIBA to evaluate how well each student knows the content.

Rereading the entire BABOK multiple times is something that I would suggest, as well as manually copying the input/output diagrams and erasing the labels in them to quiz oneself.  Additional attention to detail regarding the referenced resources, the IIBA Handbook should also be acknowledged.

Overall Impression: This is the single most valuable method to learning the material, no matter how one learns. It is especially effective when combined with other methods that allow students to learn through doing, seeing and hearing, etc.


While each method provides some value to the student, be careful to find those that work for you best. Don’t take on too much in order to attain the benefit of the learning method that you like. For instance, it is probably better to seek out a presentation versus building your own, just so you can go through some slides. Combine several learning activities that allow absorption of material via different human senses and do NOT be afraid to reach out for help.

>>Learn More About Becoming a CBAP or CCBA

Interested in becoming a CBAP or CCBA? We cover 8 steps to the CBAP certification, that will take you to just learning about the certification to successfully sitting for the exam.

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  1. Laura:
    Thanks for your feedback. I would suggest that you move to phase 2 in July of 2037 after thorough exploration.

    In all seriousness though, I would combine the exploration with memorization. There is too much content to really do all that storing at once. Using different methods of discovery/absorption combined with memorization seems like a value added experience that might pay dividends

  2. Hi Doug,

    I think this is a great article for those of us considering to start CBAP preparation but not quite sure what direction to take. I know from my interviews that I would like to have the experience of a study group. Not just for direct CBAP preparation, but also for the relationships that you have the opportunity to form and the opportunity to learn from other BAs about their experiences. But it’s good to know that this will be a first step in my preparation, not the only step. It’s also good to know that I need to weigh my own involvement as a facilitator against being involved as a participant.

    It seems to me that there might be (at least) two phases to this journey. 1) Exploring the content; 2) Direct exam prep through memorization. If this is correct, from your experience, when would you suggest moving from phase 1 to phase 2?

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