Doug’s Diary of a CBAP Seeker: Making Sense of the BABOK

Dear Diary: The application is now finished and after having it reviewed a couple of times by an official CBAP, I’m waiting on the results to return. I’ve documented over 11000 hours for the committee to pick and choose from for acceptance, so there shouldn’t be much of a problem. Reviewing the BABOK in the last few weeks has become overwhelming. How am I going to process all this information?

Lucky me! After picking up the BABOK 1.6 and studying for several weeks, I found out that the new 2.0 version would be coming out. After much thought about which one to review, I decided that in order to give myself enough time to study, I’d have to switch to the 2.0 and start over. Not the optimal solution, but I figured that all the knowledge acquired isn’t wasted. I’m studying something I’m passionate about, so no waste!

Dissecting the BABOK is no small task. It’s packed with information that is pertinent to what I do and also necessary to understand in order to pass the test. One of the things that I have had to struggle with is to remind myself what the goal is here. While I DO want to become a better analyst and the information is very valuable, the short-term goal is to pass the test.

When I tell my peers what I am doing, they generally respond that I should have no problem passing, as I’ve been an analyst for many years. What I’ve found is that despite this fact, my experience in years doesn’t necessarily equate to performing my duties properly or mean that I’ve adhered to the tenets of the BABOK. This realization has forced me to clear my mind of preconceived notions about what I know and don’t know. I’m not going to be able to skate through a section just because I’ve done it before.

Tackling the bounty of content started pretty easily. Read, underline, memorize, repeat. But I soon realized that I could execute this action over and over and not necessarily retain the content. I had to take a break and do some research in learning styles. What I found was that different people learn in different ways. Some retain more audibly, some visually, some by the action of doing. I had to create a plan for learning that would align itself with my learning styles and afford maximum retention of the content.

I decided that since I had no time limit to meet, I would undertake a multi-fold path to learning the material. I began by creating and reviewing a series of flashcards that provided out of context quizzing of the content. I signed up for a CBAP Prep Class online that formally reviewed the content in an interactive environment with others studying for the exam. This allowed an exchange of ideas for discussion and highlighted the areas that I didn’t understand well or had misconceptions about. It also shed light in areas of confusion of the BABOK content. I began to post messages and respond to others’ messages in online forums about the content for additional exchange. I copied by all the diagrams in the BABOK by hand and cleared out the information so I could go back and fill it in from memory. I started a CBAP Prep Study group to enhance the review of the content with others in a more focused fashion.

I’m still in the middle of all this, having just finished the class work. My goal is to have completely immersed myself in the BABOK world in different ways in order to retain the information in various ways. My ultimate objective is that the BABOK will become second nature to not only my brain, but the way I work…..not the result of a memorization and regurgitation process. In that, I will have achieved the short-term goal of being able to pass the exam and the long-term goal of instilling this material in my professional life.

I am completely drowning in BABOK and hope this effort pays off.

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  1. DougGtheBA says

    These are excellent suggestions and insights into the learning process. I really appreciate you sharing your experiences with me (the World). As time goes on and the exam becomes more visible, more and more people are developing tools and other assets to help different learners achieve their learning goals with the BABOK.

    Ellen Gottesdiener and Mary Gorman have amassed several and offer them from EBG Consulting, Linda Erzah has a few different ones at and Tony Johnson with Crosswind yet a few more.

    In the end, it’s training my brain to absorb, as you said, a mountain of data in different forms in order to pass the test. I realized the other day that it has been a very long time since I sat for a large test, so I wonder if future cert exams may be a bit easier.

    Thanks Again,

  2. James Brandt says

    Doug – I relate to your experience having explored BABOK 1.6 and recently passing the BABOK 2.0 exam. My approach was to summarise the notes in my own hand-writing. This took ages and I figured it was part of sub-consciously absorbing all the information. Unfortunately, I don’t retain what I read very well so I needed to do this for my own learning reasons. These notes became very useful for running a highlighter through the week before the test (different colours for different levels of importance)

    I then needed to organise, categorise and present the info (being a BA) in a summarised view – funnily enough I was the audience this time. I used excel – each worksheet was a knowledge area and the tasks were a new row. I then put the key cues against each task purpose, description, element etc… this developed my memory of the high-level. All the low level information I’d then refer to and it became interesting as it filled in the gaps.

    Once all the detail was absorbed, it then became important to understand the relationships of all the tasks – this involved stepping back upto the high level to understand the inputs and outputs (this can be co-ordinated neatly in the spreadsheet).

    This last part took some time as this is where I began to truely understand the BABOK. There is no explicit start or end point. Once I understood the concurrent nature of all the seperate tasks the clouds disappeared. Personally I felt the time spent understanding the relationships between the inputs and outputs was the most valuable.

    The techniques are still important, although I found I referenced them when there was a gap missing in my own understanding and felt I needed to understand more through my own curiosity. This assisted in validating whether the technique was appropriate for a task or not.

    Good luck – it’s clever piece of work and rewarding. My challenge now is maintaining an adequate level of knowledge retention and finding meaningful ways to keep up my CDUs.


  3. DougGtheBA says

    Thanks Mary!

    I’ve actually seen this resource and it’s quite good and continue to utilize it. It’s good to have an army behind oneself.


  4. Hi Doug, you are really on a roll – all good ideas for studying to write the exam!
    I worked on the BABOK committee for 4+ years. Wish we had had the resources to add more graphics and traceability but we didn’t. Following the launch in March 2009, I decided to create a few assets that might help folks navigate the 2.0.

    In response to your point “immersed myself in the BABOK world in different ways in order to retain the information in various ways” you may want to check out my BABOK navigator listings at and the webinar I conducted “Navigating Tips for Exploring the IIBA BABOK 2.0” at

    Good luck!

  5. DougGtheBA says


    Thanks. I too have a rough time with memorization and have periodically employed your method with success. Excellent suggestion! Good luck to you as well!

  6. Good luck Doug! I know the BABOK can seem very enormous but I find the layout of V2.0 to be exemplary. I actually use it as a desk reference now and then. I have a hard time memorizing anything, so my learning approach is to make it as relevant to my daily activities as possible, and then I won’t need to worry about recall (as much). So keeping the BABOK handy is essential to my understanding of the content. I’m not sure what kind of learning type you are but if you are good association neurons, I’d suggest trying out this approach.



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