Laura’s CBAP Journey: Looking back on the CBAP Exam Simulators

As I prepared for my CBAP exam, one of the big areas of contention was the use of exam simulators. At first, around week 3, I found them to be very helpful in gauging whether my review of the BABOK material was adequately in-depth to sit for the exam. But as time wore on, I was studying more and taking more practice exams but not seeing my scores improve. I became frustrated at how stupid they made me feel.

I began to distrust the exam simulators and also my own test taking skills.  Although frustrated, I withheld judgement. How could I provide an honest evaluation of the simulators before I could compare them to the real exam?

If you remember, I was using simulators from two different companies: Watermark Learning’s, to which I purchased a 60-day license, and BA Mentor’s, to which as a Bridging the Gap partner I was provided with complimentary access. Both were helpful tools and they were similar in many ways.

The Features

Watermark Learning

  • Provides 3 modes – Warm-Up, Study Drills, and a full exam simulator. I did not see the need for the warm-up, but used several of the study drills to determine how well my studying was going with a particular knowledge area. I also did not have the opportunity to use the full Exam Simulator because my subscription expired a day earlier than I expected, so I can’t comment on that aspect of the tool.
  • I really liked how Watermark explained the answers – there were explanations both for the right answers and the wrong answers. So if I chose a wrong answer, I’d be able to read why it was wrong (often with some interpretation of why my thinking may have wrongly led me to that answer). The right answer included a reference to the appropriate section of the BABOK and, for the most part, some more detail from the BABOK or summarizing the BABOK.
  • I did not like that in order to view all my wrong answers, I had to scroll back through each question individually. (I was told that an enhancement was being made to address this and so it may no longer be an issue.)
  • You do have the option to submit one question at a time and receive feedback about whether the answer was right or wrong with the detailed explanations.
  • Also, Watermark only saved one exam at a time, so as soon as I started a new drill, I lost the results to the previous drills and could not review those answers or see progress in terms of scores.

BA Mentor

  • Offers two modes – the equivalent of the study drills and the full exam simulator.
  • Full exam simulator was timed just like the real exam, with a clock ticking in one of the corners. I wasn’t a huge fan of this, but the same thing happened in the real exam and I was glad to be prepared.
  • While you couldn’t review just all your wrong answers on one page, you could view all the questions on one page and quickly skim through to focus on the wrong answers.
  • When an answer was wrong, you were provided with feedback on the right answer and why it’s the right answer, with a reference to the appropriate section of the BABOK for more information.
  • BA Mentor saves all of your exams so you can see both the overall results on the exams, and drill into review any of the questions you missed. Depending on how you approach your studying, this could be a really important feature to consider.
From a pure feature perspective, I would say the Watermark Learning tool stands out because of its explanations to the questions, saving you time going back to the BABOK to identify why your answer was wrong. The BA Mentor tool stands out from the perspective of maintaining a history of your exams and providing an easy way to review all of your past sample exams and scores.

Study Approach and Practice Exams

Both tools offered opportunities to take partial exams centered around one knowledge area and both tools included questions about related techniques in these partial exams. Originally, I planned to study the techniques at the end. This study approach was not supported by either tool and, upon reflection, it is more practical to tackle the techniques as you work through the knowledge areas. As you look at exam simulators, consider how you’ll use them throughout your study time as I really found it beneficial to test myself as I studied to get a handle on the types of questions to prepare for. It really made my subsequent studying more productive.

Also, be aware that taking a full practice CBAP exam is a significant activity. I underestimated this. Expect to spend 2 1/2 – 3 hours on the exam and another hour (or more) reviewing your answers and learning from your results.

The Questions

But let’s focus on what’s really the most important aspect of an exam simulator – the questions themselves. During the preparation process, I liked Watermark’s questions better. They were mostly clear and I felt they were a fair test of my knowledge.  On the contrary, I struggled with a good percentage of BA Mentor’s questions as they were worded oddly and I found them confusing.

But when it came exam time, I was really glad I had fumbled through BA Mentor’s questions. As I wrote about in my closing post about the exam, about a quarter of the questions I was asked on the actual CBAP exam I also found confusing. I could eliminate 1 or 2 answers, but I couldn’t confidently choose the right answer, even though I felt I had all the knowledge in my head to make a good decision. The wording and the question just didn’t resonate. Having worked through the BA Mentor questions, I felt slightly more confident in my answers. More importantly, while this reality created some negative energy during my exam, I didn’t allow my confusion to bring me to a grinding halt. But really, I wish I had trusted Linda more during the process and not discounted the confusing questions from the BA Mentor exam simulator.

Pricing

Watermark Learning: CBAP Online Study Exam

  • 30 Days: $99
  • 60 Days: $129
  • 90 Days: $159.

If in doubt, purchase the longer package. I purchased a 60 day package and then wanted to extend for a week before my exam and was only offered a 30-day rate of $79 to renew.

BA Mentor: CBAP Exam Simulator:

  • 15 days: $39.99
  • 30 days: $59.99
  • 45 days: $69.99
  • 60 days: $79.99
  • 90 days: $99.99

Renewal discounts are approximately 50% and you can renew for as little as two weeks at a time.

Which one is best for you?

Well, first, be clear that there are many other exam simulators out there. I chose Watermark Learning because they seem to be the most globally trusted among BAs, and BA Mentor because I have always trusted founder Linda Erzah and her passion for helping BAs get certified. Before choosing one or the other, you might want to do more research into the other options out there. (If you have publicly published reviews of other products, feel free to leave a link below.)

It will really depend on what’s important to you as you prepare. Are you confident in your test-taking skills? Do you want specific features? How important is the price difference? Can you afford more than one tool so that you don’t have to put your eggs all in one basket?

Looking back, the biggest difference was the questions and I found that BA Mentor’s exam simulator did a better job of preparing me for the unexpected and convoluted questions I faced on exam day. Maybe not everyone had this same experience with their CBAP exam, but it definitely caught me by surprise. Like I mentioned above and in this post on my experience with the CBAP exam itself, I didn’t believe the questions would be confusing until I was actually sitting in the room. It didn’t seem right to me at all (and it still doesn’t). And, while I’m still disillusioned by the relationship between the exam questions and being a good (nevermind great) BA, that’s really not the point. If you want to pass the exam, you need to be able to fight your way through the confusing questions. Prepare yourself.

>>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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Comments

  1. Just a couple comments about Laura’s comments on the actual CBAP exam:

    All questions on the exam go through multiple rounds of reviews by the individuals involved in the item writing session. (I can’t speak for the most recent CBAP exam item writing session, but the CCBA session involved about 6 rounds of such reviews.) In addition, all questions are reviewed and edited by Castle Worldwide’s professional editing staff.

    The questions are not meant to be confusing or convoluted; however, the questions (and, in particular, those specifically based on the BABOK) are meant to ensure that you can distinguish between what is correct and what’s almost correct (or, in some case, what is most correct).

    Finally, I extend this offer to all who comment on the exam questions: you are more than welcome to apply to participate in the exam item writing process the next time we do so 😉 .

    Michael

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