Laura’s CBAP Journey: Putting a “C” in my “BAP” (Week 12, Part 2)

I arrived at the exam center 30 minutes early. It was a beautiful Colorado fall day that felt more like late summer. The exam center was on a community college campus, so I was surrounded by young students and lots of energy. After confirming the location and logistics, I found a comfy seat in the lobby for some last minute review. At 12:40 pm MST, I made my way to the exam center and started the process of sitting for the exam.

At about 12:55, I had signed in, made chit chat with the exam proctor, confirmed bathroom procedures, put my stuff in my locker, and gone through the exam instructions and was looking at my first question. It was about business needs and I did not know the answer. Actually, the question didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Hmm..must just be a fluke. (But a little flake of self-doubt creeps up nonetheless.)

For the next hour or so, I continue through this pattern.

  • About one out of every three questions is crystal clear and I answer confidently.
  • About one out of every three questions is slightly confusing, but I can make a good guess. There’s two reasonable answers and I am choosing what I think is probably the best one.
  • About one out of every three questions does not really make sense to me and I feel that I can eliminate one, sometimes two answers but am not really doing a great job of picking the best one.

After an hour or so of this pattern, I reflect on what’s happening and realize I could actually fail this exam. Answering 1 out of 3 with confidence does not provide very good odds. And it’s definitely not how I expected to feel after all of my preparation.

In cycles a flow of negative energy. The questions get harder. Now I am doubting myself for about 2 out of every 3 questions. Then the negative energy shifts to a bit of anger. I studied. I know the material. Why can’t I understand these questions? Is that a typo or is it deliberately misleading? That seems like the right answer, if only there was another comma or one letter was shifted. None of these answers seem right at all. Oy.

At 1 1/2 hours in, I decide that a break will do me good. I get up and go to the bathroom. I take two long drinks at the water fountain. I stretch. I shake my head. I take deep relaxing breaths.

I go back to the exam room with fresh energy and a positive perspective. I had left the screen with an unanswered question that had me stuck. I still don’t know the answer. OK. It’s not the negative energy stopping my creative flow, I just really don’t know the answer!

I write a bit on the scrap paper and remind myself that I have these 2 hours remaining. All I can do is the best I can. After all I’ve done to get to this point, there’s no reason to throw out the two hours. I continue to struggle through the next set of questions, picking the best answer I can.

Then the momentum shifts in the exam. The questions get easier. I’m answering 2 each minute with very little pause or self-doubt. I whip through most of the end of the exam. I get to the last question. Deep breathe. I go back to the 20 questions I flagged because I thought maybe with a fresh perspective I’d be able to pick a better answer. Not so. I change maybe 1 or 2 answers. At this point I’m almost 3 hours in.

The exam room is warm, too warm. The fan of computers running the exam has never stopped. I am hungry and thirsty. I take a deep breathe and consider if there’s anything else I can do to increase my chances of passing with the remaining 30 minutes. I decide no. I hit submit.

Before the results are given to me, they make me fill out a survey about the exam process! For the first time all day, my heart is racing and my eyes are crossing. I quickly type in the open feedback column “give results before survey!” and hit submit. I see some text on the screen. I refocus to read it. Something about being a CBAP…Oh, I passed! Deep sigh. Shut my eyes for a minute. It’s over.

It’s 3 days after the exam, and I’m still feeling a bit unsettled by this experience. I’ve never finished an exam so uncertain as to how I had done. I’ve always known if I’d nailed it or blown it. In fact, I typically knew before I went in which was likely to happen.

Still, I have a few take-aways:

  • The confusing exam questions I complained about were not so different from my experience with the exam. The exam simulators may not be perfect, but they are doing something right.
  • I wish I had spent more time with the underlying competencies as there were some questions about how these truly underlay the techniques. I thought these were good, non-confusing questions but I wasn’t quite as prepared as I could have been for them.
  • Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know which one you are going to get.

I still owe you a few posts and I hope to get them out over the next few weeks. One will compare the two exam simulators I used. Another will sum all this up into my own statement of the value of a CBAP. But for now we get to start something much more fun.

Next week I’m starting a follow-up series that will lead us through a conversation sharing our experiences related to each of the BABOK tasks. “Absorbing the BABOK” was by far the most intrinsically valuable part of the CBAP prep process for me. So much so that I want to do it again, with you. It’s also going to provide a great way for me to leave you with something valuable while I’m on maternity leave.

>>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.

Click here to read the article


19 thoughts on “Laura’s CBAP Journey: Putting a “C” in my “BAP” (Week 12, Part 2)”

  1. Hi Laura,
    Your article is from 2011, but the same feeling (and frustration with some questions) from my exam experience. To be sure, I used the two well known simulators BA Mentor and Watermark, as you say, simulators can help you, but the exam surprised me. I expected something easier after hours and hours and hours of simulation, but noting is easy in this life. Finally, it’s done!!!
    By the way, the drumming coming from the testing computer’s hard disk was killing me when I hit submit, but finally the result, still not so easy to find the word “Pass”, and of course still after the survey!!!, it gave me the reward after all these hours without enjoying my family.
    Thanks for sharing your experience and I wish you success,

    P.S. : BA Mentor still have some orthographic errors (and English is not my first language)

  2. Hi Laura.

    I’m reading your blog and wishing I had come across it sooner! I came within 6 points of passing the CBAP. I have a lot of experience and was naturally connecting my experience with a lot of the Babok material. I used Watermark and felt the questions were adequate, but there are not enough of them. I saw questions repeated very often. I was scoring in 80’s during my prep.

    I had a similar experience during the exam in that I was confident about half the time. Some of the questions were not what I had seen in the babok or close to watermarks exam prep questions. Many questions seemed out of the mainstream of the tasks and elements, etc. Some of them seemed downright unfair. There was a question about maslow hierarchy of needs. I think I got it right, but there is not anything in the babok about it. I certainly had not read about it in years.

    I studied a lot (about 8 weeks). The watermark tool helped get my nose into the babok. I need another perspective so I am going to use BA Mentor to prep for the exam in 3 months. Try, try, try again. 🙂

    1. What knowledge area did you score the lowest in?

      A few days before my test I realized I used my watermark online score of 85% as a false confidence that I was going to pass. I realized that I was addicted to taking the test and a lot of the questions were repeats, so I rarely would read the whole questions because I had memorized the answers. So I went back and reread the babok and watermark study book and made sure I understood the inputs that came from other knowledge areas. I also tried to find patterns, like there are only two tasks that produce more that one output (I think). The Watermark Study book made reference to Maslow, thankfully I read that book.

      I agree the CBAP test questions were somewhat strange. It was like taking the test in another country. I barely looked at my notes that contained all the mnemonics I memorized from the Watermark Study book. I honestly thought the test would be written like the Watermark questions.

      Good luck.

      1. The feedback indicated I needed to improve in SA&V, Req Anal & BA Plan & Monitor. Oddly enough, requirement analysis is where I have most of my experience.

        I wrote down everything I remember about the exam and will do flash cards this time, especially for the items I recall from the exam.

        Thanks for the feedback Tricia and congratulations on your success on the cbap.

  3. Wow! Beautifully written, on a very tough process/experience.

    Now I’m wondering…is there something connecting pregnancy and passing the CBAP? One of my colleagues is due to have her baby soon, and she just prepped for/took/passed the CBAP. Sounds like she had some similar during-test stress moments, but it all worked out; now she’s wondering if her baby qualifies for an honorary CBAP. 😉

  4. Michelle Swoboda

    Laura – you rock! Congratulations!!!!
    I am so proud of you.
    Now, was it worth it? Was the time spent studying, memorizing, stressing – was it worth it? I need to know 🙂

    1. Michelle,

      I’ve been putting off answering your question because the short answer is “I don’t know.” I suppose until the CBAP has a measurable impact on my career or impacts an opportunity for me, I won’t know if it was worth it or not.

      I can say that the early part of the prep process was intrinsically worthwhile, as it’s given birth to this BA stories series that I’m really excited about and also helped me feel more solidified in my knowledge as a BA.

      But passing the exam itself was not a proud moment for me. When you click submit and you really don’t know if you are going to get a pass or a fail, there is something unnerving about resting on those laurels. I feel like I could take the exam a second time and have a similar experience and a different result.

  5. Congrats Laura. As a mother of two kids, I know how hard it would be to focus on passing this exam after your baby is born. What a great gift you have given yourself and you timed it quite nicely.

    The posts you have shared are quite valuable and I will make sure that our future IIBA chapter CBAP study groups include them as part of their recommended reading. I am finally considering pursuing certification now that I have cut back on my chapter leadership duties. Your posts will be a great resource as I decide whether to test for the CBAP or PMP first.

    Keep up the great work and enjoy some wonderful family time when you bring home your new family addition!

  6. No one could have said it better than you Laura. It’s not easy to warn folks about what you went through with the CBAP exam. Especially when we don’t know if something changed since the last time we went through the process and when others portray the exam differently (easy, straightforward, no typos…etc). Could there be a difference in sets of questions? Where some are more “perfect” than others? May be?

    Either way, I think most of us (CBAP Prep Providers that is) try to cover all the basis so that the exam is not a big shock; and without completely scaring you either :).
    At BAMentor, we try to consider everyone’s experience with the exam when creating the exam simulation questions. My personal experience was that the CBAP exam is not one to take lightly! It takes time to prepare for it and you must know the BABOK inside out before sitting for it. On the flip side, I’ve also heard of folks who crammed overnight and passed it…

    You did great! Being pregnant and taking such an intense exam is commendable! You are my superhero!!!! I can’t wait to participate in the “experience sharing about the BABOK” series

    1. Thanks, Linda. Your support and encouragement were instrumental throughout this process. And the prep course with Kym was an amazing resource as well, ensuring I covered the right details! Thanks so much for everything along the way. The passion you show for getting people through this process is amazing. As for me, I’m ready to be done with it and put it behind me. I don’t know how you and your instructors keep up the energy for this each and every day!

      1. I just passed the CBAP this morning! I was uncertain of 50 questions, yet I passed. I seriously thought I was going to fail. I keep looking at my passed report print out and I feel so relieved!

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