Up until this point, I’ve been taking sample CBAP exams by knowledge area. These are great because they help me determine if I understand a particular knowledge area or not. But they are obviously limited since I’m not being tested on a sequence of questions across multiple knowledge areas.
This past week I took my first two practice exams. The first was Watermark’s 50 question “light” exam. The second was BAMentor’s full 150 question exam. (Watermark also offers a full 150 question exam, but my subscription ran out a day earlier than I was expecting, so I didn’t get to try it out.)
I liked the light exam because it was reasonably efficient to complete and gave me a breakdown of how I did by knowledge area. I could quickly see that Requirements Management and Communication was my weakest area and used that information to plan some short-term cramming.
But it was when I got to the full practice exam that I really learned what it’s going to take next Tuesday, when I sit for the real deal. Here are a few of the challenges I’m preparing myself for.
Distraction and Boredom
While it doesn’t seem that big, 150 questions is a lot of questions. It took me nearly 2 1/2 hours to complete the practice exam. Admittedly I checked email and Twitter a few times and got up for snacks and bio breaks. But I felt I needed to do these things to keep my energy up and refocus. During the exam, I doubt I’ll have access to Twitter (though it would be great to leverage your collective expertise!) so I’ll need some quick, short distractions that will help me refocus my energy on the task at hand. And, well, at about 8 months pregnant, I’m sure I’ll need some bio breaks too and will hopefully be able to snack on a handful of almonds or something.
Uncertainty and Self-Doubt
Undoubtedly, there were questions I did not know the answers to. Sometimes this uncertainty created a lot of self-doubt.
Some were big and impacted many questions. How could I forget the purposes of the elicitation knowledge areas? (This cropped up especially after about the third question on elicitation where it became clear I was missing some key transition or output.) What was the difference between requirements validation and verification again? (I thought I had nailed it but then grew wary.)
Some were small. What’s the difference between an operative and structural business rule? Did I even see this model that looks like a decision tree and was it labeled? Is the input for this task business need (since so many are) or is it something further down the process (many more are than I thought during the exam)?
These doubts really speak to the need for a bit more preparation. As I made my way through the exam I realized it would be useful to capture these patterns so I could do more detailed reviews of these areas before my next practice session.
But regardless of how much I study, I know I’ll forget something or doubt something. So I think what’s important during the exam is to isolate these areas of doubt to specific questions and not let them creep into the entire exam.
Choose Between the Two Best Answers
Despite my doubts, I could almost always rule out two answers. Then it was a matter of choosing between the two best answers. They might both seem logical or relevant. Sometimes I could build some confidence that one seemed better than the other. Sometimes I just had to choose randomly. But choosing randomly between 2 gives you better odds than between 4. I’ll take my chances.
Opportunity and Sunk Cost
These are both concepts from the BABOK but they apply to the exam prep process too. When I looked back at my afternoon, I was a bit disappointed at the amount of time (sunk cost) I had invested in the practice exam. I wondered about the opportunity cost of this activity. In the context of exam preparation, I think the time spent taking a sample exam was well spent. In the context of all the other areas of my professional and personal life I could be investing in, it was a difficult pill to swallow. I’ll be swallowing it at least one, possibly two, more times before Tuesday. And then it will all be sunk cost behind me…and we know there’s no reason to fret over a sunk cost. At that point I’ll be able to look forward to all the magical things the future holds.
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