Article: Preparing For and Taking the CBAP Exam

Have you wanted to differentiate yourself in the field of business analysis? Have you noticed more requests for certified business analysts? The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) offers four different levels of certification. IIBA’s website says the Level 3, the Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP), “recognizes BA professionals who manage and lead with over five years of business analysis experience.”

According to the IIBA’s Certification Registry in March, there are 2,880 people in the United States with a CBAP certification. Of those, just 76 reside in Washington and only six reside in Olympia. Two of those six are part of Team Treinen. We sat down with our CBAP-certified consultants to get their advice for preparing and taking the CBAP exam. Here are their top tips.

Know thyself

Do you know how you learn? Do you remember best by reading, writing, seeing or verbalizing? Since the CBAP exam is all about memorization, we recommend taking a quick learning style assessment like this one. From here, you can focus your studying on how you learn to ensure the information stays with you.

Do you know what you already know? After an initial pass of all the content and practice tests, our consultants said they went back and focused on only the areas where they needed work. One pointed out that business analysis applies to many different industries, but you may only have experience in one area. Focus your studying on business analysis areas you are not familiar with.

Practice, practice, practice

Both of our consultants said online practice tests were the single best thing they did to prepare and pass the CBAP exam. While the CBAP/CCBA Study Guide by Sybex has practice tests at the end of each chapter, they said the online tests really got them into the mindset of taking the real test. We recommend Watermark Online Learning for practice CBAP exams (and no, we’re not getting a cut for promoting them!). Their practice tests give you realistic questions and detailed feedback to help you prepare for the real thing.

Use tools and materials other than the CBAP study guide – this helps you change the way you look at and understand the information. Our consultants used these BABOK flashcards made for the CBAP exam.

Check out our Resources handout from our March webinar.

What our consultants were surprised by

Both of our consultants said there were more math questions than they expected, so be prepared for that. You will be provided a calculator.

Also, many of the questions are theoretical or “ideal” situations, not real-world situations you might have experienced. Prepare by memorizing the right answers.

What to expect on CBAP exam day

The security is strict. Both consultants, who took exams in different years, said they were physically searched and were not allowed to bring anything in the exam room, even water! Don’t let this shake you, stay calm and confident.

The exam is given on a computer, and there will likely be people taking other exams in the same room. You will be handed scratch paper or a small whiteboard. Here is the key to CBAP exam day: when you sit down with your whiteboard, do a quick brain dump. Write down everything floating in your head that you have memorized for the exam. This allows you to focus on the questions in front of you and serves as a reference while you’re taking the test.

The test is multiple choice, and there is almost always more than one good answer. Pay attention to the nuances and try not to question yourself. The test allows you to mark questions you want to come back to, which our consultants highly recommend so you can go back if you have extra time.

Just in case you fail…

Test failure happens. It’s not a reflection of your expertise as a business analyst. Some people are better at taking tests than others. One of our consultants did fail the first time! They had the experience and knew the material. So, they studied more, went back three months later and passed.

What’s difficult about the CBAP exam is that the printout at the end doesn’t give you a score; it only tells you if you passed or failed. It does tell you which areas you need to focus on, so you know which areas to study for re-taking the exam. Our consultant who failed the first time said the first thing they did was to go back and take all the online tests first. From there, they reviewed the material they needed to improve on.

Ready, set, study

Preparing for and taking the CBAP exam is no small feat. Understanding your learning style, taking advantage of online practice tests and even re-taking the test can help ensure you pass the CBAP and demonstrate to the industry you are a qualified and professional business analyst.


For more than 15 years, Treinen has provided premier management and IT consulting in the Northwest. We deliver value to our clients and their customers by focusing on their needs and providing them with the best resources to get the job done. Sign up for our email updates to learn about webinars and the latest news about Treinen.