Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Earning your CBAP® or CCBA™

I’ve helped many people achieve their CBAP®, and I’ve seen a number of approaches. Most have been successful I’m happy to say. A few others have not been, either because candidates stressed out or were underprepared. Below is a summary of the top mistakes people have made in working towards their CBAP®.

  1. Not enough study time. A major mistake is not studying enough. According to our research, successful CBAP® candidates spent an average of around 100 hours studying for their CBAP®. Give yourself at least several weeks and spread that time out before you take your exam.
  2. Applying too soon. You have one year to take the exam after your CBAP®/CCBA™ application is approved. If you are not sure, you might want to apply for the exam after you have 50 hours of study time completed. A student of mine waited until two weeks before her one-year deadline to take a class and to begin studying in earnest. Needless to say, she did not pass.
  3. Using only one Method of Study. A prime cause of stress over the CBAP® that I have observed is relying on one primary method of study. In my case, I relied solely on the BABOK®, and only read it once at that. During my CBAP® exam there were several questions I felt completely unprepared for and more than once wished I had studied using more than my one method.  
  4. Relying on the Wrong Method of Study. There is no one study formula that works for everyone. Rely on the study methods that fit your learning style. If you like data and facts, then read (and re-read the BABOK®). If you are a “get to the point” and practical learner, focus on practice exam questions. If you are an interactive or reflective learner, you will do best with classes and study groups. Using non-compatible methods (such as re-reading the BABOK® for a practical learner) will tend to de-motivate you and may even prevent you from finishing your certification.
  5. Not Answering Enough Practice Questions. It may sound like a sales pitch, but it is essential to practice answering as many sample exam questions as possible. (Full disclosure: we offer a CBAP®/CCBA™ Online Study Exam.) One person I know who failed the CBAP® exam only answered one set of 150 practice questions before her exam. People who passed the exam report they practiced answering 10 times that number or more.
  6. Trying to Reconcile the BABOK® with Your Work Experience. I have seen many people stress out over comparing the BABOK® with their “real life” experience. A discussion of how the BABOK® differs from “real life” has happened in every CBAP® Prep class I have taught. My advice: set your personal experience aside and concentrate on mastering the content in the BABOK®, which is what the CBAP® and CCBA™ exams are based on.
  7. Answering Questions Based on Your Work Experience. A related mistake is to take your experience into the exam and use it to answer questions. The CBAP® exam won’t test your individual experience, but will test you on the “generally accepted practice of business analysis.” If you don’t answer accordingly, it will be a mistake that could cause you to incorrectly answer questions and worst of all, fail the exam.
  8. Trying to Memorize the BABOK®. True, it is helpful to commit to memory some of the key BABOK® concepts and terms. But, you will need to apply them to situational questions in the CBAP® exam. There will be many problem-solving types of questions on the CBAP® exam and you will be asked to apply your knowledge to answer these types of questions, not just regurgitate it.
  9. Not Starting. I know several people who have said they want to get their CBAP® or CCBA™ certification, but, they will never receive the benefits of certification if they don’t start. Benefits people tell me they have gotten from their CBAP® credential include: personal satisfaction, greater credibility, selection on better and higher-profile projects, getting hired as employees and consultants, and higher pay. 
  10. Not Finishing. I know other people who have started the CBAP® certification process, but have stalled out because of time pressures at home or work. The key is to not lose sight of your goal and keep at it when you do have time. It is a lot of work, but then it would not mean as much if were easy, right? The results and sense of accomplishment are well worth the effort.

Hopefully, reading about these mistakes will help you to avoid making them yourself. If you know of other tips to avoid, I’d like to hear them and share them with others. Please post them here or write me at with your ideas and tips.

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