How to Use the BABOK Guide to Create an Effective Study Plan

How to Use the BABOK Guide to Create an Effective Study Plan

To advance your business analysis career through professional certifications like the CBAP, CCBA, and ECBA and increase your success at passing the certification exam, it is best to create a personal study plan that incorporates the BABOK® Guide knowledge area concepts, tasks, techniques,  practice exam question, study aides (purchased or self-created), and time management tools (what are time management tools?

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What is the professional organization for Business Analysts seeking certification?

The International Institute of Business Analysis™ (IIBA®) is the professional association of business analysis. Through an expansive worldwide professional network, it fosters a robust community that enhances the practice of business analysis in a range of industries. Additionally, IIBA oversees the global standards of practice and renowned certifications to enhance a business analyst’s career development.

What are IIBA Certifications?

IIBA offers four specialized certifications in agile analysis, data analytics, cybersecurity, and product ownership. However, IIBA’s three core certifications map to deepening skills in business analysis for application in any business setting and recognize an individual’s commitment and practical work experience in the business analysis role. These three core certifications include…

IIBA’s core certifications have applications, exams, and professional development hours needed as part of the qualification process. The CBAP is the most widely known of the business analysis certifications. The good news is that no matter if you are pursuing the ECBA, CCBA, or CBAP, the knowledge areas and techniques assessed in the corresponding certification exam are in the BABOK® Guide.

What is IIBA’s BABOK Guide?

  • Your certification journey should begin with IIBA’s “A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge®” (BABOK® Guide). The BABOK Guide, informally referred to as “BABOK,” is the internationally acknowledged standard for the practice of business analysis  The BABOK® Guide incorporates the collective wisdom and experience of experts in business analysis from around the world. It defines the skills and knowledge required by business analysis professionals that can be modified to apply to any business analysis context or domain.


  • contains a description of generally accepted practices used in business analysis
  • describes the six core knowledge areas of business analysis
  • captures 50 common techniques that business analysts use to realize better business outcomes
  • details the underlying competencies needed to be successful as a business analyst
  • and includes the Business Analysis Core Concept Model™ (BACCM™)

A business analysis professional must understand the BABOK content and be able to apply the information to scenarios, case studies, and business challenges to achieve an IIBA certification passing score.

How to prepare for a Business Analysis exam – Application Tips

Watermark Learning has helped countless business analysis professionals apply for various business analysis certifications with a proven approach. 

  • Download Watermark Learning’s Application Worksheet to help organize your project hours before completing the application online:
  • Go to to download and review IIBA® certification handbooks for the latest application information.
  • Record your work experience:
    • Make sure you have the required hours of experience in multiple knowledge areas!
    • List more than 3,750 / 7500 hours as a buffer
    • Lump small projects together
    • Any non-business analysis project hours will be subtracted from the total BA experience hours
    • Don’t stress out over exact hours or even the dates; approximations are okay
  • Save money on your application – become an IIBA® member
  • Note: Applicants and recipients may be randomly selected for an audit to validate work experience, professional development, and other information provided when they apply and/or recertify.

You must submit your application before you can schedule your CBAP or other business analysis certification exam. You will need to include your work experience in Business Analysis for both the CBAP and CCBA exam.

How to prepare for a Business Analysis exam using the BABOK® Guide

With an approved application and scheduled exam date, the next step is to study for the certification exam itself.

  • Schedule focused study time leading up to your scheduled exam
    • Plan for at least 100 hours over a 2 -3-month period prior to your scheduled exam for CBAP and CCBA and about 4-6 weeks for your ECBA exam.  
  • Create your own BABOK Study Plan
    • Obtain the most current version of the BABOK. You can download it free from as a IIBA member, or purchase it on
    • Consider adding the BABOK Visual Study Guide to your resources what is this? – IIBA does have the Business Analysis Standard which is A shortened and colorful version of the BABOK
  • Read the BABOK Guide at least twice

Create a Study Plan with the BABOK Guide

There are six knowledge areas within the BABOK Guide, and Watermark Learning suggests these six steps to setting up your own certification study plan.

Tip 1: Use BABOK terms on the exam, even if you think they are “wrong”

  • Learn how the BABOK describes business analysis concepts, tasks, and techniques and answer questions accordingly 

Tip 2: Layer your learning

  • Start with understanding the recurring themes 
  • Know the 6 Knowledge Areas (KAs)
  • Learn the tasks within each KA; pick the KAs with fewer tasks to start
  • Conceptually understand the outputs, inputs, and elements related to each task. You will not be asked specific questions about inputs, outputs, and a list of elements, but you will need to understand the concepts well enough to apply them in answering the exam questions.
  • Learn the various tasks within and between knowledge areas
  •  Know the different estimating and financial analysis techniques. You will not need a calculator, but understand the principles of each so you can apply them to your exam question.

Tip 3: Focus your study time

  • Spend time studying in proportion to the percentages of questions on the exam
  • Spend more time studying areas in which you are not as proficient 

Tip 4: Know all 50 techniques

  • Know the purpose of each technique and when to use it
  • Understand the strengths and weaknesses of each technique
  • Learn how the techniques can be applied to the various tasks
  • Know how to interpret the various models (e.g., data flow diagram, swimlane, data model, etc.) so that you can answer the corresponding questions about that model.

Tip 5: Take short practice exams

  • Continue with practice exam questions in the online study exam (warm-ups and drills)
  • Use the practice exam results to focus your study on those areas which are most challenging

Tip 6: Take 1-2 mock simulation exams

  • Use Watermark’s Online Study Exam simulation
  • Isolate yourself from distractions for 3 hours for the CCBA exam and 3.5 hours for the CBAP exam
  • Reach a goal of about 70-75% correct

Resources to create your Study Plan

While the BABOK Guide is the foundation of business analysis certifications, you should create a personal study plan for each exam. Given the complexity and the vast number of tasks within each knowledge area, many students find a visual guide or visual representation of the information helpful. Take advantage of these study resources as you create your own BABOK study plan: (I don’t think we want them creating their own study guide as we already created one that comes with the class or can be purchased on Amazon. 

What to expect from each IIBA Business Analysis (BA) certification exam

BA certifications vary in exam content depth and duration. As you plan your certification efforts, select the one that best fits your current work experience and future career goals.

Entry Certificate in Business Analysis (ECBA) exam

ECBA Sample Question

What is the best means for eliciting information from numerous people, anonymously, in a relatively short period of time?

  1. Reviews
  2. Focus groups
  3. Surveys
  4. Requirements workshop

Correct answer: C

Certification of Capability in Business Analysis (CCBA) exam

  • IIBA certification information | Certification of Capability in Business Analysis™ (CCBA®)
  • Eligibility | 3750 hours in the past 7 years
  • BABOK Knowledge Area Expertise | Minimum of 900+ hours in 2 of the Knowledge Areas or 500+ in 4 knowledge areas
  • Exam Focus | scenario-based (a business situation is described in 2-4 sentences)
  • Number of Questions | 130
  • Question Type | Multiple choice questions about the scenarios
  • Length | 3 hours

CCBA Sample Question

A business analyst’s recommendation was unanimously approved by the steering team. What really sold decision-makers was the forecasted benefits of the future state which was modeled with incredible detail. How might the business analyst utilize that forecasted potential value in the business analysis process? They will:

  1. Use it to measure solution performance once the future state is implemented.
  2. Ensure the requirements and designs meet quality standards.
  3. Assess and report the potential value to drive consensus among decision-makers.
  4. Ensure that all requirements and designs support the delivery of those forecasted benefits.

Correct answer: D

Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) exam

  • IIBA certification information | Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP®)
  • Eligibility | 7500 hours in the past 10 years
  • BABOK Knowledge Area Expertise | Minimum of 900+ hours in 4 of the Knowledge Areas
  • Exam Focus | case study-based (a business situation is described in 1 to 1 ½ pages.)
  • Number of Questions | 120
  • Question Type | multiple choice questions per case study with
  • Length | 3.5 hours

CCBA Sample Question

A business analyst in an agile environment. The developer has raised issues with the proposed solution, stating there may be a risk that the solution is not technically feasible. Jesse advises the stakeholders to prioritize the requirements and put the riskiest ones at the top of the list. What is the rationale behind the business analyst’s guidance?

  1. Minimize the resources that are spent before learning that a proposed solution cannot be delivered.
  2. Mitigate the risk as early as possible to lessen probability and minimize impact.
  3. To implement a proof of concept to ensure the solution is technically feasible.
  4. To ensure adequate time to fix the problem should it occur.

Correct answer: A


Business Analysts enjoy challenging careers in business, government, and non-profit sectors. To further your career in Business Analysis, careful preparation, including creating your own personal BABOK study plan, will support your successful passing of the exam and earn your certification.

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