Even after having earned many certifications in a variety of fields, I still find each journey to be unique in some way. In this article, I share a few observations about my recent experience on the road to the International Institute of Business Analysis® – Agile Analysis Certification, the IIBA®-AAC.
The Application Process
This is a pretty new certification, just having been released in the summer of 2018. As of this article, there were only 110 names on the registry of certified IIBA-AACs. That likely explains the clunky process for applying for the exam.
I expect the process will be greatly improved and streamlined sometime in the not-too-distant future, so your experience may not resemble mine. If you do move ahead before the process is improved, be aware that it is a lot of emailing back and forth for each little step. I kept a log of what I had to do prior to taking the exam:
- Registered online at 8:30am Monday.
- Received email saying I would get request to submit payment within 2 business days.
- Received email on Wednesday telling me that I could now pay for the exam.
- Sent payment via PayPal and received receipt.
- Per the request, sent an email confirming I had paid to firstname.lastname@example.org and the financial person who sent the email about making the payment.
- Then received email from IIBA saying I was eligible to take the exam.
- Went to PSI site and registered (NOTE: MUST USE CHROME). To check system requirements it asked for a code, but I didn’t get the code until I scheduled the exam. I just skipped that step 2 and went to step 3 to check my system.
- Decided to reschedule so logged and selected reschedule, which cancelled my exam. Then used link in cancellation email to reschedule.
So, the process works, but it’s not exactly elegant. I will say it was nice to be able to schedule the exam anytime and then be able to reschedule within 24 hours. That was slick. I took the test on a Sunday.
Prepping for the Exam
Three things set me up for success with this exam.
- Read the Source Content
The only document that you really need to spend significant time with is the Agile Extension to the BABOK® Guide. It’s a relatively short document (compared to the BABOK® Guide or the PMBOK® Guide, for example), and it’s not a particularly hard read. But you definitely need to be familiar with the content, especially the first six chapters. The techniques are important, but less so than the other sections on the agile mindset, 7 principles of agile business analysis, horizons, Business Analysis Core Concept Model (BACCM™), and how they are all related.
I used the Watermark IIBA-AAC Flashcards, which were very helpful to hone in on key terms and concepts. In addition, I got a couple hundred blank note cards and created my own flash cards by capturing key concepts and terms as I studied. When I ran across something I wanted to remember, I wrote the term or idea on a card and put the answer or clue on the back, along with the page reference in the Agile Extension. I have always found this process to be indispensable in prepping for an exam.
- Online Exam Simulation
Practice exams are key to prepping for certification exams, and the IIBA-AAC is no exception. Watermark’s IIBA-AAC Online Exam Simulation was excellent at preparing me for the types of questions I saw. They were well written and at least as difficult as the real exam, if not a little harder.
Taking the Exam
It’s a 2-hour exam with 85 multiple-choice questions, and it is administered remotely. That is, you take the test online with a webcam and a proctor watches you remotely. The questions are what I’d call “scenario lite.” Most of them have a couple of sentences providing some context, but they aren’t detailed or lengthy. Per usual, with this type of test, the answer includes 4 mutually-exclusive choices. There is no “all of the above,” or “none of the above.” It’s either a, b, c, or d.
By far, the most challenging aspect of the exam had to do with the remote proctoring. I felt very constrained in terms of what I could and couldn’t do while taking the exam. It was nice to be able to do it at home on a Sunday afternoon, as opposed to having to go to a testing center, but there were definitely frustrations, as well.
For example, I could not talk to myself, look away from the screen, or rest my head on my hand or cover up my mouth in any way. In fact, I could not even move my lips while reading – even when I wasn’t actually making noise! As someone who thinks out loud and likes to look out the window while thinking through or trying to remember something, this was super hard!
I took almost 90 minutes of the 2 hours, which included a review of the few questions I had marked. Overall, the IIBA-AAC exam is certainly easier than others I’ve taken, such as the PMP® certification exam, but I’m always reticent to say that any test is easy. Still, this did not require the effort that I have put into other certifications.
My IIBA-AAC journey is done and, as always, I’m glad I did it. The process of preparing you for a certification exam helps develop a cohesive and comprehensive understanding of the core concepts underpinning the exam. In this case, refining an understanding of how to apply an agile mindset in the work of business analysis is time well spent!