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How to Pass the CBAP Exam: Study Tips from Recent Credential Holders

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Are you ready to pass the CBAP® and earn your CBAP certification? When the new IIBA Level 3 CBAP exam came out for BABOK® Guide v3 in September 2016, there wasn’t much information on how the exam would change. We now have tips for you directly from people who recently took the CBAP exam and passed.

Global Observations about the CBAP Exam:

  1. Feedback from our students found the exam harder than they expected.
  2. The CBAP exam isn’t a memorization exam as much as it’s an application exam, based on the BABOK. (Note: the ECBA™ certification exam is more of a memorization, definition, and knowledge-based exam).
  3. About 40 of the questions were study cases, based on 1-2 A4-sized pages of text with 3-4 questions each. The remaining questions were scenario-based.

How They Prepared for the CBAP Exam:

  1. Most of our students said they dedicated over 150 – 200 hours of time studying for the exam.
  2. They read the BABOK Guide v3 at least 2, if not 3, times before the exam.
  3. They took lots of practice tests. Watermark Learning has over 1,200 scenario- and case study-based questions in their CBAP Online Study Exam question bank.
  4. They found it helpful to take a CBAP certification preparation class or to read Watermark’s CBAP Certification Study Guide to help better understand the concepts found in the BABOK.

What to Study:

  1. Know your techniques. Our students mentioned that there were a lot of questions around techniques, such as how to read them and when to use them. Although IIBA’s exam blueprint states NA on the techniques, we tell our students that the exam incorporates the technique questions into the Knowledge Area (KA) questions. It is important to really understand the core techniques and models for the exam.
  2. Review the estimating and financial calculations in detail and practice how to do them. There are numerous calculation questions in the exam, which are basically math word problems. There are some ROI calculations, as well as broader, more general calculations. Watermark has added calculations to their online simulation exam database and their CBAP prep materials.
  3. Know all the tasks in each KA. Watermark uses mnemonics throughout its study guide and in its prep class to help you memorize the tasks in each KA.
  4. There are numerous questions on, “What would you do next in this situation?” Watermark helps students connect-the-dots in their prep materials.
  5. You may also get a few questions about stakeholders, input/outputs, and perspectives, which is interesting because IIBA said perspective questions would probably not be on the exam. Reviewing Watermark’s study guide and BABOK 3.0 Study Tables will help you understand which stakeholders are involved in each task, the inputs and outputs of each task, and a high-level review of perspectives.
  6. Final tip: it not only takes time to adjust to the terms used in BABOK, when you are used to the terms used in your organization, but the exam may use totally different wordings. So, instead of just answering questions, you may have to figure out the essence of the question, compare it to the BABOK terms and concepts, and then look at the four possible answers to find the one closest to being the right answer.


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Watermark Learning CBAP Exam Tips:

  1. Reading case studies with multiple questions is different from just reading a scenario with one question. Our suggestion to help you conquer the case studies successfully is to…
    1. Skim the case study for initial understanding.
    2. Read the question that pertains to that case study thoroughly to find out what question it is asking.
    3. Read all the answers to the questions. (Avoid the impulse to select the first answer you come to that seems correct.)
    4. Then, go back to the case study and reread the case study focusing on the information needed to answer the question under view, given the selection of answers to choose form.
  2. Use BABOK terms, even if you think they are “wrong!” Remember: all BABOK terms and concepts are true somewhere in the world. One of the prime reasons people fail the CBAP or CCBA® exam is they rely too much on “real life” approaches or techniques.
  3. Layer your learning. Start with understanding the recurring themes. Then, memorize the KAs and the tasks within each KA. (Note: you may want to pick the KAs that have fewer tasks to start!) Learn the sequencing of the various tasks within and between knowledge areas.
  4. Focus your study time. Spend time studying in proportion to the percentages of questions on the exam, and spend more time studying areas in which you are not as proficient.
  5. Study techniques in the context of the tasks with which they are most closely associated.
  6. Take short practice exams. Use Watermark Learning’s online simulation exam (warm-ups and drills). Use the results of your exam to focus your study on those areas that are most challenging.
  7. 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.

Watermark Learning has helped thousands earn their CBAP certification over the years, and we want you to be next! Become a member of the Watermark Learning network (it’s FREE!) to gain access to industry articles, webinars, templates, special offers, and monthly enewsletters. For more information, or questions on the CBAP study materials available, contact info@watermarklearning.com.

If you’ve taken the CBAP exam and have some additional advice, we’d love to hear it in the comments below!

CBAP Certification Resources



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