Passing the CBAP Certification exam is not for everyone — you have to qualify for the exam and certification in the first place. Some complained about the difficulty of acquiring the certificate, and this is positive for qualified analysts. If it were easy to become a CBAP, then everyone would do it. If everyone did it, then the value of the certification would decline as the market became saturated with certified business analysts. We’ve seen that happen already with certain information technology certifications, and the IIBA has learned from others’ mistakes. Below is the process chart to earning the CBAP certification.
The process to earn a CBAP Certification isn’t really that difficult. You’ll need to evaluate if you think you qualify for the examination, complete an application, and pay for the application and for the examination. The process we are going to explain here is subject to change at any time, this is why you should always check IIBA website and confirm the CBAP Certification requirements, fees, and process. https://www.iiba.org/certification/core-business-analysis-certifications/cbap/
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To qualify for the CBAP exam and certification, you’ll need to have minimum of five years of business analysis experience within the last ten years. That’s right—five years as a business analyst. The IIBA requires each CBAP candidate to prove and document their five years of experience as a business analyst in the context of the BABOK. When you complete your CBAP Certification application, you’re strongly encouraged to use the terminology and approaches discussed in the BABOK. You’ll need to map your business analysis experience to the BABOK and to define how the work you’ve completed fit with the expected duties of a business analyst from the IIBA point of view.
To give you an idea, here’s a quick listing of what you’ll find in the BABOK and where your five years of business analysis experience need to map to:
- Performing strategic analysis
- Planning business analysis
- Communicating requirements and managing requirements
- Eliciting requirements
- Completing requirements analysis and documentation
- Performing solution assessment and validation
If you believe that you do indeed qualify for the CBAP exam and are ready to move forward, you can begin your application at the International Institute of Business Analysis web site: https://www.iiba.org/. From start an application and begin documenting your experience, knowledge area skills, education, professional development, and professional references.
Once you’ve started the CBAP certification application from the IIBA, your first step is to enter all of your personal information. You’ll need the following bits of information for the application:
- Name I encourage you to apply under your name as it appears on your driver’s license or passport, so your ID and applicant names match. Testing centers are strict on this.
- E-mail address Use an e-mail address that you check frequently; this is how the IIBA will contact you.
- Primary and secondary mailing address This is where your certificate and other IIBA correspondence will be sent.
- Phone numbers So the IIBA can contact you if they need to.
- Job title While most CBAPs have the title of business analyst, the CBAP certification application also acknowledges that CBAPs may also be project managers, business systems analysts, or others. If you choose “other,” you’ll have to elaborate on your business analyst activities and title.
- IIBA membership number If you’ve recently joined, you have an option on the application to indicate you’ve recently applied for membership.
The next section of the CBAP certification application is your education history. The requirement for the CBAP Certification is that the applicant has a high school diploma, its equivalent, or higher education. CBAP does not reduce the required number of hours of work experience in exchange for higher education. All applicants, college grad or not, will need five years of business analysis experience to qualify for the exam. You will need to provide the highest level of education achieved and what you studied, as well as when and where you graduated.
This is the bread and butter of the CBAP certification application. The next section of the application is where you’ll find a page titled “Work Experience.” It’s on this page that you’ll need to document your 7,500 hours of work experience to equate to the minimum five years of business analysis experience. This can get boring, as every project and organization you completed the work for needs to be identified and documented. This means if you’ve worked on 20 different projects to equate to 7,500 hours of business analysis experience, you’ll have 20 different work experience sheets in your application.
When you begin completing each form, you should document your experience from the most recent projects first and the older projects last. While you don’t need to document more than 7,500 hours of business analysis experience, I encourage you to document slightly more than that if possible. The reason is that IIBA can filter out business analysis experience or activities that they determine don’t count toward the certification. If they remove projects from your application, you’ll likely fall below the 7,500-hour requirement. Just remember, though, if you document more than the 7,500 hours of experience, the oldest project hours counted cannot be more than ten years from when you submit your CBAP certification application.
Participants of our CBAP courses always asks what does and what does not count toward experience as a business analyst. The best you can do is to refer to the business analysis activities documented in the BABOK as a guideline for your experience and application, on knowledge area level and task level.
Here are some immediate examples of activities that do count toward your work experience.
- Requirements gathering
- Writing requirements documentation
- Determining project scope and objectives
- Identifying and documenting requirements risks
- Reporting on requirements progress
- Leading requirements gathering workshops
- Analyzing and documenting functional, nonfunctional, and user requirements
- Performing walkthrough activities and sign-offs of the requirements package
- Ensuring that requirements are met for the client, project stakeholder, or customer
- Reviewing testing strategy, plans, and cases
- Supporting QA and testing teams
- Determining corrective actions for defects, the priority of required fixes, and establishing workarounds for the defects
In contrast, here are some project activities that do not count toward your business analysis experience hours. Notice how many of these activities are similar to the business analysis activities that are approved. The determining factor is that the approved items focus on requirements, while these unapproved activities often focus on the project and project management duties. Basically any activity that is not clearly defined in the BABOK is not an approved business analysis activity. These examples are for your reference so that you can assess whether your experience matches the BABOK activities or not; these activities do not count toward your business analysis experience:
- Selling requirements tools and software
- Managing projects
- Creating the project plan
- Creating the project charter
- Leading presentations on the progress of the project
- Creating and executing test scripts, reporting on testing status, and creating testing plans and strategies
- Identifying project risks
- Providing status reports
- Tracking and managing defects
- Teaching business analysis training courses
Now that you know what you can and can’t include on your exam application, you’re ready to document the project details. Here’s what you’ll have to include for each project that you worked on as part of your 7,500 hours of business analysis experience:
- Type: Work History
- Organization Name
- Work Description
- Knowledge Areas:
- Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring Hours
- Elicitation and Collaboration Hours
- Requirement Life Cycle Management Hours
- Strategic Analysis Hours
- Requirements Analysis and Design Definition Hours
- Solution Evaluation Hours
- Manager/Supervisor First Name
- Manager/Supervisor Last Name
- Manager/Supervisor Email
- Manager/Supervisor Phone
You could, for example, have worked for 2,500 hours as part of a project team but have spent 1,200 hours doing project work that didn’t qualify as business analysis work. If that were the case, you’d only get to count 1,300 hours as business analysis experience.
Finally, for each project that you complete a work experience form for, you’ll need to define the hours spent in each of the business analysis knowledge area. The example below shows a sample of the table that you’ll have to complete for each referenced project on the CBAP certification application. The IIBA provides the experience area; you provide the business analysis hours spent on that area.
Obviously, completing this CBAP certification application work experience section is going to be a boring and time-consuming. Don’t rush through the work. If you don’t complete the work experience pages accurately, your application won’t be complete. Take your time and confirm the accuracy of your application.
Part of the qualification for the CBAP is that you’ve completed professional development activities. Specifically, this means you’ve attended business analysis training courses. You must complete 35 hours of education that’s directly related to business analysis within the last four years. The seminars you attend must be completed by the date you sign and submit your application. What this means is that you can’t promise to complete a business analysis seminar later and submit your application anyway. All 35 hours of the training must be done before the application submission.
Some policies are attached to the type of training you may use to complete this CBAP requirement:
- All courses that you complete through an IIBA Endorsed Education Provider (EEP) are guaranteed to qualify. On your exam application, you’ll have an opportunity to indicate that you completed the training through an EEP.
- You are not required only to complete the professional development through an EEP. You can complete the business analysis training through any training entity, but the IIBA will need to review the course outline.
- In-house business analysis seminars that you attend may qualify if the IIBA approves the seminar outline, which you’ll submit at the time of your application. The IIBA asks that you provide a web address where the outline can be found.
- Underlying business analysis fundamentals courses may qualify. Chapter 9 in the BABOK lists all of the underlying CBAP skills. Here are some popular examples of underlying business analysis fundamentals training that could qualify:
- Business analysis skills such as analysis techniques, issue management, communication, and usability.
- Business knowledge on products, processes, markets, and internal systems.
- Meeting management, presentation skills, and decision making skills.
- Leadership seminars on coaching,
goal setting, motivation, and interviewing may also qualify.
- Project management training does not qualify. The IIBA will openly (and it seems proudly) reject any project management training that you may reference as business analysis training. Save your ink and yourself a headache and don’t try it.
- Programming and programming languages seminars do not count as business analysis training. These are really about project execution rather than requirements gathering.
- Testing courses do not qualify as business analysis courses unless they have been approved by the IIBA. Proceed with caution.
The required 35 hours of professional development can be achieved through one course or through multiple courses. The application is a bit vague on whether you’re allowed to count a portion of a seminar toward business analysis professional development or if the whole course must focus on business analysis. My understanding, as of this writing, is that the IIBA wants the entire course to qualify for the business analysis professional development; you aren’t allowed to cherry-pick outlines and build an aggregate of training solutions. It’s all or nothing for each course you reference.
One requirement that has stumped a few CBAP Certification candidates is the requirement to provide two professional references. This requirement has posed some problems for CBAP candidates who have moved from job to job, lost touch with older contacts, and may be in new positions as they apply for the CBAP. The IIBA stance is that you don’t have to provide all of your professional references—only two references.
You must have known the references for at least six months. Your references cannot be project managers unless the project manager is your career manager. Your career manager is the person who completes your annual performance review. You may be tempted to add additional references to your application, but only two references will be reviewed by the IIBA. The references you select can be
- Career manager
- Client (internal or external)
- Certified Business Analysis Professional (IIBA-certified business analysis)
You get to choose which folks will be talking about you, so this really shouldn’t be too difficult unless no one likes you much. The people you choose as your professional references should have an idea of your role as a business analyst, the work you’ve completed in this role, and your strengths and weaknesses.
The two professional references must complete the official CBAP Candidate Reference Form, the form is online and is made individual for each reference. Once your references have the document and have supplied their usual contact information, they’ll have to answer the following questions about you:
- What is your relationship to the candidate? Career manager, client, or CBAP?
- For how long have you known the candidate?
- Candidate title?
- The candidate duties?
- What has been your professional relationship with the candidate?
- Please describe how effectively the candidate performs his/her business analysis duties.
- How would you describe the candidate’s business analysis skills?
- How would you rate the candidate’s skills from 1 to 5, where 1 is very low and 5 is very high?
- Problem solving
- Business knowledge
- IT knowledge
- Enterprise analysis
- Requirements planning and management
- Requirements elicitation
- Requirements documentation and analysis
- Requirements communication
- Solution assessment and validation
- What are the candidate’s strengths?
- What are the candidate’s weaknesses?
- Does the candidate display a high degree of personal integrity (that is, act honorably, honestly, justly, responsibly, and legally)? If no, please explain.
- Do you endorse this candidate as a business analysis professional?
Once your professional reference has answered all of these questions, he or she submits it to the IIBA.
The final portion of the CBAP certification application is your signature and consent to the IIBA. You’re consenting to allow the IIBA to collect and store your exam application information, your application reference forms, and your professional development information, and you’re giving consent to the IIBA contacting your references. You’re also allowed to choose if the IIBA can display your CBAP status on their web site once you’ve successfully completed the examination.
The final portion of the application also confirms your agreement to not divulge any information about the CBAP exam questions. You’re not allowed to share any part of the exam with anyone orally, in writing, electronically, or by extrasensory perception. Everything that happens on the exam stays on the exam.
Once you’ve submitted your application, it maybe be accepted immediately or it chosen for auditing. Take note, the $125 application fee is nonrefundable. If your application for the CBAP exam is declined, you won’t be receiving a refund.
The last chunk of the CBAP certification application is pretty easy and straightforward compared with the rest of the application. You must submit your exam fee.
The exam fee is $325 for IIBA memebers ($450 for nonmemebers)—this is in addition to the $125 application fee. Once completed, you will receive a code to be used in the exam site. You need this code to assign a location and date for your exam. See latest CBAP Certification fees https://www.iiba.org/certification/certification-fees/
If you need to cancel and reschedule your examination once you’ve scheduled it, you must follow some rules. If your need to reschedule happens within 30 days of the exam’s date, you’ll be charged an administrative fee of $55. You’ll have to pay the fee to the IIBA before you’re allowed to reschedule your exam. So try to plan your emergencies well in advance of the exam date.
If you don’t live in a cave, then you’re probably taking the computer-based test. If you need to cancel and reschedule a computer-based test before your exam date, here is the policy:
- 30 days or more - No Fee
- 29 - 5 days: $50 USD (payable on Prometric website)
- 4 days - day of exam: Exam or Rewrite Exam Fee is forfeited
I’m a supporter of taking action and preparing to pass an exam rather than just taking it. If you believe that you qualify for the CBAP examination, I encourage you to take action by completing the CBAP exam application and beginning to prepare to pass the exam.
The CBAP exam is a 120-question, multiple-choice exam. Each question will present four possible choices, and you’ll have to choose the best answer for each question even if you don’t like any of the choices presented. Do not leave a question unanswered; blank answers are wrong answers. You’ll see a mixture of comprehension questions, and situational analysis questions. The situational questions are scenario questions where you’ll be placed in a scenario and have to choose the best course of action.
The CBAP exam is based on the business analysis knowledge areas where you have experience as a business analyst. The below table shows what you’ll be tested on and the percentage of questions for each knowledge area.
NOTE The IIBA doesn’t report exactly how many questions you’ll have in each category on each exam, so the number of questions reported here is still approximate.
Tailor your study sessions and efforts to the knowledge areas with the largest percentage of questions.
- Business Analysis Body of Knowledge Download and review the BABOK. No offense to the IIBA, but the BABOK is like the printed version of sleeping pills. Still, your exam is based on the BABOK, and it won’t hurt you to read it (well, not too much).
- IIBA web site I like the IIBA web site. It’s organized, easy to navigate, and loaded with good information. In particular you should visit their frequently asked questions section for more information about the exam.
- Training You must have 35 hours of professional development for your exam, so you might as well take a class or two to help you earn the CBAP.
- Join a study group This is a suggestion from the IIBA. For some people it works, for others, it’s a waste of time. If you’re going to launch a study group, create some rules and boundaries, and establish a goal for the group—like passing the exam.
- IIBA chapters Absolutely! You will meet some wonderful people in your local IIBA chapters who are happy to help you learn, advance your career, and be your friend. I can’t praise the IIBA chapters and their leaders enough. I strongly encourage you to contact your local chapter and get involved. Many IIBA chapters offer training, mentoring, and guidance for the exam. Once you pass your exam, return the favor and help others do the same.
- Flashcards Repetition is the mother of learning, and flashcards are an instant way to learn the activities, processes, and business analysis tasks you’ll have to know to understand the exam questions. Buy a big stack of index cards, and write the term on one side and the definition on the other. Don’t buy preprinted flashcards; creating your own flashcards is part of the learning process.
- Practice exams There are online exam simulators and questions in exam preparation books. Those are important part of your preparation as they challenge your knowledge and stimulate you to go back to BABOK or other texts to fill your knowledge gaps.
- Create an incentive We all like rewards for a job well done. Create an incentive for you to pass the CBAP exam. Make it something that’ll excite you and that’s worth your time, attention, and energy. Promise yourself that you’ll take a vacation day, or have a fancy dinner. Give yourself something to work toward that’s special to you and that will keep you moving toward passing that exam.
Creating a Study Strategy
Here at the onset of your CBAP study efforts you should create a strategy of how and when you’ll study. Use your business analysis skills to determine what the requirements are to pass the exam, but also use your skills to determine what the requirements are for you to pass the exam. You’ll want to do some honest assessment of the knowledge areas, activities, and deliverables the IIBA expects you to know in order to pass the exam.
As part of your study strategy, I also encourage you to study every day between now and when you’re scheduled to pass your CBAP exam. You don’t need hours and hours of daily time committed to the effort, but an hour or two a day would be ideal. In this hour create an approach that works best for you to retain the information. That approach might be reading an exam preparation book, answering exam questions, and then reviewing your flashcards. For others it might be answering the exam questions first to cover the knowledge gap. Mix up your approach, keep things fresh, and repeat until you’ve learned the material. Commitment to a daily—including weekends—study session will increase your exam success odds immensely.
Finally, complete your application as soon as possible and schedule your exam. Procrastination is one of your worst enemies when it comes to earning any certification. By scheduling your exam now, you’re creating a deadline to pass the exam and get back to your life. Do it. I know you don’t want to drag this process out any longer than necessary, and the only way to get through this studying and testing is to do the studying and testing.
All of your studying efforts lead to your goal: to pass the CBAP examination on your first attempt. You’re studying to pass the CBAP exam, not just to take the test. When your big day arrives, and it’ll be here sooner than you think, get to the testing center at least 30 minutes before your exam is scheduled to start. Make certain you’re well rested, that you know where the testing center is, and have a positive mind-set about passing your exam. In addition, you’ll need the following for your exam:
- Your exam scheduling confirmation notice.
- Current identification with signature (valid driver’s license, passport, or ID card).
- While the testing center should provide you with two pencils and some scrap paper, take some with you just in case.
Once you’re seated in the testing center and your exam begins, you’ll have 3.5 hours to complete the examination. No talking, noise, or tomfoolery is allowed in the testing center. You are allowed to take breaks, but you cannot pause the computer-based test once you’ve started it. Use your time wisely; you should be able to answer approximately 40 questions per hour, and you receive no extra credit for finishing the exam early.
Once you’ve completed the exam, your work will be graded immediately, and you’ll know if you passed or not. Once you’ve passed the exam, you are a CBAP and can start bragging to everyone as such. You’ll receive the CBAP logo via e-mail for your personal letterhead, and you’ll receive some guidelines from the IIBA on how you’re allowed to use the logo. The IIBA will also mail you a certificate suitable for framing.
Should a friend of yours—not you—fail the CBAP exam and want to retake it, they’ll need to pay a $250 retake fee. Your friend will have to complete the official CBAP Exam Re-write Form available on the IIBA web site. The person taking the exam again can do so twice within a year of when they originally submitted their CBAP exam application. If the individual, or anyone for that matter, doesn’t pass the exam 3 times within the designated one-year period, he’ll have to reapply and pay the full application and exam fees.
Once you’ve earned the CBAP certification, you’ll have to complete some work to maintain the certification. This means you’ll need to complete at least 60 Continuing Development Units (CDUs) within each three-year Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) program. Each CBAP’s three-year CCR cycle starts on the day they pass the CBAP exam and ends exactly three years later. You’ll report your CDUs through the IIBA web site using the CBAP Certification Renewal Form.
In addition to completing the CDUs, you’ll also have to pay a renewal fee; it’s $85 for IIBA members and $120 for non-IIBA members. Your CBAP status is considered active as long as you’ve completed the CDUs and paid your renewal fees. If a CBAP fails to accrue the 60 CDUs, his CBAP status is changed to suspended, and his name is stripped from the online CBAP database. Once the suspended CBAP has earned the required 60 CDUs and paid the renewal fees, his status is changed back to active. If a suspended CBAP does not rectify the CDU problem and revert to active status within one year of being suspended, his CBAP designation is removed. If he wants to be a CBAP, the individual will have to start the entire certification process from scratch. No fun.
You can earn your 60 CDUs from six different categories. While no minimum amount is required from any category, there is a maximum number of CDUs you’re allowed from any category. You can only count your participation in these activities if they are started after you’ve earned your CBAP. Here are details on the six CDU activities you can complete:
- Formal academic education You can earn up to 30 CDUs per CCR cycle in formal academic education. The business analysis class must be offered for degree credit, and you must receive a passing grade in the class.
- Professional development You can earn up to 30 CDUs per CCR cycle through professional development. You complete these seminars from EEPs or through training vendors who have their business analysis seminars approved by the IIBA. IIBA chapters can also grant CDUs for their meetings.
- Professional activities You can earn up to 30 CDUs per CCR cycle through your professional activities. This category is reserved for activities that contribute to the business analysis knowledge area. Here are the breakdown and CDU values for this activity:
- Author or coauthor a business analysis article that’s published in a refereed journal to earn up to 30 CDUs per article.
- Author or coauthor a business analysis article that’s published in a non-refereed journal to earn up to 15 CDUs per article.
- Serve as a speaker on business analysis at a conference, workshop, formal course, or through an IIBA chapter meeting to earn 10 CDUs per activity.
- Moderate a discussion panel on business analysis, and you’ll earn 5 CDUs.
- Author or coauthor a business analysis textbook, and you’ll earn 30 CDUs.
- Develop content for a formal business analysis learning program, and you’ll receive 15 CDUs.
- Self-directed learning You can earn up to 15 CDUs per CCR cycle by spending at least 15 hours being coached, studying business analysis books, Internet resources, or other instructional sources. What a deal!
- VolunteerYou can earn up to 30 CDUs by volunteering through an IIBA chapter, in the community, or with charitable groups.
- Professional experience You can earn up to 25 CDUs just by doing your job. It’s based on the number of hours you spend completing business analysis duties over a three-year time frame. 1000 hours of business analysis work experience qualifies for 5 CDUs.
If you complete more than 60 CDUs within your three-year certification cycle, you can apply up to 20 CDUs to your next certification cycle. The catch is that only CDUs earned in the last year of your certification cycle can be transferred to the next certification cycle.
As part of your CBAP certification application and renewal process, you must sign and agree to abide by the CBAP Code of Ethical Conduct and Professional Standards. As with all IIBA documents, you can download your own free version from the IIBA web site. There’s nothing shocking or unreasonable in this code of ethics, but if you’re found guilty of violating the code, your CBAP status could be revoked.
The first section of the CBAP Code of Ethical Conduct and Professional Standards centers on your responsibility to the business analysis profession. You agree to comply with all of the IIBA rules and policies when it comes to applying to become a CBAP and maintaining your CBAP status. You’ll report violations of the code to IIBA when there’s clear and factual evidence of such violations, and you’ll work with IIBA should there be an investigation into the breach of the code. You’re also to communicate with clients and stakeholders whenever there’s a circumstance that is a conflict of interest or a situation that could be construed as a conflict of interest or impropriety.
In your business analysis role, you agree that you will provide truthful advertisements and reflections of qualifications, experience, and skills. This also means that you won’t accept assignments that you aren’t fully competent and qualified to complete. The CBAP Code of Ethical Conduct and Professional Standards expects that you’ll comply with laws, regulations, and standards that apply to your employment and services. That seems fair.
As a CBAP, you’re also to advance the profession of business analysis. Specifically, according to the CBAP Code of Ethical Conduct and Professional Standards you are to
- Respect the intellectual work of others.
- Share the CBAP Code of Ethical Conduct and Professional Standards with other business analysts, clients, customers, and distant relatives.
- Advance the best qualified business analysis professionals. In particular, you are to advance certified business analysts who adhere to this code and to avoid those business analysts who don’t adhere to this code or whose reputation might negatively impact the business analysis profession.
- Not tarnish other business analysts’ reputations through malice or indifference.
- Maintain your education, competence, skills, and abilities through continuing education.
- Give generously of your time by training and mentoring others.
The CBAP Code of Ethical Conduct and Professional Standards also includes a section on your responsibilities to the public. As a CBAP, you’re to be honest in your advertising, sales, cost and time estimates, and qualifications. You shouldn’t take on assignments that you know you’re unqualified to complete, but you should work to completely satisfy the scope of the services you’ve promised the customer to complete. Don’t deceive the customers for personal gain, but act honestly and in good faith that the public is doing the same.
Business analysts may become privy to information that is sensitive in nature. As a CBAP Certification holder, and frankly as a good person, you are not to divulge that information. Keep private things private. Imagine a contract-based business analyst and how they may work for multiple entities. It’d be unethical for the business analyst to share information and insight into systems and operations of one client with other clients. This doesn’t mean that the business analyst can’t use what she’s learned and apply it to different clients, but it does mean she shouldn’t blab about specific operations, systems, and projects to all of her clients.
The CBAP is to use some common sense. No, the CBAP Code of Ethical Conduct and Professional Standards doesn’t actually say that, but that’s pretty much what you’re expected to do as a CBAP. You can’t take bribes, compromise projects, or make poor decisions for stakeholders that may just help your personal gain. Avoid conflicts of interest, impropriety, and even the appearance of both. Be honest, act in your customer’s best interest, and do what’s best for your client.