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

Are you ready to pass the CBAP® and earn your CBAP certification?

Here are 7 tips to help you prepare for and pass the exam, based on conversations with people who recently took the CBAP exam and passed. Needless to say they do not include specifics about the exam itself, but will help you focus on what you need to know and do to pass the exam.


  1. Most of the CBAP recipients 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 and 1-2 mock simulation exams. There are several vendors that have developed online exam simulators. Make sure the one you buy has been upgraded to 3.0 and includes several case studies (see below for more on case studies).
  4. Many found it helpful to take a CBAP certification preparation class or to read a study guide to help better understand the concepts found in the BABOK. As above, there are several prep classes and study guides on the market that can help you.

Seven Study Tips for Passing the Exam

  1. Do not rely on memorization. The CBAP exam is based testing the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, which classifies learning into 6 levels, ranging from recall (relies on memorization) to creating(reorganizing information into new patterns.). You will need to analyze and evaluate concepts, rather than just recall facts.
  2. Know your techniques. We have heard that there were many questions around techniques, such as how to read them and when to use them. Although IIBA’s exam blueprint states “NA” on the techniques, the exam incorporates the technique questions into specific Knowledge Area (KA) questions. It is important to really understand the core techniques and models for the exam.
  3.  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.

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  5. Know all the tasks and related information in each KA.
    1. 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. Although for the most part you will not be asked to recall sequence, it will help you answer questions related to “what would you do next…”
    2. Study related information. Make sure you review which stakeholders are involved in each task, the inputs and outputs of each task, and have a high-level understanding of perspectives. You may want to develop study aids like mnemonics or study tables which consolidate this information.
  6. Use BABOK terms even when you think they’re wrong! When you study for the exam, be sure to learn the terms used in BABOK even when they differ from those used in your organization. Although you may find yourself thinking something like, “hey that’s not the right term,” or “that’s not term we use at work,” it is necessary to understand the concepts and the terminology used by use the IIBA.
    What we’ve learned over the years is that the concepts are probably the same, regardless of what you call them, so if you have the knowledge and experience, you can easily translate your experience into the BABOK terms. We have found that one of the prime reasons people fail the CBAP or CCBA® exam is they rely too much on their own “real life” experience.
  7. Figure out the essence of the question. Instead of just answering questions, look at the four possible answers to find the one closest to being the right answer. See if you can rule out two of the answers. Then choose the one that applies most universally. That is, if it would apply to one organization or in one situation, but not in others, don’t choose it.
  8. Be prepared for case studies. Reading case studies with multiple questions is different from reading a scenario with one question. Case studies are long (at least a page) and have several questions attached to them. Here are some tips:
    1. Skim the case study for initial understanding. Then read the question that pertains to that case study thoroughly to find out what question it is asking.
    2. Read all the answers to the questions. Avoid the impulse to select the first answer you come to that seems correct. 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.

Good luck on your CBAP journey. And if you’ve taken the CBAP exam and have some additional advice, we’d love to hear it in the comments below!


Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, CSM, PMI-PBA is Co-Principal and CEO of Watermark Learning and has over 30 years of experience in project management and business analysis. Elizabeth’s speaking history includes repeat presentations for national and international conferences on five continents.
Elizabeth has co-authored five books on business analysis and certification preparation. She has also co-authored chapters published in four separate books. Elizabeth was a lead author on several standards including the PMBOK® Guide, BABOK® Guide, and PMI’s Business Analysis for Practitioners – A Practice Guide.

Dr. Susan Heidorn, BRMP, CBAP, PMP, CSM is the Director of Business Solutions for Watermark Learning in Minneapolis. Susan is an experienced consultant, facilitator, speaker, and trainer, with over 25 years of business experience. Susan directs programs in business analysis, business relationship management, and leadership, including developing and delivering courses and providing consulting. She has been a speaker at a number of IIBA® and PMI® conferences as well as local and regional organizations, boards, and private clients. She is a lifelong learner whose passion it is to guide people into achieving excellence in their personal and professional lives and works on creating positive impacts to the organization.

Elizabeth Larson

Elizabeth Larson, has been the CEO for Watermark Learning as well as a consultant and advisor for Educate 360. She has over 35 years of experience in project management and business analysis. Elizabeth has co-authored five books and chapters published in four additional books, as well as articles that appear regularly in BA Times and Project Times. Elizabeth was a lead author/expert reviewer on all editions of the BABOK® Guide, as well as the several of the PMI standards. Elizabeth enjoys traveling, hiking, reading, and spending time with her 6 grandsons and 1 granddaughter.