Author: Richard Larson

With over a decade of experience in working for GoPromotional UK, Richard Larson has been an integral part of marketing GoPromo’s award-winning brand. Richard’s skillset varies from a deep understanding of product strategy to his consistent ability to design, analyze, and execute team-based marketing projects. Richard’s team leadership at GoPromo is complemented by a love for data-driven results and his ability to connect with audiences."

Analyse Your Stakeholders

As a business analyst, aren’t you a bit like a translator? Your job is not just to interpret data, but to interpret it from the perspective of a businessperson and for the good of a specific business project. You are the middleman between sets of data and stakeholders in a business, and no matter what their educational backgrounds may be, those stakeholders are relying on you to deliver information that they can use to inform their next move. It’s up to you to communicate what might be rather abstract information in a meaningful, relevant way. Remember that word — communication — because as a business analyst, you are a professional communicator.

If you want to be a great communicator, it’s of paramount importance that you understand your audience. Forget the numbers for a second. Think about your stakeholders. If your job is to communicate with them, then for you to perform your job properly, they’ve got to be able to communicate right back, and be comfortable doing so. That means you need to be able to share bad news and be capable of disappointing people gracefully. It also means they need to be able to take that bad news and that disappointment, so they can work with it and mold it into success. Without honesty and transparency, your title isn’t Business Analyst. It’s Yes Man. There’s a time and place for Yes Men, but this isn’t it.

Speaking of titles, let’s set those aside. Your stakeholders may be your employers, but they’re also people. Shocking, right? Just like you, they will feel much more confident communicating with someone they feel a connection to. So to prime yourself for a successful project cycle, be sure to know your stakeholders. Or, if you prefer, analyse them.


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Qualities of a Stakeholder

Think about the ground-level qualities of your stakeholder. Where do they live? This is important because you may need to account for time zone differences. Which medium do they prefer for communication — email, phone, video conference, in-person, or even text? What’s their experience like? Get a feel for your stakeholder’s level of experience, both generally and in relation to the specifics of your assignment. Have they been involved in similar projects in the past, and, if so, are they keen to offer their own insights? Don’t assume every suit is a novice with money; they may very well be just as knowledgeable as you, but, for reasons you’re not paid to understand, they’d rather not do what you’re doing. All the better.

Then comes the business side of things. How formal is your stakeholder? Not everyone is into casual communication in the workplace, especially when it comes to inter-hierarchical communication. Yet some will be put off by a rigid presentation. You have to get a grip on the amount of formality expected from you, if for no other reason than the need for you to be taken seriously and be understood as a communicator. While you’re at it, try and pinpoint exactly what level of authority a stakeholder possesses. While you must always be respectful to your employer (and they should be the same), you have to have some understanding of which decisions can be made by whom, otherwise you might find yourself unsure of who to turn to when project-halting issues rear their heads.

There’s always a shot-caller. Don’t shy away from a quasi-Machiavellian approach. Recognize that, in any profit-seeking organization, some parties are less dispensable than others, whether it’s due to their social standing within a group, aggression and energy, or sheer ability as a money maker. Identify the shot-caller and determine how their requirements of you may differ from their peers.

Peripheral Qualities

With the formality and infrastructural concerns out of the way, try a little bit to get to know your stakeholders’ personalities. Think of these as qualities you wouldn’t talk openly about in a work email, but that would still help you in how you decide to deal with your stakeholders.

Sometimes, your job might shift from translator to mediator. It’s not really in the job description, but, at the end of the day, you might be the only one in the room who can bridge the gap not only between information and business decisions, but between all the different arbiters of those business decisions. Stakeholders don’t always get along with each other or see eye to eye, and even those with deep, time-honed business relationships will bicker — sometimes childishly. Don’t be afraid to step in and resolve some differences, appropriately of course, if it means consensus can be reached and the project can pick up and keep moving. Of course, to do this the right way, listen to the room and note the relationships you see. Just like you analyse individual stakeholders, try to analyse the group.

You’ll find, after some time working together, that you can identify if a stakeholder is able to act on their feet confidently or if they are the type to ruminate before making big decisions. Keep in mind which one you’re speaking to, because it will have no small effect on how you proceed. Plan ahead for situations where you might get a committed decision later, or even sooner, than you had hoped.

And finally, this one’s important in today’s global, interconnected business world: culture. You will likely find yourself dealing with people from all backgrounds. People from different countries, different religions, and different upbringings. If you’re working abroad and you’re the odd one out, get a feel for the customs and norms of the native culture. That’s Traveling 101, isn’t it? If your stakeholders can see you’ve made even a slight effort to participate in their culture, it will be much easier to develop mutual trust and willingness to understand and work with one another. At the very least, you may avoid saying something embarrassing.

For the Love of Data: An Overview of Data Modeling for BAs

I have always been a data fanatic. It started when I was a programmer analyst and learned to love such arcane data structures as ISAM (a relic), VSAM (simple, but efficient), and later DB2 (powerful and flexible). 

My recent database exposure has been MySQL for websites, but only as a BA.

Mind you, I love process work, too, but maybe I just prefer the structure of database fields, columns, rows, and tables. Or maybe it is being able to query and manipulate the data to provide information useful for doing business or making decisions. Whatever the reason, I have long had an appreciation for and a love of analyzing data needs and turning them into robust logical or business data models.

So, let us get started with this overview of logical data modeling, which is divided into three basic steps.

Step 1: Entities

The central element in a logical model is an entity. It represents the people, places, things, processes, and events in an organization. All operational data fits into specific entities and if done correctly, only one. Note that physical databases might introduce redundancy for performance reasons. Take for instance a simple banking example with four entities in italics. Your money sits in accounts, which have deposits and withdrawals, and periodic statements are sent to one or more of your addresses.

Entities by convention are named with a singular, business-oriented noun. For our example, the entities might well be called Account, Transaction (an abstraction of deposit or withdrawal), Statement, and Location (instead of address). Choosing an appropriate name is harder than it may seem. I have witnessed teams toil over the best name and level of abstraction. The effort is worth it, though, to provide long-lasting data structures with meaningful names to the organization. Physical databases implement entities as tables or files.

Step 2: Relationships 

Once the entities in question are identified, it is time to tie appropriate ones together into what are called relationships. Relationships are used to eventually tell the database engine which data elements belong together and should be retrieved together. In a physical database, relationships are expressed using keys, which are covered below. Once the entities in question are identified, it is time to tie appropriate ones together into what are called relationships. Relationships are used to eventually tell the database engine which data elements belong together and should be retrieved together. In a physical database, relationships are expressed using keys, which are covered below.

For our banking example, an Account has a relationship to the Transactions which identify the accounts a deposit or withdrawal applies to. A Statement is a collection of Transactions, so a relationship is needed there. Finally, Statements are sent to Locations, whether a physical address or an electronic one. For our banking example, an Account has a relationship to the Transactions which identify the accounts a deposit or withdrawal applies to. A Statement is a collection of Transactions, so a relationship is needed there. Finally, Statements are sent to Locations, whether a physical address or an electronic one.

Here are the categories of relationships in a logical model, with examples from the banking application shown in Figure 1: Here are the categories of relationships in a logical model, with examples from the banking application shown in Figure 1:

One to one (rarer than you think; maybe the bank needs a credit report entity and for some reason limits them to only one credit report per account.) 

One to Many (an account can have many transactions, but a transaction belongs to only one account.)

Many to Many (statements might be sent to multiple locations and a given location might receive multiple statements.)


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Our small banking example might look like the image in Figure 1 when depicted using “crow’s foot” notation, a common data modeling diagramming style. (There are other styles, but “crow’s foot” has been around a long time and is commonly used.) The “crow’s feet” represent “many” and the bars show “one.” The “O” symbols on the model designate “optional” or zero associations. Our small banking example might look like the image in Figure 1 when depicted using “crow’s foot” notation, a common data modeling diagramming style. (There are other styles, but “crow’s foot” has been around a long time and is commonly used.) The “crow’s feet” represent “many” and the bars show “one.” The “O” symbols on the model designate “optional” or zero associations.

Data modeling figure 1

To interpret the diagram, we can say an Account has at least one Transaction but likely will have many. A transaction applies to a single account and is not optional. A transaction appears on a single statement, but a statement can have “zero, one, or many” transactions on it. A Statement is sent to one or more Locations, while a given Location may receive no Statements, but can receive many over time. The above diagram is commonly referred to as an “Entity-Relationship Diagram” or ERD for short.

Step 3 – Attributes

After relationships are identified in a model, specific data the business wants to capture and report on can be added to the entities. The data elements are called attributes and could be added as soon as entities are defined, but it is easier with relationships in place. In a physical database attributes become fields or columns of data. After relationships are identified in a model, specific data the business wants to capture and report on can be added to the entities. The data elements are called attributes and could be added as soon as entities are defined, but it is easier with relationships in place. In a physical database attributes become fields or columns of data.

Like entities, attributes are labeled with a singular noun. For our banking example, a few facts pertaining to each entity are shown in Figure 2. Like entities, attributes are labeled with a singular noun. For our banking example, a few facts pertaining to each entity are shown in Figure 2.

Data modeling figure 2

Primary keys

The # in the example above represents an important concept in a data model called the “primary key” or “unique identifier.” Each entity needs an attribute or attribute combination with values unique to each occurrence of the entity. To distinguish one transaction from another the “# transaction number” attribute must have unique values for each separate transaction. An arbitrary identifier (sometimes called a “one-up” due to its sequential nature) is frequently used for this purpose. The # in the example above represents an important concept in a data model called the “primary key” or “unique identifier.” Each entity needs an attribute or attribute combination with values unique to each occurrence of the entity. To distinguish one transaction from another the “# transaction number” attribute must have unique values for each separate transaction. An arbitrary identifier (sometimes called a “one-up” due to its sequential nature) is frequently used for this purpose.

Foreign Keys

To solidify relationships between entities, “foreign keys” are used. A foreign key is a primary key of one entity added to the entity on the other side of the relationship. The Account-Transaction relationship is bonded using the account number key of Account placed in the Transaction entity represented with the “(FK)” in the example. Note: the exact way of showing attributes, primary keys, and foreign keys is usually determined by your organization’s modeling software and standards. To solidify relationships between entities, “foreign keys” are used. A foreign key is a primary key of one entity added to the entity on the other side of the relationship. The Account-Transaction relationship is bonded using the account number key of Account placed in the Transaction entity represented with the “(FK)” in the example. Note: the exact way of showing attributes, primary keys, and foreign keys is usually determined by your organization’s modeling software and standards.

Attributes are meant to represent single facts and if you discover an attribute that repeats or is in the wrong entity, then it needs to be adjusted using “normalization.” The Statement-Location relationship causes repeating attributes due to its Many-Many relationship. Normalization would solve this, and the topic could be an entire article on its own. Suffice it to say that “an attribute must be dependent on the key, the whole key, and nothing but the key.” The quote is attributed to a past database guru and summarizes how attributes should be added to entities. Attributes are meant to represent single facts and if you discover an attribute that repeats or is in the wrong entity, then it needs to be adjusted using “normalization.” The Statement-Location relationship causes repeating attributes due to its Many-Many relationship. Normalization would solve this, and the topic could be an entire article on its own. Suffice it to say that “an attribute must be dependent on the key, the whole key, and nothing but the key.” The quote is attributed to a past database guru and summarizes how attributes should be added to entities.

Summary

Data modeling is fascinating to me because it helps turn the ambiguity of possible data needs into a precise depiction of business rules and requirements. I have come to realize that constructing a robust data model helps us discover the meaning of the data to the organization. Focusing on the meaning of data has helped me to resolve intricate normalization issues that inevitably come up. Hopefully this article provides a quick introduction or refresher to help you get the most out of your data work. Data modeling is fascinating to me because it helps turn the ambiguity of possible data needs into a precise depiction of business rules and requirements. I have come to realize that constructing a robust data model helps us discover the meaning of the data to the organization. Focusing on the meaning of data has helped me to resolve intricate normalization issues that inevitably come up. Hopefully this article provides a quick introduction or refresher to help you get the most out of your data work.

Business Process Changes During a Pandemic

What a difference a couple of months can make! I visited a doctor’s office in early March to treat a broken finger before the covid-19 shutdowns had begun across America.

Like any other clinic, no one wore masks. There were no social distancing measures in place. My doctor extended his hand to shake mine (I gave him an elbow bump in return). There was hand sanitizer available, but that had been the practice over several years of flu outbreaks.

Fast forward two months and consider a follow-up appointment of mine in mid-May. Walking into the clinic was comforting because all the staff and other patients had masks on (but also a little disconcerting). Extensive signage told us the rules, such as waiting in line 6 feet apart. Several chairs in the waiting area were blocked off to enforce social distancing. There were boxes for sanitized and for “used” pens to reduce the spread of germs.

Another change from March was the presence of a “scribe” to assist the doctor with recording notes and observations. This procedure is still relatively new to medicine and may or may not have been precipitated by the pandemic. Still, it was a noticeable change from March, and given my love of process, I even mentioned it to the two of them. My non-expert view is it may reduce the spread of germs since the doctor does not need to handle a computer during a visit.

By now you may be wondering what this has to do with process change. Consider the following five categories for any business which must interact in person with its customers, whether or not they may be ill.

1. Increased risk and liability.

When governmental shutdowns and sheltering in place began, medical facilities closed too. My original follow-up appointment in April was cancelled because of the shutdown. Running a business during a pandemic increases the risk that customers and employees may infect others or may become infected themselves. Visiting or working at a business during a pandemic, whether a clinic or grocery store or gas station, involves some risk.

But what about a medical clinic or emergency room in which a visit is not exactly optional? If an establishment is lax in their procedures or can be shown to be negligent in protecting patients, then a lawsuit may be the result. In short, heightened risks during a pandemic are strong incentives for strengthening business processes to avoid liability.

2. Procedure complications.

The clinic I attended in May had some visible procedure changes and I am sure there were many I could not observe. The physical space was altered with extensive signage and floor markings to encourage social distancing. Simple procedures to provide “clean” and “used” pens for patient safety were small but thoughtful (and appreciated) steps added to the clinic’s daily routine. When I had an x-ray in March for my finger, they simply plopped my hand down on the machine. Two months later a staff person was there to sanitize the surface for my x-ray and undoubtedly before the next patient. Those were just some of the noticeable changes. I am sure the clinic, like airlines, drug stores, or post offices to name a few, must perform additional cleaning and sanitizing not needed pre-pandemic.


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3. Increased communications.

Before my visit I received numerous texts and emails explaining what to expect and what was required during my visit. Most of the messaging pertained to wearing masks and distancing which was not done two months ago. It was comforting to me as the customer to get this communication during the pandemic.

My wife and I recently had some electrical work done at our house. The electrician’s company also sent out several texts and emails about their procedures for protecting us and our house from possible germs. We appreciated that and called to clarify one point.

Setting up the communications for the clinic and the electrician may have been a one-time event, but I am sure it still took many hours to perform. As conditions change, so will the communications need to be altered. Having developed and overseen a great deal of customer communication in my career, I know it is a regular part of business. However, having an external trigger like a pandemic represents opportunity costs and delays other kinds of productive work.

4. Added expense.

The additional processes and procedures mentioned earlier will increase the expense of the business who must perform them. Unless an organization has excess capacity in its workforce, they either need to pay overtime or hire additional employees or contract laborers to do the cleaning and sanitizing. Adding scribes in a clinic to help control germs is an added expense.

The supplies needed to operate in a pandemic also increase expenses. Our local grocery store has added plastic barriers in addition to supplying employees with protective masks and sanitizing supplies. They spray and disinfect the check-out lanes between each customer, adding to their expense.

5. Reduced revenue and profits.

With an increase in cost and potentially a decrease in revenue, profits are bound to decrease. Some examples include:

  • Reduced number of patient appointments in a medical clinic to maintain distancing.
  • A national warehouse store we shop at limits the number of customers in their store at any one time to minimize spreading of infections. They still have a steady stream of people waiting to get in, having waited in line with scores of others 45 minutes to access the store recently.
  • Training companies like ours will need to limit attendees to in-person classes to allow proper distancing or will be forced to conduct virtual-only classes.

Any business that limits the number of customers for safety reasons will expect a decrease in revenue. That can be mitigated by online sales for retailers or training companies, but some organizations like chiropractors, beauty parlors, or barbershops cannot replicate what they do in an online fashion. Along with an increase in expenses, profits will decrease which in turn will cause other detrimental effects such as layoffs or closures.

A pandemic is a pressing and urgent stimulus for many process changes. Some of the changes will likely disappear in time, such as mask wearing and social distancing. Other changes like increased sanitizing and safety-related communications may be permanent. Organizations hope, of course, that reduced income and profits are temporary and will need to adjust their operations accordingly. You might say there is never a dull moment in process work, but then again, I am a process nerd!

Five Crossword Tricks to Help Pass Certification Exams

I love to complete crossword puzzles. More than a pastime, they are more like an addiction for me.

At any one time I have 3-4 different puzzles in progress, of varying levels. I am no expert, but I have learned a few techniques that surprisingly matches advice I have given over the years to help candidates pass their certification exams.

You see, it helps to approach your exam like a puzzle. Why is that? The “puzzle” creators, the certification exam writers, devise tricky and challenging questions like a crossword editor does. They are difficult because the exam writers want to test your knowledge of business analysis, project management, agile, security or whatever your certification interest. I think it will be helpful to treat your exam like a puzzle to help get in the right mind frame.

To that end, I have developed a few tricks over the years to help me solve crossword puzzles. Here are five of my best tricks and an explanation of how they apply to cert exams.

1. Skip over hard answers – work the easy ones first.

No matter how easy or difficult a puzzle I work on, there are always some clues and sections that are easier than others. Use those to help answer harder ones and to build confidence. Leave answers blank you are unsure of and only lightly pencil in those you are partly sure of.

CERTIFICATION APPLICATION: Skip hard questions and leave them blank the first or second time through your exam. Exam creators like to devilishly put hard questions near the beginning to test your meddle. It is easy to spend 10 or more minutes on early difficult questions, which leaves you that much less time for the remainder. Skip them! From my own and others’ experience, difficult questions are easier the 2nd or 3rd time through.

2. Rely on patterns to figure out answers you are unsure of.

When I am uncertain of a crossword answer, I find it helpful to look at surrounding words and letters for clues. In English, certain letter combinations are more common and others will not occur at all. For example, if a word ends in “K,” odds are the preceding letter is an A, E, C, L, N, R, or S.

CERTIFICATION: APPLICATION: Look for distracters (e.g., oxymorons like “assumption constraint”) to spot incorrect answers. Look for answers that have 3 commonalities between them and one that does not (odds are good that is the correct answer, but not always.) Wording from one question can help you with others (this happened on every certification exam I took).


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3. Make sure you understand the correct meaning of a question.

Clever crossword editors use clues that could have several meanings depending on how you interpret them. For instance, a simple clue of “Free” on a puzzle I just finished could mean the verb “to free” or the noun “to be free”. It could be free of cost, free of constraint, or carefree, such as “free and easy.”

CERTIFICATION APPLICATION: Just like clever crossword editors, clever exam writers try similar tricks to make you think and not just recall. For instance, suppose you encountered a question that makes common sense but contradicts your body of knowledge. Once example I remember from my PMP preparation had to do with paying bribes to get a project approved in a foreign country where that was common practice. That option would not be the correct answer because it violates the PM Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide®).

4. Use multiple iterations to complete your answers.

I have heard of expert puzzlers who complete the Sunday New York Times in one sitting (in ink no less). Most people cannot do this and on difficult puzzles I need several attempts to complete it and I always use a pencil!

CERTIFICATION APPLICATION: Unless you are an expert test taker, expect to do two or three iterations of reading through and answering questions on your exam. If you follow rule #1, you should leave blank every hard answer on your first read-through. You should also flag any questions you are partly sure of as mentioned in rule #2. From observations in teaching numerous certification classes I know the importance of this. After practice exams in class, many students reported they changed an answer or two only to discover their first one was correct. Do not let this to happen to you on your exam! Leave answers blank until you are sure of them.

5. Use your best guess if you must.

Sometimes I will write down a crossword answer even if I am not sure of it. I do this more often near the end of a puzzle to help me with adjacent answers. Confession: I have been known to fill in words to complete a puzzle just so I can finish it and move on.

CERTIFICATION APPLICATION: If your time is nearly up and you have unanswered questions, by all means use your best guess. There is no penalty for guessing, only for not answering a question. Try to pace yourself so you have time to make an educated guess. If you are seriously close to the end, put down any answer. In other words, like a crossword, go with those “lightly penciled in” answers. One of my students early on told me an urban myth that answer “b” occurs most often in exams. I am not sure if that is true but putting answer “b” on say five blank answers probably ensures you get one or two of them correct.

I have worked with certification preparation and exam strategies for many years, including training countless candidates. One common denominator among virtually all my students has been exam anxiety. We all face it and there is more than one approach to combatting it.

Treating an exam like a puzzle is one approach to reducing exam anxiety by providing strategies for navigating difficult questions on your exam. Using crossword tricks like the ones outlined above can help reduce your exam anxiety and improve your score. Let me know what you think and share your own tricks that have worked.

What, me Worried? Five Tips to Improve Study and Comprehension for Passing Certification Exams

Studying for and passing a certification exam is challenging and anxiety-producing.

I admit to feeling stressful each time and spending numerous hours preparing for my exams. It helped me in all cases to memorize key aspects of the underlying Body of Knowledge, which exams like CBAP, PMP, or PMI-PBA are based on. Even in an exam designed to be application-oriented vs. recall-based, memorization is still helpful. Relying on your experience to help you answer questions correctly is not a winning strategy.

Given these exams are based on their applicable bodies of knowledge, you need to learn and memorize critical parts of them to apply your knowledge accordingly.

When I attended college many years ago, I majored in psychology. It was an interesting major, but I did not pursue anything directly related to it. One aspect of my studies that has been useful in my career in the training field has been the psychology of learning. Here are 5 tips to improve how you learn and help you remember important concepts for your certification exam.

  • Regular studying. It is generally more helpful to study in smaller chunks and do it regularly. Set up a schedule that you can comfortably maintain and won’t be a burden on your life or family. I recall a favorite morsel of mine from a psychology class in college: “resting improves retention.” I was fond of joking about the importance of resting and when I took breaks from studying, I claimed to not be goofing off, but improving my retention!

Since resting does enhance retention, schedule 2-3-hour blocks of time that you can commit to. Try to avoid marathon 40-hour, week-long cram sessions right before your exam.

  • Use acronyms and mnemonics. At Watermark we have long been fans of mnemonics to help improve retention. So, what are mnemonics? The web site GradePower Learning describes them as “Associating the first letter of each item with a word, phrase, or rhyme, [and] can make information easier to recall. These tricks are especially useful to help remember lists and ordered information.”[1]

Given the wealth of information you need to absorb to pass an exam, mnemonics are useful to many people. They help you memorize what may seem like arbitrary lists or, if not arbitrary, then perhaps new or unusual items. For example, when I studied for my PMP I was not familiar with all the ways to handle risk. I knew a couple of them, but not the “official” ways to handle risks. The four types in alphabetical order I had to memorize were accept, avoid, mitigate, and transfer.

Using the first letter of each type yields AAMT, which is not very memorable as a mnemonic. If you rearrange the letters an anagram results in MATA, still not a memorable word – unless it makes you think of the spy Mata Hari from World War I! I remembered the 4 risk responses by thinking it was “risky” to be friends with Mata Hari and I had my mnemonic.

  • Use a chaining technique. Like a mnemonic, a chain is used to “Create a story or sentence around a bit of information so that it can be more easily recalled.[2] An example of chaining would be our mnemonic “ASGIP.”[3] It applies to the 5 tasks in BA Planning and Monitoring for the CBAP and CCBA exams:
    • Plan the Business Analysis Approach
    • Plan Stakeholder Engagement
    • Plan Business Analysis Governance
    • Plan Business Analysis Information Management
    • Identify Business Analysis Performance Improvements.

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By itself, the mnemonic is meaningless, but you could invent a sentence like “A Significant Goal Inspires Planning” and then it becomes easier to recall the main parts of the tasks.

Some people prefer the mnemonic contain the same words as the items you are memorizing. That is helpful but can be more difficult. For the above example the chain might become “Approach Stakeholder Governance using Information Performance.” (I had to insert the word “using” to make the chain work for me.)

  • Use acrostics. A variation of the chaining technique is called acrostics, which “are words comprised of the first letters of other words.”[4] To help memorize a formula such as Earned Value (an important PMP formula), you could create a type of acrostic called “WPtAB.” Expanded, it means Work Performed times Approved B It’s based on the PMBOK definition of the concept: “Earned Value (EV) is the value of work performed expressed in terms of the approved budget assigned to that work for an activity or WBS component.” You still need to recall the acrostic, but it serves as a memory conduit and triggers your recall.
  • Repetition cements learning. The chegg.com article mentions repetition in 4 of their tips for studying[5]. Here are their tips applied to studying for a certification exam:
    • Listening. Have a friend read flashcards out loud to you and answer verbally. Doing flashcards by yourself is fine but using auditory and verbal channels adds additional learning dimensions.
    • Doing. Do practice exam drills and simulations until you achieve scores of ~80%. This may mean answering several hundred or even thousands of questions to achieve the benefit. A caveat: the repetition is not meant to memorize the practice questions, but to solidify knowledge of the underlying material.
    • Writing. Take notes as you read a body of knowledge or study guide. Create your own flash cards and practice exam questions. Write out “memory sheets” of important concepts, especially those you have difficulty remembering. For me it was helpful to write out various formulas like PERT and Earned Value for my PMP exam study.
    • Reading. We encourage reading the relevant body of knowledge for your exam at least once, then read a study guide or re-read the BOK to get the benefit of repetition. Re-read your “memory sheets” to reinforce important or troublesome items.

Exams based on Bodies of Knowledge containing 500+ pages of information can be daunting. I described 5 techniques and know there are many others. Using techniques like those described above will improve your comprehension and increase your confidence. Plus, memorization can help after the exam – I still use MATA and similar mnemonics to this day!

 

[1] “8 Memory Techniques for a Better Study Session,” Downloaded March 18, 2020, https://gradepowerlearning.com/8-memory-techniques-better-study-session/.

[2] “8 Memory Techniques for a Better Study Session”

[3] Richard Larson and Elizabeth Larson, CBAP Certification Study Guide, 3rd Edition (Watermark Publications, 2018)

[4] “How to Improve Memory for Studying in 27 Ways”, downloaded March 18, 2020, https://www.chegg.com/study-101/improve-memory-studying/

[5] “How to Improve Memory for Studying in 27 Ways”



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