Top 10 Most Common Reasons People Fail the CBAP Exam

Jul 14, 2019
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"Hey, I am looking for some guidance on the CBAP certification. I gave it a couple of attempts, once in earlier 2017 and the recent one was two days ago. I failed both times and it is so disheartening and demotivating. I really want to be CBAP certified as I have 10 + years of Business analysis experience.
I just have one more chance to go for it before my application and chance to sit for CBAP expires this year. Can you suggest what should be my strategy to prepare for CBAP?"

This is the email we received a few days ago from one aspiring CBAP.

Till now, I have been blogging about how to be successful in CBAP certification exam but the above note and few other such emails prompted me to write a blog on the common reasons for failing to pass the CBAP certification exam.

Many professionals approach us after being unsuccessful in CBAP so we thought of doing some analysis to come up with the most common reasons of failure in CBAP.

There are many articles and blogs giving tips on how to pass the CBAP exam but on a first search, I didn't find any article explaining why people fail in CBAP. This will definitely help the CBAP aspirants to make sure that they don't repeat the mistakes.

1. Inadequate Experience for CBAP

Many times professionals are tempted to go straight for the CBAP exam, even if they are not ready yet for it in terms of skill and knowledge.
Though as per eligibility conditions of IIBA, CBAP requires about 5 years of business analysis experience; sometimes we have seen professionals stretching themselves to go for CBAP with barely 4 years of business analysis experience.
It's always advisable to pursue the CBAP with at least 5.5 years of business analysis experience. The CBAP v3 examination requires a good amount of business analysis experience as well as knowledge of BABoK v3 since the questions are case-based. This requires the ability to correlate the knowledge of BABoK to the given case and answer accordingly.
Therefore, business analysis experience as an active BA is essential for clearing this exam.

2. Expecting questions directly from the BABoK

This is another reason why many people fail, though they have the required experience they don't prepare with the right resources or to be specific for the right kind of questions. Many times they expect direct questions from BABoK.

This was the case in CBAP v2 based exam but that's not true anymore for CBAP v3. The CBAP v3 questions are case study-based (i.e. longer cases (1-1.5 pages) of information) with multiple questions about the case. It is competency-based and aligned with BABOK Guide Version 3.

It doesn't have any direct questions from the BABoK.

Often, people are misguided by the exam and questions pattern, they prepare from questions which are direct from BABoK on input, output, techniques etc and scenario based questions.
Unfortunately, CBAP v3 doesn't have such questions and hence they are taken aback during the exam with the questions being much longer and complex.

3. Overemphasizing on remembering the BABoK

One participant was lost with her result of failure and shared her preparation recently with us," I literally remember each word of BABoK, but still failed to clear CBAP. I failed 3 times already and I am not sure what could be the right preparation strategy for my retake"

This was sad for us to hear her story.

The first thought was how someone can remember 500+ pages of content. This sounded dreadful to us.

One needs to understand that it's important to comprehend and assimilate the BABoK rather than memorizing it. The key is to understand the tasks, techniques well and the interrelationship with each other.

4. Lack of proper understanding of BABoK terminologies and expectation

It’s important to know the terms used in BABoK and relating them to the terms used in your organization.

This is very much true in case of BABoK v3 since there is a significant enhancement in the standard.

The highlights of the enhancements are:

  • Introduction of 18 new techniques
  • Rephrasing of the old techniques
  • A lot more explanation
  • Many more perspectives

At the same time, it also has added significant complexity in terms of the language used in the standard. For example one of the key terms that you encounter in BABoK v3 is business analysis information. This was called requirements plus other information related to BABoK in BABoKv2.

Now we are going to call this BA information which you may not hear so much about your work. That's the challenge that many of us face because the terminology used in BABoK v3 isn't very close to what we use in our workplace.
That requires some extra effort in trying to memorize and make one familiar with these new terms.

Therefore one needs to make himself/herself familiar with the terms used in BABoK v3 to pass the CBAP examination.

5. Poor Time Management

Time management is one of the key skills for clearing CBAP.
Some quick facts on the CBAP exam:

  • Duration – 3.5 hours
  • Number of questions - 120 with a mix of around 50+ case-based questions and around 70 scenario based questions
  • Scenarios - short cases
  • Case-based questions - about 1 to 1.5 pages long cases
  • Multiple questions on the case
  • Some mathematical calculation based questions like ROI calculation etc.
  • Case-based questions require significantly more time compared to rest of the questions
  • Cases require reading a lot of content and information given; hence it's important to keep track of time spent on these questions.
  • It's suggested to glance through the case first before moving over to the questions and then come back to the case to go through the details and answer accordingly.
  • Many a time the cases may contain information which may seem relevant but that information is not needed to answer the questions.

Hence most of the times people struggle to manage time in this examination unless one is aware of the time management tips.

6. Getting stressed based on the initial difficulty level of questions

Most of the exams have this kind of an approach; the initial few questions are intentionally kept of a higher order of difficulty to test the candidate's confidence and ability to handle the harder questions. This also tries to test the candidate's ability to maintain the right mental aptitude to answer the rest of the exam questions.

Many exam takers get tense and lose their mental balance seeing the initial level of difficulty of the questions. And the initial stress negatively affects the performance and ultimately leads to failure.

7. Underestimating the exam complexity

"I have around 12+ years of business analysis experience; I know this profession and its intricacies thoroughly. Hence this is going to be a cakewalk for me" – This is what some exam takers feel about the exam.

Underestimating the exam, its rigor and hence being underprepared is also one of the reasons for failure in CBAP.

Working experience as a BA definitely helps in clearing this exam but that's not the only thing needed to achieve the CBAP goal.

One also needs to dedicate time to prepare from BABoK and CBAP v3 mock questions to be able to clear the exam.

8. Inadequate preparation

There are various reasons why one may not be adequately prepared for the exam, some of which are given below:

  • Going for the exam too soon
  • Not finding adequate time to prepare
  • Not being guided by a right mentor or coach
  • Not preparing from the right resources

9. Inadequate Questions Preparation

It's important to know the concepts well for CBAP and at the same time, it's important to solve enough of sample CBAP questions to make one prepared for the exam. Doing either of them and missing the other is going to lead to failure.
It's also important to pick up sample questions which are of similar complexity to the real exam and can give one the real feeling of the exam.

Many times certification seekers practice from questions which are easier/simpler than the real exam and that makes them get cold feet during the exam. Hence please look for reviews and success rate before choosing the sample questions set.

10. Over-reliance on one’s own BA experiences being the single most factor to help them pass the exam

"I have been heading the business analysis team in my organization.”

“I lead a team of 10 business analysts"

"I have set up the business analysis practice in my organization and also for many of my clients"

These are some of the statements we have heard from some certification seekers. They underestimate the exam and the preparation needed and hence do not achieve their certification goal. They rely primarily on knowing the business analysis practices to clear the CBAP exam.

One also needs to dedicate time to prepare from BABoK and CBAP v3 mock questions to be able to clear the exam.

Summary

This is only a suggested set of reasons why people usually fail in CBAP; this is not necessarily the entire set of reasons why people fail in CBAP.
This set is provided as a guideline to help people to not to repeat these mistakes and in turn help them to pass the certification exam.

Author: Ananya Pani, Co-Founder, Adaptive US


I am an entrepreneur, building my brand to be a global name in the Business Analysis domain.

My mission is to help business analysts to build a successful professional career. 

I have helped 2000+ BAs in choosing a better career and help them achieve professional success.

I co-founded Adaptive US, a Business analysis skill development organization. I manage sales and operations at Adaptive US.

Under my leadership, Adaptive is now established as a world-leader.

I am also a strong supporter of encouraging women workforce in technology and has helped many women to come back to work after long career breaks.

70% of our work force is working moms who have been brought back to work after a career break due to family and other priorities.

I am enthusiastic about fitness, a regular runner, take keen interest in imparting value based education to children, building a greener and healthier world.

I spend most of my day in building my company, building my family, helping professionals in their career progression, staying fit, being spiritual and positive.

My single mantra of life – Do what you need to, at the moment and live life without regrets

Please write to me if my thoughts are in sync with you or if they spark a thought in you.

I would love to connect with professionals.

You can reach me at Ann@Adaptiveus.com

Linkedin Profile - linkedin.com/in/ananyapani

Website - www.AdaptiveUS.com

Posted in: CBAP, IIBA & BABOK
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