Strategy for Passing the ECBA Exam


The Entry Certificate in Business Analysis (ECBA) is a progressive initiative by IIBA that allows aspiring business analysts to demonstrate their understanding of business analysis fundamentals, despite not having practical business analyst experience. Unlike the higher-level IIBA certifications, the ECBA does not require professional experience to sit for the exam, which opens opportunities for aspiring BAs. When combined with the right set of skills and activities, the ECBA can make one’s resume significantly more marketable to employers looking to hire entry-level BAs. While experience remains a key factor in landing a BA role, having the ECBA on your resume is an effective way to bolster your credibility when your experience is minimal. Here is my recommended strategy for passing the ECBA exam on the first attempt.

Strategy for Passing the ECBA Exam

1. Get familiar with BABOK terminology

Learning new material requires understanding keywords in the proper context before you can understand the content as a whole. A glossary review can also help retain the information better. If you are new to business analysis, getting familiar with BABOK terminology will be essential to passing the ECBA as many of the questions are definition-based. Bonus: Getting familiar with BABOK glossary terms will also help make you fluent in BA lingo, which can add to your credibility during BA interviews. I recommend the following activities before reading the BABOK material.

  • Go through the glossary in the back of the BABOK Guide to familiarize yourself with some of the terms.
  • Also, the ECBA exam may have a few terms that are used throughout the material but are not explicitly defined in the glossary in the back of the BABOK Guide. So, I would also recommend reviewing a more comprehensive BABOK glossary created by an IIBA endorsed training provider.

2. Ease into the BABOK Content

If the thought of reading 500+ pages of content intimidates you, introduce yourself to the BABOK Guide material by reading a BABOK study guide from an IIBA endorsed training provider first. A good study guide should be much more concise and less daunting than the actual BABOK Guide. An alternative (but less beneficial for the exam) approach to preparing your mind for the BABOK Guide material is reading IIBA's Global Business Analysis Core Standard. It's only 50 pages and outlines the core content of the BABOK Guide concisely.

3. Take an ECBA exam preparatory course

This is key for aspirants who may need more discussion, structure, and accountability during the study process. Also, the material covered in the BABOK Guide may seem straightforward to some but the design of the exam formatting makes it critical to have a more in-depth understanding of the concepts. Having discussions with a facilitator who can offer expert advice on what to look for on the exam will greatly increase your chances of passing the exam. Also, the discussions that are had about the material will further embed the concepts in your memory. This will be beneficial for you as a BA even beyond passing the ECBA exam. Some individuals may be able to pass the ECBA without a prep course; however, the investment will significantly increase your chances of passing the exam on your first try. Below is a guide for selecting an ECBA prep course:

  • Seek an ECBA course from an IIBA endorsed training provider
  • Ensure the facilitator is IIBA certified and is familiar with BABOK version 3
  • Look for facilitators who are actively involved with IIBA
  • Make sure the facilitator presents information in a way that is clear and understandable to you
  • An ECBA course that includes simulation exams is recommended

4. Take BABOK simulation exams

This is probably the most important factor in passing the ECBA exam (outside of reading the BABOK Guide). A good set of simulation questions will prepare you for the types of questions that are on the actual ECBA exam. The explanation of answers displayed during the simulation test results will make you aware of your strengths and weaknesses and help you identify what information in the BABOK Guide is important. You should aim to score at least 80% in each domain to consider yourself ready for the live exam. Below is a guide for looking for ECBA simulation tests:

  • Aim to get a question bank from an IIBA endorsed training provider
  • Try to get simulation questions written by individuals who are active with IIBA
  • Ensure questions are aligned with the exam format per IIBA
  • Ensure that full simulations have 50 questions so that you can begin managing your time the way you would on the actual exam
  • Try to get simulation questions that give you detailed explanations of the correct answers
  • Ensure the simulation format has direct knowledge-based and definition-based questions. Remember, the ECBA is a knowledge-based, which mean you need practical knowledge and general awareness of the BABOK concepts. You will need to have a clear understanding of all of the BABOK domains listed on the ECBA exam blueprint.

5. Study all of the simulation test results explanations

To get a good mix of questions for the exam, I recommend taking 4 to 6 full simulation exams. Create a list of ALL of the exam question explanations and study them. This applies to questions you've answered correctly and incorrectly. For example, let's say you have completed an exam. The simulation will likely list the following items for each question after you have answered all the questions:

  • Your answer
  • The correct answer
  • An explanation of why your answer was right or wrong

The explanation of why your answer was right or wrong is what you will want to add to your list of explanations. If you go through about 4 simulations you will likely end up with a list of 100-200 explanations to study, assuming that some of the questions are repeated amongst the simulations. This will provide insight into how the test writers are interpreting the BABOK material. This technique is very effective in uncovering patterns and trick questions.

6. Create BABOK study tables

There is a large amount of material to absorb in BABOK and study tables are a great approach to organize and view this information in a tabular form that allows you to recognize trends and patterns. I recommend creating at least the following 4 study table views:

  • Six knowledge areas (KAs) – include knowledge area name, the purpose of the knowledge area, and tasks within the knowledge area
  • Tasks with each knowledge area – include the task name, the purpose of the task, and description of the task
  • Techniques – include technique name, purpose, and description
  • Stakeholders – include stakeholder name, general description, and general responsibilities

If you would prefer to get study tables that already made and study-ready, seek out study tables created by an IIBA endorsed training provider.

7. Read the full BABOK Guide at least once

While there are various ways of acquiring the information within BABOK, it is highly recommended to go through the full BABOK guide at least once in addition to the study guides or other formats. Here are a few notes about navigating through the BABOK Guide:

  • Pay attention to the Structure of the BABOK® Guide section in the Introduction chapter. It defines the key components of each chapter and will help you navigate through the knowledge areas and tasks without getting lost.
  • Read the entire BABOK Guide thoroughly within one month. You will need to allocate reading time each day to accomplish this.
  • I recommend reading the BABOK Guide before taking 3 or 4 simulation exams and studying the answer explanations and then after (ideally) for a second time. You will notice that when you are reading for the second time, the answer explanations from the simulation tests are more prominent throughout BABOK than they were before. The concepts will start to have more meaning for you.

8. Basic Exam Tips

  • Look out for negative questions. These typically include:
    • Questions that contain NOT
    • Asking for items that are missing
    • Asking for the least likely option
  • Choose answers that use BABOK terminology. Be aware of fabricated/fancy terms.
  • Know the purpose of each knowledge area and task.
  • Know the purpose of techniques.
    • Advanced techniques such as diagrams and extensive financial calculations are less likely to appear on the ECBA exam
  • Know the stakeholder roles and responsibilities.
  • Understanding of requirements characteristics.
  • Understand requirements tracing relationships.
  • You will have 1 hour to complete 50 multiple-choice questions. Pace yourself to answer each question in 1 minute to allow for about 10 minutes to review the answers at the end.
  • If you cannot answer the question in 1 minute, choose your best guess, mark the question for review and move on. Revisit the questions marked for review after you have answered every question.
  • Avoid breaks during the exam. The clock does not stop!!

Well, there you have it. I hope this strategy is beneficial in helping you reach your goal of getting your certificate. Best of luck on the exam!!!!!

Author: Dr. Michael F. White, Founder and CEO of The Business Analysis Doctor, LLC

Michael has an extensive background in business analysis, project management, and coaching. He has even been recognized as a top 100 visionary in education. Michael has driven innovation at some of the top financial institutions in the nation, holds a Doctorate in Business Administration as well as CBAP, IIBA-AAC, and IIBA-CBDA designations. To learn more about The Business Analysis Doctor, LLC visit



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