How to prepare for your IIBA Certification. Challenges & Hacks

How to prepare for your IIBA Certification. Challenges & Hacks

A lot of articles and books on the topic of preparing for the IIBA exam have been written. And we feel no need to repeat what they say. But what we will do in this article is focus on issues that are not covered by the web site.
A lot of articles and books on the topic of preparing for the IIBA exam have been written. And we feel no need to repeat what they say. Besides, the IIBA web site has recently been restyled and become really informative and easy to use. Now you can quickly find answers to questions regarding prices, enrollment, and more.

But what we will do in this article is focus on issues that are not covered by the web site.

Is ВАВОK like a Bible for us?

Yes and no. For example, although BABOK contains 50 techniques which analysts can use in their work, it’s not prohibited to add your own to that list. If you use Edward de Bono’s "Six Thinking Hats” or “The Disney Creative Strategy” in your work and it helps you achieve your project goals, your tool set will be even more valuable.

Is it necessary to read BABOK or pass courses based on BABOK, if you are not planning to get certified in the near future?

I believe it is. This is our professional standard, and it’s always useful to know what is de jure required from a business analyst. Additionally, you get a chance to identify areas in which you might not be sufficiently developed yet and get to work on a development plan for yourself.

Just in case, if the description of a Business Analyst role contains requirements such as good knowledge of SQL or experience in UNIX server administration, don’t try to argue with the recruiter by referring to BABOK. There are various roles with various requirements out there.

When should you start reading BABOK and where can you get it?

If you decide to get a certification – start reading as soon as possible. Where do you get the guide? There are lot of official and unofficial ways to get it. You can ask your colleagues; maybe someone will lend it to you. You can receive training from an official provider (for example, Luxoft Training) and get an electronic version of BABOK after completing the course. And finally, you can just buy the BABOK guide.

There is another way that will not only help you get a copy of BABOK but offer you some additional benefits as well. It’s an IIBA membership. IIBA members get access to various information materials and events which help them acquire the necessary competencies, prepare for exams and just broaden their outlook. In particular, you will get a free copy of BABOK.

Another, and not always explicit, benefit of this membership is a discount for exams (you can find exam prices here). For example, at the time of writing this article, the discount for the CCBA™ and CBAP™ exams was $125. And IIBA membership prices is noticeably lower for some countries.

How can reading BABOK help you at the early stages of preparation?

First of all, you will get an overview of the terminology, the content of the areas of expertise and an intro into an analyst’s responsibilities. This will be helpful for filling the application form and passing the exam. In the application form, you are asked to indicate your experience in business analysis and also split it into relevant areas of expertise. And here you should be very careful to specify only those tasks that are related to business analysis in BABOK terms, not to the project management area.

Try to show all your experience, even if it exceeds the required number of hours (in general and in specific areas). It’s important because, due to various reasons, some parts of your experience might not pass the IIBA check.

The second important point, which may arise during examination, is that the exam questions are formulated very professionally, even a bit cunningly. Usually, all four options of answers seem quite logical and correct.

But you have to select only one... And here it's very important to remember what is what – if it’s a question about techniques applied for requirements gathering, then answers such as “Elicitation” and “Requirements Gathering” will be incorrect. “Elicitation” is the name of an area of expertise, not a technique, and the term “Requirements Gathering” is absent in ВАВОК.

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Would reading BABOK be enough or do you need to take BABOK courses?

“Live” courses are obviously more useful, as they give you the possibility to communicate directly with experts and other participants who are in the same boat as you. You can clarify some points that were missed or unclear while reading the BABOK guide, for example. And if you receive training at LUXOFT Training, then, in addition to discussing difficult BABOK topics, you can quickly gather the so called PD hours (Professional Development) - hours of additional training in this field. As LUXOFT Training is an IIBA Endorsed Education Provider (EEP), ВАВОК courses enable you to get PD hours equal to the duration of the course. For all other courses and providers, the course duration is recalculated into PD hours with a decreased coefficient, and therefore you will need more courses to fill in the application form.

Besides, ВАВОК is somewhat similar to a Product Backlog, which contains hints to something that should be discussed in more detail rather than complete requirements. Even if you learn BABOK by heart, you won’t be able to pass exam, because to select the correct answer, you should have a good understanding of the substance of the matter, map this info to real situations from your professional experience and realize how BABOK can be applied in real life.

Passing the IIBA certification exams

Any exam is always a stress factor and requires a lot of internal resources to pass it successfully. So the first thing is to finish revising the material beforehand and have a good night’s sleep before the exam. It’s a stock piece of advice, but do we always follow it?

Second, if you have doubts about your answer, you can return to it at a later time. The exam timing is rather pressing – one or two minutes per question (depending of the exam level). It’s very risky to freeze on a question to the bitter end – you may fail to keep up to the timing of the exam. In such a case, you should follow a simple rule.

Define the maximum time for analyzing each question. For example, it can be 30–40 seconds. If you are unable to answer a question in that time, mark it as doubtful and move on to the next one. In this way, you will answer the most obvious questions and save time for the remaining ones. With regard to remaining questions, there is an interesting phenomenon connected with the way our subconscious works.

Even while you are dealing with another question, your brain continues searching for an answer to the question that was unclear for you. And sooner or later it finds the answer. Therefore, when you return to the questions where you didn’t answer, many of them will appear to be more understandable and easy to answer.

Ideally, you should have some time for looking through all your answers to make sure there is no mistake.

Check out our trainings on business analysis if you're interested in starting a career in the industry or adding to your current BA skills. Good luck on your business analysis journey.

Dmitry Pryimak 

Business Analysis Consultant
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