It seems that more and more people are becoming interested in IIBA’s CBAP and CCBA certification. Many teams combine formal training with self-study to maximise their chances of passing the exam first time. This is an excellent idea, as forming a CBAP/CCBA Study group can be a great way of getting people together to share knowledge. It will help you keep up the momentum as you head towards the exam, and will also provide you with the forum to discuss any queries that you have. In fact, I was part of a study group and this really helped me feel more confident when sitting my CBAP exam!
The challenge can be knowing how and where to start. If you’re considering forming and running a study group in your organisation or BA community, you might find the following tips helpful:
How to form a study group
- Find like-minded colleagues or contacts: The first step in forming a CBAP/CCBA study group is to find a group of colleagues or contacts who are also interested in studying. An ideal number, in my experience is 4-12. Any fewer than 4 and you’re going to struggle to keep up the momentum. The reality is that not everyone is going to be able to make every session, and with less than 4 you may have some very small meetings indeed! Any more than 12 may be too large, but you could consider splitting the group in two.
- Schedule an initial “Study group formation” meeting: It’s worth meeting with your study group up-front to set the scene and agree how things will work. Items for the agenda on this initial meeting could include:
- How often will we meet?
- Who will arrange the meetings?
- Will we meet virtually, or in person (or both)?
- Who will facilitate each meeting (it’s a great idea to rotate facilitator)?
- How will we run the sessions?
- When are we aiming to sit the exam (it is most beneficial if you are all aiming to sit the exam at a similar time)
- Are there any particular areas of BABOK that we’re less certain about.
- What is each person’s aims – what are they wanting out of the study group (passing the exam will be an important outcome, but some study group members may have other specific needs too).
- Do we need any additional study support material
It’s well worth briefly documenting the outcome from this meeting as a lightweight ‘terms of reference’ for the study group. This only needs to be one page, but should ideally include an outline schedule showing when you’ll meet, and when you’re aiming to take the exam. Of course, this is only a guide (things will change in the real world), but it will help to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Making your CBAP/CCBA study sessions effective
Once you’ve formed your study group, the next challenge is actually running it! There are many ways of facilitating a CBAP/CCBA session, and the important thing is to find a way that works for you and your colleagues. However, here are some suggestions:
- Start with a skim-read: Prior to your first session, skim-read or “speed read” BABOK. Don’t spend too long on this – the aim is to survey the structure, rather than absorb every detail. This will help ensure that everyone has a broad understanding of the component parts of BABOK.
- Split BABOK into chunks: People read at different speeds, so for each session to be most effective, it can be useful to say (in advance) which parts of BABOK you’ll be discussing. For example, you might say “At the next session, we’re going to discuss Knowledge Area 2, with a specific focus on tasks 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3”. This provides everyone with a concrete idea of how much reading is necessary in advance.
- Refer it to your daily work: I’m a firm believer that the best way to prepare for the CBAP/CCBA exams is to contextualise BABOK into the work that you already do. Think about the tools, techniques and tasks that you do in your day job – how do they relate to BABOK? Do you do anything differently? Do you use different terms? All of this is useful to discuss in the study group.
- Bring in examples: Using examples can really help bring a study group to life. Come to each study group with examples from your organisation or project. For example, if you were focussing on the BA Planning & Monitoring knowledge area, you might bring an example of a plan you have created, or an estimate. You could discuss which estimation method you used (analogous, parametric etc) and cross-reference this to BABOK. This practical, real-world application of BABOK will help the terms and knowledge areas in BABOK to stick.
- Keep an eye on time: It can be really easy to get caught up in the detail, during the study session and over-focus on single areas. Ensure that everyone has the opportunity to talk, and keep a tight eye on time to ensure that you cover the main areas in each session.
- Test each other: Reserve a section of each study group for quizzes. You could start by asking each other questions about the material you have covered – it is best to do this with all books and laptops closed!
- Agree which section(s) to read next: Prior to ending the session, agree which pages/section(s) you’ll read in advance of the next section. You can compare this against your original schedule to keep a track of your progress.
Formal and facilitated training can really help to make the study process easier, although I would always advocate self-study too. If you’re looking to shorten your study time and accelerate your learning towards CBAP or CCBA, please do take a look at our CBAP/CCBA Accelerator course which is designed to provide a whistle-stop tour of BABOK. We also offer study group facilitation services, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Keeping up the momentum
Groups often run study groups over several months, and keeping up the momentum can be a challenge. Having that end goal – a date which everyone is aiming for – can really help. Keeping the schedule visible and discussing it at every session can be useful. It’ll almost certainly need to be adapted along the way, but keeping the end in mind can be helpful.
Good luck! And don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any thoughts or comments!
Are you forming a study group? What tips or questions do you have? I’d love to hear your views and insight, so please keep the conversation going add a comment below. And if you like my blog, don’t forget to subscribe!
About the author:
Adrian Reed is Principal Consultant at Blackmetric Business Solutions, an organisation that offers Business Analysis consulting and training solutions. Adrian is a keen advocate of the analysis profession, and is constantly looking for ways of promoting the value that good analysis can bring.
To find out more about the training and consulting services offered at Blackmetric, please visit www.blackmetric.com