Whew! I passed the PMI-PBA exam! Since I live, breath, teach, and preach business analysis, I was somewhat confident, but tests always make me a little nervous, so I prepared carefully. I always find it helpful to hear of others’ experiences, so I’ll walk you through the process from my perspective.
What is the PMI-PBA®?
The PMI-PBA (Professional in Business Analysis) is a way to spotlight your achievements and abilities in the business analysis profession. If you work on project teams and manage requirements, are involved in product development, or are a project or program manager who performs business analysis in your role the PMI-PBA® certification may be a fit for you.
The requirements for taking the exam are stringent, but valid for certifying a business analysis professional. The PMI-PBA certification carries great credibility and to achieve it, you must demonstrate that you have had training and the experience working on actual projects. Additionally, you must pass an examination that challenges your knowledge of business analysis principles, practices, tools, and techniques.
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*Project experience can include your business analysis experience. A current PMP® or PgMP® will satisfy this requirement but is not required for the PMI-PBA.
The official process is outlined nicely in an infographic on page 4 of the PMI-PBA Handbook.
Why should you care about the PMI-PBA?
I care because I train in the business analysis knowledge domains, give presentations, present webinars, and write blogs about it. I want to make sure I keep up to date with the latest thoughts and standards of business analysis. But more than that, I see it as an opportunity for two other achievements:
- To validate that my knowledge of the business analysis ‘world’. As I studied, I got ‘aha’ moments that told me that, yes, what I teach and preach is probably in line with what others out there do!
- To actually get the certification. I keep saying that ‘this is my last test’, and here I go taking another. But the truth is, I love learning new things and being able to discuss them intelligently (I hope!) with others in my field. Keeping up on current certifications isn’t the only way to do that, of course, but I think it helps. And if you are younger than I am (no, I’m NOT telling you my age, but just visit my LinkedIn page and you can guess!), certifications are a great item to highlight on a resume or to help boost your career path within a company.
PMI-PBA vs CBAP
Many people have asked me, “should I get the PMI-PBA or CBAP certification?” My answer, like always in business analysis, is “it depends”. Both are great certifications, I cannot deny that. Having both will definitely boost your resume and credentials. My feeling after studying both bodies of knowledge or guides is that the IIBA BABOK is geared toward not only the business analysis role at the project level, but carries it up to the enterprise level, where business analysis should be done for understanding the strategies and tactics of an organization. The PBA guide is directed a little more toward working on projects or agile initiatives in conjunction with the project management role. I like the two certifications because it somewhat validates that business analysis IS important. Why would two great organizations like the IIBA and PMI dedicate their efforts towards the profession if it wasn’t? We need business analysis and need it to be done thoroughly and well!
PMI-PBA Exam Study Tips
Now let’s get down to the dirty details: How did I study? My approach for studying was as follows:
- Read the PMI Guide to Business Analysis. Even if you are already IIBA-CBAP certified or have studied the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (the BABOK from the IIBA), you’ll need to read this guide. What’s the difference? As I note above, the PMI perspective seems to be geared more towards the business analysis role in projects and programs. You will need to understand the collaboration points and overlapping roles of the business analyst with the project manager.
- Look at the PBA Examination Content Outline. The five domains are defined as Needs Assessment, Planning, Analysis (includes Elicitation), Traceability and Monitoring, and Evaluation. This outline identifies the proportion of questions from each domain that will appear on the examination, which is helpful for calculating study time and emphasis of study. The outline also contains a list of knowledge areas and skills you are expected to know.
- I would also recommend reading the PMI Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide. It just gives you good insight into what the PMI sees as the practical approach to business analysis. It’s a pretty quick read too! It covers all of the domains of the PMI Guide to Business Analysis.
- Make sure you get to know the different techniques highlighted in both guides. Some of the graphical techniques, like Pareto Charts and Scatter Diagrams are not part of my usual repertoire of analysis tools I use. You will need to understand them, why they are used, and some of the terminology associated with them.
- Read and be familiar with the definitions in the glossaries from the guides.
- Get a study guide with example questions. The book I used came with question banks for each domain, a pool of questions from all of the domains, and access to an online question bank for a few days.
- If you are a kinesthetic learner like I am, I suggest reading and studying while in movement. I have a desk treadmill on which I can walk and work at the same time. When I’m in motion, I apparently think better. I also took the Kindle editions of the Guide and the Practitioners Guide to read while in my spin class. It makes the hour go fast, believe it or not!
I also recommend attending our PMI-PBA Certification Boot Camp. This boot camp gives you the opportunity to experience a complete journey through the five knowledge areas and gain an understanding of the exam structure through interactive workshops and practice questions.
Now let’s discuss day of the exam. My exam was scheduled for 12:30 pm. I like having the morning to prepare. The test was in Atlanta about 20 miles from my house, so I also didn’t want to get caught up in morning rush hour traffic!
I was nervous because tests just do that to me. Even though I’m a good test taker in general, I made sure I got a good night sleep, had a good breakfast with protein (more detail than you wanted), and left home two hours before the test just in case (it was only a 30 minute drive). I got there early, but the nice people at the testing center actually let me start early at 12:00. The bonus was that I was done with the test by about 2:15. I’m a fast test-taker, I think, so if you are slower, add an hour or so to that for planning. You have a full four hours to take the test but count on at least three.
In summary, it was not a bad experience! Yes, I had to study. That is probably the hardest part for a busy professional. But I did enjoy validating my knowledge and experience, and even seeing some techniques that I don’t normally use but may try.
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