Strategy to Pass the IIBA-AAC Exam

May 03, 2020

With many organizations making the transition the agile mindset and frameworks, demonstrating competency in Agile can be very advantageous for business analysis practitioners. The recent IIBA Salary Survey conveyed that BA practitioners who hold the IIBA-AAC earn an average of 12% more than non-certified practitioners. IIBA’s Agile Analysis Certification (IIBA-AAC) is one of the clearest ways to showcase how the BA skillset can add value to agile projects. While there are many agile certifications on the market, the IIBA-AAC, is one of the few certifications that focus on the business analyst perspective. In this article, I’ll be sharing a strategy that will help you pass the IIBA-AAC exam on the first attempt. Below is an outline to help you navigate through studying for the IIBA-AAC exam and becoming familiar with the Agile Extension to the BABOK Guide.

1.    Take an IIBA-AAC exam prep course

While the IIBA-AAC exam is not the most challenging exam that I've ever taken, it does require you to have a very specific type of understanding of the Agile Extension to the BABOK Guide. Though it's not a requirement, I recommend taking an exam prep course to increase your chances of passing the exam. Those who did not initially pass the exam reported that they underestimated the exam and figured that they would be able to rely on their agile experience to pass the exam. WRONG!! In fact, the exam doesn't focus much on the details of agile ceremonies or daily activities, but more so on the general principles of agile business analysis. Also, the exam focuses on the concept of “horizons”, which may be foreign to many. These horizons include Strategy, Initiative, and Delivery. The exam tests, your ability to identify which horizon is being described in a particular situation, therefore understanding the characteristics of those horizons is key to exam success. Unfortunately, the Agile Extension to the BABOK Guide overlaps several elements when describing the horizons; however, a well-structured exam prep course will guide you through the content in a way that allows you to identify the significance and key differences in each horizon. Also, a good prep course will include quizzes and a simulation exam to give you some practice with the material.

2.    Know the IIBA-AAC exam pattern and blueprint

The IIBA-AAC exam consists of 85 multiple choice questions that are presented in a short scenario form (one or two sentences). The exam must be completed within two hours. Below is the exam blueprint for the IIBA-AAC exam:

3.    Take IIBA-AAC simulation exams

Taking a simulation exam is a MUST for any standardized exam you are preparing for. This will help get you familiar with the exam structure and the type of information that is relevant to the exam. Also reviewing the answer explanations will help you point out concepts you may have missed in the literature and help strengthen your weak points. While there are limited resources regarding the AAC exam, here are some things to keep in mind when looking for an IIBA-AAC exam simulator:

  • Ensure questions are aligned with the Agile to the BABOK Guide version 2
  • Acquire your question bank from an IIBA endorsed (approved) entity=
  • Ensure that full simulations have 85 questions and is timed for 2 hours 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 plenty of short case study scenarios (short paragraphs) as this is the format of the actual exam. The IIBA-AAC exam is competency-based therefore, you will need to make the best decision (choice) from the list of options.

4.    Study the answer explanations of the simulation exams

I recommend taking two or three full exam simulations so that you can gauge the mix of questions that will likely appear on the exam. Create a list of ALL of the exams' answer explanations and study them. This includes the questions you’ve answered correctly and incorrectly. This will help you understand the rationale behind the material.

5.    Create study tables

As mentioned earlier, the IIBA-AAC tests your ability to navigate your way through the horizons and identity which horizon is being referenced in a particular scenario. I recommend creating a table of the following elements to see how they are applied differently in each horizon:  

  • Principles of Agile Business Analysis
  • Business Analysis Core Competency Model (BACCM)
  • Agile Techniques

The ability to visually see how each of these concepts is applied differently in each of the horizons will greatly assist in helping you gain a full understanding of the horizon but will also help you select the best answer on the exam.

5. Read Agile Extension to the BABOK Guide at least three times

Agile Extension to the BABOK Guide is less than 150 pages, nowhere nearly as extensive as the BABOK Guide. So, reading it a few times shouldn’t be as much of a challenge.  Below is the reading formula I recommend for passing the IIBA-AAC:

  • If you are newer to Agile, I'd recommend going through the Agile Extension to the BABOK Guide glossary first to familiarize yourself with some of the terms.
  • Pay attention to the structure of the Agile Extension to the BABOK Guide. It’s important to understand how each of the repeating sections of the chapters (horizons) are unique from one another.
  • Read the entire guide thoroughly within one month. You will need to allocate reading time each day to accomplish this.
  • After completing your IIBA-AAC prep course (if you choose to take one) and creating your tables, briefly read the guide a second time. The concepts will start to have more meaning to you as you will have actively applied the information during discussions of the material during the prep course, quizzes, and creating your study tables.
  • After taking 2 or 3 simulation exams and studying the answer explanations, read the entire guide for the third time. You will notice that when you are reading, the answer explanations from the simulation tests are more prominent throughout the material than they were before. This time, the information will be able to put the puzzle pieces together as you read through due to the context you've gained from steps.
  • Once you are consistently scoring around 80-90% on the simulation tests, you should be ready for the exam.

6.    General IIBA-AAC Exam Study Tips

  • Know the Principles of Agile Business Analysis
    • Be able to recognize examples
  • Know the BACCM
    • Be able to give examples
    • Be able to align them with the principle of agile analysis
  • Know the Horizons
    • Purpose of each horizon
    • Elements and activities in each horizon
    • Timeframes of the horizon
    • How the horizon feeds information to other horizons
  • Know the Agile Techniques
    • Techniques are not listed in exam blueprint but appear in about 1/3rd of the questions
    • Understand how the techniques are used differently in each horizon
    • Know which techniques are and are NOT used in a horizon
  • Understand the Planning Types
    • How the planning types are different
    • When each would be appropriate or inappropriate
    • Understand the characteristics and assumptions in each

I hope this strategy is beneficial in helping you attain your Agile Analysis Certification from IIBA. Best of luck on the exam!!!!! 

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

Michael has an extensive background in business analysis, project management and coaching. He has driven innovation at some of the top financial institutions in the nation, holds a Doctorate in Business Administration and is also a CBAP and IIBA-AAC. To learn more about The Business Analysis Doctor, LLC visit:

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