Saturday, 25 August 2018

How to prepare for the DAMA CDMP exam? My experience...

There is, unfortunately, not much information explaining how to prepare and pass the DAMA CDMP exam, so I'll share mine. My experience with passing this exam is pretty awful considering the price they are asking for and the low quality of the exam itself. (As of mid-2018) I think DAMA is doing a pretty bad job and I'll explain why with concrete examples.

I'll also explain how to prepare for this exam since the guidance on their website will point you in many unnecessary directions. For me, it looks like an invitation to buy more books and services than is really needed to pass the exam.

Is it worth it?

My short answer is: yes. My long answer is: yes, but I will not spend time and resources trying to pass higher levels of the certification (associate, practitioner, master, and fellow). Having nearly 20 years of experience in the software industry, I think the refinements of DAMA certifications are excessive and not really in line with the constant evolution of data management. However, the core concepts, frameworks, and knowledge available in the DAMA book are (most often) relevant. There are jewels in the dirt.

In other words, I recommend spending your time acquiring more hands-on experience, learning about technologies, participating in data projects and governance activities, rather than trying to get higher levels of the certification. It will be more valuable for your career.

IMHO, the CDMP certifications could be simplified with two levels: core and advanced concepts. This would meet the needs of the industry.

About the exam questions

  • All questions are multiple choice questions. Most have 5 options but a couple are true/false questions.
  • There are 100 questions to be answered in 90 minutes.
  • Some questions have several possible correct answers, but there is only one "most" correct answer - I find this idiotic. There should be only one correct answer and 4 incorrect answers. It should not be a matter of perception or interpretation.
  • Several questions check whether you have remembered some definitions - They, unfortunately, do not check whether you have understood the concepts. It is a pity. Someone with a good memory could be certified without being competent or operational. It can weaken the certification value IMHO. 
When I passed the test, one question started with something like 'According to graph x in the DAMA book v1...'. I was outraged they would explicitly refer to an old version of the DAMA book when the 2nd edition is the recommended version.

Another question started with 'TO BE REMOVED' as if someone had been working on a new version of the test and did not finish their job.

Which topics to study

DAMA is doing a poor job at guiding those interested in passing the certification. They ought to provide a study guide or at least a precise list of topics to master for the exam like Microsoft does.

You will need to buy the DAMA book to study and pass the exam (600 pages). It is a reference book more than a real guide for data management. There is a lot of 'declarations' about how things should be (organizational principles), but it often comes short on explanations and justifications, or connections between theory and real business situations. Many terms are abstracts and often defined with other abstract terms, not to mention there are plenty of redundant and overlapping concepts. The authors fail to distill the key concepts and principles, which makes their work often hard to digest. In reality, things are cannot be that bureaucratic. It would be too expensive and inefficient.

The exam questions often focus on details. The good news is that you don't need to focus on all parts of the book. Here is my suggested study guide for the associate level certification:
  • Chapter 1, Data management - You must understand and remember ALL its concepts and schemas.
  • Context diagrams - You must understand all the concepts described in these diagrams and how they relate to each other.
  • Roles & responsibilities - You must be crystal clear about the types of individuals and groups participating in data governance and data management activities. What are their duties? When and why should they intervene in which activity?
  • General & high-level concepts - Each chapter introduces many concepts, sometimes with a high level of details or in very specific areas. Focus only on the high-level concepts which any software engineer or business analyst should master (for example 3FN, cardinality in relationships, SDLC...).
If you master all of the above, you are in a good position to pass the exam successfully. Beware of the DMBOK index, it is missing some entries. Take a look at the table of contents, list of figures and list of tables to create the set of concepts to study.

Last words...

Overall, I don't think this exam has been designed and reviewed by professionals. It seems written by consultants who have never been teachers or with no formal training or experience in education.

For an organization promoting professionalism and excellence, I think they need to walk the talk in this area first if they want to thrive as a universally respected and trusted organization.

Don't misunderstand me, the DAMA DMBOK contains a lot of valuable knowledge, even if some areas are a bit fluffy (by trying to be too exhaustive, you often lose substance or relevancy) or refer to too many buzzwords without providing proper definitions. It has become one of my reference books. It is a pity they have chosen a small font size with large interline space when a bigger font size with less interline space would improve readability for the same number of pages.

I think DAMA is trying to hard to be prescriptive and to control whether people remember concepts by creating an artificial certification hierarchy and by using inadequate methods, rather than focussing on the practicality of these concepts and their learning (lowering barriers to entry). The intention is good, the method is to be reviewed.

I would certainly value someone who has a DCMP certification more than someone who does not, especially when the job requires working with top management or on advanced business topics. It is less important if the job is highly technical, though valuable for sure.

Update

From the Dama website: "CDMP Status - On Saturday, August 25, 2018, the Board of Directors met for the first time as a full Board. One of the topics discussed was the current CDMP testing process.
Based on a) experiences setting up and holding the three chapter-hosted boot camps in the last month, and b) other stability issues with the CDMP testing platform and content, the DAMA I Board reluctantly decided to pause the sale of CDMP certification exams. (...) The board has committed to a 2-month timeline to identify and address current challenges, and determine a long-term solution."

Way cool from Dama to address known issues !!!