Cracking the COBIT 4.1 Foundation Exam

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Cracking the COBIT Foundation exam requires just 3 days of dedicated focus

What is COBIT

COBIT stands for Control OBjectives for Information and related Technology. COBIT was developed by the IT Governance Institute ( which itself was established by ISACA (

Need for COBIT

Firstly, let us try to quickly list down the IT challenges faced in any organization.

  • Businesses are unable to map IT costs to business value generated
  • The technology landscape continues to change rapidly
  • Yesterday’s key technology based business differentiator may become today’s disadvantage
  • Most CEO’s and CIO’s accept the fact that their organizations are vulnerable to technological disruption
  • IT continues to be one of the key operational levers for generating competitive advantage

All in all, the need for IT governance is acute.

Importance of COBIT

COBIT is a control framework primarily aimed at establishing IT governance.

The advantages that COBIT provides are:

  1. It closely aligns IT with business
  2. It is detailed and comprehensive
  3. It offers mappings to all other standards and practices. COBIT mappings are available for ITIL V3, PMBOK, SEI’s CMM for Software, TOGAF 8.1, PRINCE2,etc

The COBIT 4.1 Foundation exam gets you acquainted with the fundamentals and exposes you to this line of thinking.

About the 3 day training

The first 2 days of the training will primarily focus on the subject matter that needs to be mastered to clear the exam. The course also consists of case studies and assignments which lend a strong practical aspect to the knowledge gained. An introduction to the Val IT framework is also covered as part of the course.

The 3rd day would mainly focus on lighter topics and exam preparation tips. You have the option of appearing for the exam in the 2nd half of the 3rd day itself. From practical experience I would strongly recommend that you appear for the exam and clear it on the 3rd day itself, unmindful of the stress and strain involved.

During the 3 day training

Certain key activities which will help you:

1.    On the evenings of the 1st and 2nd days, please make sure you read and understand all the subject matter covered during the day no matter how stressed you are.

2.    Prepare your mind maps as you go through the subject matter. The COBIT standard itself provides very good illustrative diagrams which can serve as mind maps for the exam.

3.    Actively participate in the class assignments and clarify doubts. Remember this is indirect / disguised exam preparation

4.    Use the lunch and tea breaks to interact and network with the other participants. This will give you first-hand information about where and how COBIT is being adopted in other organizations and countries and the overall acceptance of the standard. Sometimes, this can also lead to unexpected opportunities.

5.    If you stay close to the location where the training is being conducted you have a distinct advantage since you do not lose much time in travelling.

Finding the right trainer

This is indeed a difficult challenge mainly due to the following reasons:

  • It is difficult to find a trainer who has actually implemented COBIT
  • Ideally the trainer should bring the right blend of knowledge and experience to the table. But such trainers are difficult to locate.
  • At the most you will be able to find trainers who have acted as consultants to organizations.
  • Potential sources of information in this regard are active ISACA members who regularly attend chapter programs. Look out for the people who have completed CISA, CISM, CGEIT – they should be able to point you in the right direction
The last mile preparation

By the morning of the 3rd training day, you should have completed reading the entire subject matter and mastered all the mind maps. You cannot clear the exam on the 3rd day without having done this. This obviously means that you may need to sit through most of the night on the 2nd day to complete your exam preparation.

The mock test

You will be asked to attempt a mock test of 40 questions on the 3rd day. Use this test to measure your state of preparation for the exam. Inevitably, you will discover some areas in which your knowledge / conceptual understanding is a little weak. After the mock test completion you can revisit these areas in the study material to close the gaps identified. This small act itself may actually make all the difference between clearing or failing to clear the exam.

The exam format

The exam consists of 40 multiple choice questions out of which you have to answer a minimum of 28 questions correctly. There is no negative marking, so please ensure that you attempt every question.

During the examination

Take your time to carefully answer each question, there is no shortage of time. Some smart Alecs will inevitably manage to complete the exam quickly – do not allow this to distract you. Remember your goal in attempting this exam and maintain your focus.

Common pitfalls to avoid

Do not delay in appearing for the exam beyond 1 week of the training program, the best thing to do is to clear the exam in the 2nd half of the 3rd day of training when the momentum is in your favour.

I call procrastination the “slow death” because it starves action to death rather than dealing it one fatal blow.

-          Quoted from “You,Inc.” by Burke Hedges

After the exam

Enjoy you moment of victory after clearing the exam. But remember, the IT governance journey has just begun for you. Further advanced certifications are available in COBIT. For others who are interested in raising their knowledge to advance on the CIO (Chief Information Officer) or CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) track more advanced certifications like CGEIT (Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT), CISM (Certified Information Security Manager) and CISA (Certified Information Systems Auditor) are available.

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About the Author

Full Name: Sainath S
Member Level: HonoraryPlatinum
Member Status: PanelMember,Member,ITIL,PMP
Member Since: 3/10/2009 3:02:15 AM
Country: India
Regards, Sainath S,
Sainath S,PMP,CSM(Certified Scrum Master), ITIL V3F,COBIT 4.1F is a practising Project Manager and has diverse experience in leading global projects from inception to final delivery and closure. Find useful information on Project Management on his site

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