Some time ago I successfully passed PMI’s Certified Agile Practitioner certification test. This post highlights my experience, preparation strategy, as well as briefly covers exam’s prerequisites and requirements.
If you follow any IT forums or professional networking sites like LinkedIn you know that To Be or Not to Be Certified is always a hotly debated topic. With valid arguments on both sides, my personal decision was Yes, I wanted to get certified.
Looking back, I have to say I do not regret it. Not only it opened some previously closed doors but also helped me to learn a lot (and to start actively using that knowledge) just by studying for the test. Not to mention helping me to ace my PSM-I certification with 95% score, since Scrum is a big part of the PMI-ACP curriculum.
About PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) certification
According to PMI, “PMI-ACP certification recognizes knowledge of agile principles, practices and tools and techniques across agile methodologies”. In order to be certified, you need to demonstrate the following:
- 2,000 hours of working on project teams
- 1,500 hours of working on agile teams using agile methodologies
- 21 hours of Agile training
- Pass 3 hours / 120 multiple-choice questions exam
See detailed requirements on the PMI Web site
Note that to demonstrate your Agile experience, you don’t need to be a project manager or a Scrum Master, you can play any role in the team. However, the Agile hours can NOT overlap with the above 2,000 hours of project work. As to the training, at the time of this writing, PMI did NOT require the training to be provided by one of the approved educational partner.
My Preparation Strategy
First of all, the below reflects my personal experience only. Everybody’s story is different. You may already be an agile guru by experience or may be fairly new and hence need some extra effort to prepare.
1Join a LinkedIn study group
My first advise would be to join one (or more) of the PMI-ACP study groups on LinkedIn. There is a wealth of information and many active contributors willing to give you some friendly advise. In my case, the information I got from these groups was instrumental in my preparation. See some links in the takeaway section.
PMI-ACP Support LinkedIn Group
PMI Agile Certified Practitioner LinkedIn Group
2Complete online course
In order to satisfy the 21 educational PDU requirements, I took an online course from ProplanX. At the time of me taking the class it was in beta and was free.
I wouldn’t recommend, however, having this as your sole preparation. source It was not a bad overview of the agile theory but I felt it was limited in many ways. Though, I shouldn’t really complain – it satisfied PMI’s requirements for accepting my application and it was free.
3Read the books
My main preparation book was PMI-ACP Exam Prep Book by Mike Griffiths and I loved it! Really great summary at the right level of details.
I also dipped into other PMI’s recommended books but mostly when I needed to fill a particular knowledge gap, specifically on agile estimation techniques, risks, and Lean.
Overall, it took me about 2 months to prepare on a part time basis, including getting the required 21 PDUs of agile training.
4Take a mock up test
Basically, I just did all the free / trial tests I could find online. To name a few – ProplanX, Scalestudy, Simplylearn, and Agileexams, however there are many more.
I do have to say that some tests while useful were wildly different from the actual exam questions, so take them for what they are – the tool to flag the problem areas where you may need more study and to improve your test taking skills.
My Exam Experience
I took the exam at the Prometric test center literally few steps away from my office.
Overall my experience wasn’t very much different from what I have learned by reading other task takers comments. I had a balanced set of questions with most of them related to Scrum and XP, few risk management questions, a good portion of situational questions, some simple questions on the manifesto / agile values, and some tricky ones on agile portfolio management, EVM, and costs.
I wouldn’t call the test very difficult but it was challenging enough to keep me thinking very very carefully about my answers. It was more focused on testing the understanding and practical applications of the core agile values rather then on simply testing how well you remember the definitions. In other words, I encountered more “why”, “how”, and “when” then simple “what is ..” questions.
Usually out of 4 answers 2 were obviously wrong but I had to choose carefully between the remaining 2.
I managed to finish all 120 questions in about 90 minutes and spent another hour reviewing my answers.
The results are known immediately once you finish the test and you get a temporary certificate on the spot. Few weeks later you’ll get the proper certificate by mail.