I cleared my PMI-ACP exam this week, and I decided to pen my thoughts on it. I thought it would help the people who are going to attempt it in the near future or even afterwards as all the blog posts, LinkedIn group’s posts and the different forums helped me immensely in getting an overview of the exam and also how the exam has changed with the new format. I have always benefitted from reading and listening to first hand experiences. So here goes mine.
I started preparing around 2.5 months back, mid February. But due to various personal and professional reasons, I was unable to devote a fixed quota of time everyday for this, which is an ideal way of preparation. I have been working on Agile projects for the past 2 years, as a Scrum Master and practical experience always helps. But that is not enough. There were many new concepts, which I came across during my preparation. I used the Mike Griffiths book – PMI-ACP Exam Prep – Premier edition. Please note that it is the first edition and Mike has come up with a second edition, which reflects the changes of the revised exam format. I can preempt the question that you have in your mind. Why didn’t you use the new edition and was the first edition enough? The answer to the first question is I already had a copy of the first edition and did not want to spend additional money on the second edition. Is it enough? Well, I believe it is. The new format contains an additional area- Agile Principles and Mindset, which is something that is already covered in the first edition, though not very explicitly. Also, Mike himself has mentioned the same in one of the threads in LinkedIn (you may want to join the group). Once I read the whole book and did the exercises at the end of each chapter, I gave some free practice tests available on the Internet. It helped me in identifying the areas where I need to work more. Then I again went through the book, spending more time on the areas, which needed re-work as identified, and skimming through the other stuff. I was also making notes that would later help me in revising the key concepts.
You will find all sorts of advice scattered around the web. Join a PMI-ACP training course; go through all the reference books listed here and so on and so forth. I would say there is no one magic formula to clear the exam. It all depends on your confidence level and how prepared you already are. Like in my case, since I have been working on agile projects for quite some time, I was already aware of the basics. My foundation was already there and I just needed to build on top of that. If you are new to agile methodologies and don’t have a practical experience, taking a crash course would help, I would say. Even if you don’t do that, I very strongly advise you to give as much practice exams as you can. There are many available on the Internet – both free and paid. In case you are planning to enroll for a course, do ensure that they have a set of mock exams after the course. Simulating the experience before the actual exam always helps.
So now coming to the main thing – the PMI-ACP exam. As you would have already heard by now, the revised exam is a tough nut to crack (if you have not heard till it now, believe me you are going to hear it every now and then). There are 120 questions and except for maybe 5-10 questions, rest all are situation-based questions that test if you are really thinking it the agile way. The best way to tackle the questions is to start eliminating the options. In almost all cases, you end up at two options, which seem really close to being the answer. You have to have an agile mentality, which will only come when you grasp the concepts completely. Understand it, rather than memorising it. If you are working on projects related to agile methodologies, try to relate the concept to your workplace and how you could have handled the situation better through the knowledge, which you just acquired.
Also note that you have to read the question very carefully. You have to check what is the role that the question is asking us to think from? As in, if so and so is the situation, what should the agile practitioner do? If so and so is the situation, what should the scrum master do? So you have to understand the roles and responsibilities in an agile project and what each one of them contributes towards the larger goal. This is extremely important as there are many questions related to it. Stakeholder engagement is also one topic that is important to the exam.
So, I hope that you find this helpful. Study well and give the exam confidently. All the best!!