I recently passed the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) exam and wanted to share some tips to help others with this exam. As with other PMI certifications, you’ll need in-depth knowledge of the subject matter to pass this exam. You should not underestimate the difficulty of the PMI-ACP exam. If you’ve passed your Certified Scrum Master (CSM) exam, be aware that the PMI-ACP is a much more difficult exam – I would say that the PMI-ACP is in a different league than the CSM. But hopefully your journey will become a lot easier with my five tips.
#1. Spend $15
The best investment I made was to spend $15 on the PMI-ACP Agile Certified Exam Prep course on Udemy. The course normally sells for around $200 but Udemy regularly has sales where the prices are slashed. So just be a little patient and wait for one of these sales.
The best thing about Udemy course is that you can download the lectures on to your phone or tablet, and then watch them anywhere, anytime, and without incurring data costs. If you commute to work by bus or train then this time can now become study time. Spare time, such as waiting for a friend to join you for lunch, can also now be used to study for the exam. You’ll be surprised at how many small opportunities you get throughout the day to do a few minutes of study. And it all adds up.
Please be aware that the course has a few rough edges but bang-for-buck this is the best resource I found out there.
#2. Don’t try to cram
You may have heard this before but I’ll repeat it anyway. You cannot cram for the PMI-ACP exam! By and large, the questions do not ask you to remember lists, meanings or formulas. Most of the questions are situational and require you to apply the Agile mindset to determine the correct answer. The only way to study for this exam is to immerse yourself in the Agile mindset.
#3. Avoid most online question banks
There are a lot of free question banks out there. I tried a few out but found that the quality was often low – often the answers would be incorrect, or the question or answers simply didn’t make sense. Many of these question banks are just hooks for trying to get you purchase something else. There may be some good ones out there but I didn’t find any.
#4. The 24 hours beforehand
The 24 hours before the exam is perhaps the most important time period in relation to passing the PMI-ACP. Here are some things I did, or wished that I had done.
Don’t study the night before
Back in my high school days I used to often spend the night before an exam cramming until the early hours of the morning. But for the PMI-ACP exam I was advised, and I can highly recommend, to take the night off and not do any study. That’s right, zero! Think of yourself as an athlete about to compete in a race; the last thing you should do is train the night before the big event.
Get a good nights sleep so that you are refreshed and at your best. This is one that I wished I had followed and lack of a good nights sleep did make the exam more difficult.
The exam can take up to three hours. If you add time for arriving early, and for actually getting to the exam, then you’re easily looking at four hours or more. Your brain and body need sustenance to work properly so make sure that you have eaten well and are sufficiently hydrated and caffeinated.
Think about the time of day you are sitting your exam. I’m not much of a morning person but scheduled the exam for 8am, which didn’t seem that early. Of course when you add in turning up 30 minutes before the exam, time for breakfast and commuting time, it can all add up to a much earlier start. Personally, if I was doing the exam again I would probably schedule a session for later in the day.
#5. During the exam
Don’t freak out
On the exam, when you’re unsure of an answer, you can mark questions for later review. It’s quite common on this exam to mark a lot of questions for later review, especially at the beginning of the exam. I think I marked six out of the first ten for review. Don’t freak out if this happens to you. The questions do seem to become easier as you progress through the exam. Perhaps it’s a case of getting used to the way that the questions are being asked.
You have three hours to complete the exam and there are 120 questions. So if you take one minute per question then this will take two hours and still leave you with an hour to review your answers. And many of the questions will take you a lot less than one minute to answer.
You are allowed to take breaks during the exam. The clock won’t stop but it can be beneficial to get out of the exam room, stretch and maybe have a glass of water. I did this after I had made my first pass through the questions, and consider it to be five minutes well spent.
Some of the questions and answers are stupid
Be aware that a few of questions and/or answers just may not make sense. At the end of the exam there was one question which I spent about five minutes trying to understand. It just seemed like none of the answers were right. In the end I just guessed. You may encounter this as well. Don’t get hung up on it. Just mark the question and come back to it later. Most of the questions and answers do make sense.
#6. (Bonus) Join the LinkedIn Group
I would recommend joining the PMI® Agile Certified Practitioner PMI-ACP Exam Prep Study Group on LinkedIn. It’s a good place to post questions and read about other people’s success with the exam.