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Steps to Achieve PMI-ACP Certification

pmi-acp exam prep

You all saw how uncertain life can be with an outbreak of covid-19 in the year 2020 whose impact people can still be experienced. Life, both personal and business, is slowly crawling back to normal now with improved vaccination programs across the world. In this article, we will provide a clear roadmap to PMI-ACP Exam Prep and how you can obtain this well-established and most sought-after agile certification, in a step-by-step, methodical way

 

Well, this pandemic has one peculiar side effect – An interesting article from McKinsey and Company revealed that the covid-19 pandemic has expedited & intensified the Agile adaptations in the business world, and now as business markets reopens again and as more and more businesses are rapidly transitioning to agile – the agile practitioners, the people with agile knowledge and skills are in extreme demand.

As you might know, the agile marketplace once was full of easy-to-get certifications and has thankfully since had a well-established, reliable, and trustworthy choice – the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner or ACP certification. 

Intended Audience

This article should be useful to the people – such as scrum masters, project managers, engineering managers, QA managers, DevOps professionals, and anyone who is willing to know about agile certification and wanted to either start their carriers in agile project management or wanted to get their existing agile knowledge vetted by the most trusted project body, the PMI – through their agile certification.

So, if you are from an IT or Non-IT background, an MBA, or any other professional looking to know more about the PMI-ACP certification process and how to systematically follow the steps to achieve the same in near future – then read on!!

What Is PMI-ACP Certification?

But before we jump in and start discussing the steps to get your PMI-ACP certification, let’s just get a brief idea about what exactly is the PMI-ACP Certification in the first place.

PMI Agile Certified Practitioner or PMI-ACP was a certification introduced by The Project Management Institute (PMI) in 2011. PMI is a U.S.-based not-for-profit professional organization for project management that serves more than three million professionals. So, this certification is still relatively new – compared to say PMI PMP. (which was launched in 1984).

The PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) formally recognizes the knowledge of agile principles and the skills with agile techniques of an individual. The focus of the certification is on applying agile approaches for project execution, as against the PMI-PMP certificate which covers more general topics of project management.

PMI-ACP Vs Scrum Master Certificate

PMI-ACP is also different from the scrum master certificate too. The SM is restricted to only Scrum methodology whereas PMI-ACP covers scrum along with several other agile project methodologies such as Kanban, Lean, extreme programming or XP, Crystal, and many others.

For eligibility, exam fee, and other certification details – you can go to the official PMI-ACP Certificate link and find all the details about it.

The PMI-ACP Exam Prep consists of 120 Questions that you need to answer in 3 hours. There are no negative markings. PMI has never officially disclosed how many marks you need to score to pass the exam. PMI also doesn’t tell how many marks you scored in the exam either – instead, the PMI-ACP Exam Prep reports show proficiency level. There are 3 proficiency levels,

  1. Above target – means you have performed better than the average PMI-ACP aspirants
  2. Target – means you have performed on-par with the average PMI-ACP aspirants
  3. Below target – means you have performed worse than the average PMI-ACP aspirants

You should aim to score either “Above target” or “Target” – to achieve your PMI-ACP certification.

You can also explore your blogs related to PMI ACP Vs PMP, Agile Certified Practitioner Benefits which will help you to meet the experience and education requirements.

Steps to Achieve the PMI-ACP Certification

Now that we covered in brief what the PMI-ACP Agile Certified Practitioner is, and a brief on the exam details, let’s go into the specifics of how one can go about achieving the PMI-ACP certificate, with an aim to score either “Target” or “Above target” in your first attempt.

Check Your Eligibility

PMI always has clearly mentioned criteria on who can and cannot take the certifications and it is prudent to always first understand the minimum eligibility requirement. Below are the details of PMI-ACP Exam eligibility, which you can also find on www.pmi.org site.

Education General Project Experience Agile Project Experience Agile Training
Secondary degree 12 months of general project experience within the last 5 years 8 months of agile project experience within the last 3 years  21 contact hours of training in agile practices

It is recommended to become a PMI member (but not mandatory to get PMI-ACP certification) by registering yourself on the PMI’s site. You can find the details of the membership fee and other membership details such as the local PMI chapter, at the PMI’s site.

The PMI membership offers many agile and other project management content, articles, on-demand videos which may help you in PMI-ACP Exam Prep.

Earn the 21 Contact Hours

Assuming that you have the required educational “degree” & have real-world agile project experience of 8 months, in the last 3-years and general project experience of 12 months in the last 5 years, the other thing now you need is to earn those 21 contact hours during your PMI-ACP Exam Prep. This is very straightforward.

You can earn these 21 contact hours of agile education by taking either an online or offline PMI-ACP course. Yes, you have to undergo this formal agile education worth 21 hours, even though you might be an experienced agile professional.

It is a personal choice of selecting an online or offline mode of agile education course and each mode has its own advantages and disadvantages.

One of the advantages of taking an offline course is that you can interact with an instructor in person and ask questions and get feedback on those while taking the course. However, once the course is over, you may not have access to the instructor to help clarify any further queries.

The online course has the advantage that you can take it at your own pace. Also, most of these online courses can be accessed anytime or anywhere (from your mobile phone for example). This gives you the flexibility of studying at your convenience.

PMI-ACP Exam Prep

Now that you have completed or fulfilled the agile education requirement of the PMI-ACP exam, you can start PMI-ACP Exam Prep itself. The PMI-ACP exam is based on the PMI-ACP exam content outline which is published by the PMI. PMI-ACP exam content outline has 3 sections,

The below chart shows how much each domain constitute in the exam,

One very important point worthy of note here is the PMI-ACP exam covers multiple agile methodologies for project execution such as scrum, extreme programming, Kanban, and many others. So even if you might be already using scrum in your real-world projects, from the PMI-ACP Exam point of view, you need to learn about the other agile project execution approaches.

How much time or duration shall you reserve to prepare for the exam? Well, the answer depends on various factors such as how many agile concepts you already know, are you using agile and its tools and techniques in your project and are you topically familiar with the knowledge and skills of agile? In general, about 6-8 weeks of focused preparation should be sufficient to cover all the topics of a PMI-ACP exam.

Practice with Exam Simulators or Practice Tests

Now that you have studied all the exam topics from the 3 major areas (the domain, tools and technique, and knowledge & skills) and have a good grasp of the subject, it is time to practice. Like the PMP exam, the PMI-ACP exam is not simply the test of your agile knowledge. Instead, the PMI-ACP Exam Prep tests how you apply the agile mindset, principles, and knowledge in a specific project scenario.

Most of the PMI-ACP exam questions will be scenario-based in which you will be presented with a project scenario, with specific constraints and you have to choose the appropriate answer from the given choices. You may find that out of the 4 choices, you will feel 2 or 3 or sometimes all 4 being correct – and you have to select the “best” choice out of 4.

To practice such scenario-based exam questions, it is best to practice those with mock practice tests or exam simulators. You can find such practice tests in a popular online learning site such as Udemy. These practice tests give you exposure to the different scenarios and ask you to select the best choice and also usually provide explanation and reference on why a certain choice is “best” among the others.

When you start getting 75-80% marks in these practice tests, it means you have understood the exam topics well enough and can take the exam with confidence.

Fill the Application Form and Schedule the Exam

Now that you are confident after taking a sufficient number of practice tests and scoring well in them, it is time to fill your exam application online and schedule the “date” on which you want to take the exam. This involves going through below,

Complete the Application

You can visit www.pmi.org and start filling out your application online. If you are already a member of PMI, then you can use your PMI Login credentials to access the application form and submit it to PMI for their review.

You will be asked about the below details when you are filling out the application form,

  • Contact information – home address, email, and phone number, etc.
  • Education details – details about your degree/diploma, school or college details
  • Experience details – details of your work history, past and present projects, employers,
  • Agile education details – details of how you obtained the 21 contact hours, like name of the institute, courses attended, etc. 

It is better to keep all the relevant documents handy so that you can finish the process of filling out the application online. Do remember to fill in the details correctly at this stage.  After filling in all the details you can submit the application to PMI for their review.

Application Review

After you fill out the application, the PMI will verify that you meet the eligibility criteria and that your experience and education are valid and consistent with the PMI guidelines. This application review process may take 5-10 days, typically. One of the things to keep in mind is PMI may select your application for audit. This is a completely random selection. This auditing is done by PMI to confirm the experience and/or education documented on certification applications. The purpose of the audit is to enhance the credibility of the certification program and of the certification holders.

Payment

Once your application is reviewed and approved by PMI, you will be notified of the same. Now it’s time to complete the payment and schedule the exam. Below are the exam fee details,

As you can see, 1 of the advantages of becoming a PMI member is the reduced exam fee. You can use your regular debit or credit card to make the payment.

Once payment is received by the PMI, they will email you an eligibility number. You’ll use to schedule your exam appointment. You are eligible for one year, and you may take the exam up to three times during that year.

Schedule Exam Appointment

PMI will email you exam scheduling instructions with your eligibility code, which you will need when scheduling your exam appointment.

Due to covid-19 restrictions, not all exam centers are available right now for taking the exam. You may want to check the availability of the exam center which is nearest to your home address. It is to avoid a long commute on the exam day

Alternatively, if you don’t want to take the exam by visiting the exam center, you can reserve a slot for an online exam which you can give from the comfort of your house too. Visit this link to find more details on the requirements, precautions, and other details about giving exams from home/online.

Once your slot is booked, all that is remaining is to either go to the exam center or online. It’s done at the scheduled time and gives the exam!! 

Conclusion

PMI-ACP is one of the most in-demand certifications to date and will probably remain the same for the foreseeable future. As more and more organizations and companies shift from predictive to agile-based project delivery. While obtaining PMI-ACP certification may seem like a time-consuming and lengthy process. The regulated framework of review and auditing was put in place by PMI for PMI-ACP. It enhances the credibility of the certification program and of the certification holders. Also, the PMI-ACP certification demands dedication, hard work & consistency – but given the enormous benefits that this certification offers, it is worth an investment. Nothing which is worth comes easy – right?

We trust this article has given you clear, unambiguous steps to achieve your PMI-ACP certification. All the best!!

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