How to Get a PMI-ACP Certification

(This post has been updated for 2020.)

The agile approach is now used around the world. Its benefits include:

  • production of a high-quality product
  • faster ROI
  • higher customer satisfaction
  • increased project control
  • reduced risks

These reasons are prompting organizations to move towards agile project management.

PMI-ACP

The PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® formally recognizes your knowledge of agile principles and your skill with agile techniques. You are able to adopt agile practices when working with colleagues and stakeholders.

The PMI-ACP covers multiple agile approaches including Scrum, extreme programming (XP), Kanban, Lean, and test-driven development (TDD). As a certified practitioner, you are familiar with the different approaches and can choose to adopt a suitable one for your project.

Why PMI-ACP?

Interest in the PMI-ACP certification continues to grow. It helps that professionals can get the project management certification online. However, try to think why you want to achieve this certification before jumping on the bandwagon.

  • Is this your job requirement?
  • Are you looking to move your career towards agile project management?
  • Do you want to manage projects in more efficient ways?
  • Or do you want to enhance your expertise and resume?

Whatever your requirement or motivation, be clear about it. You should know that getting PMI-ACP certification requires effort, time, and money. If you are ready to spend all these to achieve something bigger, then strive to get outstanding results and gain the respect of your peers and colleagues with the certification.

Tips to pass the PMI-ACP exam in your first attempt

To earn PMI-ACP, you need to follow several steps that lead you towards the successful completion of the exam.

  1. Plan
  2. Schedule the exam
  3. Prepare
  4. Take the exam

1. Plan

Planning is the most important step before starting a task. It includes setting up your goal, dividing it among several milestones, and estimating the time and effort required to achieve these milestones. Planning to be certified for the PMI-ACP includes the following steps:

Review the requirements

Since you are clear about the value of PMI-ACP certification in your career, it is time to know about the requirements. Go to PMI.org and search for “PMI-ACP requirements.” There are three requirements for the exam.

  • 2,000 hours of general project experience working with teams, or if you are a current PMP® or PgMP®.
  • 1,500 hours working on agile project teams or with agile methodologies.
  • 21 contact hours of training in agile practices.

Study the requirements and review your experience. Your job experience will cover the first two requirements. However, to meet the third point, you need to get 21 hours of training on agile practices.

Talk to other PMI-ACPs

It is always good to talk to your friends and colleagues who have earned PMI-ACP project management certification online to know about their experience. They can give you useful tips and tricks for the preparation of the exam. Ask them about the challenges that they faced while attempting to get certified. This will help you know about possible challenges and the ways to overcome them during the whole process.

Gather the study materials

Since this is the planning phase, you must know about the content required to prepare the exam. Here’s a list of useful resources:

Books
Online Quizzes
Apps for iOS
Linkedin Groups

Plan your preparation

You now have resources required for exam preparation, you can work on your study plan next. Scan the content and see how you will spend your time to prepare for the exam.

The PMI-ACP exam will test your knowledge and experience around seven domains of the Agile framework:

  1. Agile principles and mindset
  2. Value-driven delivery
  3. Stakeholder engagement
  4. Team performance
  5. Adaptive planning
  6. Problem detection and resolution
  7. Continuous improvement

There are two suggested ways to study for the PMI-ACP. The first is to spend 2–3 hours daily to prepare for the exam without any gaps. This may take around two months to complete your preparation. The second way is to plan your leaves from the job for 7–10 days and give your full time to study for the PMI-ACP. Studying eight hours daily can be exhaustive for some people, so choose a plan that suits you best.

Divide the book into parts and see how much content you can effectively complete and absorb in a day. Do more than skim the content and don’t try to memorize everything. Study with full concentration and relate the described methods with your practical experience.

Complete the requirements

The mentioned three requirements are pre-requisites for the exam. Most people already got the required project experience in their careers. If you don’t have the relevant project experience, the first step is to move towards it.

The next requirement is to get 21 hours of agile training. You can do online training or attend a classroom session at an agile institute. PMI provides this training in their local chapters in different countries. Confirm that the training you choose will cover all the domains that will be tested in the project management certification online exam.

Online training can be cheaper, and you can follow the content at your own pace. Classroom training is usually completed in 3 days and provides you a good collection of tips in a face-to-face conversation with experts.

2. Schedule the exam

Register

Scheduling the exam requires you to register on PMI.org and complete the application. Create your application and mention your experience in an understandable form. It is better to view some sample applications from successful candidates as it will give you an idea of how to write about your experience in a way that is acceptable for PMI.

Aside from mentioning your supervisor, list the names of colleagues who PMI can contact. The list of references can get your application signed if selected for an audit process. You can ask an expert to review your application before submission, so they can identify if it requires any improvements. When you are confident with your application, submit it on the website.

Complete the audit process

PMI randomly selects applications for audit. The audit process requires you to submit your documents to the PMI.org office within 1 year of your application start date. For a successful audit, you are required to:

  • Get verified and have your application form signed for both general and agile project experience from the mentioned supervisors.
  • Gather copies of your degrees/certificates as proof of your experience.
  • Submit all the documents to PMI.org.

The PMI will take around one week to verify the submitted documents after they are delivered. Your application will get accepted after successful verification. If your application is not selected for audit, this step is unnecessary.

Schedule your exam

Once you get an acceptance email notification from PMI.org, you are ready to pay the required fees and schedule your exam. You cannot schedule your exam until you submit the payment of certification fees. If you are a PMI member, you need to pay $435 for the exam fee. If not, the fee is $495.

Schedule your project management certification online exam on a date of your choice. You can also schedule your exam when you have completed your preparation, but most people start their preparation only after they have scheduled the exam. If you are organized, confident, and can prepare well without knowing the exam date, you can schedule your exam anytime during your preparation.

3. Prepare

When you are done with the planning phase, it is time to start the actual preparation.

Study

Go through the book by Mike Griffiths, which has excellent content. It mentions a few study guidelines in the introduction chapters. Follow those guidelines to get more out of the book. Here are some general study tips:

  • Go chapter by chapter and study well.
  • Do not memorize things, but understand the concepts.
  • Relate the concepts to your practical experience.
  • Highlight important terms and concepts in the book to easily remember important points.
  • Complete the whole book according to your plan.
  • Do all chapter exercises at the end. They help check your knowledge after going through all the chapters.

One important thing is to follow your study plan consistently. Taking multiple days off for a break makes it difficult to relate concepts to one another and remember previous lessons. You can take a short break if you feel that nothing is getting absorbed after reading a whole chapter.

Find online quizzes and solve them

After thoroughly reading the book, you can look for online question banks and quizzes and try to solve them. Take the simulation exam and analyze your score. It is common to score low on your first attempt. Don’t get disappointed, as quizzes are a bit different than the study material. They contain situational questions that mimic the exam.

Check your score and analyze the correct answers. Most online prep test sites and apps contain useful descriptions along with correct answers. They give you a good understanding of the concepts and highlight areas that need more preparation. Mark your weak areas and focus more on them while re-reading the book.

Re-read the book

Open the book and study it—again. Follow the same guidelines. Keep the questions/quizzes in mind as you read to help you understand the concepts well. Perform all exercises and quizzes again and you will see a big difference in the score as well as in your confidence level.

You are ready to go

You have studied the book twice while doing all the exercises given at the end of the chapters. You have completed multiple quizzes with a good score. You are now more confident about your preparation for the project management certification online.

The exam day is not too far, so boost your confidence by reviewing tips and tricks of the exam. You can find different websites where people have shared their experiences and lessons learned. Review them to avoid any unexpected situations in the exam.

4. Take the exam

It’s exam day! Make sure you sleep well the night before the exam. A good tip is to stop studying 12 hours before the exam. Keep yourself calm and relax. Since the PMI-ACP exam is now online, you can take it from home or office at any time. You don’t need to travel to a test center to take the certification text. All you need are a computer with a web cam, a reliable internet connection, and a quiet space.

Start your exam with a positive mindset. Manage your time wisely. You may feel that three hours is enough time to solve 120 multiple-choice questions. But it is better to err on the side of caution.

Most of the questions are scenario-based. Read each question two to three times before choosing your answer. Go through all given options and choose the answer that you feel best suits the given situation. The options can be very confusing, but there is only one best answer. You’ll often be able to identify two incorrect choices easily, but the challenge is to choose from the remaining two. Always remember to select the one best answer.

Don’t mark many questions for review, as time may not allow it. Take breaks if you have to, but stay focused. Also, bring some water with you.

Celebrate your success

The most beautiful moment of this PMI-ACP project management certification online journey is the single click of the Submit button. A congratulations screen will appear in front of you signifying that you are now a PMI-ACP certified professional! Don’t forget to celebrate your success with your friends, family, and colleagues.

Saadia Minhas

Saadia Minhas

Saadia Minhas is working as Delivery Excellence Manager at Teradata. She likes to inspire the world by sharing her experiences related to Agile projects, UX design and life lessons.

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