In the past few years, I have been involved with hundreds of professionals who would like to have the PMI-ACP certificate, the frequently asked question was: I don’t know from where to begin the journey?
The detailed study plan explained below was created by me relying on my own experience preparing for and passing the PMI-ACP exam, and from the lessons learned I received from the students I guide.
The plan below is compromised from 12 steps. With busy professionals who cannot give more than 10 hours a week, the plan below is expected to take 6-8 weeks.
Take less than an hour to read this study plan carefully, this plan will save a lot of your time and efforts!
Step one: Do you want to be a PMI-ACP certified?
First, you should have the serious intent to be PMI-ACP certified, this intent might come from the career path you have in the agile project management field or from your passion to improve your knowledge in this field. Wherever it’s coming from, the PMI-ACP certification is a great career enhancement for project managers, project management team members, or people who would like to build a career in project management. Once you have this intent, and you are willing to invest your time and money, you can be a PMI-ACP certificate holder after two months from this moment. Unless you just passed the PMP certificate, then you can get prepared for the PMI-ACP exam with 6 weeks from today.
Are you eligible for the PMI-ACP exam? As per the PMI standards, you must have a secondary degree (high school diploma, associate degree or the global equivalent), 12 months of general project experience within the last 5 years. A current PMP® or PgMP® will satisfy this requirement but is not required to apply for the PMI-ACP, and 21 hours of agile project management education.
The PMI-ACP exam fess is $435 for members, and $495 for non-members. Therefore, it’s better and money saving to register on the PMI with the fees of $129 and $10 of application fees, especially if you are willing to have more than one certificate from the project management Institute. For more details about the PMI requirements for the PMI-ACP exam and the exam fees, you can check the PMI.org website.
The total cost of this journey will include the exam fees, reference books cost, 21 contact hours course, and miscellaneous costs of supportive documents. If you have the self-learning ability, I will guide you on how to get 100% prepared for the PMI-ACP exam with only $250 including the 21 contact hours, reference book, and high-quality exam simulators. So, the total cost of the PMI-ACP preparation journey will be around 900$ (Including exam fees). If you prefer going to a live classroom in your city to get the educational 21 contact hours, then the cost of the journey might reach $1,200.
Most of the agile project management practitioners can afford the $1,000 to get ready for the exam and apply for it; the real issue is the time investment! Like most of us are having a full-time job and family commitments, you want to find the most effective way to get ready, the step-by-step study plan I prepared based on my experience will save your time. No need to search the web for tons of useless data, 10 hours per week for 6-8 weeks following exactly this plan will guarantee your success from the first attempt.
Step Two: Get your reference books.
Pick your reference book! You will hear from other PMI-ACP aspirants that having the 21 contact hours of education before reading the PMI-ACP reference book is better. In my opinion, reading the reference book you selected for one time at least will be much more effective, this is what I advise my students to do before they attend my workshops. Why? Once you start reading the reference book you will start pointing out the topics where you have weaknesses, you will have a good general knowledge of the content, what are the agile project management tools and techniques you want to focus on during the 21 contact hours training, this is the reason why I advise you to read the book. You will be aware of content of the training before you join it, highlight all topics you need to improve your knowledge in then go for the educational training. The first reference you should use is the Agile Practice Guide – First Edition, which has been developed as a resource to understand, evaluate, and use agile and hybrid agile approaches. This practice guide provides guidance on when, where, and how to apply agile approaches and provides practical tools for practitioners and organizations wanting to increase agility. This practice guide is aligned with other PMI standards, including A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition, and was developed as the result of collaboration between the Project Management Institute and the Agile Alliance. For the PMI-ACP exam preparation, this is the reference number one for preparation purposes. This book is a must-read for the PMI-ACP exam preparation, and you can have a look at it through the link here. Through amazon, the price of this book starts at $71 which is the best price in the market, or you can download a soft copy for free from the PMI website if you are a PMI member. The second must read book is the PMI-ACP Exam Prep: Rapid learning to pass the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner Exam – On Your First Try: 2nd Edition By Mike Griffiths. Written by Mike Griffiths, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner and original member of the PMI-ACP steering committee, PMI-ACP Exam Prep, second edition is specifically written for people who plan to sit for the PMI-ACP examination. Features of this worldwide best-selling resource include the following: Practice exam questions, over 100 throughout the book, dozens of visuals and graphics for concept explanation, identification of exam significance for each Agile topic, a focus on real-world Agile project issues, and exclusive exercises and Tricks of the Trade. This book is again a must-read reference book for the PMI-ACP exam preparation purposes. You can take a look and read dozens of pages of the PMI-ACP exam prep guide by clicking the link here. You will be redirected to amazon website where you can flip through the book just as you are holding it in a bookstore, refer to the link here for FREE preview. If you don’t prefer a paper book, you can preview the Kindle Edition here.
Before you attend the 21 contact hours training course, read the Agile practice guide first edition, reading it for the first time should not take more than 2 weeks. During the first round of reading, highlight the important topics, have a note of the points you didn’t understand in order to focus on during the training course.
Step Three: Attend the 21 educational contact hours (Live class, webinars, or self-learning paced)
Nowadays, getting the 21 contact hours is very easy, it’s your call! Do you prefer attending a live class around? do a simple search in the place you are living in and register for a live class training, usually it costs from $500 to $1,200 depending on the place you are living in, currency, and instructor repetition. The issue of attending such classes that you need to fit your timing to suit the instructor timing, and it’s usually intensive. Instructors are giving the whole material of the PMI-ACP exam within 3 to 4 days, usually students cannot acknowledge this amount of data within such short time, but still, I know students who prefer having a live class/workshop.
The second option is registering for an interactive online workshop, the instructor will do the 21 contact hours of agile project management education through online webinars while having 10-15 students, it’s money saving and more flexible, for attending such live interactive webinars you can search the web and usually prices for such live webinars are from $500 to $700, and at the end of the course you will have a certificate of completion with 21 contact hours of agile project management.
In my point of view, if you have the self-learning ability, you can be eligible for the PMI-ACP exam using the course I created few weeks after I passed the PMI-ACP exam from my first trial, at the end of the course you will have 21 contact hours completion certificate which you can use to fill in your exam application. This training should improve your knowledge in the agile project management field and prepare you to pass the exam. Have a look at the course structure through the link here. It’s a huge save of money comparing to the upper prices, you have more flexibility attending the course content, and whenever you have a question you can post it on the course Q&A section or directly contact use through the website here. Our course will fully prepare you for the PMI-ACP exam, and it will increase your chances to pass from the first trial. You can enroll in our course for a price of $139 including four high-quality mock exams which are very close to the real exam questions.
Now it’s your decision, you can attend a live class, online interacting class, or a self-paced course provided by Elite Minds. The most important thing is to take the maximum benefits out of the course, understand the exam content and structure, agile project management tools, techniques, and best practices, and take a certificate of attending 21 contact hours of agile project management education at the end of the course.
After attending the 21 contact hours course, it’s the time to read the reference book again. With more focus on the important topics, you have the clear image of the PMI-ACP exam framework, what are the key agile project management processes, how do the project flow from initiating to closing in regards of agile project management tools and techniques. Reading the book again will make you 60% ready to pass the PMI-ACP exam, this time with more focus and slow reading.
Step Five: Read the Agile Practice Guide – First Edition
After completing the PMI-ACP Exam Prep: Rapid learning to pass the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner Exam, it is the right time to have a deeper insight into the agile project management tools and techniques, and this what you will have after completing this agile practice guide. This is a helpful book and many of the real exam questions were from this book! The book is mainly categorizing the most advanced advanced agile management tools, best practices, and techniques in the context of the project management. If you still didn’t get this book, it is again a must read one, you can have a look at the book through the link here.
Step Six: Be aware of the PMI-ACP exam structure and each domain share in the exam
Knowing the exam structure will help you highlight the important domains and processes. You will know where to focus, and from which domain the biggest share of question will come. The PMI-ACP exam is composed of 120 multiple choice questions which you have to complete in 3 hours. Now to get my point out of this step, below is the list which shows the domains percentage as per the PMI latest exam content outline: Agile Principles and Mindset (16%), Value-driven Delivery (22%), Stakeholder Engagement (17%), Team performance (16%), Adaptive planning (12%), Problem Detection and Resolution (10%), Continuous Improvement (Product, Process, People)(9%). You need to understand deeply each of agile project management practices, tools, and techniques. In addition, you need to understand all related agile terminology. This will increase your probability passing the exam from the first attempt. Advanced tools and techniques are also very important for the exam.
Step Seven: Highlight your weaknesses and PMI-ACP Exam hot Topics
Now you know how the real PMI-ACP exam will look like, and you have been through the reference books and the 21 contact hours training course. It is normal to have few weakness points which you need to give more attention to. In addition to the points you highlighted, I am listing below the PMI-ACP exam hot topics where the majority of the exam questions come from:
- Agile Principles. There are 12 agile principles outlined in The Agile Manifesto in addition to the 4 agile values. These 12 principles for agile software development help establish the tenets of the agile mindset. They are not a set of rules for practicing agile, but a handful of principles to help instill agile thinking. In the PMI-ACP exam, there will be 8-10 questions testing your understanding of these principles and values, and their application in real life scenarios.
- Scrum Framework. Scrum is a framework that helps teams work together. Much like a rugby team (where it gets its name) training for the big game, scrum encourages teams to learn through experiences, self-organize while working on a problem, and reflect on their wins and losses to continuously improve. For the PMI-ACP exam, you should be aware of the Scrum roles, events, and artifacts. Expect 4-6 questions about these topics.
- Self-organizing team concept. At the simplest level, a self-organizing team is one that does not depend on or wait for a manager to assign work. Instead, these teams find their own work and manage the associated responsibilities and timelines. Expect few scenario-based questions in the PMI-ACP exam that their answer will rely on this concept.
- Release and iteration planning. Release Management is the part of the software management process that deals with development, testing, deployment and support of software releases to the end user. In the new era of continuous delivery (CD), organizations have become increasingly lean and agile while managing this process.
- User story and story points. A story point is a metric used in agile project management and development to estimate the difficulty of implementing a given user story, which is an abstract measure of effort required to implement it. In simple terms, a story point is a number that tells the team about the difficulty level of the story.
- Planning Poker. Planning Poker is an agile estimating and planning technique that is consensus based. To start a poker planning session, the product owner or customer reads an agile user story or describes a feature to the estimators. Each estimator is holding a deck of Planning Poker cards with values like 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40 and 100, which is the sequence we recommend. The values represent the number of story points, ideal days, or other units in which the team estimates. Expect 2-3 questions in the PMI-ACP exam about this technique.
- Velocity. Velocity in agile is an important metric that helps the team improve efficiency by determining how much it can achieve over time. After every iteration, the team adds up effort estimates associated with user stories that were completed. Expect 2-3 math questions in the PMI-ACP exam about this concept.
- Retrospectives. Iteration Retrospectives are the structured reflective practice to learn and improve based on what has already been done. The purpose of retrospection is to examine the process the team uses, to build team commitment, and to transfer knowledge to the next iteration and possibly to other teams.
- Daily standups. Stand-ups are one of the fundamental parts of agile development, and it’s often the most misunderstood. Let’s be real: stand-ups by themselves don’t make your team agile. They aren’t about inflating egos or justifying job descriptions. They aren’t a time to plan; Sprint planning is for planning. They also aren’t the only time to mention blockers. If you’re stuck, ask for help!
- Burn down charts. A burndown chart is a graphic representation of how quickly the team is working through a customer’s user stories, an agile tool that is used to capture a description of a feature from an end-user perspective. The burndown chart shows the total effort against the amount of work for each iteration. The quantity of work remaining is shown on a vertical axis, while the time that has passed since beginning the project is placed horizontally on the chart, which shows the past and the future. The burndown chart is displayed so everyone on the team can see it and is updated regularly to keep it accurate.
- Value stream mapping. Value stream mapping is a common practice in the Agile space because it allows leaders and stakeholders to see where the flow of value delivery is slowing down and exposes opportunities to create better alignment across teams. However, it’s one of those practices commonly exercised after everyone is acutely aware that flow is slow or stagnant. Then it becomes a tool to help diagnose a problem (which is usually when Agile coaches are called in).
- Agile tools and techniques. Agile methods and tools lend themselves most appropriately to systems and projects in which accurate estimates, stable plans, and predictions are often difficult to attain in the early project stages. Agile development favors an adaptive, iterative and evolutionary development approach. For the PMI-ACP exam, you will encounter not less than 15-20 questions about the commonly used agile tools and techniques. You will have at least one question about each of the following techniques: MoSCoW, 5-Whys, control charts, agile chartering, Cycle time, WIP, Variance and trend analysis, and risk adjusted backlog.
- Information radiators. “Information radiator” is the generic term for any of a number of handwritten, drawn, printed or electronic displays which a team places in a highly visible location, so that all team members as well as passers-by can see the latest information at a glance: count of automated tests, velocity, incident reports, continuous integration status, and so on. Expect 2-3 questions in the PMI-ACP exam about these tools.
- Osmotic communication. “Osmotic communication means that information flows into the background hearing of members of the team, so that they pick up relevant information by osmosis. This is normally accomplished by seating them in the same room. Establish team core hours for facilitated discussions and working sessions
Step Eight: It’s the time to test your self
At this stage, you are almost ready to go for the real PMI-ACP exam, one step remains before you schedule your exam date, test your readiness for the real PMI-ACP exam. At this stage you are done with the 21 contact hours, read the two reference books needed, highlighted the hot topics of the exam, and familiar with the exam structure. I have created a course that contains Seven simulated tests each with 120 questions which you need to complete in three hours. Overall, the course contains 840 questions, my practice tests questions are like the real PMI-ACP exam questions as I wrote them few days after I passed the exam. PMI-ACP exam questions are not short and direct to the point! The majority of the 120 questions are situational such as: Which of the following describes the best action? What’s next? What’s first to do? Else than situational questions, you will have long wordy questions, the concept of this step is to check if you are ready to schedule your exam or not. You can enroll in the PMI-ACP exam preparation package through the link here, or you can buy only the eight exams set through the link here. Set in your room, open the laptop, have a plain A4 paper, with simple calculator, off your mobile and be away from any possible interruption, you must finish the 120 questions in 3 hours with a passing score of minimum 80%. Go for practice test # 1, you will practice the other exams of the course in later stages. It’s ok if you were not able to complete the 120 questions within exam time frame in the first attempt, what’s important is to get a score of +80%, if you got this result, move to next step, if not, don’t worry, just refer back to step four of this study plan and repeat tell you reach this step again, and this time use practice test # 2. Go forward with this study plan once you get a result of 80% or more.
Step Nine: Schedule your exam 2 weeks ahead
Now it’s the time to schedule your exam date, go for the PMI.org website and follow steps below to fill your application online:
1. Visit the website pmi.org, select membership from the home page upper bar. Choose the individual membership type which will cost you 129$ + 10 $. Press on join now, fill in your information and create your account.
2. Now once you are done with the PMI log in and membership process, go back to the home page and select certifications from the home page upper bar and choose Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) ®then press on apply now.
3. Fill in your address and work address, then fill your contact information (Email address and phone number).
4. Fill in your attained education information (bachelor’s degree or diploma).
5. Start with the requirements overview then save and continue.
6. Press on the project experience link and fill in your projects experience with the following:
- Start and end date of each project
- You’re role (Job Title) and the industry field.
- Your organization name and address.
- Your reporting manager/colleague and his/her contact information (Email and address)
Note: The description of each project shall not exceed 500 characters!
Keep doing and mention all the projects you want to until you have the sum of all projects as the required hours of the exam.
7. Fill in your agile project management educational hours, title of the course, institute name, start and end dates of the course, and the number of hours.
8. Mention your name as how you want it to appear on the certificate.
9. Read the agreement then click the box “I agree “.
10. Review your application then submit.
11. Pay the Exam Fees.
Wait for the notice authorizing you either to schedule your exam or to inform you that your application will be subjected to an audit before it’s approved. Once your application is approved, you can schedule your exam date two weeks ahead by checking parametric centers available in your location and their availability. Note that once you receive your authorization notice; you must pass the exam within one year.
In case your application was selected for the audit, relax, they will send you an experience audit form- verification form - for each experience you mentioned, you should sign it from your supervisor or colleague, and send a copy of your bachelor’s degree certificate and your 21 contact hours training certificate. If you took one of the above courses, print the softcopy you will have at the end of the course and send it, It will be accepted for sure (As I did it myself). You should send a hardcopy of all these documents to the address mentioned on the PMI website and wait for the results. It’s very rare to fail in the audit process, the only reasons of failure are having false information “Fraud “, candidates choose not to attempt audit – one year suspension period or not being able to verify the experience or the educational hours.
Step Ten: Practice, practice, practice
From my experience helping students pass the PMI-ACP exam, one of the core reasons why people fail in their first trial is the shortage of time, solving 120 questions (Most of them are situational and long) within 3 hours time frame isn’t easy! The best practice to come over the timing challenge is to practice as much as you can. Practicing the exam questions will get you closer to the real exam environment, you can have an idea about the exam questions through the free resources I include in this blog. The next stage shall be practicing timely tested simulation exams, practice the real exam environment, through the course you enrolled into in step eight! Have a plain A4 paper, with simple calculator, off your mobile and be away from any possible interruption. You have to finish the 120 questions in 3 hours with a passing score of minimum 80%. Practice the second, third, and fourth exams of the course and be ready with the real exam circumstances. If you didn’t enroll for the exam simulaters in step eight, here is the link where you can do with $49 only.
Step Eleven: Go and Pass
One night before the exam, relax and have a good sleep. In the morning, have a good breakfast, and be at the testing center 1 hour before the exam. Once you enter the examination room, you will have your own desktop with a simple calculator, few white papers, and a pencil. Read the exam tutorial which will appear automatically on the screen, It will explain for you that the exam includes 120 multiple choice questions and that exam timing is 3 hours. Start your exam, you will be able to mark the question you are not sure of its answer in order to review later on, do not keep your eyes on the timer, take a look each 40 questions only. A lot of the exam questions will be a case description followed by a question asking what the best is to do, in this type of questions you cannot guarantee 100% that you picked the right answer, but trust me, just follow the knowledge you learned in the preparation journey and for sure you will pick the right answer. Don’t get confused during the exam, just highlight questions you are not sure of their answers and go for the next question. Once you are done, click finish, they will ask you to do a short survey about the testing center; once you are done you will have your exam result with a short report of each domain score.
Step Twelve: What’s next? Maintain your certificate gaining PDU’s
Once you get the PMI-ACP certificate, your journey to maintain your certificate each three years will begin, you need to gain 30 PDU’s within three years of time to renew your PMI-ACP status. In this article am listing all key points you need to know about the PDU’s. PDU refers to professional development unit. There are two types of professional development units (PDUs) that you can claim towards renewal —Education and Giving Back to the Profession. Under each of these categories there are numerous options and, once you’ve satisfied certain educational requirements, the rest is up to you.
PMI PDU requirements for the PMI-ACP certification is a quality assurance mechanism to ensure PMI-ACP certificate holders are up to date with latest agile project management concepts, best practices and trends; simply, the PDU is a system which will encourage PMI-ACP certificate holders for continues education.
In general, 1 PMI-ACP® PDU equals 1 hour of participation in the PDU activity, PMI accepts PDUs to be recorded in quarterly increment (in the multiple of 0.25 PDU) for educational activities, for the rest PMI-ACP® PDUs must be submitted in multiples of 1 PDU.
On the other hand, if you are not able to accumulate 30 PMI-ACP® PDU during your 3-year cycle, the PMI-ACP® credential will be suspended. PMI gives you 1 extra year to earn the required PDU. But be reminded that the next 3-year re-certification cycle will still be counted from your original credential end date.
Once you collect the 30 PDU’s, you can apply for the credential renewal for $60 if you are a PMI member and $150 if you are not. Below I am listing the best ways to earn to PDU’s for the PMI-ACP exam
Your day job, Earn 8 PDU’s for FREE. If you work as a project manager/business analyst this is probably the easiest way to tick off up to 4 PDU’s per three-year period. For the details on this and the other PDU categories mentioned below please refer to the link here.
Learn deeply practical project management on Udemy, earn 15 PDU’s @$10. A course created by William Stewart, applying the project management processes into practical life. Highly recommended for project management and risk management practitioners, and you can earn 15 PDU’s for the PMI ACP renewal process, the course contains 9 hours of video, you can register here for $10.
Learn MS project beginner to expert on Udemy, earn 9 PDU’s @ $10. Microsoft project is the most commonly used scheduling software in project management; even you are not a planner! you should be aware of using MS project, Srikanth Shirodkar created the best seller MS project course on Udemy, which you make use of to learn MS project and earn 9 PDU’s for your PMI-ACP renewal process, the course is 9 hours videos, and you can register through the link here for $10.
Learn Microsoft Excel for Project Managers on Udemy, earn 5 PDU’s @$10. Microsoft Excel can help you with so much of that! In this course you’re going to explore lots of things that Microsoft Excel can do for project management. You’ll dive into formatting, charting, conditional formatting, and building a custom dashboard and report. If you don’t have a more advanced project management software, that’s okay, you can do much of that business right in Microsoft Excel, this course is worth five (5) Professional Development Units with the Project Management Institute, the course is 5 hours videos, and you can register through the link here for $10.
PMP seminar on Udemy, Earn 35 PDU’s @ $10. Formal academic educational courses related to Project Management is one of the easier categories, Joseph Philips created a course on Udemy which includes 35 PDU’s with 20 Hours of Technical project management, 9 hours of business skills, and 6 hours of leadership skills. At the end of the course, you will have a certificate of completion which you can submit for the PMI renewal process, this seminar is considered as a great tool to refresh your knowledge in the PMBOK material. The course is 24 hours video, and you can register through the link here for $10.
Volunteer Service. Become a volunteer of your local project management association like PMI Saudi chapter or PMI Jordan chapter and earn 1 PDU for each hour of service. A letter or certificate from the organization acknowledging the participation is required for confirmation.
Create new Project Management Knowledge. There is a lot you can do in this category to earn PDUs. You could be authoring or co-authoring articles, books or newsletters, present a webinar or podcast, or create and present a project management course. Each will earn you PDUs. The rule is that every hour spent in preparing and delivering these activities is equal to one PDU. The PDUs claimed in this category count toward the 12 PDU’s maximum.
Self-Study. Do you consume a lot of materials like reading articles or books, watching videos? If you participated in any of these activities and the topic at hand was relevant to project management, had a specified purpose and used knowledgeable resources then you can claim 1 PDU for each hour spent on this as “self-study”.
How to Submit PDU?
PMI supplies you with an online “Continuing Certification Requirements System” to record your PDU. After you have attended PDU activities, you can submit the PDU activity details through the Continuing Credential Requirements System (CCRS). If you participate in a webinar by PMI or projectmanagement.com, your PDU will be automatically recorded and there is no need to enter it manually.
After you have submitted the PDU request, PMI will review and approve the PDUs. You will receive an email and the PDU will be added to your account once PMI approve your request. PMI may require you to submit supporting documents with reference to the particular categories of PDU you are claiming within 5 days in order to evaluate your claim, after you have collected enough PDUs in your PMI-ACP® renewal cycle, PMI will send you an email asking you to complete the form and pay for credential renewal. The PMI-ACP® renewal fee is US$60 for PMI members and US$150 for non-members as I mentioned earlier, the renewal application and payment process must be completed in 90 days after your credential end date for you to keep your PMI-ACP® status. PMI will send the new PMI-ACP® certificate to you within 6 to 8 weeks. Your PDU application might be selected for audit randomly before you are approved for PMI-ACP® renewal. You will need to present proof/documentation for all the PDU claimed during the 3-year cycle to PMI for verification.
Good Luck in your Journey!