I just completed the PMI-ACP (Agile Certified Practitioner) exam at a local test taking facility.
Facts about my test taking experience:
- I was initially accepted into the PMI-ACP exam pilot in June, 2011.
- I received countless emails about my need to take the exam soon.
- I ignored them all until the last possible minute.
- I paid my dues and signed up for the exam on Monday, November 28th, 2011 at 9:03PM.
- I took the test on the last possible day, 2 days later on Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 at 12:45PM.
- The test took me 2 hours, 10 minutes (approx).
- I completed my first pass of the test within 45 minutes.
- I completed my first review of my answers within 35 minutes (because I like to be thorough).
- I completed my 3rd and final review of my answers in about 30 minutes (because I wanted to have material to blog about for this post).
Tips on what to know (because you already know it anyway):
- Fully understand the principles and practices around Agile (including estimation, prioritization, and team dynamics) ~50 Questions
- Fully understand the Scrum roles (ScrumMaster, Product Owner, Team) ~25 Questions
- Fully understand basic Scrum ceremonies and artifacts (Sprint Planning, Release Planning, Retrospective, Reviews, Burndowns, wallboards, backlog management) ~25 Questions
- Understand the foundational elements of XP (Extreme Programming) ~10 Questions
- Understand Agile Value Stream Mapping stuff ~5-10 Questions
- Understand Agile Portfolio Management ~5-10 Questions
- Understand Agile Risk Management ~5-10 Questions
- Understand some Lean Software Development stuff ~5 Questions
What not to worry about:
- Buying all 12 of the books on the PMI reading list. If you’ve been doing Agile, you probably own a couple of these anyway (Full disclosure, I own 8-9 of them).
- Crystal, FDD, DSDM – Not in the test.
- Scenario questions – They are easy. Use your noggin… or noodle.
- Doing super complicated formula stuff. I seriously expected to have to solve some Earned Value Management questions like utilizing formulas: PV=(FPV)/((1+IR)^N) and NPV= -COST+(Income)/((1+DI)^N)… and so forth. I guess it’s just the engineer in me.
- Also, I seriously thought that we’d be jumping into some deep analysis of Agile methods… don’t know why I thought this…
- I did think there was going to be more … how do you say… engineering ideas and practices in there (devOps anyone?). But don’t worry. There isn’t.
What I didn’t like:
- First off – These questions were based off of like 12 different books. There isn’t a succinct alignment to some of the questions. Meaning, I could actually move from question to question like I was taking snippets from a book to another book. It was really odd to me. *Personal issue*
- Some of the questions were worded really weird. “Uh, what the heck are you asking me with this question?” – It’s not cool to have to re-read a question over and over, sound it out, and then say it out loud to make any sense of it. There were a couple of questions that were like this. I really hope PMI irons this out.
- Some of the questions were vague because over time different Agile Coaches grow, form their own opinions, and execute Agile differently. Therefore some textbook definitions might be too rigid for those who have been doing it for a while.
- A lot of questions talked about the “Agile Project Manager” (which is a new title dubbed from the PMI). In my experience, I don’t interact with a lot of “Agile Project Managers”… …
- Not enough considerations around Agile Coaches. I would have thought there would be more on the role of an Agile Coach… but I guess not. And why would that be? Because the 12 books don’t talk a lot about Agile Coaches.
- WTF is up with Monte Carlo Method. Stop it. Just stop it. Why the hell is that even in this exam?!?
How I would prepare (If I had to do it again):
- To be completely honest, I wouldn’t.
- If you truly have experience in Agile projects and programs, then most all of it would be something you could answer just due to experience and exposure. Some questions come from exposure at the enterprise level, doing metrics, portfolio stuff, and value management. I wouldn’t expect everyone to be here.
Why I (somewhat) like this test:
I like this test because it is darn near close to revealing (to me) that I know what Agile is all about. Remember, I pretty much just signed up, and took the test. For me, I believe I scored very well because I’ve actually been doing this for a number of years now, as a developer, consultant, coach, and project leader.
Yes. You can study for this. You can memorize ideas, sayings, quotes, and general facts about Agile. This exam will test a lot of that, and you might just pass it… *see my BOTTOM LINE below*
I felt at ease taking this test. For me that was a big reason why I was comfortable taking it just in time (JIT). I enjoyed taking the test because I was confident in my knowledge and experience. That is a good place to be.
The bottom line = EXPERIENCE + EXPOSURE to Agile is proof that you know it:
- You applied to take this exam, meaning you honestly said you’ve been doing Agile for 2-5 years or so.
- Meaning, you actually have been implementing, coaching, or consulting on Agile for 2-5 years.
- Meaning, that you’ve actually been heavily involved in Agile practices and execution for 2-5 years.
- Meaning, you weren’t a peripheral player in an “Agile environment” and have put that on your resume as “Agile experience.”
- Therefore, you should score very well on this exam because you’ve been exposed to almost all of the ideas/questions on the exam for 2-5 years.
- If you’ve been really doing Agile for 2-5 years, you could take this exam. You’ll do just fine…
- No, you don’t need online prep classes. They do a disservice to you by getting you into the minutiae of text-book nonsense and vernacular that we don’t even use in the real world (OR THIS EXAM). Go out and experience Agile. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?
- The market demand (in many ways) should determine if you should do it… guess what? Nobody is asking for this certification… so I wouldn’t get it.
- If you DO want to get it… well, consider this: Get certifications to help you get to where you want to be. If you want to join a process intensive, bureaucratic, and frustrating organization… get a PMP (I’m a recovering PMP)!… If you want to join true agile companies… go for the certification that promotes that ideal.
There is no perfect test. It is just a test after all. So let me end with this:
“If you have to study, then you don’t know what you should know for this test.”