Tag Archives: PMI-ACP Online Training

How to Prepare for PMI-ACP Certification

I think there is a lot of confusion among project managers about how to prepare for PMI-ACP certification – some people may think that:

  1. Getting PMI-ACP certification is a matter of buying an “exam prep” book or taking an “exam prep” training course and then going out and taking the exam, and
  2. Once you’ve taken and passed the exam, that is your “ticket” to get a job working in an Agile environment as a project manager

Both of those assumptions are far from reality, in my opinion:

  1. You can’t just do some “exam prep” training and/or buy an “exam prep” book and go out and pass the exam for several reasons:
    • PMI won’t allow that – PMI requires a  minimum of 1,500 hours of working in an Agile environment before you can even apply to take the exam
    • There’s such a broad range of topics on the exam, it would be very difficult or impossible to pass the exam for someone who just “crammed” to pass the exam with little or no real-world Agile experience
    • Even if you could do that, simply “cramming” to pass the exam would have very limited value because it would have little credibility without some real-world experience to go along with it
  2. Just getting a PMI-ACP certification is not likely to be a “ticket” to getting a job as a project manager in an Agile environment for a  couple of reasons:
    • PMI-ACP is just a test of general Agile and Lean knowledge – it’s not designed to test your ability to perform a particular Agile role
    • The role of an Agile Project Manager is not well-defined and there is also some controversy that there is a role for a project manager in an Agile environment at all

I think it’s a mistake for anyone to think that getting PMI-ACP certification is just a matter of going out and passing the exam and getting a job in an Agile environment and people have to develop more realistic expectations about it.  I recommend:

  1. Understand the roles that an Agile Project Manager can potentially play in the real-world, develop a vision for yourself of what that target role is, and understand the overall “road map” for moving into that role.
  2. Understand how PMI-ACP relates to other Agile certifications and where it fits into that road map.  For example, a project manager who is new to an Agile environment may have to start out in a Scrum Master role to get some experience and PMI-ACP isn’t the best approach to become a Scrum Master – CSM or PSM is much better-suited for getting into that kind of role as a first step
  3. Don’t limit your focus to simply passing the exam – focus on developing solid, credible, real-world experience and use the PMI-ACP certification exam to validate that you do have the knowledge and experience needed to perform that role

My online Agile Project Management curriculum includes a training course for project managers called “What Is the Future of Agile Project Management”. That course is designed to help project managers develop a strategy for themselves and helps them understand how to position my other Agile Project Management courses in this strategy. 

Additional Resources

You will find much more detail on this in my Online Agile Project Management Training.

Preparing for the PMI-ACP Exam

Preparing for the PMI-ACP exam should not be an end-in-itself in my opinion…developing the knowledge and skills to do the job is what’s important.

My Background and Motivation

  • I’ve been engaged in some discussion lately on the PMI-ACP® certification and it caused me to do some research into how I can potentially help people prepare for the PMI-ACP® certification.
    • I was among the earliest group of people to obtain the PMI-ACP® certification in 2012,
    • I’ve published three books on Agile Project Management, and I’ve developed a number of online training courses on Agile Project Management.
  • All of that effort has been focused around helping project managers successfully make the transition to a real-world Agile Project Management role and not specifically focused on helping people prepare for the PMI-ACP® exam; however, I do realize that having certifications can be valuable to help people get a job so I decided to do some analysis to see what, if anything, I could do to help people prepare for PMI-ACP certification.

My Philosophy

First, let me explain my philosophy with regard to certifications in general.

  • A lot of people chase after certifications to build up their resume. They cram for taking certification exams using a lot of rote memorization and focus on simply passing the exam.
  • I’m not an advocate of that approach. I believe that the right approach is to build your knowledge and skills through training, self-directed study, and on-the-job experience to gain a solid foundation of the knowledge needed to do the job; and then, as a second step, take the certification exam to validate that you really do have the knowledge that you think you have.

Passing a certification exam should not be an end-in-itself in my opinion:

  • Developing the knowledge and skills to do the job is what’s important and a certification exam can be a good way of validating that you do have the knowledge and skills.
  • One of the problems with the PMI-ACP exam; however, is it isn’t oriented around a particular job – it’s more of a test of general knowledge associated with Agile and Lean and isn’t really directly associated with a specific job role.
  • That’s a very important consideration to recognize that getting through PMI-ACP® doesn’t really directly qualify you for a specific job.
  • The role that an Agile Project Manager plays in the real world is not well-defined and it is even somewhat controversial among some Agile people that there is a role for an Agile Project Manager at all.

Exam-Prep Courses

There are a lot of PMI-ACP® exam prep courses out there but I’ve taken a different approach.

  • I specifically didn’t want to develop an “exam prep” course for the reasons I mentioned above.
  • I decided instead to focus on better defining the actual roles that an Agile Project Manager might play in the real world and designing online training around helping people prepare for those roles.
  • That isn’t really an “exam prep” course per se, but I think it helps someone develop into a role to get the real world experience needed to qualify to take the certification exam.

Don’t forget that one of the requirements to take the PMI-ACP® exam is that someone has at least 2,000 hours of project management experience; and, in addition to that, has at least 1,500 hours working in an Agile environment. I think that’s a good requirement and it’s specifically designed to prevent someone from going out and cramming to get through the exam based primarily on rote memorization of information.

Overall Summary

If you’re thinking about going for PMI-ACP® certification, my recommendation is don’t do it just to “get your ticket punched” that you have the certification.

  • First go out and get the knowledge and experience required to fill an Agile Project Management role in the real world and then use the PMI-ACP® to validate that you do have that knowledge.
  • The courses I’ve developed are not “exam prep” courses, but they are very well-aligned with that strategy which I think is a good strategy to pursue.
  • When you do get to that point that you do have the knowledge and experience to take the exam, there are a number of resources to help you prepare to take the exam.
  • In particular, I think Mike Griffiths’ book is a good resource but passing the exam and getting the certification shouldn’t be an end-in-itself. That’s only the final step in proving that you have successfully acquired that real-world knowledge and experience.

It’s important to recognize that Agile is going to cause a major transformation of the project management profession over a period of time and I don’t think that anyone (including PMI) has figured out what the full impact of that transformation will be over time.

  • PMI-ACP® is only the first step towards making that transformation.
  • It is a good certification and it is a step in the right direction but it is only a test of general Agile knowledge and doesn’t address the primary challenge that many project managers face of learning how to blend Agile and traditional project management principles and practices together in the right proportions to fit a given situation.
  • That’s the challenge my courses are designed to address.

Additional Resources

You will find much more detail on this in my Online Agile Project Management Training.