PMI-ACP® Exam Checklist To Guarantee Getting Agile Certified

You’ve decided to take an agile certification and you’re ready to jump into your PMI-ACP® exam prep. This article will explain exactly what you need to know to prepare for the test. We’ll cover the process to follow and give you a checklist to ensure you’re ready for your test day.

Here’s a spoiler: one of the top tools you’ll need to feel confident in your skills is a PMI-ACP exam simulator. That’s an online tool that mimics the computer-based testing you’ll face on the day. It’s the most efficient way to maximize your study time -- but more on that later! First, we need to talk about the test itself and the PMI-ACP requirements to make sure that you’re ready to start your certification journey and then we’ll answer your most pressing question: “How do I prepare for the PMI-ACP exam?”

What is the PMI-ACP Certification Exam?

The PMI-ACP certification exam is the Agile Certified Practitioner certification available from the Project Management Institute, PMI. It is a competency-based certification and the exam asks 120 multiple-choice questions during 3 hours. It demonstrates that you have experience in an agile work environment and the knowledge to use agile methodologies and tools. It’s a robust, respected endorsement of your ability to work effectively as an agile practitioner.

The PMI-ACP Certification Process

Let’s review the process for your PMI-ACP exam prep.
  • Step 1: Submit your application
  • Step 2: PMI completes the application completeness review
  • Step 3: Submit payment
  • Step 4: Schedule the exam
  • Step 5: Take the exam
These steps assume that your application has not been selected for audit. If you are selected for an audit (it’s a random selection, so it may happen), then you’ll have to complete the audit requirements as directed by PMI before you can submit payment. Just follow the instructions that you are sent.

Step 1: Submit your application

Apply for the certification online. You can take your time to complete the online forms, as you have up to 90 days to finish your application. You can save your progress and return to it later if you need to.

Step 2: PMI completes the application completeness review

The next step is for your application to be reviewed. Experts will check that you have submitted everything required and that your experience meets the minimum requirements for taking the test. This step can take up to 10 days but be patient, you will hear back!

Step 3: Submit payment

Once you receive confirmation that the review is complete, you can go ahead and return to the online certification system to pay. You can pay online or post payment to them.

The price depends on whether you are a PMI member. It costs US$435 for a member and US$495 for a non-member so it is worth considering joining to take advantage of the lower fees. You can pay for your membership at the same time as submitting payment for the test fees, so you can decide then. It’s the same price whether you choose online testing or plan to travel to a Pearson Vue location for center-based testing.

This step is where you will book any test accommodations.

Step 4: Schedule the exam

When your payment has been made, you’ll receive an email confirmation with your eligibility ID and instructions on how to schedule your test. Go ahead and book your time slot with Pearson VUE.

You have up to one year to sit the test, so that should be plenty of time to find an appropriate window in your schedule!

Step 5: Take the exam

Finally, all the paperwork and prep is done! The only thing that remains is for you to show up for your test and answer the questions. You’ll find out if you have become agile certified immediately after you finish the test as your results are displayed on the screen.

Why take the PMI-ACP certification?

Certification has plenty of benefits both for you doing the job and for showcasing your skills to potential employers. The top 3 benefits of certification are:
  • Serving your organization more effectively
  • Demonstrating your deep knowledge of agile approaches
  • Demonstrating your ability to do the job

Demonstrating your ability to do the job

There are many certificates you could choose, but we love this one because of the rigorous entry requirements. You have to be able to evidence your practical experience in the field, doing the job.

Demonstrating your deep knowledge of agile approaches

The breadth of subject knowledge required means the PMI-ACP exam demonstrates your all-round skills in a variety of domains, methods and tools.

Serving your organization more effectively

The 14th annual State of Agile survey predicts that the future will be even more agile. Methods like Scrum, XP and SAFe will expand outside the areas where they are typically used, such as IT departments. That expansion offers even more opportunities to certified professionals -- and more organizational benefits too.

PMI-ACP Checklist

This checklist covers what you should do to prepare for the PMI-ACP exam.
  • Read the exam content outline
  • Become a PMI member
  • Get the Agile Practice Guide
  • Create a study plan
  • Sign up for an exam simulator
  • Review lessons learned from past students
  • Prepare your online application

How to prepare for the PMI-ACP certification?

Let’s look at each of those checklist items in a bit more detail as that will help you with your preparation.

Read the PMI-ACP handbook

First, get a copy of the PMI-ACP handbook which is available on the PMI website. Focus particularly on the first 32 pages as these will help you understand more about the application process. Make sure to read the section on the Code of Ethics as well as you will need to agree to the Code at the point of finalizing your application.

This step can be completed in less than an hour but you’ll find the handbook an invaluable resource as you continue to prepare your application.

Check your eligibility

The eligibility requirements are in the handbook. Your application will fail if you do not meet the minimum requirements, so you’ll save yourself some time and effort by making sure you can tick all the boxes and provide evidence that you are indeed eligible to move to the next step!

As a recap, the eligibility criteria are:

  • A secondary degree or equivalent, 12 months of general project experience gained in the last 5 years and 8 months of agile experience gained in the last 3 years, plus 21 contact hours of agile training.
  • A bachelor’s or postgraduate degree from a GAC accredited program, 8 months of agile team experience and 35 hours of project management education gained in a formal environment.

Prepare evidence for the contact hours

In our experience, the most common way to meet the eligibility criteria is to demonstrate 21 hours of formal agile training -- it seems like most students opt for this route. You will have to prove that you’ve done that amount of training hours, which equates to around 3 days of training. The easiest way to provide the evidence is to get a certificate of attendance from your training provider.

The Agile PrepCast is a way to do your PMI-ACP exam prep online, self-paced video course that many students have used to help them on their way to exam success. It meets PMI criteria and is a cost-effective way to earn the right amount of training hours and it fits right into your life as you can study anywhere when it suits you.

If you have earned a degree from an accredited college or university, then you’ll need to evidence the 35 hours of project management education which you can do in the same way: make sure the training provider issues a certificate of attendance that you can use during your application.

Read the exam content outline

Now you know you meet the criteria, it’s time to start thinking about how to advance your studies. Your starting point is the exam content outline (ECO). This is the full summary of what topics are in the exam and it’s a really useful guide to structure your learning plans.

The ECO will give you a full overview of everything that you need to revise and other helpful insights into what is covered by the test. Of course, it stops short of giving you the exact topics you’ll be asked on the day, but you’ll get an excellent overview of the whole range of themes you could be examined on.

Become a PMI member

There are two main advantages to becoming a PMI member if you are planning on taking the exam. First, the cost of the test itself is cheaper for members. Second, you will be able to access a free digital copy of The Agile Practice Guide which is essential reading. Those discounts and free resources help to offset your membership fees.

On top of those benefits, membership gives you access to the international network of Chapters. Many Chapters run local study events or training programs. You may be able to find a local study partner to help keep you focused and accountable!

Membership is totally optional and you can become PMI-ACP certified without being a member, so it’s your choice.

Get the Agile Practice Guide

The Agile Practice Guide is one of the main references for the exam. Download a copy from the PMI website if you are a member or buy one as you’ll definitely need it. The Guide is one of the core resources for agile study part of your study plan and you should make time to read it thoroughly as it covers a lot of the material you’ll need to know in depth.

Create a study plan

The next step for your PMI-ACP exam prep is to create a study plan. A study plan is a timetable or schedule that organizes your revision time so you cover all the required topics.

Typically, students pick one area of the Agile Practice Guide or a module from The Agile PrepCast and make that a study focus. Think about how much time you will need for each area and plan your time accordingly.

There are other agile reference guides suggested by PMI so round out your study by reading and reviewing a couple of other books as well. Put each chapter on your study plan so you definitely have time set aside to read it.

If you aren’t sure where to start with this step, we have a guide to how to create a study plan. It is written with the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam in mind, but the principles are the same and can easily be adapted for your exam prep.

Tip: Boost your exposure to different methods and ideas by listening to agile project management podcasts to supplement your formal study time.

Sign up for an exam simulator

Students tell us that an exam simulator is what makes them feel ready for their test day. It’s so important to build practice tests and quizzes into your study schedule because they help you practice exam techniques and get ready for the real thing. Put your education into practice and test yourself!

Get a PMI-ACP exam simulator and put regular tests on your study schedule. The results from your practice tests will help you identify areas where you need to spend more time revising the key concepts. You’ll also get a feel for what it is like to spend 3 hours in front of a computer answering questions!

Review lessons learned from past students

It’s always helpful to see how other people approached their studies so you can test out different strategies or try things you haven’t yet thought about. Check out our agile lessons learned forum which is where past students share their experiences of studying for and passing the test.

You’ll pick up real-life tips and examples from people who have completed their certification journey. It’s a fantastic way to prepare yourself for the experience and to make sure you are focusing your study time on the things that will really make a difference.

Prepare your online application

Gather together all the evidence and documentation you need to submit as part of your application. Make a list of all your relevant work experience and the dates you worked on projects -- both general project experience and agile project experience, remembering that the timelines and projects must be different.

If you are audited you will have to submit proof from people you worked with as evidence that you did undertake the role you said you did. Therefore it’s a good idea to warn the relevant people that might happen and to secure their support for your application before you go any further.

Now you are ready to apply, schedule and sit the exam!

Your next steps

The checklist in this article is your starting point for agile certification, so we recommend you print it out or save it somewhere and put some time aside to work your way through it. Of course, no checklist can guarantee you exam success: it’s up to you to do the preparation! However, we’ve got years of experience and thousands of satisfied students who have now got their post-nominal credentials and can legitimately call themselves agile practitioners. So we think we know a thing or two about prepping for exams!

Will you be the next certified professional on the PMI-ACP register? Work through the checklist and you’ll be on your way to your next career milestone.

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