Agile Certified Practitioners’ Tips To Pass Your PMI-ACP® Exam

Are you interested in or working on your Agile Certified Practitioner PMI-ACP preparation? We’ve helped hundreds of students pass the test and we’ve put together this bumper guide of tips to help you.

In this article you’ll find expert advice from those who have already completed their PMI-ACP exam and earned their certification.

Get ready for PMI-ACP Exam Prep

Before we get into the expert tips for PMI-ACP exam prep, let’s take a moment to check you are in the right place. The Project Management Institute’s agile certification is aimed at project professionals working in agile environments, using a variety of agile methods, tools, approaches and techniques.

The test is taken online and it’s made up of 120 multiple choice questions which you have three hours to complete.

In our experience, the students who are the most successful are those who build their confidence across the 7 exam domains using practice tests and a PMI-ACP exam simulator.

Now, you want to hear tips from people who have completed their PMI-ACP exam prep online and used a variety of techniques for passing the exam successfully. Let’s share their experiences so you can learn how to pass your exam first time!

Expert Tips for Agile Exam Prep Success

Here are some tips to help you prepare for first-time examination success.
  1. Apply agile principles to the way you study
  2. Use the Pomodoro technique
  3. Read each question twice
  4. Practice situational questions
  5. Make a realistic study schedule
  6. Make your own notes
  7. Study value-driven delivery
  8. Choose the best answer, even if none of the answers look perfect
Let’s explain each of those now to give you some practical tips to help with your studies and preparation.

1. Apply agile principles to the way you study

The first thing students ask is: “How should I prepare for the PMI-ACP exam?” Mohammed Alharbi has some tips for you.

“The best way to approach your PMI-ACP certification is to apply the Agile Manifesto itself as you start preparing toward your exam,” he says. “Keep your learning effort value-driven and always focus on the final goal of your project - your project can be PMI-ACP certification.” He goes on to outline more advice on how to study in an agile way:

  1. Start with high risk, high value areas of study: Those are probably the gaps in your knowledge.
  2. Eliminate waste: That’s the extra time you spend learning the details of a method rather than understanding the key benefit of the method itself, or studying topics you won’t need.
  3. Utilize high-touch low-tech study material: Mohammed says that hand-written notes were helpful.
  4. Tailor the PMI-ACP study guides you use to your needs: Review the list of references from PMI and study the sub-topics where you feel you lack knowledge.

2. Use the Pomodoro technique

“Use the Pomodoro Technique,” says Marwa. Pomodoro is a way of breaking down study time into chunks of 25 minutes, and then taking a short break. People find that they can focus for a short period of time and knowing that a break is coming will help keep you on track!

Marwa adds that you can make the most of your focused training time by breaking your education into smaller pieces. Look at the sections of your study guide or training videos use those topics as a framework for your revision schedule. The Agile PrepCast tutorial videos “fit well into the timeframe required for a Pomodoro.”

3. Read each question twice

Is the PMI-ACP exam hard to pass? Yes, but you can do it! One tip is to make sure that on assessment day you aren’t tempted to rush through the questions. “The exam was hard and it took me the entire 3 hours to complete,” says Jarvis Parker, PMI-ACP, who passed on his first attempt. “My advice would be to read each question at least twice in order to understand what they are asking before you look at the answers. After you go through the choices read the question again to make sure you have the proper context of the question.”

Jarvis practiced for the test using the practice questions in an agile exam simulator. “I have to say that these exams really prepared me well for the actual exam,” he says. “They were challenging, but more importantly, after they were scored, they let you know how you performed in each Domain. This helped me to hone in on my weak areas and to put additional time in to fully understand the topics...Just put the time in and you will do well.”

4. Practice situational questions

What questions can you expect from the PMI-ACP exam? Certified professionals say that most of the questions test your knowledge of agile situations.

David Dacorro says it was a “very difficult exam, all situational questions, and all answer choices could be correct but you have to choose the best answer. The exam tests your knowledge of having an ‘Agile Mindset’ which is totally opposite of how a traditional Project Manager conducts business.”

Joe Decker agrees, saying that you need to understand the situation and think about what you would do as a product owner in any given situation. He adds that the “exam was very heavy on the situations and light on knowing the terms/memorization-type questions.”

It’s a test that assesses your ability to apply agile principles, so even if all the answers seem correct, practice choosing the most appropriate answer and checking your understanding with plenty of practice questions in a simulator.

5. Make a realistic study schedule

You are probably wondering how long it takes to prepare for the PMI-ACP exam. The honest answer is that it depends how much time you can dedicate to your test preparation.

Ferdinand Del Mundo, PMP, PMi-ACP, gave himself two and a half months as he needed to balance study with a full-time job.

“I spent the first 1.5 months reading and mastering the study materials,” he says. “During the weekdays, I allocated 1.5 hours at night and 1 hour early in the morning, and 2 to 4 hours on Saturdays and Sundays.”

After four weeks of that routine, Ferdinand started taking practice exams. “I took notes of my mistakes,” he says. “After each exam, I reviewed my mistakes, learned the underlying principles of the question, and related what I learned to the various domains and tasks found in the PMI-ACP exam content outline.”

Tiffany Stephens earned her certification with only six weeks’ prep, and also used an exam simulator for a couple of weeks before her test date. “The exam simulator is a good way to test your knowledge in each area and focus on topics/areas of improvement,” she says. “The simulator is well organized and provides good explanations on why each answer is wrong and or right.”

6. Make your own notes

Golam Mahbub, PMP, PMI-ACP, passed with an ‘above target’ score in each section. “Make your own notes and do mind mapping,” he recommends. He prepared his own summary notes from a study guide, turning more than 470 pages in the book into 67 pages of personal notes.

This strategy is good to help you consolidate your knowledge. Writing things down is a proven technique for helping to remember them, and it’s faster to review 67 pages than a whole book!

7. Study value-driven delivery

There are many topics covered by the exam content outline, but they don’t all get equal weight in the test. “Of the 7 domains, Domain II: Value-Driven Delivery gets the most weight on the exam (20%),” says Jeff Furman, PMP, PMI-ACP and agile trainer. “So I would recommend closely studying this domain early on, to build a foundation for the other domains.”

He recommends doing targeted quizzing: working on practice test questions in just this domain. You can do that by selecting ‘Domain II’ in a test simulator that lets you pick quizzes by Domain.

8. Choose the best answer, even if none of the answers look perfect

One of the top tips that comes up time and time again is to get familiar with how the questions are phrased, and have some strategies ready for responding to tricky questions.

“My advice is when facing answer choices that look close to one another is to select the one best aligned with the agile mindset,” says Stas Podoxin, PMP, PMI-ACP. “Specifically, think about collaboration with stakeholders and responding to change.”

He goes on to say that you shouldn’t approach every question in the same way. “There could be virtually an endless number of various combinations of the scenarios and answer choices,” Stas adds. “Each question should be reviewed in its context. A single word in the scenario or answer choice can lead to a totally different answer. The idea is always to select the best choice of those provided even if that choice does not look like a perfect/ideal answer to the student, or if the answer the student would prefer to see among the options given is not presented.”

Your next steps

Hopefully the tips here have given you the confidence and motivation to continue on your journey to becoming Agile certified. Other people have trodden the path successfully before you. Good luck with your studies as you work to join them!
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