Expert Judgment

Concerning My PMI-ACP Exam Experiences

Posted in Agile, Project Management by dnzrn on September 15, 2011

Today I attended the PMI-Agile Exam. Since it is the first day of the examination in the whole world, it is my privilege to write about this experience that I may call the first encounter of mankind with PMI-ACP.

As most of you may be aware of there has been discussions about the examination contents, in many Agile, Scrum, Lean and PMP mail lists and LinkedIn Groups. Some people think the examination would be an abomination and PMI’s structural approach to Project Management may bruise the spirit of Agile. Others see PMI-ACP as a noble attempt to gather many Agile Methodologies and define a broad Agile Practitioner Body Of Knowledge  (APBOK (?) ), and finally put a formal definition to what Agile is. There is one think in common for all. Nobody knew what the exam would be like. Until today…

Ladies and Gentlemen, my fellow PMP’s and Agile comrades, I present you my experiences and suggestions regarding the exam:

Smart Questions

Most of the questions were prepared smartly. You should read carefully. Make sure you understand what the question really asks.

Unclear Concepts Handled Well

Some Agile concepts have conflicting definitions in the reference books. Questions related to these kinds of concepts had guiding choices as answers. Read all the choices before you select the answer. Some might be “more correct” !

Very Important Points

  • Characteristics of Stories
  • Roles in Scrum & XP
  • Scrum Processes (Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, Retrospectives)
  • Estimation (Roles, Game, Different Levels of Estimation)
  • Agile Risk Management
  • Adopting New Agile Principles
  • Velocity, Burndown, EVM
Completion Takes 1,5 Ideal Hours

The duration of the exam is 3 hours + 15 minutes of surveys. However question texts are not long, not boring, easily understandable, so it takes approximately 1,5 ideal hours to complete, and control marked questions.

Reference Books

Most of the books were used in preparing questions. Read Cohn’s book, “User Stories Applied” cover to cover. Warden & Shore’s book, “Art of Agile Development” is important. Adkyns’ “Coaching Agile Teams” is where most of the soft skills related questions come from.  At least read the chapter summaries and comparison of Agile and PMBOK processes from “Project Manager’s Bridge to Agility“.

It was really hard to read and understand Highsmith’s “Creating Innovative Products“. I was affraid of the eccentric process definitions and Complex Adaptive System references in the book. Fortunately for me, there were not many questions from Highsmith.

Shocking Surprise at the End !!!

As experienced exam takers, we expect the Pass/Fail result at the end of the exam session. Instead I got a note stating that the exam result will be available in December (!) because it is a pilot exam. This raises the concerns that PMI not having confidence in its ability to  ask accurate questions.

Last notes… Don’t sweat it. Exam is well prepared. (Well done PMI Agile COP). Please don’t ask me further about the questions, because of my obvious information disclosure obligations. Trust in your own knowledge and experience!
I wish you all the best of  luck !
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13 Responses

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  1. dnzrn said, on September 16, 2011 at 6:50 am

    A colleague asked if it is worth to take the exam, or not. Here is my answer to him.

    My guess is that, this certification will have a higher credibility. I have heard people saying why not take a ScrumMaster or ProductOwner certificate from Scrum.org or ScrumAlliance. Well, they can also have them but PMI uses Prometric examination system which is without doubt a better way to conduct tests. PMI also checks the eligibility of an exam taker by an audit process. Not to say the scope of the exam covers most of the agile methods and frameworks. So, yes, it is worth taking the exam.

  2. Rory McCorkle, PMI said, on September 16, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    @dnzrn

    I am Rory McCorkle, the Product Owner for the PMI-ACP.

    Thank you very much for your feedback on the exam. My apologies for any confusion on the scoring of the examination. It is standard process during an examination pilot to not issue immediate pass/fail results to allow time to gather statistics on the examination questions. This ensures the validity, reliability, and fairness of the examination questions being asked. For you and any other PMI-ACP, if you have any further questions on this process, please see the FAQs for the PMI-ACP pilot at http://www.pmi.org/en/Certification/New-PMI-Agile-Certification/~/media/Files/PDF/Agile/Agile%20Certification%20Integrated%20Services%20FAQ%20IT%202011-001%200%20_External%20Version_.ashx.

  3. Ilan said, on September 16, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Nice work on the speedy journalism 🙂
    I think this is going to be a very interesting space and personally I don’t think that there is room for three key certifications in the Agile space i.e. PMI, Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org…
    I write more about these thoughts and a potential Scrum BOK here http://www.scrumshortcut.com/blog/scrum-general/my-issues-with-the-scrum-guide-2011

  4. Mukund said, on September 17, 2011 at 6:10 am

    Thanks very much for a nice write up on your experiences

  5. Joshua Partogi said, on September 17, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience. If I have never managed a project am I still allowed to take the test?

  6. Terri said, on September 17, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    I was scheduled to take mine today but had to reschedule for next month. Thank you for providing your insights.

    As a side note, the Scrum Alliance is moving toward similar testing and next month begins the pilot of the CSP exam via prometric.

  7. Rory McCorkle, PMI said, on September 19, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    @Joshua – the eligibility requirements for the certification are available at http://www.pmi.org/en/Certification/New-PMI-Agile-Certification/PMI-Agile-Certification-Pilot-Program.aspx. You do not need to have been a ‘project manager’, but you do need to have participated on Agile project teams.

  8. Matt Anderson, PMP said, on September 19, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    I took the test today and have many of the same general impressions. It took me just over 90 minutes as well and I would say that 75% of the questions were straightforward. There were 5-7% of the questions where I was fairly certain of the answer that was desired, but my true answer would have been “it depends” based on the team composition, setting, company culture, etc. There were 2-3 questions that were a little too subjective in my opinion which is perhaps why the test results are not given yet. 🙂

    I teach both PMP Prep and Agile classes and the thing that I will be curious to see is what the tie-breaker will be between “good” and “best”. In PMP, it was “rah-rah Project Manager”. I took the approach of “rah-rah Team” and “PM as a servant leader” for this exam, so we will see how that turns out.

    The exam did have the standard PMI tricks for questions by including mostly correct answers with one or two words out of place as well as having an answer or two that described common incorrect practices. The “always”, “each”, “every”, “never” type keywords pop up as well.

    I read all of the prep books and while they helped me see different points of view, not all of them were needed for the exam. I would recommend reading “The Software Project Manager’s Bridge to Agility” Part II in detail which has the comparisons between PMBOK and Agile in formats that are familiar to PMPs. The “Art of Agile Development” had quite a bit of material on the exam and is a great book for anyone interested in XP. There was very little from Alistair Cockburn, Jim Highsmith or Esther Derby’s books other than high level concepts that are fairly well covered in the other material. I think Mike Cohn’s “Succeeding with Agile” should be added to the list and possible replace his “Agile Estimating and Planning” since it covers most of the material in it.

  9. skahashmi said, on September 22, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    What is a difference in membership between Chapter membership and PMI membership?

    Thanks

  10. PM Hut said, on September 23, 2011 at 6:34 am

    I think the main reason why PMI is saying that the results can only be available in December is that it is not sure whether this certification is worth it or not, or if they are going to continue offering it or not. So, they don’t want you to say that I’m ACP certified while the certification still doesn’t exist.

  11. Matt Anderson, PMP said, on September 27, 2011 at 11:58 am

    @PM Hut – I don’t agree with your assessment of the purpose of the pilot. PMI will have the certification. What they are vetting are the questions. Even when taking the PMO exam, there are a subset of questions that are “under review” for future test inclusion and don’t count. In most pilots, they are trying to make sure that the questions are fair. If there is a question that is frequently missed by a pilot group that is experienced in agile, they will either toss out the question or modify it.

    While I don’t have insider information on this exam in particular, PMI follows consistent patterns for all their materials and tests, so i am assuming they are following that pattern in this case.

  12. Rory McCorkle, PMI said, on September 28, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    @PM Hut and Matt Anderson,

    Matt, thank you for your clarification. PMI will certainly continue to offer the PMI-ACP after the pilot period; however, like any good product, we first offer a beta or pilot period to ensure that the process and examination are performing correctly. This also allows PMI to “inspect and adapt” the product by making changes that are required after the pilot.

    Rory McCorkle
    PMI-ACP Product Manager

  13. snarasoft said, on October 11, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Thanks for the heads up, I am writing it on Dec 19th 2011.


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