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Myths and Facts on PMI-ACP Examination (Part 2)
By Satya Narayan Dash

This is in continuation with the previous post Myths and Facts on PMI-ACP Examination (Part 1).

My previous post generated a few comments. First of all, thank you everyone for reading and commenting. Having said that, let me get a couple of facts straight. This is based on my personal experience and talking with fellow colleagues who have passed the exam. Your own personal experience may vary. For example, let us consider “PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct“, I did not see any question in the exam on it. But, does that mean it has no chance of coming in exam? No, certainly not. Because “Professional Ethics” is one important aspect and also one of the Knowledge & Skills defined at Level – 2.

Another aspect is – strengthening the inner voice to build the necessary confidence. When you are prepared, the question is – “Are you really ready to take the exam”? And when you complete the exam – “Are you praying to pass when you click on the final “submit” button?” or “Are you truly confident of passing?” Your inner voice is rarely wrong and guides you well. Your inner voice is driven by your level of preparation. It is highly possible that some of you may pass the exam by just reading a few books and with little preparation (there are other factors such as – having cleared other agile certifications, years of experience in agile methodology/tools usage), while some of your will pass the exam with somewhat more preparation. I have not assumed anything and the article is for the aspirants who want to prepare for standalone PMI-ACP.

Now, let us proceed on a few more myths and facts on the examination.

Myth -7: The Percentage of Exam Questions is also mapped to Domain Areas.

Fact: This is not true.

There are six domain areas mentioned in the content outline, but for exam preparation your focus should not be on them. Rather, the percentage of Exam Questions is based on T&T and K&S as defined in the Exam Content Outline. 10 T&T cover 50% of questions, i.e. 60 questions out of 120 and 43 K&S cover the rest 50%. K&S are divided into 3 levels further – Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3. The percentage of questions in the exam for L1, L2 and L3 levels are 33% (39 questions), 12% (15 questions) and 5% (6 questions), respectively. This is as per PMI’s exam content guideline. It is not necessary that questions will come from each and every section of T&T and 43 K&S, but it is good idea to hair a fair understanding on them.

Myth – 8: Contact hour training is not needed for the Exam.

Fact: You will need 21 hours mandatory contact training program as one of the eligibility criteria.

The eligibility criteria for the PMI-ACP examination are as follows:

  1. Educational Background of a Secondary Degree (High School Diploma, Associate’s Degree or Global Equivalent) AND
  2. General Management Experience of 2,000 hours (12 months) working on project teams AND

  3. Agile Project Management Experience of 1,500 hours (8 months) working on project teams using Agile Methodologies AND

  4. Agile Project Management Training of 21 contact hours in Agile Project Management Topics

As you can see, 21 contact hours training is mandatory to take the PMI-ACP examination.

Myth – 9: The PMI-ACP exam score is measured in percentage.

Fact: Percentage of marks is not available.

You will not know which questions are answered correctly or what is your percentage. PMI rates you both on K&S as well as on T&T at three levels – “proficient”, “moderately proficient”, “below proficient”. A “proficient” level means that your understanding is above the average level, “moderately proficient” means understanding is at the average level and “below proficient” means that your understanding is below the average level.

Another important point to note that you do not need to score “Proficient” in both T&T and K&S to pass the exam! You can be rated “Proficient” in one and “moderately proficient” in another, but still can pass the exam. Also, by “Proficient”, it does not mean you know everything that is needed to be known in Agile. I completed 120 questions in less than 1 hour and scored “Proficient” in both T&T as well K&S. Does that mean I know everything that is needed to known? No! In fact it means just as the grading says – “Your understanding is above the average level”.

Myth – 10: Agile is all about working software/solutions over comprehensive documentation.

Fact: Yes, Agile value says that “Working software over comprehensive documentation”, but it does not discard documentation.

There are two aspects here. Agile definitely values working software over comprehensive documentation. However, it also is to be noted that the right of the pair, is not ignored – rather left side of the pair is more valued. Second aspect is – there are certain minimal artifacts that are available in each of the methodology – be it Scrum, Kanban, Lean or XP and from the exam point of view, you need to have a fair understanding of them.

I have seen aspirants who are not aware that the Project Charter is needed, even in Agile methodology. The Project Charter is dismissed as another “heavyweight documentation thing” and need not be part of Agile. If you want to clear the exam, this is not a helpful assumption. Some of the important artifacts you need to understand are – backlog (product/sprint/iteration/release), product roadmap, story-map, parking lot chart, wireframes, burn-down/up chart, velocity bar charts, project charter, project data sheet, business value delivered chart.

Myth – 11: No relation to CMMI, ISO standards, hence no questions in the Exam.

Fact: Agile, truly makes a paradigm shift in management principles. However, you can very much map CMMI or ISO practices into various Agile framework.

There are concepts for “Compliance” in the outline for the examination. “Regulatory Compliance” is one of the K&S at Level 3 and also “Agile Compliance” is mentioned in one of the T&T, in “Value Based Prioritization”. Regulatory compliances are mandatory and organizations have to follow them – Agile based or not. On the later one for T&T, Compliance is a factor in value based prioritization of stories, along with other factors such as customer value, risks removed, cost of development, knowledge creation etc. Questions do come related to compliance in the form of SEI/CMMi.

Myth – 12: This is my ticket to the Agile management world.

Fact: PMI-ACP is an entry level certification and it helps to know Agile concepts. However, finally it is up-to you on how well you perform in the real world.

It is not needed to be certified on PMI-ACP to be a great agilest, but having the certification certainly helps. PMI-ACP is an entry level certification. PMI-ACP course coverage is high, as compared to other entry level agile certification programs. And it certainly prepares you well to know the various values, principles, practices, methodologies in Agile framework. However, to succeed in the Agile driven projects, it is finally up-to you.

PMI-ACP is much easier compared to other PMI’s certifications, such as PMI-PMP. The level of preparation needed is actually much less. Finally, good luck, if you are preparing for the exam. I would certainly recommend PMI-ACP, as it is one of the best agile certification programs available.

Satya Narayan Dash is management professional with around 12 years of experience. He has been associated with companies such as Motorola, Subex, Wipro, Zoho in various roles of Program Manager, Project Manager, PMO and Technical Project Leader. He has coached, mentored, and consulted over a thousand of Project Management, Consulting, PMO professionals across the globe. He holds a Bachelor Degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from National Institute of Technology, Jalandhar, India and is a certified PMP® from PMI®, an Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP®) from PMI®, a certified MCTS® from Microsoft®, a certified CSM® from Scrum Alliance® and also a certified Java professional. His web presence is at http://managementyogi.blogspot.in/ and can be contacted at managementyogi@gmail.com.

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