What you Need to Know for PMI-ACP® Certification

The PMI-ACP® credential is the Project Management Institute (PMI) fastest growing credential. “ACP” is short for “Agile Certified Practitioner“ – the credential tests for and demonstrates understanding and experience with agile approaches. Here is what you need to know as you begin your PMI-ACP certification. journey.

What and Why the PMI-ACP?

Why choose the PMI-ACP® credential over the slew of other agile-related credentials?

One big reason is Agile is a topic of growing importance in project management. The PMI-ACP® certification is PMI’s fastest growing credential. The marketplace reflects the growth of agile.  As project practitioners increasingly embrace agile as a technique for managing successful projects. PMI’s Pulse of the Profession report said, “Organizations that are highly agile and responsive to market dynamics complete more of their projects successfully than their slower-moving counterparts — 75 percent versus 56 percent.”  Learn more about why you should consider getting your PMI-ACP certification. 

See PMI’s website for more details about the PMI-ACP® credential and RMC’s website for products to help you pass the exam.

How to Apply for Your PMI-ACP Exam

If you are thinking about taking the PMI-ACP exam, here are some key pieces of information on how to apply. Project Management Institute published a comprehensive PMI-ACP® Credential Handbook available on their website, which covers the application process and much more. The first step is to check that you meet the eligibility criteria. To qualify for the PMI-ACP® credential, you need to meet four educational and professional experience components.

Eligibility Criteria The first step is to check you meet the eligibility criteria. To qualify for the PMI-ACP® credential, you need to meet four educational and professional experience components.

Educational Background – A secondary degree (high school diploma, associate degree, or global equivalent).

General Practice Experience – 12 months of general project experience in the last 5 years. A current PMP® or PgMP® credential will satisfy this requirement but is not required to apply for the PMI-ACP exam.

Agile Project Experience –  8 months working on agile project teams or with agile methodologies in the last 3 years. This requirement is in addition to the 12 months of general project experience.

Training in Agile Practices – 21 contact hours of training in agile practices.

Complete the PMI-ACP Exam Application

Once you meet the eligibility criteria, the next step is to sign up online. The process is straightforward and allows you to save and come back to it if you need more time. The system also acts as a portal to view your submitted application, check your eligibility status, and download forms and reports. Once your online application has been completed and processed, PMI will send you an electronic notification requesting payment.

Once you receive this notification, you can go back into the system and onto the next step which is agreeing to the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. You must agree to the code of ethics and the certification renewal process up front. Like death and taxes, you cannot avoid paying for the exam. The fee is $435 for PMI members and $495 for non-members.

It might seem unfair having to pay for the exam before you select a date to take it. However, it should have a motivating effect on studying and booking your exam. You are now committed (financially) to the exam, so you might as well buckle down and follow through.

You Could Get Audited

Do not be concerned if you are selected for audit. Like airport security lines, a percentage of people are randomly selected to review your PMI-ACP exam application. I know people who were audited on both their PMP® and PMI-ACP® applications.

If selected for audit, you will be asked to submit supporting documentation, such as copies of your diploma/global equivalent or signatures from your supervisors or managers from the projects recorded in the experience section of your application. You might also be asked for copies of certificates from the training institutes for your agile training, etc.

Be prepared to answer any follow-up questions or requests for information. The process usually takes a couple of weeks, then the application progresses as normal.

How to Study for the PMI-ACP Exam

The amount you need to study will depend on your current level of agile experience and knowledge. Generally, people who have taken both the PMP® and the PMI-ACP® exam agree that the latter is much easier. There are less formulas to remember and no what-comes-next-in-the-process type questions. Read more about how to prepare for your exam. 

The PMI-ACP® exam (three hours) is also shorter than the PMP® exam (four hours) and has 120 questions rather than the 200 questions on the PMP® exam.

Schedule Your PMI-ACP Exam

The exam is administered through Pearson Vue, and you can use their website to schedule your test at a in-person center or online.  Learn more about which options is best for you, if you aren’t sure about taking the test online versus in person.

It is possible to reschedule your test if needed. If your exam date is more than 30 days away, it is free to reschedule. If you need to reschedule within 30 days of your exam date, there is usually a $70 charge. Medical emergencies and other extenuating circumstances may be eligible for refunds but only after first paying the $70 and providing evidence of the extenuating circumstances to PMI.

Taking the PMI-ACP Exam

The PMI-ACP® exam asks 120 questions developed and independently validated by groups of agile project professionals. Questions are based on topics outlined in the PMI-ACP® Exam Content Outline and a few select agile texts.

Now a quick warning about sample tests. It is natural to want to test your knowledge before taking your exam. However, make sure you use quality exam simulators from a reputable source. Exam simulators that test the wrong subjects (for instance, topics from the agile reference books that are not in the exam content outline) will just create anxiety. Likewise, questions that are poorly written and based on recalling information will not prepare you for the types of questions you will see on the exam.

Most of the PMI-ACP® exam questions are “situational.” They describe a situation and ask you to choose the response that best fits the application and knowledge of agile approaches. These differ considerably from recall-based questions. An example of a recall type question would be:

The agile approach most concerned with team knowledge capture is:

  1. Sprint Planning
  2. Sprint Demo
  3. Retrospective
  4. Release Planning

This is a poor question because it tests recall of knowledge only. You will not see questions like this on the PMI-ACP® exam. Unfortunately, you will find many questions like this in low quality exam simulators because they are easy to generate. Instead, test yourself with situational questions like you will find on the exam, like this one:

Your team planned to complete six stories in the current sprint. But as you reach the end of the sprint, only four of them are done. What should you do?

  1. Return the remaining stories to the backlog for re-planning.
  2. Ask the product owner to extend the sprint.
  3. Work on the remaining stories when you can fit them in.
  4. Schedule the remaining stories at the start of the next sprint.

In this situational question, we must first interpret the scenario by analyzing the situation then choose the best response. It tests beyond the recall of information stage of learning into the application of knowledge stage. 

RMC’s Here to Help

Your study plan should be tailored to your experience levels and comfort with the material. Even if you are very familiar with agile concepts, you may not be practiced in answering the situational exam questions, so invest in the appropriate study materials, read and follow the study plans, and maximize your likelihood of success. Good luck, and be sure to join my PMI-ACP LinkedIn Study Group to share your experiences and questions with your peers along the way.

“Project Management Professional (PMP)®” “PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®” and “PMI®” are registered trademarks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.