Tuesday, July 02, 2013

My Experience – PMI ACP Examination


[NEW: ACP Exam Prep Book Available - "I Want To Be An ACP" (Link)]


I would suggest that you read the Myths and Facts (Part 1, Part 2) for the PMI-ACP examination once, before proceeding on it.  

I used eXtreme Programming in mid last decade while based out of Northern America. It was 2006/2007 and I was the only person from a well known technology company. My role was that of a onsite customer to co-ordinate with the offshore team. Before applying for the exam in late 2012, I took a course on CSM (Certified Scrum Master) from Scrum Alliance to help me know more on Scrum methodology.

I have used many Agile specific tools and hence had a decent understanding on the framework, its various methodologies. However, I have had my apprehensions about the PMI examination! It is more from the difficulty point of view, having passed PMP in 2008. PMP requires a lot of effort and understanding and certainly a challenging exam. Even with thorough preparation, I was not sure if I would score “Proficient” in all the 5 process groups.

However, let me inform you very clearly. PMI-ACP is relatively much easier and it does not require the level of preparation needed for PMP.

21 Contact Hour Training:

The world today is much commercialized. Without naming any provider, I was keen on it as the trainer had written a book on passing PMI-ACP examination. I was a novice that time and later on realized the book also no way matches on what is really needed in the exam! The trainer even did not known if the Project Charter is needed for an Agile project or not! The program I took, let me be brutally honest, only helped me getting the 21 contact hours and that is all. The trainer did not really inform much on the Agile. However, it is mandatory to take the contact hours of learning.

Exam Application Confirmation:

I was working on a product in Agile mode (tailored one), and hence immediately applied. Being a PMP, I did not need to fill up the 2000 hours of project management experience. The application was approved and I knew it is time to prepare now.

People ask what should be filled in the content on “Agile Experience”. Just mention what you did. In my case, we had iterations, releases, prioritized product backlog, an iteration backlog. We had wireframes to develop on the application, used personas.

Timeline:

I started preparing immediately after getting the 21 contact hours of training, but gave up, due to other workload. Again, after a few months, I started preparing earnestly. My timeline was 8 weeks.

PMI:

PMI has some resources which are going to help for sure.
  • PMI-ACP Handbook: Link
  • Exam Content Outline: Link
  • Reference List of Books: Link
  • PMI-ACP Community: Link

Books:

As noted in the myths and facts, there are some 11 books, which I prioritized and read.

However, it must be noted that “I really wanted to know” – what people say on various aspects of Agile. Passing the exam was definitely one of the top criteria. But, equally important was knowing the concepts thoroughly and applying them in real world. Hence, my prioritization will be from that perspective.

Books That I Read:

  1. The Art of Agile Development by James Shore and Shane Warden (Must read)
    1. It has informed on various XP concepts thoroughly. It has also a lot of programming samples from Java. Coming from a deep development background (that too mostly in Java/J2EE!), it was on top of my list.
  2. Agile Estimation and Planning by Mike Cohn (Must read)
    1. Mike writes this book with great clarity on various Agile estimation techniques and planning.
  3. Agile Project Management with Scrum by Ken Schwaber (Must read)
    1. This books, as noted by Ken, is primarily for Scrum Masters. There are a lot of real world experiences outlined by Ken and it helps to know what to do when.
  4. Lean-Agile Software Development Achieving Enterprise Agility by: Alan Shalloway; Guy Beaver; James R. Trott (Must Read)
    1. This one covers not only Lean, but also soundly on Kanban and notes out the differences between Lean, Kanban and Scrum.
  5. Agile Retrospectives (Must Read)
    1. I took up this book as retrospective is one of the most neglected areas and some people informed that a lot of questions on retrospective. It was a treat to read the book – a very well written one.
    2. However, solely from the exam point of view, it will be a “Should Read”.
  6. Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins (Must Read)
    1. I liked this book, as it changes your mindset on Agile Project Manager. The book is filled with wisdoms of Lyssa and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
    2. However, solely from the exam point of view, it will be a “Should Read”
  7. The Software Project Manager's Bridge to Agility by Michele Sliger and Stacia Broderick (Must Read)
    1. This is another wonderful book, if you are coming from PMBOK/PMP background. I mostly glanced through the book as coming from a PMP background and also having Agile experience, all I needed to know what the book can offer from exam point of view.
    2. However, solely from the exam point of view, it will be a “Should Read”

Books That I Looked at, but not Thoroughly

  1. Agile Project Management by Jim Highsmith (Should Read)
    1. My primary focus was on the Agile framework which is defined by Jim so well – Envision, Speculate, Explore, Adapt, Close and some needed important Agile artefacts – Charter, Data Sheet, Project Scope Statement and so on
  2. Agile Software Development: The Co-operative Game by Alistair Cockburn
    1. This I took up to brush on the fundamentals of some additional concepts such as Crystal

Exam Prep Book:

I bought Andy Crowe’s book as it was available that time. The book is easy to read. However, after you have read the aforementioned books, it does not help much on the concepts.

Where the book helped was from the Questions points of view. There are 2 practice question set (100 each) at the end of the book and another 120 online. However, Exam questions are tougher than what is presented in the book. I am not really sure, if only reading this book is going to help you pass the exam.

I hear there is another book – “PMI-ACP Exam Prep” by Mike Griffith. I have no idea. I attempted some of the questions from his blog. But, they were only from one chapter.

My budget was limited and I decided to stop pursuing further on that.  

Practice Questions:

As noted, I took all the tests from Andy Crowe’s and consistently scored between 88% to 95% and was finishing them in less than 45 minutes. But it did not give me the required final confidence, though helped me to prep for the exam.

So, went back to the 1st book on XP and took his practice questions to try out my understanding. There are a lot of questions on Developing, Planning, Releasing, Collaborating, Thinking and tried to look up where my conceptual understanding lacks. It helped. I again revisited the concepts from the books (had made my personal notes) and that finally helped in the exam.

At the Exam:

I woke up late, though had scheduled early at 9:30 am – due to tiredness of my daily work schedule. Rushed to exam spot and the exam center personal was very co-operative. The Prometric center was at Richmond road,Bangalore and I had specifically selected this center after speaking to few others (where either they do not pick up the phone or have no clue or not really co-operative).

On the first question, I was bumped. It was from “Coaching Agile Teams” book (which I realized during my review). Taken back on the 1st question, took a deep breath and relaxed. I marked that question and moved on. For the 120 questions, it took me just around 1 hour. I spoke the Prometric centre person and went for a break of 4/5 minutes. After coming back, took the marked questions (around 18/20) and went through the process of elimination, correlation to select the final ones.

I was confident that I have answered at least 100 questions right. My target was 80%, which is 96 questions, was crossed. However, though confident, knowing PMI was slightly skeptical. I scored “Proficient” in both Tools and Techniques as well as Knowledge and Skills. The message from PMI looked heartening – “Congratulations, you have been certified as a PMI-ACP….your certification will be delivered to you in 6 weeks of time…”

Post The Exam:

I received the hard copy of my PMI-ACP certificate from PMI, around 3 weeks after passing the exam. PMI definitely works sincerely on it as the dispatch date from the USA was mentioned within 1 week after the exam. 

I hope this post helps. And good luck to you all, who are preparing for this exam. 


You may also want to check:
1. 30 Free Questions on PMI-ACP Examination (Part - 1)
2. 30 Free Questions on PMI-ACP Examination (Part - 2)

Other Articles:
1. PMI-ACP Prep: Scrum Sprint I/O (Inputs and Outputs)
2. PMI-ACP Prep: Scrum and Kanban – Similarities and Differences
3. Changing PMI-ACP Exam in 2015: What is New and What Has Changed? (Part – 1)
4. Changing PMI-ACP Exam in 2015: What is New and What Has Changed? (Part – 2)