When preparing for the PMI-ACP exam, one is confronted with two nagging concerns. The first revolves around the width of scope of questions that would appear as agility covers a very wide area. The second hovers on the extent to which one is expected to know the details of agility as this can vary considerable from one aspect to another. To make matters worse, a readily available textbook that one can refer to which delineates the scope and depth of the PMI ACP requirements is hard to come by.
When I had to prepare for the PMI-ACP examination myself, I set myself up not to pass the exam but to ace it. I relentlessly sought for materials to help me master the concepts. I desperately searched for questions I could attempt which provides ideas on what will be asked. I eagerly surveyed countless webpages seeking guidance on how much I needed to know to ace the exam. Unfortunately, I found nothing that came close to providing me with the answers I sought.
After registering for exam, I gave myself 3 weeks to prepare for it. Within that three weeks I kept asking myself how I can “master” the subject. When I finally set my eyes on the questions during the exam and after securing above target for 6 out of 7 domains tested, it finally dawned on me that the answer was very simple. Just think agile.
Developing an agile mindset
What is needed to ace the exam is to start developing an agile mindset and learning to think from the customers perspective, analyzing what adds most value to the customer as well as to the project success and then deciding what is doable given the existing constraints. As long as you keep this in mind and train yourself to “think agile”, you will be able to eliminate options that are not in line with agile principles as well as agile concepts and zoom into the correct answer. This is done by linking domains to agile principles and intelligently assessing exam questions presented.
Linking the Domains and Agile Principles
The PMI ACP is based on 7 domains with each domain corresponding with a series of best practices or tasks that relate to those domains. Be very familiar with what these are. In agile many key principles and values are described. You should know this very well and be able to relate these principles to the best practices listed within the Domains provided. What I did was link the principles to the tasks within the Domains so that I understood why these tasks are proposed within the domain. Once you mastered this, look up some good questions.
Learning from selecting the wrong options
What you need to do, to ace in the PMI ACP exam, is to get a set of tough situational based questions that require an agile practitioner to decide based on a situation faced. This could be declining velocities of the iteration, poor estimation of story points, distractions from stakeholders, final products not meeting specifications, product owner’s unavailability to support team etc. The options provided should be based on agile principles and concepts but the extent they relate to the situation presented may vary.
I went through around 1,500 questions in that three weeks focusing my mind on seeking options that augured well with the confines of agile practices. Whenever I discovered that my answers were wrong, I relooked at he answers provided to find out what I missed in terms of deciphering the “agility component” within that option. This provided me with the “aha” moment I desperately sought.
Format of questions in the PMI ACP exam
The questions in the exam were brief and to the point. Very direct and focused on application of agile principles and values within common practices associated with agile. The options provided were very close. To distinguish between the correct and wrong option required an ability to understand the intent of the question and to analyze the options against agile principles and best practices.
Understanding intent of questions
Understanding the intent comes from internalizing the key principles of agile and imbibing the core values agile espouses. These principles apply in many different contexts. For example, the principle of collaboration and focusing on developing a working software that adds value to the client may be tested in one question that seeks a response on how to deal with a situation where a member of the development team faces a specific problem that could impact the delivery of a functionality.
Selecting the right option
The option selected should be one that imbibes most of the principles and values in agile that relates to the situation presented. For example, for the question I discussed earlier, the option selected should be one that indicates that efforts to inculcate collaborative efforts are undertaken and the primary end result is that the iteration is concluded in accordance with the conditions of satisfaction required by the client. That option that demonstrates application to a variety of principles, values as well as prescribed practices within the arena of agility is the most likely response.
In short, internalize agile principles and values by studying and thinking through about how they apply in practice under different situations. Familiarize yourself with agile practices, roles and responsibilities of the key players involved, including the agile coach and master the domains as well as what is needed to be done in each domain.
After that has been done, attempt many questions and develop a firm grasps of why you selected the wrong answer and, in the process, train your mind to “think agile” helps. You should gradually be better at identifying the principles and concepts that relate to the situations presented and decide on which option is most relevant to the situation presented.
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Wishing you all the best!
Dr Rumesh Kumar
DBA MBA PMP PMI-ACP