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Monday, March 13, 2017

Tips and Tricks to Crack the PMI-ACP Exam in your First Attempt

The title of the post might sound ironic, coming from someone who isn’t certified yet and is also preparing to take up the exam – right? 

Yes, its true that I am not PMI ACP Certified Yet but I do have 4 other certifications (two from PMI) in the area of Project Management that we all cracked successfully in the first attempt. So, the tips and tricks you see in this article are based on my past experience with other certifications and something that can be expected to work.  Of course, I will be following the same as well…

Update: On 26th May, I successfully passed the PMI ACP Exam in my first attempt and yes, I followed all these tips. 

Preparing for the Exam

This is probably the hardest and most time consuming part. Unless you prepare effectively the exam will be extremely difficult. Most people fail professional certification exams because they underestimate the complexity of the exam and don't spend enough time preparing for the same. Below are some tips that you could keep in mind about Exam Prep.

  1. Take at least three months for your preparation. 
  2. DO NOT try to attempt the exam without sufficient preparation.
  3. Try to schedule your exam date well in advance (This is something I always do because until you actually lock the exam date the seriousness doesn't set in fully. Once you know that the exam is let’s say 4 months out you will try to make time out to actually sit and prepare instead of procrastinating)
  4. Read the PMBOK Guide at least once to understand the traditional Project Management concepts. Even though this certification is about Agile Project Management, many of the traditional concepts still hold validity in the agile world too. 
  5. Take Mock Exams and review the answers every time (The more the merrier) 
  6. Choose a good book and make sure you read it thoroughly at least Two times 
  7. Use a Highlighter when you are reading the book to highlight key points. This would be useful for you to quickly review the key points closer to exam date 
  8. Be aware of tools and techniques. 50% of the exam is based on tools and techniques. Remaining 50% is based on knowledge and skills required to execute Agile projects.
  9. Except Formulae, don't try to memorize anything. PMI does not test your memory in this exam. They will test whether you are able to understand and apply the concepts effectively. 

Day Before the Exam 

With such an important certification exam just one day away, everyone is bound to be Nervous. It is very natural so don't worry too much about it. Don't let that become into a high-stress scenario. 

Remember that you have spent months of preparation and hence you have no reason to be ultra-stressed today. Cramming today and trying to review every possible review material you can find isn’t going to help. Stay relaxed and try to spend some time reviewing the key points you had highlighted using the marker on your primary study material. 

Don't eat super heavy or oily food ro drink alcohol on the day before exam. You don't want to be recovering from a hangover or an upset stomach on the day of the exam. 

Try to go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep. If your body is refreshed, your mind works much more effectively than it would if you spent the night cramming through study material. 

Prepare a “To-Go” package that contains the Authorization letter from PMI as well as your Id (Drivers license/Passport) and keep it along with your wallet or car keys. This way you can make sure you have all the requisite paperwork to be allowed to take the exam and more importantly avoid unnecessary stress. If you are someone who gets thirsty or hungry often you can even pack some snacks, fruit juice or water to take along with you. 

Also, it would be a good idea to check out transportation options to the exam center. If you drive, check out alternate routes, parking spots etc well in advance so that you don't get stressed out on the day of the exam. 


Just Before the Exam 

Make sure to reach the exam center at least 45 mins to 1 hour prior to the exam. Contact the center coordinator and register right away so that they can assign you a desk with enough time for you to get settled prior to the exam. Don't stress yourself out by trying to read last minute study material. This type of cramming usually doesn't help. 

During the Exam

  • Spend the first 10 mins writing down important formulae on a piece of white paper which they will give you for working out questions related to Math. You are free to note down other important points for reference as well (Though you may remember all the formulae now, when you are actually answering questions, you may not be able to recollect them at the heat of the moment. Writing them down will ensure you don't miss out such Q’s) 
  • Each question would take roughly about 1 minute to answer so, you should be able to finish answering the 120 questions in about 2 hours. That would leave about 40-45 mins for reviewing all the questions you marked. 
  • Don't spend more than 90 seconds on any question. If you think you are unable to finalize on an answer after 90 seconds, just mark that question and move on to the next one. Staying on one Q for too long is not a good idea 
  • Don't get stressed out if you are unable to answer a few questions. It is perfectly normal and just keep moving on. 
  • Keep track of Time. By the end of the first hour you should’ve finished around 30-35 Q’s and by the end of the second hour you should have finished at least 100 Q’s or more to give yourself enough time to review the answers
  • If you are feeling tired or sleepy or feel your concentration levels falling, take a break for 5 mins. Wash your face, drink water, use the restroom and make sure you are refreshed and get back to the exam desk
  • Read all answer choices before you select one. The answer choices that PMI gives are in such a way that at least two or more answers would sound like a reasonable choice but there will only be ONE best choice. So, unless you read all answer choices, chances are high that you will miss out this Best choice. 
  • Use the Elimination method if you are unsure of the Best choice. By eliminating choices which you are sure are “Incorrect” you narrow down the options and increase your chances of identifying the best choice answer. 
  • Look for words like ‘next,’ ‘best,’ ‘never,’ ‘most,’ ‘always,’ ‘except,’ ‘most likely,’ ‘less likely,’ etc. The answer choices will contain options that include both scenarios where the exam taker reads or misses them. If you miss this key word, even if you think the answer you chosen is the best option, it would still be wrong. 
  • Even if you are unsure of the answer and want to mark a Question for future review, go ahead and still select the answer you think is the best choice as of Now. This will help you when you are actually reviewing the question and decide if its right or wrong. 
  • Don't click on the finish button until you have actually answered all the questions. Even if you are unsure, select an answer because there is No Negative Marking. Every choice has a 25% chance of being the right answer and you have nothing to lose here. 
An Update after my experience with the exam: 

The new test taking software also gives you options to highlight certain portions of the question you feel are most relevant as well as allows you to strike off answer choices which you feel are not valid to the question at hand. These two features will greatly help you eliminate incorrect answer choices and narrow down the best answer. I wish they had this feature when I took the PMP and PMI-RMP certifications few years back. They would've been very useful...

Also, don't spend too much time trying to understand the mathematical calculations while preparing for the exam. Some ACP Exam prep books have extensive calculations while some don't. Based on my exam experience, there was hardly any questions asking you to calculate things like NPV or ROI or IRR. In agile terminology, they are nice to know items and aren't mandatory for the exam. 

The Results will be shared with you right away. Don't forget to Party after you crack the exam!!!

Prev: PMI ACP Exam Pattern and Type of Questions

Next: Project Management Basics - The PMBOK

PMI ACP Study Guide Home Page 

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