Episode 395: How to Pass the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® Exam
This is another episode where I’m asking: Are you currently studying or thinking about studying for your PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® Exam? Wonderful. That’s what we are going to be talking about.
In this interview you are going to meet Yazmine Darcy (https://www.linkedin.com/in/yazminedarcy). Yazmine is not only one of my students and coworkers, she is also the project manager in charge of developing the sample exam questions that we use in our PMI-ACP Simulator. And so, if you not only want to know how to prepare for your own PMI-ACP Exam but also want to hear about all the work that goes into creating one of the training tools you could be using, then you have come to the right place.
As you know, the rules of all Project Management Institute (PMI)® exams are such that we are not allowed to discuss specific questions from the exam. But we can discuss her overall experience, general thoughts on the process and her recommendations to you. So you can look forward to an experience and tip filled interview on how to prepare for and pass your PMI-ACP Exam.
Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #395. This is the Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I’m Cornelius Fichtner. This is another episode where I’m asking: “Are you currently studying or thinking about studying for your PMI ACP Exam?” Wonderful! Because that’s what we are going to be talking about. This is the third and final interview in which we learn from one of my work colleagues, how they passed their PMI ACP Exam. And of course, that brings me to this: If you are a project manager who wants to become PMI ACP certified, then the easiest way to do so is with our sister podcast, the Agile PrepCast and get your certification training for the exam by watching the in-depth Exam Prep Video Training from www.AgilePrepCast.com . In this interview, we are going to meet Yazmine Darcy. Yazmine is not only one of my students and co-workers, she is also the project manager in charge of developing the sample exam questions that we use in our PMI ACP Exam Simulator. So, if you not only want to know how to prepare for your PMI ACP Exam but also want to hear about all the work that goes into actually creating one of the training tools that you could be using, then you have come to the right place. As you know, the rules of all PMI Exams are such that we are not allowed to discuss specific questions from the exam but we can discuss Yazmine’s overall experience, general thoughts on the process and her recommendations to you so you can look forward to an experience and tip-filled interview on how to prepare for and pass your PMI ACP Exam. And now does a podcast interview qualify as an information radiator? Enjoy the interview.
Female Voice: Project Management Podcast™ Feature Interview. Today with Yazmine Darcy, Senior Project Manager for OSP International.
Cornelius: Hello, Yazmine and thank you very much for stopping by.
Yazmine: Hello Cornelius. Thanks for having me over.
Cornelius: Sure. Well, first of all, congratulations on passing the PMI ACP Exam.
Yazmine: Thank you [laughs] I am glad that it worked out.
Cornelius: [laughs] When exactly did you pass?
Yazmine: I passed in November. I recall it was a holiday weekend, so I studied and prepared on a Friday and I went in and took my exam bright and early on a Monday.
Cornelius: OK. The PMI ACP is not your first exam, right? You’ve already taken the PMP before that.
Yazmine: That’s right I took my PMP a few years back.
Cornelius: Right. And then you also have an MBA on top of that.
Yazmine: That is true. [laughs]
Cornelius: [laughs] OK. What we also have to do at this point is we have to insert a disclaimer because you and I are colleagues. We both work for OSP International. We are a training company and we do offer PMP Exam Training and PMI ACP Training and I believe you used both our Agile PrepCast and our Exam Simulator, right?
Yazmine: That is true.
Cornelius: That is true and you are also in charge of making sure that our Agile sample questions in the simulator get updated to the latest exam specification. We’ll get to that later on but just to get this disclaimer out at the very beginning. So, my first question is always very similar. Now that you have passed the exam what is your No.1 recommendation to the listeners who are currently preparing for the exam?
Yazmine: I think my No. 1 recommendation is for people to understand what their goal is when taking this exam. For myself, I wanted not only to pass but also to have good understanding of all the material. So, in retrospect, unlike many other students who may not have read through most of the books. I opted to try to at least read through, not thoroughly, skimmed through in some cases, but for purposes of the work that we do and in order to prepare for the exam, I thought it important to go through and spend the time and read those 12 references. Probably not what everybody wants to do but in my case, I did.
Cornelius: OK, let me just jump into this one here because currently, the PMI ACP Exam has a recommended reading list of about 12 books or so. We can see at the horizon that this is going to change—that PMI is working on the Agile Practitioner’s Guide and very likely at some point in the future, the Agile Practitioner’s Guide is going to be the thing to read as you’re preparing for this exam. So, let me ask you this: Even though the exam is currently based and the one you took based on those 12 books—you read those 12 books—is the way you studied still going to be applicable in say, five years, ten years down the road when someone’s listening to this interview?
Yazmine: I think with the advent of the Ag Book, that’s probably less likely to be the case. I think that 12 references will always be useful but it is a very specialized knowledge, very deep knowledge that is useful for a practitioner to have and own these references and that’s what they are—they’re references. If you needed to learn more deeply about a particular topic, it’s nice to have it on hand, you can read about the specifics of Scrum or Kanban, but likely for preparation for the exam, the Ag Book ten years from now will be very well-used and developed. So that will be sufficient to use to prepare for the exam.
Cornelius: Right. So just like people studied the PMBOK Guide today as they are preparing for the PMP Exam, in the future, they may be studying the—well, we call it sort of Ag Book jokingly—the Agile Body of Knowledge. I think the working title is the Agile Practitioner’s Guide. Whatever it will be called in the future more focus on this but the other study materials that you used I believe you read—correct me if I’m wrong—you did read an Exam Prep Book. You did go to our Agile PrepCast and you did use the questions in our Exam Simulator, right? That would still be something that you’d recommend?
Yazmine: Yes, definitely. I probably watched through the Agile PrepCast twice over the course of two years and more thoroughly in preparation for the exam and in particular, I found the lessons on the Agile Manifesto and Values and Principles and Different Methodologies quite useful. But I also used another Exam Prep Book, again, good understanding of all the seven domains at a high level and where I was like, “Oh I don’t understand more of this than I have the 12 references that I could refer to” and all that was very useful in preparing for the exam.
Cornelius: I’m very glad that you said that because when I did the interview with Stas Podoxin and people who already have listened to this one and Stas said that because he took a course at the University of British Columbia, that course really overlapped about 80% so he did not find the Agile PrepCast all too helpful in addition to this but you’re saying that there was value in you watching and listening to the Agile PrepCast. Is that right?
Yazmine: Yes and I found that, again, when you can listen to it, that’s one mode and I think that’s what I did maybe a couple of years prior to actually taking the exam then it’s useful because there’s so many topics. You can use it and you don’t have to navigate from the very beginning all the way to the very end but you can select based on your own knowledge. I already know about this topic. I think there’s no need to listen to this for myself. I think that I’m adequately prepared. But no, when I wanted to refresh—a total refresh on Scrum ceremonies and make sure that I understand the specifics in great detail, that I didn’t forget something or I misunderstood something, then I can sit down and set aside half hour whatever I needed to complete that lesson and listen to that lesson more attentively. So that’s how I used it. I didn’t probably use it in the start here and listen to every lesson a little bit a day, I didn’t use it in that straightforward fashion. I tried to use it as I needed it in a very Agile fashion, I would say.
Cornelius: Right, yeah. The intent is actually to do—start here and go all the way through—the more important lesson at the beginning, some of the less important ones are at the end but you are an unusual student from that perspective because we worked together, you had access to this for years. But let’s talk about the Exam Prep Book that you used. What book did you use and what did you enjoy most about it?
Yazmine: Yeah. I used Mike Griffiths book.
Cornelius: What a surprise. It seems like that’s the answer that I get from everybody these days.
Yazmine: I think again because it is organized by the domains and for example in the first few pages they have a table and it’s divided by tools and techniques and knowledge and skills. So, at the high level, he has lists of different topics, so it helps guide you through the different topics. He gets through the topics in a relatively small amount of number of pages compared to the 12 references. So you know you have covered the breadth that you need to cover for purposes of preparing for one’s exam. And it’s easy reading—it’s not very difficult –on the lighter side, compared to other references.
Cornelius: You have the MBA, then you took the PMP and then you decided to go for the PMI ACP. Why did you select the PMI ACP over, I don’t know, maybe a CSM or other Agile certifications?
Yazmine: That’s a good question. In part, it is related to the work that we do and definitely taking the exam helps in preparing others to prepare for the exam but in general, I just think that the way that we worked has evolved quite a bit especially since the time that I took my MBA. I have been on many traditional projects in the past and the idea that things changed and to embrace that—what a concept. In fact, you try to fix everything so that you can predict it and you probably spend so much effort trying to make sure that you’ve planned everything upfront but you end up having to change things in between. So, I think that the need for an Agile approach—this is how the world operates now. Things move very quickly. I didn’t explore the CSM—oh I do have a CSM, sorry! [laughs]
Cornelius: [laughs] There’s so many letters after you and you keep forgetting.
Yazmine: Sorry. We use it almost every day, you almost forget that you have it and it’s not like you go around and sign your name and put all the letters behind it. I think you gain knowledge as you go and it just becomes sort of part of your repertoire, so to speak. And yes, I do have my Scrum certification and we do use Scrum on our own projects. So, yes.
Cornelius: Yeah. This is maybe an interesting history for the listeners. When we originally developed our PMP Exam Prep Course, that was done fully in a traditional Waterfall-based project management approach. Then we started with the Agile PrepCast—helping people prepare for the ACP and also the simulator and again that was based on traditional best practices. We were only starting out on Agile back then. Later on, when PMI changed the ACP Exam, we had already started out on the Agile path and we did the updates using Agile practices and right now, pretty much as we are recording this interview, we are in the process of updating our PMP Training, the Waterfall-based certification and we’re actually using Agile practices to update a training course that is focused on traditional Waterfall-based. So, things are certainly evolving and changing over the years.
Yazmine: It’s a bit ironic, I guess, if you think of it that way. [laughs]
Cornelius: Yeah [laughs]
Yazmine: Even as we approach something, the material and the content itself might be based on something very traditional. The way in which we operate is Agile because things changed within our team. Maybe the methodology itself is more stable and certainly from PMBOK 5 to 6 there are changes and its similar ideas, it’s ever evolving but in our team definitely, things happen and we need to be able to adjust ourselves to the changes.
Cornelius: Alright, back to you and your PMI ACP experience. You mentioned that you have a lot of experience on traditional Waterfall-based project. How then did you determine that you were in fact eligible to take the PMI ACP Exam with all the Agile experience you needed?
Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.