On August 20, 2018 I sat the PMI-ACP exam. (Spoiler alert- I passed) but what would be a blog post without telling you the story along with a satisfying ending, so get your popcorn ready and here we go.
I was initially attracted to doing the CSM exam through the Scrum Alliance. I already had a PMP which demonstrated a competency in knowledge around the PMI methodology, but have also been working in Agile for a number of years, including transitioning a team from Waterfall to Agile in 2014.
So earlier this year while talking with my VP digital, he recommended I go get Agile certified. My thoughts immediately went to CSM certification. He recommended I go the PMI-ACP route instead, because I am already familiar with the PMI framework, PMI-ACP is a more rigorous process and therefore more valuable, and that while CSM will give me knowledge in Scrum specifically, PMI-ACP will cover many other useful frameworks including Kanban, XP, DSDM, Crystal and SAFe.
The process to qualify for the exam is fairly straight forward (but not necesarily easy). I needed a certain number of contact hours of formal education, a certain number of working hours (1,500) working as an Agile PM specifically (Agile PM’s are also called Scrum Masters, Project Leaders or Agile Coaches depending on the flavor of agile) and a certain number of hours working as a PM in general (Which was assumed I already had because I currently hold PMP certification).
Luckily, my company paid for the classes which were videos from PMPrepcast culminating in an exam at the end and I also bought a book¹ to augment the learning and ensure I was capturing the right information. Equipped with the right tools and a killer can do attitude, I dedicated my evenings and weekends to studying. Seriously- Saturday and Sunday were both just me reading the book and making notes and evenings were dedicated to watching the videos and taking notes.
It took a couple of months but I finished the video series before I finished the book and wrote the test – which I killed and thus qualified to sit the actual exam!
I finished the book and then gave the book another quick read and took fewer notes and more high level capturing the essential key points. Then the moment of truth I sat down to write the practice exam.
The exam is pretty intense. 3 hours. 120 multiple choice questions- not easy multiple choice questions, but things that show real world understanding of the material. It was lot like the PMP exam in that respect. To my delight- I passed the first test exam, and immediately signed up for the real exam the following Monday.
Over the next few days I sat the mock exam 3 more times, each time scoring successively worse- including failing the exam twice. Saturday and rolled around and I said “No more studying. No more exams. You got this.” and did some light review on Saturday and didn’t even crack the book Sunday. I was sweating the exam to be honest.
Monday morning I worked out (typical morning for me. I did NOT want to change my routine) and headed over to the exam center for 30 minutes before my exam’s scheduled start. The exam center is a lot like a Prison. They make you check in with a valid government ID, the receptionist was scrutinizing my signature on my license comparing it to the signature that I signed the form with and announced it didn’t match. It looked matchy enough to me- but she insisted I either sign again or provide another piece of ID or she wouldn’t let me sit the exam. The only other ID I had was my Nexus card (I thought- hey- good enough for Yankee Border Control, good enough for testing centers- ahmiright?) but no. No it wasn’t good enough. But I signed again a few times and the third time it as good enough for her.
So they they make you empty your pockets and turn them inside out, roll up your shirt sleeves and pants cuffs and wand you with a metal detector. No. I’m not joking. I shit you not. No word of a lie has escaped my lips. God’s honest truth. Never a m- OK! You get it!!!
So- Sat through the questions and clicked C for most of them (ok- I’m joking about that) and was incredibly relieved and proud when I passed with flying colors achieving “ABOVE TARGET” in all competency sections except one which I achieved “TARGET” (stupid Adaptive Planning)
So- Go me.
¹I did not have a good experience with the Rita Mulcahy company. I went to buy directly online from them. There was nothing immediately on the website about the currency, or that shipping and handling was separate and COD. I felt like there were a bunch of sneaky little add on costs making it not worth it compared to buying from Amazon. I wrote them 30 minutes after asking them to cancel and they refused saying it was already shipped which according to the order status it hadn’t shipped yet. So, add lying to including adding sneaky add on costs, and basically treating customers very shabbily. My advice: The book is amazing- buy it through Amazon. Don’t deal with the publisher directly. They’re awful. #LFMF