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How I cracked the PMI ACP certification with “above target”

 

Note: The following is how I strategized and planned. Please be aware that this was my system that helped me to succeed and see if there are any things that can add value to your preparation.

Pre-requisites

  • “Why Agile?”: I wanted to learn agile in its purest form because, I have seen many constructive arguments like “some teams are doing it this way, some teams don’t do this, some projects failed here.. etc etc” all these discussions pushed me learn everything about agile
  • Mindset: told myself that I am going to forget everything I knew about agile and I want to learn from the beginning about agile
  • while my application was going through the approval process by PMI ACP, I started looking into the Handbook. It was a bit overwhelming initially
  • As soon as my application got approved, I was more motivated to set some deadlines for my self & now ready for the preparation having little idea how much time it needed, I assumed 3 months was a good time frame
  • Finally marked a set time every day on my calendar for the next 10-12 weeks until the exam day. 1 hour every night to be precise

Resources

Preparation

1st Book

  • Read the first book 5 times (yes 5 times)
  • 1st time reading = just to get familiar with the topics (couldn’t retain much information). Took 3 to 4 weeks
  • 2nd time reading = topics got a bit clear and this time I could retain some information and applied this knowledge to resolve some project problems at work. Took around 3 weeks
  • 3rd time reading = topics became clear but application of the topics in real world was a bit difficult. this is when I gave the first mock test to understand where I stand. I got 70% pass score but wasn't confident (not a good score to pass the exam I guess)
  • 4th time reading = topics were very clear and I could tell where to apply which topic. I used these topics in my team conversations to overcome challenges
  • 5th time reading = neural connections happened (i wont get PhD on this as I have no proof or a published paper), I felt confident in all those agile topics and was already thinking agile
  • I gave my second mock test and got above target score

2nd Book

  • Read this book 2 times in between the first book reading
  • This book has 50 topics (worked like a book with flash cards)
  • This book also has exercises after each topic that flexes the brain muscles and retains the information
  • This helped me very much to supplement the 1st book

Exam

  • The first 15 minute tutorial before the exam actually helped me as it gave instructions about how to highlight text in the questions, how to strike the options that are not appropriate to the question, how to mark/unmark etc

    Tip: Used the “Strike the options that are not correct to the situation” and it reduced half the stress instantly as I just need to worry on less options now

Exam Tips & Strategy

Time Management

  • Split 3 hours of the exam into 6 half an hours
  • left last 30 minutes for Review of any marked questions
  • The first 2.5 hours are for exam questions.
  • I used below visual tracker to track my time.
    • 1 - 24 questions: spent 1st 30 mins
    • 25 - 48 questions - 2nd 30 mins
    • 49 - 72 questions - 3rd 30 mins
    • ...
    • Reviewed all “Marked for review” questions in the last 30 minutes and any questions I wanted to relook

Stress

  • Told myself that If I can’t crack it then who can? :)
  • Maintained a calm mind all the time
  • Not sure if this helped, heard the “Beethoven Piano tune” all the way to the exam hall to keep myself calm
  • First 5 to 10 minutes of the exam were very stressful because of the depth in the questions. I learnt that this is where we will be investing the “activation energy” and I marked almost 8 questions for later review
  • 9th question was an easy question and I guess I had entered the “flow” state. I mitigated the stress levels and I was into the cruise mode
  • The real winning combination was chanting the words “this will be a piece of cake", "as soon as I get certified in 3 hours I was going to enjoy lunch at xyz restaurant today”. Things like these were few other stress busters and only added to my confidence during the exam

Mindset

  • Agile is all about mindset. Wait, WHAT?? I can explain, the words like leadership, conflict resolution, empathy, emotional intelligence, listening skills etc etc all the human abilities need to be well understood to get into this mindset
  • The beauty of the exam was that, its not a textbook knowledge memory exam, rather situational application which means that anyone with the right mindset, correct system, easy goals can pass this exam
  • Some questions were like, there is a conflict and how should you react to it?
  • The exam tested all my knowledge as how would I react to a situation

I Wish you all the best and tell the secret to all the people you know as how to crack this exam