Get Your PMI Agile Certification (PMI-ACP) Without Hardly Trying

Anthony Mersino
September 28, 2017


Last month I wrote the Quick Guide to the Basic Agile Certifications. There was a lot of interest in the two Scrum Certifications, the Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and the Professional Scrum Master (PSM). But I was surprised there was also some interest in the less popular Agile Certified Practitioner certification from PMI. And I believe there are many of you out there who can achieve this certification without hardly trying.

For those of you who are not familiar with the PMI-ACP, here is a little bit of information that you might find helpful in deciding if you should get your or not.

How to Qualify for the PMI-ACP Exam

Qualifying to sit for the exam is often the tricky part for people. The following table summarizes the requirements for education, experience and agile training.

As you can see, the PMI-ACP is similar to the PMP in requiring both experience and agile training to qualify to sit for the exam. Applicants will need 2,000 hours of project management experience, an additional 1,500 hours of agile experience, and 21 contact hours of agile training (cannot be self study) to be eligible for the exam.

If you are a PMP, you don't need to worry about the PM experience. The agile experience can be more difficult to obtain. You need to show 1,500 hours working on agile project teams. These hours are in addition to the 2,000 hours required in general project management experience and they must be earned within the last 2 years.

The Exam Content

One thing that is a bit unusual about the PMI-ACP exam is that the content is drawn from 12 different Agile books. The books are written by a number of well known authors (for the most part) and each covers a specific topical area. The books also represent the authors viewpoint of what Agile is so that provides some interesting nuances. Also, as I noted in my previous post, the scope of the exam is broader than just Scrum. The exam covers all flavors of Agile including Extreme Programming, Kanban, Lean, and of course Scrum.

Over time I've bought all the reference books for the exam. I think they are all pretty good books and I've learned something from all of them. Mike Cohn's books are good, as are the books by Alistair Cockburn and David Anderson. But I have to say the books that I've gifted the most are the retrospectives book by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen, and the Coaching Agile Teams book by Lyssa Adkins. If you are a Scrum Master or Coach, you should have those books even if you don't have any plans to take the exam.

  1. Agile Estimating and Planning, by Mike Cohn
  2. Agile Project Management: Creating Innovative Products, Second Edition, by Jim Highsmith
  3. Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great, by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen
  4. Agile Software Development: The Cooperative Game, Second Edition, by Alistair Cockburn
  5. Coaching Agile Teams, by Lyssa Adkins
  6. Effective Project Management: Traditional, Agile, Extreme, by Robert K. Wysocki
  7. Exploring Scrum: The Fundamentals, by Dan Rawsthorne with Doug Shimp
  8. Kanban In Action, by Marcus Hammarberg and Joakim Sunden
  9. Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for your Technology Business, by David J. Anderson
  10. Lean-Agile Software Development: Achieving Enterprise Agility, by Alan Shalloway, Guy Beaver, and James R. Trott
  11. The Software Project Manager’s Bridge to Agility, by Michele Sliger and Stacia Broderick
  12. User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development, by Mike Cohn

Get a PMI-ACP Exam Study Guide

For those of you who want to pass the exam but don't have the shelf space or interest in getting 12 Agile books, you can buy just one book. I've purchased several and the best of these is the PMI-ACP Exam Prep Guide from Mike Griffiths. This book provides great end-to-end coverage of all the exam topics in an easy to digest format. It also includes sample exam questions. Be sure to buy the 2nd edition which includes the changes PMI made to the exam content in 2014.

Agile Training Courses for the PMI-ACP

Many people find it helpful to take agile training designed to prepare for the PMI-ACP. I did when I took the exam back in 2012. You can find courses available in your area by searching for PMI-ACP. You can also search the PMI site for providers.

If you are interested in taking agile training for the PMI-ACP in Chicago, my 4-day Agile for Practitioners course covers all the content of the exam. It also provides a lot of hands on exercises that help you to truly internalize the lessons, rather than simply cram for the test. Done well, you could take the course and then schedule to take the exam right after your training. Please check the Agile for Practitioners Course schedule page to join an upcoming course.

Even with proper agile training, passing the exam is no cake walk. Depending on your experience with agile and your ability to think like PMI's evil test creators, you'll probably have to do some self-study. Still, if you are interested and have some experience, the goal is certainly achievable and it is worth your investment in time. 

How I Passed the PMI-ACP Exam

I took the exam and passed on my first attempt back in 2012. Hey, if I can do it so can you! Here was what I did to prepare for the exam:

  • I bought and read about half of the books on the list of reference books
  • I took an agile training class from Sally Elatta (who was awesome BTW)
  • I took some online exam prep tests
  • I joined the LinkedIn Group called "PMI® Agile Certified Practitioner PMI-ACP Exam Prep Study Group"and followed the discussions there about passing the exam

I wouldn't say that I studied a lot, but I did put a little bit of time into it. And I passed. To date, over 17,000 other people have achieved this certification as well. And so can you!

I hope this overview of the PMI-ACP was helpful. Please add your questions or share your own experience below. And please view our agile training offerings here, or join our monthly newsletter for agile related tips and articles.


About Anthony Mersino

Anthony is passionate about helping technology teams THRIVE and organizations TRANSFORM.  He loves partnering with organizations to help teams with Agile thinking and the Scrum Framework.  He teaches Agile and Scrum as well as the cultural elements that are necessary for an organization to gain true business agility. Anthony has  authored numerous articles and two books: Agile Project Management, and Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers.