The Whats and Whys of the PMI-ACP Certification


pmi-acp certification

Introduction: The Project Management Institute Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP®) Certification is a project management certification developed in response to the proliferation in the adoption of Agile methodologies in today’s project. The PMI put forth a set of criteria to test the Agile practitioners’ general knowledge of Agile methodologies without limiting to a specific Agile framework. The Agile Certified Practitioner by PMI certification is perfect for PMP® credential holders to earn PDU as well as to learn techniques and tools in Agile.

What is PMI-ACP®?

PMI-ACP® stands for Project Management Institute Agile Certified Practitioner Certification. It is a project management certification aimed at recognizing skills and knowledge in Agile project methodologies by PMI. Agile has fast become the standard of project management in today’s fast changing world, especially in the information technology and service field. Many project management practitioners have embraced concepts, tools and techniques of Agile to deliver successful projects never seen before.

PMI-ACP® is considered to be one of the most rigorous Agile Certification as it takes into accounts the experience, training and competency of the candidates . Unlike the ScrumMaster Certification (CSM) which can be obtained after attending a CSM course and passing a test based on the materials taught in the course without regards to the actual Scrum working experiences of the candidates, Agile Certified Practitioner requires the holders to have at least 1,500 hours of practicing Agile methodologies in their actual work.

PMI-ACP® recognizes the experience as well as the knowledge of the holders in Agile without limiting the method of implementation, PMI requires candidates to have a working knowledge in a broad set of methodologies such as Scrum, XP, Lean, Kanban, Test-Driven Development, etc.

PMI-ACP® Certification Process – An Infographic

How much is PMI-ACP® Examination Fee?

The PMI-ACP® Exam Fee for the computer based test (CBT) is:

  • US$435 for PMI members
  • US$495 for non-members

And the reexamination fee for PMI-ACP® Certification is:

  • US$335 for PMI members
  • US$395 for non-members

How is PMI-ACP® different from PMI PMP®?

The PMI PMP® sets the standard for best practices in general project management. Studying and preparing for the PMP® allows you to have the tools and techniques to plan and manage a project on a high level, mainly for traditional (waterfall) project management methodologies. The PMBOK® Guide, which is the most important reference for the PMP® exam, describes the framework for project managements and the logical flow of the project management processes. Holders of PMP® have demonstrated their competency and understanding in implementing the framework as described in the PMBOK® Guide. While Agile and adaptive project planning have been mentioned in the PMBOK® Guide, the majority of the concepts are geared to large waterfall projects.

The PMI-ACP® focuses on the Agile project management principles. Agile project management is often thought of as the new way of doing project management. Practitioners of Agile methodologies cares more about the people, collaboration and shared values than the a concrete planning. Agile methodologies are geared more to responding to rapid changes in the market, technologies or requirements. Candidates will be tested on the concepts of major Agile methodologies, the utilization of Agile tools and techniques, and to implement lean management for projects.

More importantly, PMP® recognizes the skills and experiences of project managers while PMI-ACP® recognizes that of project practitioners. One need to have project management experiences (though not necessarily in the capacity of a project manager) to qualify for the PMP® exam while one just need to have project experiences in both traditional and agile practices to quality for the PMI-ACP® certification exam.

Prerequisites of PMI-ACP®

Like the PMP® Certification by PMI, the PMI-ACP® Certification requires the credential candidates to have both hands-on project management skills as well as formal project management education. The specific requirements are listed below:

  • secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree, etc.) or above
  • 2,000 hours (gained in at least 12 months) of general project experience*; and
  • 1,500 hours (gained in at least 8 months within the last 3 years) of Agile project experience*; and
  • 21 hours of project management training or education in Agile methodologies

* “Project experience” means the working experience working in projects.

Do I need to be a PMP® to take the PMI-ACP® Certification Exam?

The answer is absolutely NO, though it helps if you are a PMP® as the requirement for 2000 hours of general management work experience is waived for holders of PMP® certification. One can get the PMI-ACP® Certification without ever studying for or even knowing what PMP® is about.

Also, the PMI-ACP® qualification is targeted at project practitioners with Agile skills and experience which is quite different from the PMP® certification which is tailored for people with project management skills and experience. The requirements for PMI-ACP® is considered lower than the PMP®.

Why is PMI-ACP® Perfect for PMP® Holders?

  1. PMP®s are required to accumulate at least 60 PDUs for every 3-year re-certification cycle. Holders of PMP® can make good use of the Agile training for the PMI-ACP® to claim the PDU for their PMP® renewal. For example, in the case of using Agile PrepCast™, 37 PDUs can be claimed for Category A PDU (Category A PDU is without upper limit, PMP®s can claim all the required PDUs with only Category A PDU.)
  2. The requirement for the 2,000 hours of general project experience is waived as the holders of PMP® have already verified with enough project management experience.
  3. Having gone through the “ordeal” of the PMP® certification application and examination, PMP®s are already familiar with the logistics of getting a PMI certification. The process for the PMI-ACP® certification is more or less the same. So PMP®s would save much time by not having to figure out how to begin the certification process from scratches, thereby leaving more time to actually studying and preparing for the PMI-ACP® exam.
  4. Major companies around the world (including many Fortune 500 companies) have began embracing Agile project management methodologies, getting Agile Certified Practitioner certified will have an edge as a project manager skilled in Agile practices.
  5. Holders of both PMP® and PMI-ACP® can claim PDU for both certification with the same PDU activities, the only requirement is that the project management education activity is about Agile methodologies.

PMI-ACP® Exam Format

Agile Certified Practitioner exam is a multiple choice examination consisting of 120 questions (of which 20 questions (randomly spread out in the exam paper) are considered pre-test which will not be counted towards the final score). The exam lasts for 3 hours. Candidates will be requested to attend the computer-based examination (CBT) if available. Paper-based examination will be arranged only in special cases. The examination fee is US$435/495 (members/non-members).

How to Get to Know More about Agile Certified Practitioner Certification?

The best way to know more about ACP is to refer to the publications and web pages of the PMI. Below are a highlight of the most important materials:

1. PMI-ACP® Handbook

The PMI-ACP® Handbook covers all the aspects of the Agile Certified Practitioner Certification exam candidates need to know (though it is quite difficult to understand these fully through the handbook alone). It outlines the requisites, the application process, and the rules and regulations of the exam. Do download a PDF copy of the Handbook to begin your PMI-ACP® journey.

2. Exam Syllabus

Details of the PMI-ACP® examination syllabus can be found from the PMI-ACP® examination content outline. 50% of the exam will be based on Agile tools and techniques while the rest 50% will be based on Agile knowledge and skills.

Agile tools and techniques include:

  • Communications
  • Planning, monitoring, and adapting
  • Agile estimation
  • Agile analysis and design
  • Product quality
  • Soft Skill negotiation
  • Value-based prioritization
  • Risk management
  • Metrics
  • Value stream analysis

Agile knowledge and skills include three levels with a total of 43 knowledge / skills.

3. Preparation Materials

Unlike the PMP® exam which is primarily based on the PMBOK® Guide, the PMI-ACP® exam does not include any primary textbook, rather a long list of recommended Agile reading (11 books in total). PMI has made it clear that the list of recommended reading will be revised and updated from time to time to reflect the changes in Agile.

4. 21 Contact Hours for Agile Project Management Education

PMI does not specify the recommended training format, content or provider for the 21 Contact Hours. You can choose either classroom teaching, online learning or downloadable podcast learning to fulfil this requirement. The safest way to obtain the contact hours through PMI Registered Education Providers (R.E.P.) as the courseware has been endorsed by PMI.

Do I Need to Read Through All the 11 Books in Order to Prepare for the PMI-ACP® Exam?

Yes or no. If you do want to understand everything, you are highly advised to read and study all the recommended books, you will need to extract the parts that are needed for the exam on your own with reference to the exam syllabus (an extremely difficult task though).

To save your time, some quality Agile project management education for the PMI-ACP® exam (the 21 contact hours) can help you learn and understand all the contents for the examination without requiring you to read through the list of books. They have done the hard work of extracting the essences of each book and re-arrange them into a structure that’s inline with the PMI-ACP® examination content outline.

After investigating available exam prep courses on the market, I chose Agile PrepCast™ (by a PMI R.E.P.) to help me to study and pass the PMI-ACP® exam as it is the most cost effective and comprehensive prep course for PMI-ACP® I have found.

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Edward Chung

Edward Chung aspires to become a full-stack web developer and project manager. In the quest to become a more competent professional, Edward studied for and passed the PMP Certification, ITIL v3 Foundation Certification, PMI-ACP Certification and Zend PHP Certification. Edward shares his certification experience and resources here in the hope of helping others who are pursuing these certification exams to achieve exam success.

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10 Responses

  1. Anto says:

    Thank Edward, this is excellent.

    I’ve just got the PMI-ACP Exam Prep book, do you think it’s enough of a comprehensive source? I already have CSM and a year’s experience working with Agile.

    PS – Do I need to proof the “contact hours” if I’ve already reached the stage where it’s asking me for payment on the PMI site? I went to an agile school for a year (Masters) which I listed in my application.

    • Edward Chung says:

      Yes, you may be required an audit before or after payment. Anyway, since you are an experienced project manager, I am sure you will pass the audit readily.

      Wish you PMI-ACP success!

  2. Sreejith JP says:

    HI Edward,
    Currently, I am working as a Scrum master Role/project lead in an IT software. I am looking to build a career in Project Management and looking for a job change too.So which certification I need to take to become highly skilled Project Manager

    • Edward Chung says:

      Hi Sreejith,

      Thanks for leaving your message. CSM or PMI-ACP are good certifications for Agile project management. I may also suggest you to begin with CAPM Exam if you find PMI Certifications useful in your region/area as PMP Exam requires working experience as a project manager.

      Wish you success!

  3. Pratigya says:

    Thanks for your helpful tips Edward. I passed the PMI-ACP exam yesterday and very thankful to you.

  4. Luis Espinoza says:

    Thank you so much Edward! I have followed your tips and recommendations for PMP and ITIL, your posts help me a lot in order to get both certifications!!

    Currently I am moving forward for the PMI-ACP usign your tips and experience.

    Thanks for your great work!!

  5. Ritesh Singhal says:

    Thanks Edward !!! It was really very helpful for me to understand the value of PMI ACP !!
    You are a star !!! I always follow your blogs and I can bet, nowhere else have such complete & useful information !!!