What does it take to get a PMI-ACP® certificate? (experience, time, effort, money)

It does take quite a lot. But getting through the whole course-learning-practice-exam cycle also gives back a lot of quality improvement in the daily Agile work. Notice the lack of “management” in the certification title (Agile Certified Practitioner), in spite of being focused on what managers may typically do. In Agile methodologies however, they are not strictly named as ”managers”.


Applying for the certification doesn’t require specific managerial or leadership experience, and it is open to anyone who participated in the agile projects for at least 8 months in the past 3 years in addition to 12 months of general project experience.

But realistically speaking, the title will be more accessible to those who practiced Agile in various groups over several years.

The real benefit will be seen more for those who bear (or aspire to) a key role in the agile team (Scrum master, PO, Coach or a manager overseeing one or more Agile groups).


The time to complete the whole cycle may typically take from a couple of months to half a year. Initial time investment requires completing a course that gives you 21 contact hours. I’ve taken a Udemy course led by Joseph Phillips https://www.udemy.com/course/pmiacp_21pdus/ which I can definitely recommend. It is fast paced, but complete and self-contained. It includes some references to interesting external resources (not excessively though), exercises where you can review responses of other participants, mini-tests and finally a sample exam with explanation behind every choice.

The course has 13h of material but make no mistake thinking it’s only 13h of learning. Going through the course may easily take twice that time if you consider taking notes and doing the exercises (even if you speed up the replay, since Joseph can be easily understood at 1.5x, even 1.75x).

Expect this part to take 4 to 6 weeks with continuous pace. I personally took breaks from the course and completed it in almost 3 months, so don’t worry about others, just find your comfortable level of dedication. But plan to finish it in a reasonable time. Course includes coaching classes, to remind you to keep learning and not abandon the course and focus on getting the certification (funny interpersonal quirk for such a one-directional lecture).

But the course was only half of what was needed to prepare for the exam. I’d recommend spending a similar amount of time later reading and testing yourself on your own, to make sure you don’t miss a chance to pass the exam at the first approach. More on this in the next section.


The next step I did after the course was to write all the key terms in the sticky notes (250 cards altogether) and start testing myself to find ones that I cannot express in my own words or where I simply missed the point.

Key terms
250 sticky notes with key terms on a board

Then, once all key terms were reviewed I took the sample exam. I must admit it was far from easy. Many questions seemed deceptively simple, but depending on the work background could be misleading. I’ve scored 79% on this one (luckily to keep my hopes up but not to think I could easily pass this exam), the passing threshold was 80%.

Analysis of the mistakes led me to review the course notes again and search for extra materials to improve the understanding of the tools, techniques, methodologies and Agile practices.

Ironically, as the approach to documentation in the agile development cycles is quite relaxed (document as little as strictly necessary, whenever necessary), especially when compared to the formal approach of traditional (waterfall) software development, PMI-ACP guidelines don’t provide a single compendium-like book similar to PMBOK – a reference for PMPs. Therefore expect to search through many sources to get the necessary level of detail to understand terms you may not be familiar enough with.

After getting through the learning again, I’ve decided to get a set of another sample exams from the same author (slightly longer than the original one, 300 questions in total), and scored 72% and 74% in them respectively.

Feeling that I may need a different source of information, I’ve searched through many materials and found a pretty complete and compact exam reference on the https://edward-designer.com/web/pmi-acp/ site. Be careful while reviewing others’ notes though. They may not be 100% correct, so reach to more reliable sources, even if they may not be as compact. It was interesting to read other’s impressions from the exam and learn from typical mistakes they sometimes do.

The exam may not include questions that require memorization of many terms, but you may not be able to respond to questions well if you don’t assimilate the terms from the course well enough (and there are plenty of them), so it’s best to analyze every mistake and repeat the exercise until the right responses become natural.

Reading the exam questions with proper understanding of key words is also crucial. It’s best to re-read every question and visualize the environment in which the situation may occur before responding to it. Measurement of the time it takes to get through the whole exam may also be necessary to plan the second-round of questions review before the time is up.


Udemy courses that give certified contact hours and additional exams cost around 15€ each – that’s a bargain. 

Apart from that, I’d recommend a simple pen and paper. Even if you use digital notebook, don’t underestimate the old manner of taking notes to diversify the learning process. Get yourself a whiteboard or a bulletin board where you can place all the sticky note cards with the key terms. Having the board and sticky notes is also an introduction to one of the Agile practices – using low- tech, high-touch tools.

Get or borrow the recommended books. They may be a good reference for the future when you will want to get back to what you’ve learnt, however good notes are vital.

The exam itself costs 495$ (around 420€ with the current exchange rate) which was the main expense of the whole process.

I wish a good luck to all who plan to take the exam!
Share your thoughts and experiences.

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