December 17, 2017


Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Agile Practitioners – 7 Tips to pass the PMI-ACP Exam

AgileYou have been using the Agile methodology on projects for one year or longer and you would like to become Agile certified. Here you will find 7 tips to ensure you are prepared to meet the exam head-on and achieve optimal results both on exam day and in your future career.

The Project Management Institute (PMI®) has developed a set of criteria and credentials for recognizing project management professionals who use Agile methodologies in their project, the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® certification. Your credentials need to include: 2,000 hours or twelve months of general project management work experience, 1,500 hours or eight months of Agile specific project experience, and 21 hours of training in Agile specific practices.

The amount of material that is covered by the PMI-ACP Exam is extensive and can seem overwhelming, but the following tips will help you be successful.

#1 PMI-ACP Handbook

The PMI-ACP Handbook gives you all the details of the PMI-ACP Exam process including exam policies and procedures. The first two sections are a must read for anyone considering PMI-ACP certification. These sections cover the must know basics such as exam eligibility requirements, how to complete the online application, the payment policy, and the PMI-ACP Exam blueprint. The PMI-ACP Handbook is available for free online at:

#2 Time

The material covered by the PMI-ACP Exam is extensive, detailed, and spread throughout many sources of reference material. This is not an examination you can “cram” for in a couple of weekends or simply rely upon your experience and pass. Plan to take the exam after spending 10-12 solid weeks of studying for an hour or two just about every day. Of course you will need to develop a schedule that is flexible enough to fit in with the rest of your responsibilities and commitments.

#3 Study Plan and Schedule

Use your valuable planning and scheduling skills to create a study schedule for a 10-12 week period that fits well with the rest of your responsibilities. Depending on your job and household commitments, you may need to schedule more or less time. Take a practice exam to identify the areas that you need to spend more time focusing on during this 10-12 week period. Make sure your schedule is realistic and set weekly goals to track your progress. Also include time in your schedule to take breaks and participate in activities you enjoy.

#4 Study Materials

The PMI-ACP Exam, unlike the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam, does not have a primary publication for examinees to study. Instead, PMI provides a list of reference materials. You can download this list for free at:

A second source is the PMI-ACP Examination Content Outline. This document covers information about the Agile tools and techniques as well as the Agile knowledge and skills that will be covered in the PMI-ACP Exam. I recommend that you ensure that any PMI-ACP courses or books you purchase cover all the items listed in here. Download it at:

#5 Self Study Course

With the great number of material covered by the PMI-ACP Exam another option is to enroll in a self-study course. The latest generation of self-study comes to you in the form of Agile Podcasts / Videocasts. These can be downloaded to your smartphone, laptop, tablet, computer, or other portable media device. This makes your PMI-ACP Exam training portable, allowing you to listen or view whenever you have some free time.

Self-study Agile Podcasts cover agile frameworks, tools and techniques, knowledge and skills, and methods required for the exam in everyday English. As an added bonus, taking your lessons in this way can count toward the required 21 contact hours of Agile specific training.

#6 PMI-ACP Exam Prep Book

There are a wide variety of PMI-ACP Exam prep books available, which are also sometimes called “study guides”. They explain the concepts covered in the PMI-ACP Exam and can be a great addition to the reference materials suggested by PMI. Go to your local bookstore and select one that fits with your style of learning and covers a variety of high- and low-yield topics.

#7 Questions, Questions, Questions

A large number of free PMI-ACP Exam sample questions are available from a variety of resources on the internet. Free questions are a good place to start, but will only go so far for you. You will also want to subscribe to an online PMI-ACP Exam Simulator in order to access the highest quality of sample questions.

Your study plan must include answering as many practice questions as possible and taking several complete 120-question practice exams. This type of preparation will allow you to evaluate your study progress and prepare you for the format of the real thing. You will be nervous on exam day, but being familiar with types and formats of questions will help reduce anxiety and prepare you for success.

In conclusion: preparing to pass the PMI-ACP Exam can be a stressful process, but with these seven items you will reduce anxiety and exam day stress. Study hard and good luck!

Big Question: When Are You A Project Manager?

By Michael O’Brochta

When are you a project manager? A simple question; yet it’s being asked and answered by an increasingly large number of people. Indeed, project management was ranked in 2009 by U.S. News and World Report as the third-most valued skill by employers, behind only leadership/negotiation skills and business analysis.

More than 600,000 people from 184 countries are members and/or credential holders in the world’s largest project management professional association, the Project Management Institute. It is a question being asked increasingly by individuals striving to adopt the practices in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) and the International Project Management Association (IPMA) certification.

So, how do you know when you are a project manager?

Why It Matters

The questions about being a project manager speak to core qualities associated with project management and project managers. These core qualities are far more significant than certification, or title, or position, or job classification. Indeed, it’s these core qualities that distinguish the great project managers from the remainder of the pack.

A survey of over 5,000 project managers and stakeholders conducted by Andy Crow and documented in his book ‘Alpha Project Managers: What the Top 2% Know that Everyone Else Does Not’ has provided an extraordinary insight into what the top project managers know and do that everyone else does not.

Alpha Project Managers

Alpha project managersThis study focused on identifying the best project managers (referred to as “Alpha project managers”) and then on determining what they did that made them the best. Opinions about these project managers were obtained from their team members, their customers, and their management. The results were quite pronounced. Although both the Alphas and Non-Alphas had similar beliefs, both believed in the value of planning and communication; the Alphas actually dedicated double the amount of time to do planning and double the time for communication. Alphas also acted as if they had authority, even when it was not officially bestowed on them.

Other characteristics have been identified for “real” project managers as well. Jeff Pinto in his research-based book titled: ‘Successful Project Managers: Leading Your Team to Success’ distinguishes between incidental project managers who hope to return to their technical fields and career project managers who which to remain in project management as a career. He reports that the career project manager will more likely have, or seek, a formal project management education, and have, or seek, experience in management and organizational skills. Attitude seems to be a distinguishing characteristic as well. Both Crow and Pinto found that career project managers actually enjoy their work more than their counterparts and that they make decisions to increase their opportunities to advance as project managers. They think and act as goal oriented, not only for the project tasks, but for their careers as well.

Discipline and Willpower

project manager characteristicsKnowing what to do is not the same as doing it. All project managers know about the value of planning, yet according to the Alpha study, only 2% do enough of it. Why? I think the answer has something to do with discipline and willpower.

It is interesting to note that recently published research by Kelly McGonigal in her book titled: ‘The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It’ supports the view that discipline and willpower can be learned and strengthened, much the same way a muscle can. This is great news for project managers who believe, as I do, that “project management is about applying common sense with uncommon discipline.”

For more about the essence of being a project manager, please read a fully referenced 6-page paper at: 


About the author:

when are you a project managerMichael O’Brochta, ACP, PMP has managed hundreds of projects during the past thirty years. Also an experienced line manager, author, lecturer, trainer and consultant and he holds a master’s degree in project management. As Zozer Inc. President, he is helping organizations raise their level of project management performance.  As senior project manager at the Central Intelligence Agency, he led the project management and systems engineering training and certification program to mature practices agency-wide. Recently he led the development of standards and courses for the new U.S. Federal Acquisition Certification for Program and Project Managers. He also serves at the PMI corporate level on the Ethics Member Advisory Group where he led the development of an ethical decision-making framework.



Presents project management tips:

1.   What is a project? 

A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. It has a clear start and finish, a set of defined goals and objectives and a  sequence of activities.

2.   What is a good project definition? 

A project has a beginning and an end and is unique; unlike operations that are ongoing. It is about managing team priorities to deliver within time, cost and quality constraints.

3.   Why do we need projects? 

Some reasons why we need projects in business today are tighter budgets, diminishing resources, more time constraints, more competition and to achieve service excellence.

4.   What are examples of projects?

Examples of projects are:

  • developing a new product or service
  • implementation of strategic objectives 
  • restructuring your business organization
  • constructing a new facility
  • office move or re-arranging the office
  • planning a special event

5.   What is project management?

The application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to projects to meet project requirements and deliver projects successfully within budget, on time and with desired quality.

6.   What does project management comprise of?

Project management comprise of a set of skills. Also required is:

  • Specialist knowledge, skills and experience are required to reduce the level of risk within a project and thereby enhance its likelihood of success.
  • A suite of tools for example document templates.
  • A series of processes. In professional project management various management techniques and processes are required to monitor and control time, cost, quality and scope on projects.

7.   What is a project methodology? 

A methodology is a set of methods, processes and practices that are repeatedly carried out as part of a project life cycle to deliver projects. The key concept is that you repeat the same steps for every project you undertake, and by doing that, you will gain efficiencies in your approach.

8.   What is the power of project management? 

The power of project management is that it makes it possible to focus on priorities, measure and track performance.

9.   What are the industries that use project management?

Project management is used in industries like online publishing, banking, software development, information technology and manufacturing.

10.       What skills do project managers need? 

Project managers need to be very skilled in leadership, communications, human resources-, quality-, time-, cost management and integration.

11.       What are the benefits of project management?

Some benefits of having project management in your business are:

  • it helps to meet or exceed customer expectations 
  • it maximizes the use of resources (time, people, money, space)
  • it brings projects to successful conclusion within budget, on time and with desired quality
  • it documents what was done for future reference
  • it builds confidence in your team for future projects.

12.       How is project management different from management?

In project management work is managed towards a single objective for a unique endeavor with a definite beginning and an end. In general management it is about multiple related objectives to manage the workload in an operations environment where work is done continuously.

13.       How are projects different from standard business operational activities?

  • Projects are unique and do not involve repetitive processes
  • Projects have a defined timescale. They have a clearly specified start and end date within which the deliverables must be produced to meet a specified customer requirement
  • A project have an approved budget
  • Projects have limited resources like labour, equipment, material
  • Projects achieve beneficial change. The purpose of a project, typically, is to improve an organization through the implementation of business change. 

14.       Who is the governing body for project management?

The Project Management Institute, or known as the PMI. The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) is prescribed as their project management handbook.

15.       Is there a special qualification for Project Managers?

The Project Management certification is called the Project Management Professional (PMP). The the title of a PMP certification is known and acknowledged worldwide.

Your VirtualPM


PS: For related Project Management articles, read here.

PPS: To use a Project Management Toolkit in your business, have a look at the Solid as a Rock here.

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