I finished my PMI-ACP Exam Preparation book a couple of weeks ago and now it is with the publishers for reviews and final edits. It turned out larger than expected, but I think better for the extra exercises and sample exam questions.
When designing the PMI-ACPSM exam, we needed to base the content outline on existing books and resources so that candidates would understand what the exam would test them on. When choosing the books, we went back and forth on our decisions of which books to include, since there are so many good resources available. And while we recommend that people learn as much as they can, we also had to recognize the need for keeping the exam content—and the preparation process for the exam—reasonable. In the end, we selected the following 11 books:
- Agile Estimating and Planning, by Mike Cohn
- Agile Project Management: Creating Innovative Products, Second Edition, by Jim Highsmith
- Agile Project Management with Scrum, by Ken Schwaber
- Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great, by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen
- Agile Software Development: The Cooperative Game, Second Edition, by Alistair Cockburn
- Becoming Agile: ...in an Imperfect World, by Greg Smith and Ahmed Sidky
- Coaching Agile Teams, by Lyssa Adkins
- Lean-Agile Software Development: Achieving Enterprise Agility, by Alan Shalloway, Guy Beaver, and James R. Trott
- The Software Project Manager’s Bridge to Agility, by Michele Sliger and Stacia Broderick
- The Art of Agile Development, by James Shore and Shane Warden
- User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development, by Mike Cohn
Reading all of these books takes some time, since the 11 books add up to more than 4,000 pages. The books also cover a lot more material than you need to know for the exam. From each book, we extracted the portions that best covered the exam content outline topics, and the exam questions were then targeted at those specific sections.
In the diagram, the different colored vertical columns represent the Agile Manifesto, the 11 books listed above, and other sources used to create the exam content outline. The general exam topics (for example, “Teams,” “Methodologies,” “Planning,” etc.) are represented in the horizontal bands across the image. Within the diagram, the light gray boxes represent what general exam topics are covered by each book, and the darker gray boxes represent the portions of each book that are required knowledge for the exam.
This depiction is for discussion purposes only; I had to simplify the topics to make the diagram legible, so the resulting image is not a complete picture of the exam content outline. The purpose of the diagram, however, is to show that the books cover a lot of content that is not actually tested on the exam. The resources were chosen in the first place because they best reflected the content in the exam, and reading all of the books would certainly help you expand your knowledge. However, the exam will test you on just a small subset of the information contained in these books.
The approach I took to creating my RMC PMI-ACPSM Exam Prep book was to collect all the dark grey “Required by the Exam” topics and explain them with a common voice. In addition, I have included supporting material, some of which is also discussed in the 11 books and some which is discussed in other sources, along with my own insights to create the appropriate context for the topics and explain how the tools and techniques would be used in practice
So my guide covers all the required content plus some extra information that helps make the exam content relevant and useful. At around 300 pages, the book isn’t small, but it is considerably less than the 4,000+ pages contained within the source books.
When creating the guide I had to balance just covering the topics in the exam in a bare-bones format, or writing a primer to agile and everything in the exam. In the end, after asking myself what kind of a guide I would like to read and talking to several candidates taking the pilot PMI-ACP exam, I ended up taking the approach of covering all the topics and writing a fair amount of “glue” and “how-you-would-use-this” material, which together will best prepare readers for the exam.