Congratulations! You’ve started the Project Management Institute (PMI)® Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® application process, and you’re preparing to take the PMI-ACP exam. Wonderful career move! PMI-ACP certification is highly sought after in both challenging and prosperous economic times. As PMI states, the PMI-ACP is recognition of “an individual’s expertise in using agile practices in their projects, while demonstrating their increased professional versatility through agile tools and techniques.”

As part of the application process each candidate is required to submit experience performing activities covered under both general project experience and agile-specific project experience. Then you need to pass a three-hour/120-question PMI-ACP exam.

In addition to needing 21 “contact hours” of Agile-specific training to sit for the exam, studying for the PMI-ACP exam can be a project in and of itself. As with most certification exams there are three basic ways to prepare for the test: traditional classroom-based training, online courses and self-study. Don’t feel like you’re limited to using just one approach; many who have passed the exam have used a combination of these.

Option 1: Classroom-based training. This approach requires the least amount of self-discipline and comes in a variety of flavors. Both your local PMI chapter and PMI “Registered Education Providers” (REPs) offer workshops, boot camps and classes. These are specifically designed to teach you what you need to know as well as how you’ll be asked to demonstrate that knowledge. When evaluating a classroom-based course, make sure your instructor is PMI-ACP-certified. Taking the exam is its own experience, so you want to make sure your instructor has “been there and done that.” Classroom training can also account for all or part of the 21 contact hours required for the PMI-ACP exam.

Option 2: Online courses. These are a great option for people on the go. And you may find that these are less expensive than classroom-based training due to the course provider’s lower overhead. Online courses typically include a combination of webinars or recorded lectures to watch, web pages to read and documents to download and study. Due to the added flexibility of allowing you to study at your own pace, you need to have more self-discipline than if you were taking classroom training.

Some online courses have deadlines while others don’t. Therefore, because you have the freedom to complete sections at your own pace, you’ll need a medium amount of discipline to ensure you complete the course in the allotted time, set either by yourself or by the course deadlines. Like classroom training, online courses can account for all or part of the 21 contact hours required to take the PMI-ACP exam. If you plan on using an online course for this, be sure to confirm that the course satisfies these contact hours before you sign up.

Option 3: Self-study. This is the least expensive and most common way to study for the PMI-ACP exam — and it requires the most self-discipline. Some of the benefits of using this method are that you can save money and prepare for the exam on your own time. This also means you must be self-motivated.

If you plan to use self-study, the biggest roadblocks you’ll face are creating your own study schedule and lesson plans and evaluating and purchasing your own materials. If you’re focused and dedicated, this is a great way to prepare for the exam. If you treat self-study as a project in and of itself, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work for you. One thing to keep in mind is that the self-study method can’t account for any of the contact hours required by the PMI-ACP exam. If you need those contact hours for your credential, I’d advise you to go with classroom or online training.

No matter which method or combination of methods you select, you need to find those that best fit your learning style and satisfy the contact hours stipulation. Most people who pass the PMI-ACP exam supplement self-study preparation with at least a classroom and/or online course. With the prevalence of portable media players, many choose a combination of online training and self-study, such as downloadable videocast or podcast courses. These allow them to take the material with them to study anywhere and at any time. This is a powerful, cost effective and goal-oriented solution to ensure your PMI-ACP exam success.

This article originally appeared on “PM PrepCast” and is reprinted by the permission of the author.

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