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Tips for success in AgilePM® exams

01 Apr 2019

| Author: Laurence Wood

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Tips for success in AgilePM® exams

The great thing about the AgilePM® course is that it provides you with a certification, demonstrating your knowledge of the Agile principles and practices in which you’ve been trained.

However, gaining this certification involves sitting an exam (or two exams if you seek to gain the Practitioner certification). For many trainees, this can be the first time they have sat an exam in years. But it’s not as bad as it sounds! I’ve run a lot of AgilePM® courses and my trainees have all passed their exams (including one recently who scored a faultless 50 out of 50), so I’m happy to share with you my exam tips to help you prepare.

Before your AgilePM® course

At IndigoBlue, we always send you the course materials well in advance of day one. I’d advise you to read the smaller ‘pocket book’ first in full as this covers everything at a high level. It is well presented and has clear, memorable diagrams summarising all the key aspects, including the Principles and the Products.

If you have more time to prepare for the course, then also read the first section of the larger AgilePM® Handbook. This is very similar to its predecessor, the DSDM® Handbook, which you may already have read.
AgilePM® qualifications start at Foundation level and progress to Practitioner and then Instructor. If you’re aiming for the Foundation certification, then I’d suggest that you simply need to read the pocket book. A good night’s sleep will be better preparation than reading the larger handbook into the small hours!

During your AgilePM® course

When you come on an IndigoBlue AgilePM® course, don’t expect to just sit and listen and look at slides! We use interactive learning games to help teach key topics. The more energy and thought you put into these games, the more quickly and effectively you will learn (plus, you should find them very enjoyable!). And you don’t just need to take my word for this – there’s abundant research which confirms that this is the best way for people to learn.

Throughout the course, you should refer to the course materials and highlight key words which the instructor will illustrate. This is especially important if English is not your first language, as the exam can present an English comprehension challenge for some delegates. I suggest you talk to your examiner early in the course because they are authorised to give you extra time if they feel that your English-speaking level might negatively impact your AgilePM® exam score.

I’d strongly recommend that you annotate and add sticky labels to the AgilePM® Handbook sections throughout the course, especially if you are preparing for the Practitioner exam – you can take the Handbook into the exam with you. Finding the right information can take time and your time will be limited. I also suggest using tabs to make the key diagrams quick to locate so that you don’t need to worry about memorising them in detail.

Also, by making the handbook more accessible you will find it much more useful when you return to work. Even if you are not strictly adhering to AgilePM® in your organisation, you will find the handbook a very useful reference and a practical guide.

Don’t be afraid to ask your instructor lots of questions – not only will it help you and your fellow trainees, as an instructor it makes my day more interesting too! Asking questions also helps you to relate AgilePM® to your real place of work and will help you to remember the framework more easily. These kinds of discussion also help me to judge the level of experience in the room so that I can go at the right pace for everyone.

Your AgilePM® exam

Don’t be scared. You may actually find that you enjoy the exam! Remember how rare it is to have the luxury of time away from your role to learn and discuss something interesting and new, and the opportunity to confirm to yourself that you have understood it. If you enjoy the opportunity, this will help you perform better as you will be more relaxed and focused.

Bring a soft pencil so that you can complete the response form quickly. And an eraser. 

Don’t be put off if your answers contain, for example, five consecutive ‘C’ responses. This does happen.

Towards the end of the exam, there are several questions which ask you to assess whether four or more statements are true; for example, answer ‘B’ if only statements 1, 3, and 4 are true. This format of question often causes frustration. My suggestion is to look first and the statements 1-4 and to annotate in pencil which you think are true. Only then look at the answer combinations (A-E) on offer. Hopefully, your selected combination will be one of the combinations available and you will be confident that no more analysis is needed. If not, then you can find the nearest match and see whether that helps you to decide.

Pace yourself well. You need to answer 50 multiple choice questions in 40 minutes. Some questions are very easy but others will seem almost impossible. It’s important that you don’t waste time on something you don’t understand; instead, make a mark so that you can return to the question later and move on to the next question. You need to score 50% to pass, so the occasional tricky question is not worth stressing about. Keep moving.

Near the end of your exam

If there is time at the end, return to the questions that you marked as difficult and answer these (or guess!).

Be careful about changing your mind late on. We find that more often than not, when an answer has been changed it becomes incorrect! So, our first instinct is more often than not our best one.

You will be asked to return all papers including any notes the question paper. This can seem strange, but it is to help keep the contents secure to ensure the validity of the AgilePM® qualifications.

I hope that you have found these tips useful. IndigoBlue is an APMG-accredited training provider. To find out more about our on-site AgilePM® and AgileDS™ training courses, follow the link below.

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Laurence Wood

Laurence inspires teams and leaders to deliver more value, more often using Agile and Lean in India and the UK. His Lean and Agile experience spans 25 years from Jaguar apprentice to Agile Programme Manager at Callcredit Information Group via City of London Head of IT.

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