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What's it like to do an AgilePM® course?

12 Mar 2019

| Author: Nigel Mossman

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What's it like to do an AgilePM® course?

The APMG AgilePM® training course equips you with the principles, concepts and processes you require in order to manage Agile projects well. IndigoBlue is an APMG-accredited training organisation and we offer certified AgilePM® and AgileDS™ training.

What’s the course like and who’s it suited to?

AgilePM® has a standard syllabus, but with our deep expertise and professional experience, we at IndigoBlue are able to tailor the courses to the needs of the client. We generally train on clients’ sites and typically clients ask us to build a bespoke version of the course and deliver it across their organisation.  

The first day always starts early for the trainer, ensuring that everything is ready for the day ahead, from course materials to room layout. I find that there is nothing quite like a bit of heavy-duty furniture-moving before 8am!
I always start the course by asking everybody to introduce themselves. On AgilePM® courses, we typically have a mix of delegates. Even though the course title is ‘Agile Project Management’, it is by no means solely for project managers! Generally, we will have delegates from “the business” who know little about IT, and they will be joined by colleagues occupying various roles including Project Managers, Engineers (code or test) and Release Managers, among others.

The AgilePM® course contains over 200 slides which makes it essential for me to keep up momentum and avoid the course turning into “death by PowerPoint”. For that reason, I make the course highly interactive with lots of discussion and practical exercises tailored each client’s organisation; and you can also expect bad jokes and amusing anecdotes!

I advise delegates to switch on their out-of-office for the duration of the course, but we recognise that delegates need to deal with urgent emails and attend some unavoidable meetings. For this reason, in agreement with the class, we can offer some flex on break times, sessions lengths and also start and finish times.

Is prior knowledge of Agile required?

Usually, delegates will include a couple of people who have done a quite a bit of Agile, several who have done a little and suspect they have done it badly, and others who have no idea what Agile is but have been told by their boss (or who have told themselves) to go and find out.

As a trainer, I find it critical to understand why people are on the course, what they want to learn and their familiarity with Agile. When we have been training outside of the UK (including in North and South America, India and continental Europe), we have used the introduction to get a sense of how well the delegates communicate in English.

I have been asked if it’s easier to run courses where the delegates all have a good working knowledge of Agile. On one level it is, yes – I can spend more time discussing more advanced subjects and helping those on the course to hone their Agile skills. However, I have found some delegates have been badly misinformed and time then needs to be spent on the course exploring their confusion so as to arrive at the correct understanding.

Courses with those who are new to Agile are often more satisfying. I get tougher questions and, as the course progresses, I can see delegates realising that Agile, and DSDM in particular, is a very natural and practical method. The common comment about AgilePM is “it just makes sense”. One of the reasons I like this particular course is that irrespective of role or the actual method used, delegates learn how Agile projects work and how the different roles contribute to the initiative. 

The exams: what is it like to take them?

The exams have a fixed time and we very limited flexibility on the start times for these. The Foundation Exam is usually early in the afternoon on the third day while the Practitioner Exam is on the afternoon of fourth day. For candidates who have English as a second language we can offer extra time and APMG permit a printed translation guide; electronic translators and anything based on a mobile phone are forbidden.

Our courseware pack includes mock papers to allow practice ahead of the exams, along with links to online references with advice on the Practitioner Exam, including marking up the handbook.

Many of those coming on the course haven’t sat an exam for over ten years. One woman who attended one of my courses hadn’t been in an exam situation for over 30 years and her Fitbit showed her pulse rate shooting up just before both exams started! Delegates often play down taking the exam – “I’ll be happy if I get 25 or 26” – and you see a little bit of tension as the exam approaches on the third day. However, once everybody has their Foundation Exam results, with the majority getting good scores, you see the tension break and the statements change to “I always knew I would do well!”

APMG insists that we follow the course syllabus and I do my best to ensure delegates get the best possible exam score. As a seasoned Agile practitioner, I am always keen to share my experiences and will point out where I would vary practice from theory, and why; but I also explain what APMG are looking for from a particular answer in the exam. When delegates leave the course, I want them to have achieved a high pass mark but also know how to use their newly acquired Agile knowledge.

The Foundation Exam

The Foundation Exam is tricky, but those taking it only need to get 25 of out 50 questions right. The exam is 40 minutes long, with most finishing ahead of time.

It’s designed to show that those passing the exam have a good knowledge of the terms and could contribute to an Agile team in any role. The questions are multiple choice and I have seen several examples where candidates picked the right answer and then rubbed it out in favour of a wrong answer! Generally, the first answer picked in a multiple-choice exam is probably the right one.

The training team at IndigoBlue have only ever had one person fail the exam and this person passed on a resit; generally, most delegates score from 35-45 marks – and one of our delegates has achieved our best-ever score, a faultless 50! Foundation Exams are marked by the course leader; delegates know their score before they leave. For those who are not going on to take the Practitioner Exam, the course ends after the exam.

The Practitioner Exam

The Practitioner Exam is much harder and is designed to show that a successful candidate has deeper knowledge of the subject and could apply the method in a real-world scenario. Typically, a practitioner would be leading an Agile project or programme, or perhaps helping an organisation with its Agile implementation. A much smaller percentage of those taking the course sit the Practitioner Exam; candidates have to pass the Foundation Exam before taking the Practitioner Exam.

The fourth day of the course is all about the Practitioner Exam. In the morning, we work as group to go over any areas delegates feel uncomfortable with and we work through some of the mock questions. There is usually a couple of hours for private revision and as the trainer I am always on-hand to answer any specific questions or quell any pre-exam worries.

The Practitioner Exam comprises 80 marks with just 40 marks needed to pass. The exam is based on a scenario which candidates read at the start of the 2.5-hour exam before going on to answer “complex” multiple-choice questions based on the scenario, covering four competency areas (e.g. planning). In my experience, most candidates can get somewhere near the pass mark based on the knowledge acquired on the course; however, to pass and pass with a good score, you will need to find the answers in the 200+ page handbook!

How do APMG-certified trainers qualify?

I have been asked how we qualify as trainers. We have to pass both exams and the Practitioner Exam with a minimum 63% score. We also have to pass a subject-knowledge interview with APMG experts and be observed by an independent assessor leading a training session – to ensure our style, fluency and presentation skills all meet APMG’s standards.

We always ask for feedback at the end of the courses via a feedback form. We always review the feedback as it’s important to us as trainers to know how well we are delivering the course and where delegates see opportunities to improve. We recently passed on to APMG some suggestions for changes to the AgilePM® course based on our feedback forms and questions we are asked on the course.

Get APMG-certified!

If you have been thinking about AgilePM® or other Agile training, do get in touch as we would like to welcome you onto a course soon!

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Nigel Mossman

Nigel has a wealth of experience as an architect, developer, tester, business analyst, business strategist and project/programme manager. He is an AgilePM Practitioner, has SAFe SA (V3 exams V4) qualifications, is an Agile Business Consortium-certified Agile Project Leader Practitioner and a DSDM Advanced Practitioner.

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