Tips and techniques to maximize your learning in minimal time.
Special update: Towards the end of this article get your FREE PMI-ACP Simulator!
Gartner’s report indicates that 80% of software projects are Agile based, and Indeed’s salary data states that Agile Scrum project managers earn 23% higher salary compared to normal project managers.
While more and more organizations explicitly ask for a certification such as PMP or Agile in their job advertisements, the highest sought after are the ones with PMP + Agile certification under their belt.
You are potentially at one of these stages right now –
- You are preparing for your PMP exam
- You have completed PMP exam and looking to add PDUs under CCR program to maintain PMP certification
- You have completed PMP exam, and looking to educate yourself further in Agile project management methodology
If you are in stage #1 above, this review probably does not make much sense right now, and you’d be better off focusing your energies on PMP preparation.
If you are in #2 or #3 you have couple of options –
- Prepare for PMI-ACP exam
- Prepare for CSM (Certified Scrum Master)
If you are looking at PMI-ACP course, this review is probably going to be very helpful.
Irrespective of which online training course you choose, my attempt is that you’ll have some useful take away by the time you’ve reach the end of this article.
I got my CSM certification first and then PMP. I enjoyed every moment of my CSM training under Pete Deemer (of Good Agile). In fact we had a blast! After getting certified I trained several project teams in my organization in Agile Scrum methodology so they can either participate in or manage Agile projects.
Few weeks ago I got an opportunity to look at Simplilearn’s PMI-ACP online video course.
I took a completely different approach for this review – I wanted to experience it as a PMI-ACP student – and took the complete course. I went through each and every video lessons, took all the quizzes, and passed the final exam to get my 21 PDU certificate!
This experience not only gave me an opportunity to experience Simplilearn PMI-ACP course first hand, it also helped me employ and share few techniques with you to get most out of this training. So much so that you can now complete your PMI-ACP study of this course in a week, while attending office.
I will share a study schedule that you can use complete this course in one week. You can download this schedule towards the end of this page.
First thoughts on Simplilearn PMI-ACP training course
My first thought was that PMI-ACP covers more ground than CSM in terms of Agile syllabus. While both have their own strengths from an informational perspective, given a chance, I would probably choose PMI-ACP over CSM.
I went over 4 domains at a stretch and then got side-tracked for about a month. Then I came back and finished the remaining domains.
Overall time taken to complete the course: 29 hrs
Calendar days taken (excluding month-long break, of course): 3 weeks
Quiz attempted: ALL
Overall score in all quizzes: 90%+
Certification exam result: PASS
PDUs earned: 21
Most important aspect of Simplilearn PMI-ACP online training course
I have been a huge fan of Online video training and have used it extensively over past 20 years to learn various software languages and professional courses. In my opinion, next to the Quality of Course Content comes the Learning Experience for the student.
Having seen a few online study interfaces I must say that Simplilearn’s online learning interface is probably the best I have seen. As you start using it you can see that a lot of thought and efforts has gone into designing the learning interface. Simplilearn calls this as ‘Study Central’.
Let us just look at one of those right now –
As soon as you log in, it asks you if you’d like to set a Focus Course – which I highly encourage you do. When you do this Study Central gives you,
- A study schedule based on your time commitment
- Timely reminders to keep on track & manage your study momentum (you’ll get some useful nudges on email if you are not adhering to study schedule 🙂 ).
Go ahead and set it up..
Choose number of hours you plan to study per week.
Optionally, you can choose an end-date as well – which again I encourage you do, because time-boxing tasks is an easy way to get them done.
Once you do this, Study Central will chalk a schedule and rearrange the syllabus on a weekly basis so you can follow it and complete the course by the end date you have chosen.
This is what you see as you go along with the course –
If you haven’t kept up with your study commitment you’ll get a nudge on email to get you back on track. Don’t we all need someone to nudge us back on track once in a while?
Note – you can learn from your mobile device as well. Just make sure you are connecting to the course via Wi-Fi, else you may incur huge data bills!
Course overview section
This explains the course overview and objectives and eligibility criteria needed in order to apply for PMI-ACP exam on PMI’s site. Further it goes on to explain certification process, maintenance and renewal and overview of syllabus.
there are 7 domains to learn. Each domain has 2 parts. Each part has bunch of videos explaining concepts, followed by a quiz. You can review the quiz results or retake it. This is a great way to evaluate your level of understanding of the lesson just completed.
7 Domains as defined by PMI-ACP syllabus
Each of the domains below are covered in two parts (part 1 and part 2) and each of these parts have video lessons of duration ranging from 30 sec to 2 min+ . These bite-size chunks are the best way to consume PMP-ACP concepts. There is also a quiz section at the end to validate your understanding.
The exam is of 3hr duration. Here’s the distribution of questions (120) among these domains. Please note that 20 of these are pre-test questions (there’s no way to distinguish them, unfortunately) and there are no negative marks for incorrect answers.
While some of it seemed a bit of a drag, the content however is highly useful.
PMI-ACP Classroom Test Paper and 4 PMI-ACP Practice Test Papers
These tests are excellent to test your understanding of PMI-ACP syllabus. I found questions to be moderately difficult. Majority of questions are smaller but you’ll have to understand the concept thoroughly in order to answer them.
Many questions that I could not answer straight away, I could answer by eliminating incorrect answers. But the point is that even to eliminate incorrect answers takes some understanding of the content.
But here is the twist. Unlike with PMP exam, if you have already worked on Agile projects it would not be hard to ‘guess’ few answers. This is my personal experience. However, my earnest suggestion is not to bank on this possibility alone. 🙂
Here’s how it looks after you are done with one of the full-length tests (that was a disappointing result of my first test 🙂 ) –
I would have personally enjoyed longer explanation to some of the answers, as analyzing test results is another way of learning.
- Sample exam application – so you understand how to organize your information.
- Memorization chart – if you’ve done your PMP using CBT (computer based test) method you probably have used the brain-dump strategy. This chart helps you get started with your brain dump. Use this as a starting point and refine it based on your need.
Few specific points that I liked
At the outset,
- The course is filled with practical, industry-specific examples on application of concepts explained
- Since each concept is explained in a byte-size videos, its easy to run over again till you understand the concept.
- Plus, each video completed gives a sense of a small victory and in turn makes you want to go on.
I feel that my progress through the course was much faster due to this approach that Simplilearn has taken. They sure seem to have researched best practices for online learning!
Study-friendly study interface – Study Central
We’ve talked about this earlier in this review. Nough said!
Simple and effective visual representations of concepts
Some amazingly creative ways of presenting concepts. Do take a screenshot of them and include in your notes. Makes life that much easier during the exam. One such instance is the stages of Retrospective meeting –
If you didn’t like the content, you can ask for money back within 7 days of purchase. Simplilearn will refund 100% of amount without any questions. Says a lot about the confidence Simplilearn has on the quality of their content.
The only condition (to avoid misuse) is that not more than 25% of course content should have been consumed (Study central will show a % completion at the top so you’ll always know your progress).
Scope for improvement
- It would have been nice to see breadcrumb above videos. Right now you need to bring in the syllabus sliding pane to see current lessons’s position in the overall syllabus. Alternate is to keep the syllabus tab open all the time.
- Can make the play button transparent, so when you want to pause the video and look at the slide to understand the concept being explained, your view is not blocked.
- I personally would have enjoyed a more informal delivery tone of the presenter. It would be great to have it sound like someone is explaining the concept, rather than reading out.
Few tips and techniques to get the most out of this training course
1. Follow Top-Down study approach
That is, first get a high-level picture of the PMI-ACP course content and then go drilling into each sub-sections.
One of the ways to do this is..
Expand each domain lesson (click on the section name in left side pane titled Syllabus). Each lesson has an Objectives video a the beginning and Summary video at the end.
View the Objectives video, read through names of sub-lessons and then view the Summary section video.
You may not get everything at first glance, and this is okay.
This exercise gives you high level view of PMI-ACP landscape and you’ll get familiar with certain terms. This whole exercise overall should take you an hour or more, but it is well-worth the effort. You’ll start to see familiar terms as you dig into the videos and it starts to make sense more easily.
2. Make visual notes in addition to your own study notes.
As you go through each lessons, make your own notes. This practice not only helps you understand the concepts better, but the notes come handy for revision before the exam.
However, you can increase the effectiveness of your notes 10 times by doing something cool.
You’ll notice that the course does an excellent job of demonstrating concepts with some smartly made illustrations. Here’s an example explaining the entire agile methodology with one image.
A picture is worth a thousands words. Right?
Make use of MS OneNote (or an equivalent program if you are on Mac) to take screen shots of the pictorial representation of a concept and add your own notes. MS OneNote lets you segregate information using file-and-folder fashion.
At the end of each domain you’ll have ready-reference of, what I call ‘hybrid notes’ – your own notes and screenshots of memory aids and visual representation of concepts. Trust me, this practice alone will make it 10 times easier for you during your PMI-ACP exam.
This practice not only helped me in understanding the concepts better but also helped to prepare for the test I need to take in order to get the PDU certificate.
3. Do this if you find it hard to keep focus.
Sometimes you may find it very difficult to focus. It happens to me all the time.
Here’s what I did – I went directly to the Quiz at the end of the chapter and tried to answer.
Obviously I flunked it. But the process of going over a question and forcing my brain to think about it made it easier to ‘identify’ or ‘recognize’ concepts as I went back over the chapter videos. Thereafter it was a tad easier to focus.
4. Pause and let it sink in.
One of the things I love about this course is that the content is delivered in byte-size videos of length ranging from half a minute to 2+ in length. This avoids you the feeling of overwhelm. Study Central automatically plays the next video when one is run. You don’t need to keep clicking on the next button each time.
In a matter of 10 minutes you may have gone over 6-7 videos and covered so much of the content! Because the content is delivered in a crisp fashion continuously, if you don’t pause and reflect you may tend to forget what you just learnt. This is the downside to avoid.
One way to address this is to pause the video at the end of each small concept that is just explained, reflect it and jot down in your own words as your notes.
Do not forget to note down objectives and summary of each domain. This will do a world of good during revision.
Prepare within a week and earn your 21 contact hr/PDU certificate!
Here’s one way to spend least amount of time on this course and get most out of it!
While there are few PMI-ACP courses available out there, the one by Simplilearn is one of the best ones. The only other course I reviewed is by Cornelius Fichtner (here).
Simplilearn PMI-ACP course is very comprehensive, Study Central (study interface) is super student-friendly, and the carefully thought out tools and techniques are huge help in understanding PMI-ACP course content without having to go back and forth. The whole learning experience is so optimized that you will save enormous time in your PMI-ACP exam preparation.
Course content is excellent, content delivery is pleasant – so overall this course helps you prepare end to end quite comfortably – right from the Application stage to learning exam syllabus to mock-tests to fulfilling PMI’s 21 contact hour mandatory requirement. And of course getting your 21 PDUs – if you are taking this course to get PDUs to maintain your PMP credential through CCR (Continuing Certification Requirements).
How to update 21 PDUs you get from this course to maintain your PMP credential
The steps are pretty simple since PMI already recognizes Simplilearn PMI-ACP course. Here’s how you do it –
Step 1: Log into CCR portal ccrs.pmi.org
Step 2: Go to Report PDU section from sidebar and click on Course or Training option
Step 3: Start typing ‘Simplilearn’ and the application brings up the option, select it.
This will populate few common fields in the page such as Contact Email, so you don’t need to fill them manually.
Step 4: In the Activity text box start typing ‘PMI-ACP’
This will bring up many options. Select the one you see on right side top portion of your 21 PDU certificate.
Step 5: The application automatically splits 21 PDUs into Technical, Leadership and Strategic parts of PMI’s Talent Triangle
Click on the ‘I agree this claim is accurate.’ checkbox and click on Submit button.
That’s it! You can click on ‘Claim History’ sidebar option and you’ll see that the PDUs are automatically approved and applied.
If you are a visual learner like me and looking to choose the ones available online, I trust this review has given you enough pointers about Simplilearn PMI-ACP course to make an objective decision.
If you need my opinion though, I’d say go for this one and you won’t be disappointed. And for some remote reason if you are disappointed, well – you can simply ask for a refund within 4 days of purchasing! Hence, there is no risk.
And yes, if you need any help with this course, please feel free to write to me at shiv[at]pmexamsmartnotes[dot]com. I read and reply to every mail, usually within 24hrs or less.
In the closing,
It took me over a month to write this 34000+ words review with some objective data points for you to do due-diligence before investing in your study aid. This is my first hand experience in taking this course and actually passing the exam to get the PDUs. I trust this ring-side-view of Simplilearn’s PMI-ACP course will help you. If not, kindly let me know (shiv(at)pmexamsmartnotes(dot)com) how I can make this even better.
Here’s a gift for you, having made this far into this review 🙂
http://www.pmexamsmartnotes.com/free-pmi-acp-simulator (click on this link, scroll down and sign-up to get login details to PMI-ACP simulator).
Note – PMI-ACP course related images used in this review are property of Simplilearn