Acing your ACP Exam

So, this is a reader requested topic, but considering I have my exam scheduled for the end of next week, it’s somewhat topical. I’m not going to lie to you – the ACP exams are challenging – some of the most challenging exams you can take. But the benefits of being Atlassian certified are well worth the price of entry. Plus, we have jackets!

Image Courtesy Neil Taylor

Also, if you get four of the first five in the series, you also get a fancy shirt and title too. My goal is to be an Atlassian Certified Master by year’s end!

I want one! Image Courtesy Neil Taylor

So, to be clear, I’m not going to be giving you any answers in this blog. My goal here is to provide you with some strategies for both preparation and during the test to help you maximize your chances. Let’s get into this.

Prep Work

So, let’s begin with this. Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. That’s it for this week. Until next time, my name is Rodney, asking, “Have you updated your JIRA issues this week?”

Okay, for real this time. You do need to prepare yourself for the exam. Even if you have managed these tools for years, the ACP Exam will question you on EVERY part of the relevant topics. What this means that if you are not as strong in any area – it will show.

Give yourself a Sandbox

So my first recommendation is to own a test instance to study. Since the Atlassian exams are updated regularly to test against the latest Enterprise Release of JIRA and Confluence, a cloud instance won’t suffice for studying. However, you can use VirtualBox to set up a VM on your workstation. I’ve already given you instructions on how to setup JIRA on a VM! Confluence isn’t that different, so you can also use the guide to help you with that install.

The goal here is to allow you to play with anything in Confluence or JIRA without impacting any users or coworkers. So take advantage of it!

Review the Exam Topics

Here’s the scoop – Atlassian will tell you precisely what is on each Exam. No, I am serious! On the page for every Exam – under the Exam Details – you can find a link to the Exam Topics, which is a breakdown of all topics covered.

The Exam Topics document is your detailed guide to passing the Exam. I like to print out this document and use it as a checklist of topics to study. As I find details on each item and read through it, I’ll check it off the guide, so I know what I have reviewed and what’s left. That way, I can be sure I’ve studied everything before walking into the Exam.

Exam Topic Documents

Time to take a test

So, you’ve studied all the topics, and you feel you are ready for this thing. How do you make sure you maximize your chances while taking the Exam? That is what we are going to look at now!

Question Structure

Atlassian loves a particular type of question, and they are devilishly tricky. What they will ask is for you to give the “Most Correct” response to a problem. Then they will have the following answers:

  • One that is Entirely correct
  • Two that are almost correct, save for one minor error
  • One or two that is entirely wrong

So you have to figure out what answer is entirely correct. Not easy when the details are so close. However, one trick is to read each answer in its entirety. Cross out mentally which ones you know to be wrong. If it comes down to two you think are the right answer, you have at least increased your odds from one-in-five to one-in-two.

Also, be wary of questions that ask you for two or three correct answers. These complicate things to a higher degree, but I usually end up taking a similar approach. Reach each answer thoroughly and markdown which ones you think are correct and which ones you think are wrong. Whittle down the list until you get the appropriate number you feel are correct, then double-check them for any details. This method has been the only way I’ve found to deal with these questions successfully.

Time Management

The ACP Exam is a timed test, so you must keep an eye on the clock. One strategy I take is to read the question first. If it is a question I’m confident with, I will put down my answer and move on. If it’s one I’m unsure of, mark it and move on. This way, I don’t spend so much time on questions I might get right that I miss the chance to answer questions I will get right. I will then go back and answer any question I had marked, paying particular attention to the answers to give myself the best chance. 

Occasionally, the Test will help you!

So, this doesn’t happen with every question or even every ACP Exam. But occasionally, Atlassian will like to reuse a chart, query, or some part of a problem in a later issue. When this happens, you can use the new problem to get clues to help you answer the earlier one.

It’s difficult to explain what I mean here without actually giving away an answer, though, so you will have to bear with me on that. I just wanted you to be aware that if you are lucky enough, this is a possibility.

Don’t Panic

So, I cannot stress this one enough. Don’t panic. If you stress out while taking a test, it does impact how well you do. The whole point of studying the Exam topics so to make sure that no matter what they ask for, you’ve at least read something on the subject.

And let us be honest with ourselves, what is the worst that can happen, you fail the Exam? That does suck. Trust me, the ACP-200 has a reckoning coming.

Probably the biggest reason I’m not the “Confluence Guy”

Yep, I’ve failed an ACP before. It was only by a few points (and fun fact, I’d have passed using the current standard), but that did not end my career. Atlassian will even let you know what areas you did well on and what you need to study, so you know what to focus on for your retake, which, for my next attempt at the ACP-200, is pretty much everything!

There you have it. It is an important test, and even I will get nervous going into it. I won’t even go into the panic attack you have when you click that final submit. But I know that no matter what happens, it will be alright, so I don’t panic.

And Now you are Ready!

Do you have an ACP Exam coming up? Which one would you like to take? I’m not quite ready for my next Exam, but the whole point of going ahead and scheduling it is to give me the incentive to finish up my studies. I’ll be taking the ACP-300 on Friday, May 8th.

What to be the first to find out how I did? Follow the JIRA Guy on twitter at https://twitter.com/theJIRAguy. You can also subscribe to the blog to get new posts delivered directly to your inbox! Just use the form below!

So for real this time: My name is Rodney, asking, “Have you updated your JIRA Issues today?”

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