Taking the ITIL Practitioner exam: Ins and outs

A post at AXELOS forums prompted me to write about my experience while taking the ITIL Practitioner exam. I am posting here based on my reply there.

I’ll write more generic stuff on taking the exam itself, then studying/preparing for it and finally some specifics. Disclaimer: It’s my personal view from my own experience. I tried hard not writing ambiguous stuff. My goal is to help you on getting the certification because you’re prepared for it 🙂 So, adopt and adapt to YOUR way.

The exam is harder (in part because it is different in style and scope) than ITIL exams below ITIL Expert level. It combines relatively large topic coverage with template based questions and the specific scenarios (that you only get to read when you seat the exam) consume precious time. “It is what it is”, like it or not. So reserve the time to study (with more than one pass through all the content please) and have a good night rest the day before the exam.

The exam
– You need to know really well the ITIL Practitioner book and where topics are. I think it’s a good idea to use little post its to help find the chapters. Use the Table of Contents and the word index at the end, it’s good and faster than your memory. It works. Some topics are touched in more than one place like stakeholder analysis or reporting (these are just examples; there’s naturally lots of cross-referencing between the main topics like OCM with communication for instance). So it’s more efficient wasting as little time as possible looking for context in the book.
– I find one or two questions really difficult to understand. So don’t dwell too much on those. Tough decision because of the way the exam is organized (specific scenarios give context and at least for me it was hard coming back to a different block without re-reading the scenario again). I establish a half-way goal (like half the questions at half time or a bit earlier for buffer). I tend to be faster and review as little as possible but this time I reviewed a lot! So, make the time for it.
– It takes time to read the specific scenario, the question, then think on the right answer and/or eliminate the wrong ones. So it’s not efficient jumping around the questions; it’s more effective doing them by specific scenario blocks of questions.

The study
– I recommend reading The whole ITIL Practitioner book in one go first so you know what’s harder for you. Use different ways to review the content. For me it worked writing summaries, lists and – to a lesser extent than usual – mindmaps. Writing it down makes me notice patterns and think on it in a different way (good because my memory is bad 😉 I’ve used as a rule of thumb the weight of the questions per main topic as a guidance on how long I’ve studied for each (I studied first the heavy ones – did not follow exactly the book sequence for deeper study.
– Study really well the Introduction of the book; most of the easier questions come from here (it’s really good and has new stuff there. I like the way the Service definition is deconstructed in value, outcome, cost and risk as a way of explaining what a service is), you can thank me after passing the exam for this one.
– Try the mock exams officially available, they do reflect the kind of questions in the real exam.
– Go beyond the questions available within the mock exams. Especially the ones using the templates at the end of the book (the Toolkit chapter). You will certainly have questions made on top of practical examples using those templates.

Specific tips (please take them with salt; it’s my perception of my exam)
– For the measurement and metrics… The questions on this main topic used frequently templates from the appendix. So it’s good to review the specific templates and mock exam questions using templates.
– For CSI Approach you’ll have to be careful with outputs from each step (it really shows on the mock exam – I stress this again: study the mock exams),
– As for the Guiding principles, I suggest you take note whenever you find references of one or more of them on the other chapters; they do not show up always in a clear way in the book.
– Beware of the deceptive communication chapter. It’s quite easy to understand while reading it but I found the questions hard. That being said maybe it’s just the case this is the part I need to learn and practice the most 😉 [I’ve been doing that by the way]

Hope this helps! In the end of the day, you’ll have to approach the ITIL Practitioner exam in a systematic way. Reserve the time, plan for it… and just do it.


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10 Responses to “Taking the ITIL Practitioner exam: Ins and outs”

  1. David Foote Says:

    Thanks for the post! There isn’t much out there on the exam so I appreciate you sharing your experiences.

    Is the scenario for the exam not the same as the scenario in the sample papers ?(https://www.axelos.com/Corporate/media/Files/Sample%20Papers/ITIL/ITIL-Practitioner-0716.zip)

    In the Practitioner syllabus it says “This case study (referred to as the ‘Scenario’) is the same for all sample and official exams.” so if they are different I’d be glad to know!

  2. rumagoso Says:

    Hi David – sorry for taking so long.
    1) I confirmed that the case study is always the same as in the sample papers from AXELOS (as of 21/09/2016).
    2) The specific scenarios you get in the actual exam are not the same (of course you should practice with the example specific scenarios in the sample papers -it’s different but same approach – and work on variations of).

    That’s why you need to reserve time to read them during the exam.
    Be well

  3. VIbha Sharma Says:

    Hi, Thank you for this great article. Is the book and sample papers enough?> Is there more courseware around that could be helpful?

  4. Andru Says:

    Hi David,

    I was advised that the online proctored exam doesn’t allow for open book. Does the test provide access to the electronic version of the book as part of the test engine?

    Thank you.

  5. Andru Says:

    Thank you. Will do.

  6. Steven Scott Angus Says:

    I recently took (and failed) the online proctored ITIL Practitioner exam. The paper book is allowed for Open Book.

    I also recommend you bring in a couple of pages of blank paper for making notes, simple charts of scenarios, etc. The proctor will inspect the paper (both sides) before the exam, to verify the paper is blank.

    Good luck. I’ll be taking the exam again shortly.

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