What are the most popular ITIL Intermediate exams?

The ITIL v3 certification structure does allow some flexibility in your pursuit of obtaining the ITIL Expert designation.  Not a perfect laid out option tree; but a few options nonetheless.

At the Intermediate level, you can take the Lifecycle Stream.  More focused on Managers.  Or you can go the Capabilities route.  More focused on Practitioners.  There are combinations where you could mix and match.  The numbers don’t add up as nicely.  But it is possible.

You gather 3 credits for each Lifecycle module.  4 for each Capability module.  Consequently, I was wondering what the more popular route was and what exams were the most taken.  My pokey research is limited.  What I gathered is unofficial – and possibly dated.

Preliminarily, it appears that the streams have a fairly balanced number.  This could be due to focused pathways or picking and choosing between the streams.

Not surprising, Service Operations (SO) is the most popular exam to take.  Service Operations is what most in IT are used to.  What they do daily.  Safe.  Familiar.  Which makes it the easiest.  Pair that with the next easiest  – in terms of familiarity – Operational Support and Analysis (OSA) – and you have knocked out 7 Intermediate credits.  Not a bad start.  Eight more to go.  You can go with 2 more Capability exams or 3 more Lifecycle exams.

The ones not really getting any love are Service Strategy (SS) and Continual Service Improvement (CSI) on the Lifecycle side; and Planning, Protection, and Optimization (PPO) on the Capability side.

Again, not surprising.  They are bigger picture.  More theoretical at points than the others.  Often not want many in the IT field do regularly.  Plus, they incorporate material and subject matter outside of daily IT operations – i.e. Quality Management and Marketing.

Curious what path you took.  Please share your thoughts, if you may.

Advice on Taking ITIL Intermediate Exams

Now having cleared all 5 ITIL® v. 3 Intermediate Exams on the Lifecycle Module path, I wish to share some of my suggestions on clearing them.

One suggestion I mentioned in an earlier blog post was to look to eliminate 1 answer choice off the top. There is one answer that serves as a distractor. Often, it sticks out. Find it. Get rid of it. The distractor may have it’s own direction or something the others don’t.

What I mean by “it’s own direction”, is for example: 3 answers may have a “negative” or all “positive” response. Say, “inform the CIO the suggestion cannot (can) work at the present time…”. Whereas, 1 answer has the opposite approach. That makes it stick out. That is the one you must remove. Granted, there are not many blatant examples such as this, nonetheless there are a few from time to time.

Frequently, the distractor has its own errors. Maybe terms/definitions wrong, off topic, repeats irrelevant material from scenario, or something you can -or should – spot as erroneous.

The other suggestion I have for you: READ THE QUESTION FIRST! It took me a few exams before I started doing this, and I wish someone told me to do this from the start. The scenarios are long. They have lots of information. Potentially, more information than you need. How do you know what is important and what is not? Exactly. You don’t. Unless you read the question first.

Some scenarios are written to be used multiple times for various questions. Each question seeks out different learning objectives from the same scenario. Worrying your little head about all the fine details unnecessarily clouds your mind. This is a timed exam. No reason to waste your time.

Scroll down to the question first. Don’t even start reading the scenario – you may not stop. Read the question – usually a line to a paragraph in length. Then read the entire scenario! Now you have a frame of reference. You know what they are seeking from you. You know which data points are important. You know what to look for.

Before, I would read a scenario slowly. Taking detailed notes. Making certain I had all the information comprehended. Only to read the question and discover some of the information was totally irrelevant. Sometimes all the scenario information was absolutely important. But a few times, I had to demonstrate in the answer is comprehension of a concept. Essentially able to answer without reading the story at all. The story helped put the question in perspective and give it “meat”. But not that crucial to answering the question. If you don’t read the question first, you do not know if the story and all its details are absolutely important, certain parts important, or very little of it.

That is my recommendation. Try it out on your practice exams first. It takes some behavioral change; but an easy one to make. It pays off in your ability to answer the exam questions and the time management. My later ITIL Intermediate exams I was finishing with 20 -30 minutes remaining. Earlier Intermediate exams I was taking them down to the wire.

I shall post more suggestions. More are being included in my ITIL v3 training courses and study book materials. Alas, I do not mind sharing some of my experiences for free.

Final Stab at CSI

I did it! I finally cleared all the ITIL® v. 3 Intermediate Lifecycle certification exams! CSI (Continual Service Improvement) was the one causing me headaches. Failed it before. But now have passed it with distinction. That would make all 5 certifications passed with distinction.

Now only Managing Across the Lifecycle exam remains. This is the capstone that pulls all the ITIL principles in place. Upon passing that exam, I will finally reach the designation of ITIL v. 3 Expert!

I’ll keep you posted.

Reading Kotter’s Change Book

As noted in another post, I failed to clear the Continual Service Improvement -CSI- of the the ITIL v3 Intermediate certification exams. The only one remaining in my goal to clear all the Intermediate Lifecycle modules. All the others I have passed. Not only passed; but with distinction. Alas, for some strange reason this CSI exam eludes me.

Determined to pass this one soon, I am trying to find inexpensive ways to enhance my preparation. Very little resources are out there to prepare oneself for the CSI exam. I have taken multiple practice exams (oddly have passed each one on the first attempt) and have read the CSI core publication. I will read the core book a little more closely once again and take extensive notes. In the meantime, I thought I might complement my studies with a side book.

The CSI book stresses the 8 Steps to Transforming Your Organization theorized by John Kotter. Hence, I thought: let’s read it straight from the source. Grabbed a copy of Kotter’s “ground-breaking” book Our Iceberg is Melting Sadly, this has been the lamest professional book I have read since… Who Moved My Cheese. Maybe because they take the same lame ass way of presenting the data. And yet people eat this stuff up. I think it belittles people’s intelligence. I guess I might be in the minority when I think professional books should be… more professional?

Only 147 pages. With pictures. Then add ample white space . And 16 point FONT! I think the entire book is no longer than my entire blog.

What was most annoying, was the feeble attempts at using an analogy, but not sticking with it. He went from penguin actions to human actions. If you are going to use an analogy, then stay in the analogy. This book was so disconnected. Î guess I should not be too harsh. I am working on an ITIL v3 Foundation book using an analogy/story. I might have to take other’s criticism.

But it is a short read. Don’t waste any money buying it. You can finish before you leave the bookstore. Keep the change. The lesson on the ‘change’ is worthy. Knowing the 8 steps is good. At least for those considering sitting for the CSI certification exam. I have also produced a GoGogh podcast/radio show on the topic. I will link it once it is up.

I have also received the new book by Chip and Dan Heath entitled, Swith. The topic is also change management. I have higher hopes for this. I really enjoyed their last book, Made to Stick. I’ll give you my review once I am finished.

Until then, I need to re-read the CSI publication in preparation for my exam Monday.

When Taking an ITIL Intermediate Exam – get it down to 2

There are only 4 choices on your Intermediate exam. You know that one is the distractor. Find it first and eliminate it! Search for the one that does not belong. Either because it contains an error or sticks out from the others.

There is often a pattern with the four answer choices. Two answers – or possibly 3- typically have common threads. Material may be identical, with point here or there being different. When the question was authored, the correct answer may have a few of the points or words altered – turning it into the “mostly correct” answer. Consequently, if you notice that 2 or 3 answers have the same core response and one that goes on a whole new path, the one on the off path is most likely the distractor.

Doing this first step at least guarantees you a point. Scoring any distractors – worth 0 points – hurts your score hard. Getting rid of the answer that does not belong cleared out from the start makes it a “best out of three” chance. From here, you can start weeding thru the points that are good and picking the best of what remains.

I love the smell of exams in the morning!

Another sunny morning. Another ITIL Intermediate exam. This time – ITIL v3 Intermediate Service Design.

I mentioned in a earlier post that I was attempting the CSI first. The last time I took the CSI exam, there was an error. The accreditation organization was evaluating the prospect of giving me an adjustment – which would have changed my score to passing. Alas, that was not accepted.

In the meantime though, I thought it best to study and prepare for the only other exam waiting in my Lifecycle path at the Intermediate level: SD.

I was holding Service Design for last because I assumed it would be the most difficult. I assumed wrong. My more extensive background in management – most importantly project management – made this exam little more straight forward. At least more than the ST or CSI exams were.

This exam I finished in about an hour. One of the faster times in my experience. Only had one question that I battered back and forth for considerable time. In the end, I still could not come up with a favorite. Since I cannot pick two, I finally flipped a coin and went with it.

The moment you declare the exam over, it is a scary moment. Actually, it’s the seconds before. When you still are technically active and knowing that as soon as you hit that button your fate lies in the hand of the scoring process. And that result comes instantly. My suggestion, is to go thru each questions one more time. Make certain every question has been answered and everything looks in order. Not necessarily changing answers. But the satisfaction that I reviewed things one last time. I think it is more of cognitive closure than anything else.

My results from this morning’s ITIL v3 Intermediate Service Design certification exam was: PASSING – with distinction! Thus far, all my Intermediate exams have been Passing with distinction, save for that crummy CSI exam. I have a rematch with CSI scheduled for tomorrow.

The breakdown of my SD exam was: 85%
6 – Most correct answers
1 – Partially correct answer
1 – Least correct answer
0 – Distractors
Total points = 34

The smell of exams come again in the morning!

the Service Strategy Exam

“Show up when you want. Start the exam at any time.” Those were the instructions I received from the community college that was proctoring my ITIL v3 Intermediate Service Strategy exam. I like this arrangement very much. I am very pleased that I have this arrangement for each of my ITIL exams.

Taking exams encompasses a lot of stress. The more you prepare and the more you relax, the better off you are. All of us though take on some stress when taking an exam. Some more. Some less. Anything to be done to reduce the stress level, the better off we all are. Having the exam time be up to my own choosing the day of was a definite stress reducer.

Coming from the project management certification circus, I was very accustomed to highly structured and highly stressful exam environments. Having taken, and subsequently preparing hundreds of others sit for the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam, I was used to a highly controlled environment. At least compared to the other exams happening all around you. When taking the PMP exam – at least here in the US – you are often in a room with other exam takers. Rarely are any of those other exam takers dealing with the 4 hour mental anguish of the PMP. You can tell. They are done sooner. Generally more relaxed. And not taking breaks during their exam. But the rules and restrictions on you seem to be more intense – I even had a student come back to me and explain that a proctor accused her of cheating because she took off her sweater. Time spent worrying about your surroundings is less concentration on your exam – where it needs to be. Fortunately, the ITIL test environment is not that stressful.

The ITIL Intermediate exams are 90 minutes. Less than the PMP marathon or Six Sigma. Nonetheless, greater than the Foundations and some other certification exams. But unlike the vast amount of extra time given to you on the Foundation exam, you most likely will need all 90 minutes for your Intermediate exam. I have averaged about 80 minutes for each of mine.

Only 8 questions. Only 4 possible answers for each question. Seems simple right? Not really. Because to some degree, each question has 3 right answers! Only one can safely be classified as a wrong answer. Key on the word ‘degree’ when I stated that there are 3 ‘right’ answers. There is a ‘right’ answer; a ‘more right’ answer; and the ‘best or slightly better than all others right’ answer. You get points on level of ‘right’ you pick.

Starting with 0 points for wrong. One point for an answer with a touch of merit. Then 3 points for the mostly right. And finally, 5 points for the most correct answer. Splitting the hairs between the first and second answer is where you find most of your time being sapped away.

All eight questions are given to you in Scenario format. Each scenario is about 1-2 pages in length. Each answer choice is typically a paragraph of varying length.

You have 90 minutes – or 11 minutes per question – to read the story, read the answer options, re-reading the story, eliminating possible answers, bouncing back and forth between your finalists, poking around back in the story, slapping your forehead in hopes of enlightenment, and then picking an answer (at least your answer for the moment).

In the end, you must score 25 points to pass. 40 is the maximum, with all 8 answers with the best choice (I almost did this in my SO exam). In my first exam, I scored a reassuring 33 points. The results are displayed instantly. Your attitude changes instantly too.