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.

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My Strategy – Start with Service Strategy

My strategy.  Not necessarily one that is best for others.  Not certain retrospectively if it was the best for me.  But it worked.

Taking on the lifecycle path within the ITIL certification schema, I figured I needed to start somewhere. Staring at 5 choices. No set place required to start. But having to start somewhere, I selected the big picture first – and first on the list. Developing most management experience from the business side of IT, Service Strategy seemed the most logical.

Those in the trenches, I would recommend starting with the Service Operations exam. When I took that exam, it felt like a breeze. Could it have been because I had already completed 2 other certifications by then? Certainly. All the topics revolve around the same thing: IT Service Management. They all relate. The management on one area depends in part to the management of the others. After all, the first chapter of each core publication is practically the same.

Which ever topic you select to tackle first, it will most likely be the most difficult. Getting comfortable with the format and topic is one of the first hurdles. Then you build momentum. By far, the Service Strategy exam is the one that I studied for the most. Thoroughly reading the core publication on top of hours of online instruction took many hours over many weeks. In all, I think I spent 30-40 hours in study prep. But considering by syllabus, ITIL v3 Intermediate Service Strategy classroom based training sessions are 24 hours. Granted, that often includes the exam and breaks. Although, I imagine most attending a class spend near that time to reading and completing any other side work.

Subsequent study prep times were less.

My strategy for starting with Service Strategy paid off. Not only did I pass on the first attempt – I passed with Distinction. That was quite a relief.

Tackling the Remainder of the ITIL Intermediate Stream

One of the big decisions you need to make is whether you are going to go primarily down the LIFECYCLE stream or the CAPABILITIES stream.  Ok, it’s not that big of a decision.  Not like buying a car or which ice cream you are going to order.  Well, it is a little less costly – barely – than buying a car; and more life affecting than choosing your ice cream flavor [side note: I tried Pumpkin ice cream the other day – pretty good!].

Covered in another post and podcast [to be attached here soon], the ITIL certification schema has layers.  All must do the Foundations and the Managing Across the Lifecycle exams.  But in the middle it is a little more squishy.  More squishy if you eat a lot of ice cream.

You must gain 15 intermediate credits.  Many place themselves in one of the 2 camps: Lifecycle or Capabilities.  You don’t have place yourself strictly in one camp or the other. You may pick and choose.  Although, I did.  I am firmly placed in one camp.

The different streams are based on different mindsets or purposes, if you will.  They represent a different approach.  A different angle to the ITIL framework.  Lifecycle’s path more ‘management’ focused.  Capabilities more ‘practitioner’ focused.

I am in the management mind.  I am collecting the certifications under the lifecycle stream: SS, SD, ST, SO, and CSI.  Means I must do all 5 (if I don’t cross over) to acquire my full 15 Intermediate credits.  My intentions are to continue viewing IT Service management and ITIL practices in the more holistic views.  Seeing the picture.  Seeing where it is best applied.

Coming from a more strategic, business, and project management background, this was an easy choice for me.  You may have a tougher choice.  Depending on where you have been and where you wish to go.  If you want to be the ones executing the best practices and have background in the trenches, go capabilities.  If you see yourself defining strategy, determining broader applications, go lifecycle.

In any case, they all meet up again in the MALC capstone exam.  See you at the top