Back in early 2016, Atlassian launched a certification for Jira administrators. I was ecstatic to participate in the beta testing program and earn one of the first ACP-JA badges ever awarded!
Although it’s been three years since then and Atlassian has surely updated some aspects of the entire process, I’m sure my experience and recommendations are still valid for those taking the exam.
Atlassian describes their certification as a way to “…enhance your credibility, sharpen your performance, and help you deliver world-class Atlassian experiences to teams everywhere.” The first step is passing a general scenario-based exam, called “ACP-100.” Then, you’re eligible to take additional advanced tests to showcase specialized skills and keep your certification current. The first additional test available is ACP-110: “Advanced Jira Workflows.”
Atlassian recommends 2-3 years of Jira administration experience. When I took the exam, I had 5.5 years of general Jira user experience and 3.5 years experience as an administrator. Even with more than the recommended experience, the exam was challenging. I believe the year count alone doesn’t equate to “experience”. There’s a large difference between causal application administration, where you make a project customization every now and then (but Jira basically runs itself), and deep administration, where you’ve experienced setting up the application from scratch, upgrading it, maintaining it, and are working daily in the administrative portion of the application. If the majority of your time has been spent as a casual administrator, you’ll need extra learning and preparation time.
How to Study
1. Read everything about the exam on Atlassian’s web site.
Note which Jira versions the test will cover.
2. Read the entire Jira Administrator’s Guide for the versions you’ll be tested on.
3. Read the release notes for the versions the test will cover.
4. Visit every page in the application’s admin UI to remind yourself of the settings and capabilities.
5. Read the Atlassian-provided exam study guide and sample questions.
Recommendation: Approach the Jira Administrator certification exam topics from multiple angles. For example, if you have a small organization, with a handful of projects and users, you’ll want to consider how a large organization, with hundreds of projects and thousands of users, would tackle a problem. If your organization uses the server version, you’ll want to consider how a strategy might differ in the cloud version. Think of scenarios that don’t apply to your organization but would be common among others. Think of areas of your application that aren’t setup quite right and how you’d do it better. It’s not enough to understand your application’s intricacies, you need to understand how Jira is generally intended to be configured.
Some of the beta testers formed a study group. We used the exam study guide to write all the questions we thought might be on the test. Then, we answered each question in detail. We met once a week for a month to review the content each user added, discuss alternatives, and add additional notes and experiences. Many of us credit these study sessions as how we passed the test. Why not form your own study group?
6. Read the Jira Strategy Admin Workbook.
It’s about what you should do, what you shouldn’t do, and why. As part of the strategy recommendations, it covers admin concepts. When I started writing the book, there wasn’t a certification, so I didn’t write it for that purpose. But it does make a great companion to the existing Atlassian documentation and certification study materials. Read more about the book and its contents at: https://www.jirastrategy.com/contents
7. Visit the testing vendor’s website, as well as the website of the specific testing center, to learn all you can about the test experience.
For example, you’ll need to bring two forms of ID. You won’t be able to take any belongings into the testing room. (This includes your wallet, phone, and keys.)
Recommendation: Bring a pair of earplugs. They will shield you from potential distractions, like noise from adjoining rooms, your neighbor’s pencil tapping, and typing and mouse clicks that really stand out in an otherwise silent room.
I estimate I spent 10 hours specifically preparing for the exam. I was very happy to pass, but even if I didn’t, the prep time was valuable. I learned things I simply didn’t know and explored parts of the application I hadn’t touched in a while. The certification process as a whole made me a better Jira Administrator.