atlassian-certification-ultimate-guide
Author: Bogdan Gorka
Published: December 29, 2020
CategoryAtlassian

Studying for one of Atlassian Certified Professional certificates is a good way to organize your practical knowledge and fill in the gaps that you may have about less used functionalities. Preparing for the exam gives you a purpose and motivation to expand your expertise as Jira Administrator. In this guide you will find (probably) everything you need to know about Atlassian Jira Certificates.

Do you need a Jira Certification?

In my opinion yes, because passing one of Jira certifications will independently confirm your level of technical expertise. When you pass one of the Atlassian Jira certification exams and receive your certificate, this will be a formal confirmation that:

  • you can configure and administer Jira Software, Jira Core and/or Jira Service Desk with Jira customizing apps (plugins)
  • you know how to manage global settings, projects, schemes, roles, users, groups, roles and more
  • you understand how to effectively configure projects, workflows, schemes and permissions

In other technologies like Microsoft, Cisco or SAP, certification programs have become a standard a long time ago. Technology certifications make it easier for employers, recruiters and technology partners to seek for and select potential employees or contractors.  That is why Atlassian back in 2016 also developed their certification program.

Jira Cloud or Jira Server certification - that is the question

Since November 2020 Atlassian is offering an alternative to Jira Server certification path - Jira Cloud certifications. Their content is only partially the same as for the Server deployment option and requires different materials for study. Selecting the right path for you depends greatly on the type of Jira deployment in your organization.

The hub webpage for everything related to Atlassian Certifications is here: https://www.atlassian.com/university/certification

To start with, let me give you an overview of Jira Administration certificates to get you started.

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Jira Cloud certificates

ACP-620 Managing Jira Cloud Projects

This is the first formal certificate for experienced Jira Cloud users. If you have 6-12 months of experience in configuring and automating Jira Cloud classic and next-gen projects, you should have no problem with the preparations for this certificate.

ACP-620 exam home page: https://www.atlassian.com/university/certification/certifications/exam-acp-620

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ACP-120 Jira Cloud Administrator 

This exam is considerably more difficult than the ACP-620. In order to pass this exam you should have 2 or more years of experience administering Jira Cloud. The trap is that Jira Cloud in its current mature shape and new navigation (end of 2020) has been around for less than a year. The good news is that the classic Jira Server experience is equally useful for this exam. If you can interpret and translate business requirements into Jira configurations and you know how to configure other objects such as workflows, security, permissions, project schemes, and other system settings this should be enough. However, please focus also on Jira Cloud and user management specific features.

ACP-120 exam home page: https://www.atlassian.com/university/certification/certifications/exam-acp-120

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Jira Server (Data Center) certificates

ACP-600 - Project Administration in Jira Server

This certification will be renamed to Project Administration in Jira Data Center but the required preparation and exam topics will not change. It is aimed at experienced Jira Server users,  who know how to use basic projects and boards configuration, customize basic workflows and manage project permissions.

The main difficulty of this certificate is, in my opinion, required level of JQL (Jira Query Language) knowledge and knowing what you cannot configure as Project Administrator without the support of Jira Administrator. Project Administrators are very helpful in large Jira instances (Server and Cloud) where they support discovering new requirements for Jira configuration changes and maintain access for users.

ACP - 600 exam home page: https://www.atlassian.com/university/certification/certifications/exam-acp-600

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ACP-100 Jira Administrator

Similarly to ACP-120, this exam is aimed at specialists with 2 or more years of experience, knowledgeable about managing, customizing and configuring Jira from within the Jira user interface. As a certified Jira Administrator you know how to gather and translate business requirements into Jira configuration. The big difference to ACP-120 is that you also know how to keep Jira server stable and healthy because you understand how your configuration can affect Jira's performance. Understanding of certain basic Jira system configuration elements such as e-mail and server security is also required.

ACP-100 exam home page: https://www.atlassian.com/university/certification/certifications/exam-acp-100

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Jira Certification exam preparations

Atlassian Certificate Professional exams are designed to be tricky, the questions are worded confusingly and require hands on experience which cannot be gained just from reading documentation. The high level of difficulty makes Atlassian certificates more valuable.

In order to prepare yourself for the exam you need a plan which you should prepare to organize your study. Below are a few elements you can include in your version of the plan.

Review if you are ready to sit for the exam

Firstly, you need to evaluate if your current experience covers all the topics that are required for your exam. Make sure that you have used or at least practiced in your sandbox environment all the functionalities that are needed for a particular type of exam. Understand what you need to know if you manage the Cloud version and what is needed for the Server/DC version. As mentioned before, Jira Server requires maintenance so expect more questions what it means to keep the Jira instance running and healthy.

To do: Review exam Topics on your exam home page

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Install Jira Sandbox Instance

Studying for the exam requires practical hands-on experience. As mentioned before, you will not know all the nooks and crannies of the Jira configuration. If you discover that you do not know something, you need check it and play with it on the real server. Some questions include screenshots so you need to know how each functionality works and looks like.

Installing a new server in the Cloud is easy and you can follow an installation wizard on the Atlassian website.

Getting a new Jira Server may be difficult for some of you. However, you can install Jira Core server on your own computer which is easier than installing it on Linux server. Go here for installation instructions and how to apply evaluation license.

To do: Install Jira sandbox instance

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Create a Jira Certification study schedule

The amount of courses and preparation materials can be overwhelming. That is why you should select only the best materials, align them into a learning path and create a study plan.

Even if you have been in Jira administration roles for 2 or 3 years, you should expect that there are many functionality elements you did not know. During our everyday practice we do not deal with every configuration items there is (eg. how much do you actually know about Universal Plugin Manager ?). It is even more true if your experience with Jira Cloud is limited because it is still quite new. So, my advice to you is, read the Exam Details (like this one for ACP-100) and prepare a solid study schedule. Decide how many hours a week you can devote to studying. I would say set aside at least 4 hours of study each week.

Your study plan/schedule should include:

  • what course lessons will you view,
  • what will you read in Atlassian documentation
  • what exercises will you do in your sandbox Jira

Have a look at an example ACP-100 schedule which may help get you started

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Review Jira Administration preparation courses

To create your own learning path, go to your exam home page and review the training materials there. Remember that for exams ACP-600 and ACP-620 the training materials are included in the exam price. You will not have to pay for them additionally.

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Also, it is a good idea to sign up for and watch the recorded ACP-600 webinar https://www.atlassian.com/webinars/software/the-top-secrets-to-success-for-project-administration-in-jira-server

You can also review the learning paths prepared by Atlassian: https://training.atlassian.com/Learning-Paths#

From my experience, the Jira Administration preparation courses from Atlassian: Jira Administration Part 1 and Jira Administration Part 2 were not so helpful for me and I would now recommend them if you have to pay for them from your own pocket.

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Review Atlassian Skill Builders

Skill builders explore a single technical topic in depth. It is a great and mostly free resource to deepen your knowledge in a specific area.

Your must-have courses for all Jira related exams are:

Other skill builders you can find here: https://training.atlassian.com/skillbuilders

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Take courses from the Atlassian Free Training catalogue

In addition to free skill builders, Atlassian is giving away for free another valuable source of training materials. In the Atlassian Free Training catalogue https://training.atlassian.com/free-training-catalog you will find a few good courses, especially for those who want to prepare for the Jira Cloud version exams

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Review Jira Administration Documentation

Other important element to consider is Jira documentation.

Jira Server: you do not have to read the latest Jira version documentation because the exam content (for the server version) is for the latest Long Term Support release version. Check here which is now the latest LTS version: https://www.atlassian.com/software/jira/download/data-center At the time of writing this article, the latest LTS version was 8.13 and I would take this version for studying. Follow the exam topics and plan what you need to read from these collections:

  1. Server documentation: https://confluence.atlassian.com/jiracoreserver0813/jira-core-server-8-13-documentation-1027138924.html
  2. Administering Jira applications: https://confluence.atlassian.com/adminjiraserver0813/administering-jira-data-center-and-server-8-13-applications-1027137400.html

Jira Cloud: documentation and resources for Jira Cloud administration are collected here: https://support.atlassian.com/jira-cloud-administration/resources/

To do: prepare your individual learning schedule based on the materials sources above - what and when to study

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Organize a study group

It may be hard for you to find motivation to study alone for any exam, not just the ACP. Normally we are quite busy people, we work daily and it is not easy to find this one extra hour during a day to really be able to focus on study. When I studied for my ACP-100 it helped me to find a colleague who wanted to prepare for the exam with me. If there are two or three of you, you prepare your study plan together, you motivate each other and meet weekly (eg. on Google Meet or Zoom). During regular meetings you discuss what you have learnt, what you found interesting, what was new to you, what problems you found in configuring something. And where is the motivation coming from? If you committed to study and meet regularly, you cannot just say to others I am too tired to study this week and again next week. You know that the other person has also been busy this week but was able to get prepared for this week’s meeting with you. So you cannot fail this person and you must find this time to study and to prepare for the next study group meeting because you made a promise. This mutual motivation works.

To do: ask around your colleagues if someone wants to prepare for the Jira ACP exam with you

Schedule your Jira exam date in advance

A critical element of your study plan above is a target day of your exam. Setting up the exam date is very important to get you additionally motivated. You can book your exam day well in advance and since the money is spent, this will additionally motivate you not to give up your preparations. Money is gone, you have to do it.

Exams are now organized primarily remotely. This puts another difficulty to your preparations because you need to prepare your home office for the three hours of exam. Read more about preparations of your computer and the work area in you exam home page. There are quite a few things you need to get ready for the exam.

Also, when you choose a date and time, please remember that it is best to schedule your exam when you have the most ‘brain power’. In my case it is Monday or Tuesday at 9.30 - 10.00 am. For me booking an exam on Thursday or Friday at 3pm would not work. I would not be very effective during these 3 hours of sitting and focusing on test questions.

It is also a good idea to review the certification Frequently Asked Questions section here: https://training.atlassian.com/faq/certification

To do: schedule an exam date and time

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Test your Jira certification knowledge with free Sample Questions

One thing I do not understand in Atlassian is why they give so few sample questions available. In my opinion, if documentation and courses studying was supplemented with more sample questions (like 100), this would give and applicant much better idea what to expect and if he or she is ready for the exam.

In the meantime, you can get only a handful of exams so here are the links to them. I suggest you review all of them because not all questions are only server/cloud specific.

ACP 100 Sample Questions - https://training.atlassian.com/static/Certification Sample Questions/ACP-100 v2/story_html5.html

ACP 600 Sample Questions - https://training.atlassian.com/static/elearning/ACP-600 Sample Questions Oct 1/story_html5.html

ACP 120 Sample Questions - https://training.atlassian.com/static/Certification Sample Questions/ACP-120/story_html5.html

ACP 620 Sample Questions - https://training.atlassian.com/static/Certification Sample Questions/ACP-620/story_html5.html

To do: review your preparation readiness level with sample questions

My list of Jira Certification exam tips

1. Each ACP exam has about 70-80 questions. When you divide it by 3 hours it gives you have a little over 2 minutes per question. Some questions are very long and not easy to understand when you read them for the first time. Don't waste your time on those! If you don't know the answer yet, mark it for review later.

2. Remember to answer every question and make a guess if necessary! There are no deductions for incorrect answers.

3. Do not rush. READ SLOWLY AND CAREFULLY. Make sure if you need to select one, two or more answers. It is easy to give only one answer if they ask for more. (For example “Select two situations when….”)

4. When all the answers look good, try to eliminate the ones that look the least good. Select the best from the remaining options. And again, read all the answers slowly and carefully before selecting the final answer.

5. When all the answers look bad, try to eliminate the ones that look the worst and leave only the least bad. In the worst case scenario when (a) and (c) look equally good, choose any one. You can be 50% wrong but also 50% correct.

6. Translate situational or user requirements questions into configuration. On the exam there will be many practical use cases from Jira administration. You will only be able to select the correct answer if you are able to translate the situation into a configuration object. For example, if the use case is about a user who is not able to transition the issue, you need to be able to deduct that this maybe something about permissions or workflow properties and not global settings. 

7. In Jira server administration questions always assume that an administrator should have as little maintenance work as possible. If two questions are right but one of them will require less work from the administrator, this should be the correct answer.

8. In Jira project administration always assume that the role of a Project Administrator is to help Jira Administrator in managing local requirements and user management.

Read my other Jira Certification articles

In year 2020 I wrote a few articles about the Atlassian Certified Professional exams. You can read them following the links below:

Expand your Atlassian skills and pass the ACP Exam

Free tips on how to prepare for the Atlassian ACP Exam

Tips and strategies to survive the Atlassian ACP Exam


Spread the knowledge, share with others

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