ITIL Practitioner: Thoughts on the experience so far

3623768629_955cfaedca_oDoes ITIL Practitioner live up to the hype? Having followed the teasers, blog posts, promotional videos and (some of the) discussions during 2015 I find the question difficult to answer, even after reading the book and taking the certification exam.

In fact, it might be stretching it to call it a hype, even though the press release stated that it was the “most significant evolution in the ITIL best practice framework since the launch of AXELOS”, and The IT Sceptic stated that even he “might even consider doing it”. A Google search on “ITIL Practitioner” today gives me slightly more than 90 000 hits, which is significantly less than “ITIL Foundation” (580 000 hits) and even “ITIL Expert” (350 000 hits). Compared to obvious IT hypes like “Big data” (54 million hits) ITIL Practitioner appears to be hardly noticeable. Nevertheless, my expectations were pretty high by the time I got my hands on some actual reading material.

In my experience, the syllabus is usually a good starting point for familiarizing oneself with new certifications, and this was no exception. The six learning objectives all began with “Be able to [do something]”, which did nothing to lower my expectations, and the assessment criteria filled them out very nicely. Time, then, to dig into the book.

Reading the book

Instant gratification!

Being impatient, I skipped the foreword and the presentation of the (quite impressing) team, and went straight for the good stuff. The introduction left me yearning for more. I loved the simple language, the examples and the down to earth approach. The description of a service strikes me as better than any I have seen in other ITIL books. If I could hand out the first chapter to ITIL Foundation course participants, I would. It really sums up the essence of ITSM in an easily understandable and well-formulated way.

If I should put my finger on anything in the introduction, it would be the presentation of efficiency and effectiveness as concepts. Personally, I would have preferred a little more focus and weight on effectiveness. Efficiency is running fast, effectiveness is choosing the smartest and quickest route. “Doing the right thing” should come before “doing the thing right”, or else you very quickly end up doing the wrong things very efficiently.

As I read on, the book continued to impress me. The easy language, the good examples, the references to other frameworks and methods, it all contributed to the overall great impression.

The guiding principles were very good, easy to follow and to agree with, and I especially liked the emphasis that they are not unique to ITIL or ITSM. I would have liked to see more on the interfaces between them, and how they interact with one another, but then again, they are guiding principles, not directing processes.

The many references to the Toolkit left me in an ambiguous state of mind. On the one hand, it was great to get tips of templates and tools, especially because they were placed close to descriptions of the activities they are meant to support. On the other hand, they had a tendency to break my concentration and flow because I felt I had to look them up immediately. I guess I’ll be less distracted by this the next time I read the book. The Toolkit itself was a great resource, with ample information and references.

In fact, references to other frameworks and methods such as Lean, Kanban, Scrum and agile were abundant throughout the book. Several pages at the end of chapter 7 was dedicated to describing these, and others. I found it very refreshing and appropriate, very much in line with my expectations. The only thing that gave me pause is that I found no mention of Kepner-Tregoe, which, in my opinion, would be a very relevant and useful tool for several topics.

Overall, I was very satisfied with the book, as I am sure most others will be too.

Passing the certification test

As with other comparable certifications, my exam preparations consisted mainly of working with the two sample exams I had at hand. The format was recognizable, with scenarios and multiple choice questions. Having taken a fair share of such exams, I entered into the task with my usual enthusiasm and optimism, both of which was soon put to the test.

ITIL Practitioner operates on Bloom’s level 3 and 4, same as the nine intermediate ITIL exams. Thus, the questions should test the candidates’ ability to effectively apply concepts, principles, methods and new information to concrete situations (level 3), and analyze situations, identify reasons and causes, and reach conclusions (level 4).

In my experience, both the mock exams and the actual certification test fall somewhat short of achieving this. I like scenario based tests; they feel more realistic and appropriate, but you need a certain amount of details to make it work. The intermediate exams handles this by limiting the number of questions, and so giving the candidate more time per question to handle the amount of information given, as well as using gradient style multiple choice.

The Practitioner exam is sort of a blend of the Foundation and the Intermediate type of exams, and ends up being a hybrid; more than Foundation, but not quite Intermediate. While this fits well with the announced placement in the ITIL hierarchy, I still feel that the test uses Blooms level 2 and 3 type of questions to test level 3 and 4 type of knowledge.

In summary, I think some of the questions are too open for interpretations, thus leaving the rationale open for doubt.

In fact, while I can agree with most of the answers and explanations in the rationale, I flat out disagree with a few of them. In my opinion, the rationales are the weakest part of the Practitioner experience so far, and I hope to see revised versions soon. Disagreeing with the rationale does not instill confidence before taking the actual certification test.

As for the test itself, the usual advices apply; read and understand all text, use the book actively, answer all questions. I am also looking forward to seeing some statistics on the pass rate.

In conclusion

So, does ITIL Practitioner live up to the hype? As mentioned, I don’t really think it is a hype yet, so I’ll leave that particular question unanswered.

Does it meet my expectations so far? I’m inclined to say yes. The important part, the book, is definitely worth the read, and that really is what matters most.



This article was contributed by Kristian Spilhaug of Sopra Steria . Kristian is a Norwegian instructor and senior consultant, delivering ITIL, PRINCE2 and Kepner-Tregoe courses and advice. He is usually denying the “senior” part, as there is still tons of stuff to learn. He is really enjoying delivering courses, though. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.


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18 thoughts on “ITIL Practitioner: Thoughts on the experience so far”

  1. Thank you for your very fair feedback on ITIL Practitioner. As one of the authors I really appreciate your comments.

    You may be interested to know that the reason for the larger number of questions on the exam paper than you would have liked is because we had guidance from an expert in exam statistics who explained that fewer questions on the paper would have led to a situation where luck played too large a part in the result. Please feed back your analysis of the questions where you disagreed with the correct answer, but this may not be as big a problem as you think – so long as you passed the exam that demonstrates that you have the required capability.

    1. Stuart, I can imagine that you fix the expert exam, if you feel that 10 questions is not enough. But anyway 40 scenario based question for ITILP is too much. As ITIL Expert I think that current ITILP exam is harder that any of ITIL Intermediate exams because there is simple not enough time for solid analysis. I am afraid that after ITILF exam it will be quite a shock for course participants.

    2. Thank you, Stuart, and thanks for a great book.

      I don’t really object to the number of questions, but rather to the level of detail given in the scenarios and answer options. That said, I believe that less experienced candidates might actually benefit from this, as they will rely more on the book and less on their own experience.

      I also believe candidates with more practical experience might overthink the questions, thus ending up picking the wrong answer.

      I will, of course, give feedback on the questions and rationale that I disagree with.

  2. In general, this reflects also my experiences with ITILP. Book and course has solid baseline. But I was also unsatisfied with rationales, some of them are very weak. Also I can strongly agree that test uses Blooms level 2 and 3 type of questions to test level 3 and 4 type of knowledge. It means that sometimes I felt that more than one was correct or even open for interpretations, because the scenario was too simple and short.

    1. I agree with you, there is a lot of questions open to discussion and the exam is disappointing. As itil expert i had pass all the capabilities and lifecycle exams and no exam was so confussing as the practitioner (nor v2 exams was so hard) I even felt there is contradictions in the way they evaluate the correct answer between practitioner and the intermediates. Like Kristian said, as more experience you have, harder to select the “correct” answer.

  3. Thanks for the feedback. Please make sure you send all this feedback to Axelos so that it can be formally dealt with. I am interested, but I can’t make any changes!

  4. Thanks Kristian, I’m very glad this post got published so quickly. Balanced feedback like this is essential for our own CSI.

    Updating the exam rationales is one of the highest priority improvements we are currently working on, to make sure people using the mock exams for course delivery and exam preparation have enough information to understand how the correct answer links to the Practitioner guidance, and why the incorrect answer options are, in fact, incorrect.

  5. As an ITIL expert, accredited ITIL trainer and consultant who’s worked with FT500 companies, I’d like to add my 2 cents.

    First the good
    Great content in the book, great stuff in accredited training materials

    Now the rant!
    But as usual ……..
    What on earth happened when you were writing the exams?
    They are just dreadful, there is absolutely no way could you say they are equivalent difficulty to the capability or lifecycle exams.

    I know from experience Axelos and their predecessors have been “severely challenged” when it comes to writing high quality exam material.
    Don’t believe me?
    Check how many people get 40/40 on ITIL foundation, the number is very very low, strongly indicating you’re writing questions that are ambiguous.
    OK, now look up the concept of “Facility Value” for quality controlling exam questions, yeah bet it’s the first time you’ve seen the term :o)

    You’re a best practice organisation, get the appropriate training before writing exams and try to test the content realistically?
    I’m already steering students away from this train wreck until you sort the exams out 🙂

  6. Hello,

    I took the exam but failed – my errors are all concentrated in one area, and I almost cannot believe. I had already digged into the same topic in my master studies, plus with the careful study of the book and having the book at hand, it seems difficult to think that I totally got it wrong.

    I am rather inclined to feel that we and the test makers had a different interpretation of the questions and of the provided scenario context, indeed.

    And, now, I feel a bit mixed feeling whether it is actually worth sitting again for this test … what value would actually bring if the margin of interpretation and assessment is this wide? “Half” right answers should be considered half point…

    1. Don’t sit again for this test. It’s not woth the money. and I’m sorry for you just paid for the CSI implementation.

    2. Hi Dan, I agree completely with you. I tried it twice and each time I was puzzled with the types of questions and the fact that you can’t even remotely find some lead in the book that will point you to the right answer. I am not asking that answer should be obvious, just little bit more deductive.

  7. A lot of the feedback here appears to be from people who have failed the exam and as a result are blaming the exam.

    1. Alan, I don’t think so. I personally passed that exam but some questions are really not clear. This new exams were prepared together with new set of foundation exams. And it was quite a disaster, some questions were marked as wrong by EI but they were correct. They must reevaluated some exams and sent new results to people…see new mock foundation exams, even there are some mistakes. I wonder when there will be some official AXELOS announcement about it…

  8. Those sitting for the ITIL-P exam at this stage are their beta testers. While the materials may be good, the exam itself is too vague and impractical. I don’t recommend anyone sit for this exam until Axelos modifies the questions and makes them less ambiguous.

  9. Just took the ITIL-P exam and agree with others that the exam questions are too vague and not specific enough. They are way too open to interpretation, which means it feels like there is more than one right answer to some questions. The mock exams aren’t that helpful either. I know people who did very well (90%+) on the mock exams and failed the real one (<70%). Candidates who have more practical "real world" experience can overthink the questions and end up choosing the wrong answer. Definitely feel like anyone taking the ITIL-P exam at this point is a guinea pig/beta tester! Hopefully, Axelos will realize there's a problem and rewrite the test with more appropriate material.

  10. Hi to all,
    I tried ITIL-P two times, once in May and second time yesterday. Both times I failed with exactly 24/40 which is 60%. Both exam reports are exactly the same, I failed exactly the same number of questions in each sub group. I must admit that is really odd. I bought official Practitioner book, bought on-line materials from Pultorak, did both sample exams (had 90+% on them), prepared for the exams for weeks. I can sift through the book in seconds, I can find the topic in question with ease but despite all that, I failed both times. It starts to be really frustrating. One thing I noticed, that is different from the exam in May, is that yesterday I got more questions that are not related to the scenario. In other words, more questions were related to the facts in the book.
    I’ll go through the book some more and try again in the next couple of weeks…

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