confessions of an ITIL Expert journeyman

UncleBUncleB Member Posts: 417
Hello all, I thought I would share a few experiences and thoughts on here as I'm working through the ITIL Expert training route and some of the questions/answers on here helped me on my way.

I've worked in IT support for 26 years so the ITIL best practice is mostly common sense mixed with discipline for me in most areas, but there are areas where I have little exposure such as Service Strategy, Service Design and with some exposure to Service Transition. Service Operation and to a degree CSI are all my bread and butter of everyday work.

I self studied and passed the ITIL Foundation in 2013 using a combination of video training (from a company that sounds like it makes chicken nuggets), the official ITIL Foundation manual and some exam simulators with test questions freely downloadable from the internet. It was pretty easy but given my experience that would be expected.

There are always a load of critics who complain that self study is no substitute for classroom training - to them I say I don't care. This article is about achieving the certification for minimal cost, not about becoming a practicing Zen master of ITIL who lives, eats and poops ITIL methodology. This is an exam related site so I am only talking about this facet of ITIL.

Researching the Expert track
After looking at the requirements of the Expert track and seeing it as a requirement for some of the better jobs advertised on job sites, I thought it worthwhile pursuing this if I could find a training course option that I could fit into my spare time and that would not cost the earth. This was a lot harder than it sounds.

To cut short the result of a lot of searching, I was able to track down the Official ITIL manuals in PDF format that could be highlighted in Adobe Reader (using the yellow highlighter tool). These editable versions are not officially available so I'm not posting any links. Note that the protected official manuals cost about US$ 500 for the suite of 5 books covering the core exams.

To gain the ability to even book the exams you have to have proof of being trained so I eventually tracked down a company who do online training which tracks your progress through its training videos and gives a course completion certificate at the end which is accepted by the exam body. These courses are typically several thousand dollars worth so I was very pleased to track down an offer on one of the coupon websites (which sounds a bit like "soup on") who had the course bundle on offer for customers in the USA. I live in the UK and they wouldn't let me buy it on my credit card so I got a friend to buy the coupon for me - total cost was US$ 150 for access to the training videos and materials for both the service lifecycle and capability routes (11 training courses in total). It sounded too good to be true but was in fact legitimate. Oh and you can also take the Foundation exam on this group of exams too if you don't already have it.

A secondary advantage of this training route is that the company offer the exams to be held using web proctoring which means once you pay for the exam you have a month to sit it using your laptop (or desktop with webcam / speakers / microphone but this is not so easy to setup) and so long as your computer passed the tests for software and connectivity then you can sit it at home. I've sat 4 exams in my living room and one in the hallway (when the living room was in use) so far without any problems. More on this later.

Oh and another advantage is the exams get a 10% discount when using EXIN Anywhere as the exam proctor which makes them cost less than US$300 each.

The down side is that the cost of exams is high when you work out you need one of the two routes to get Expert status:
1 - Lifecycle = 5 exams at $300 each + 1 MALC exam at $300 = $1,800 just in exam fees
2 - Capability = 4 exams at $300 each + 1 MALC exam at $300 = $1,500 just in exam fees

No gain without pain, right? Well if I had to pay the full price of $4k+ for the course on top of the exam fees then it would be outwith my budget..

Choice of route
I have an interest in moving more into the business side of IT and hopefully move towards being a service architect; designing systems that are going to benefit from my experience in the field as well as give value to the business, oh and make me a tidy salary in the process.

With this in mind I chose the Lifecycle route to learn it in a way that explains how it should be done in an idea world I guess. This was one exam more than the capability track, but I felt it was more appropriate for my needs.

The sequence of exams is up to you - other than the Foundation that has to be done first (if you don't already have it), and the Managing Across the Lifecycle (MALC) which is last, you can do the other ones in any order. I wanted to start with my strongest experience to assess the difficulty of the exams and started with Service Operations, CSI and Service Transition which I found to be quite challenging in spite of knowing a lot about the material already.

For me the difficulty was unlearning bad habits of how things were done in the real world as well as some of the subtleties of which role performs which part of a function but with practice and patience I got there.

I took a month for each of the exams to study in the evenings and sometimes weekends while still having a life and found it fairly comfortable to do it this way. Total study time was about 10 hours for the videos (including some re-watching), 20 hours to read the book and another 5 for the 2 test exams plus re-capping on areas of weakness.

I'm finishing the route with Service Strategy and Service Design of which I know the least, but the accumulated knowledge from the last 3 exams is helping a lot and I've not passed the MALC exam yet – it is next.

The exam process
The exam needs a few pre-requisites for the web proctored version that seem odd if you haven't done it before. These are:

1 - the computer needs to have a webcam, microphone and speaker that the software can use. Headsets are forbidden, even the ones with microphones - hence the recommendation to use a laptop that has these built in.
2 - it needs to meet some basic software specs too (current Adobe Flash player, Adobe Reader, Web browser etc)
3 - a decent broadband connection is needed that is not used by anyone else during the exam. My 8Mb domestic one often required a router reboot to get it to pass the tests in spite of having 8Mb up /1M down speeds when the test program said it wasn't fast enough.
4 - you have to be alone in the room without any communication with others (i.e. no phones on, no-one shouting through the door to you etc)
5 - you can't have printed material easily visible - this includes attached to your computer screen so you need a mirror to show the webcam your own computer as part of the setup.
6 - you should have no other software running on the computer, although the proctor software does stop you from being able to switch applications anyway. Ideally have nothing else running to minimise any possibility of being failed for that.
7 - you are not allowed to capture the exam question contents whether through screen capture, recording software, camera or old fashioned writing it down.
8 - you are not allowed to talk to yourself either
9 - you are supposed to only look at the screen during the exam, so get out of the habit of looking out the window or to the ceiling for inspiration
10 - no eating or drinking in the exam, although I keep a small stack of mints which I show clearly during the setup.
11 - you have to show the area you are using for the exam to the webcam - laptops are ideal for this as you can move them to show the screen, floor, a 360 degree sweep and a scan of the desk - remember to show it in the mirror if you don't have a portable one.

Breaking any of these rules on behaviours could well result in your exam being failed and you having to pay to resit it again.

The startup process also includes a test of the camera, mic and broadband speed - my broadband is 8Mb/sec but fails in 3 out of 4 attempts in spite of the speed checker giving it 8Mb down and 4Mb upload speeds. Rebooting the router normally fixes this but then you have to run all the tests again.

OK, tests out of the way, the exam starts. You have 90 mins and it works like any other online exam from this point on. Each of the 8 questions has a link to the scenario which opens in a new window. you need to switch between windows to read and answer the question.

One important point to make is that in an attempt to stop you copying the info, the software will not let you re-open the scenario windows a second time - DO NOT CLOSE any scenarios you need to re-visit. They are numbered so are easy to go back to. The questions can be moved on from however. This caught me out twice (more fool me the second time) but I had given my best answer on the first attempt so had to go with that.

Once complete you get the provisional result immediately and can review the areas of study with the corresponding marks (but not which questions they related to). This should identify areas for improvement if you failed. A few days later you get email confirmation that the footage has been reviewed and they are satisfied it was done properly.

Not long after that (1-2 weeks) the result goes up on the EXIN portal that tracks your progress through the exam route.

I have not received any paper certificates but you can download electronic copies from the EXIN website and print them yourself.

Study resources
I used the training videos as a high level overview of the course material, the official books as the definitive source of information and occasional sleeping aid, the test exams provided by the training company and a few hints and tips from this site on what to look for in terms of identifying the distracter questions.

There is no shortcut to knowing the material other than working through it, use the exercises where provided and analysing your failures in the test questions to give insights into what you need to review. Then review it all again.

I preferred to load the editable PDFs of the ITIL books onto my computer and highlight areas of the book on first reading that I felt were new or particularly relevant. This gave me the option on re-reading the books (on my tablet when commuting too) to skim though and focus on the highlighted areas which were about 10% of the text overall - it greatly speeded up the recap.

Unlike the Foundation course there appear to be no other test exams available to download that are not already available from the training provider - I looked extensively.

There are some books which are supposed to be able to help you pass the intermediate exams as well, but I never saw these so cannot comment on whether they offer more than the material I already found.

That’s all for now - I'll give an update when I find time to do the MALC exam, but I've just been secured a much better job as a Service Delivery manager (the skills I learned and confidence gained by this journey though ITIL played a significant part in my success) and the learning curve of a new company will keep me busy for some time still.

I hope some of this is of interest or help to a few of you.



  • zaleonardzzaleonardz Member Posts: 61 ■■□□□□□□□□
    Only question... How have you not put a 40 cal. through your left temporal lobe yet.

    I did a 3 day ITIL foundation course, and nearly committed suicide.

    I understand ITIL, and the need to it, and in principle I support it, in real life though...

    Congratz on your results thus far, respect, I would not not be able to do it :)

    I would love to hear a bit more about your day job, and how you apply the higher level stuff.

    What I find far more interesting is what you are planning on doing with it Iain ?
  • UncleBUncleB Member Posts: 417
    I have been sitting Microsoft exams since the late 1990's so have mastered the mindset to deal with dull study material - a kind of dogged determination with one eye on the next job upgrade is what it takes for me. In small doses (less than an hour) I can deal with the most bone grindingly dull material so it fits in with my morning commute well. Do this twice a day for 5 days and in a couple of weeks you can bring the most imposing subject matter to its knees through a war of attrition...

    As to what I plan to do - well I have worked up through the ranks as first & second line support, spent a long time as 3rd line support who did pretty much all IT work for a company of 120 staff and have had numerous stints as team leader and service desk manager along the way.

    The trigger to up my game was when the long stint as 3rd line support came to an end with redundancy and I saw support jobs that used to pay $100k+ on the market for $50k and being oversubscribed by applicants. Now management jobs always will pay more but business management jobs pay better and have more interesting work to do - but add my extensive IT experience into the mix and I realised I could be on the track to the $200k jobs as service architect, going through $150k Service Delivery / Transition roles in the meantime.

    My approach then was to find a job where I could build on using all these skills and develop them in my own time, so I managed to get a service desk manager role in a government department who had some interesting problems with staff and deadlines for a merger and I got stuck in with all the enthusiasm of a dog in butchers - in no time I was given a service delivery secondary role when that person left and then a project manager role when they left (no fault of mine I should add - it was all down to redundancies related to the merger).

    Because I showed an aptitude for getting the work done, a willingness to put in the hours and the basic skills to do it, they were only too happy to let me run with it. Since I had recently studied both ITIL Foundation and Prince2 Foundation I could put all these into use and frame all my reports with the terminology and even train other managers on key parts of the methodologies to deliver their parts of the project in a more coherent manner. This gained me a lot of recognition and in the end a very generous bonus for delivering the merger project on time (specifically the business readiness of the desktop side and the service desk function).

    Post merger the post no longer existed so I pocketed my bonus, 2 months of unpaid time in lieu and a glowing letter of recommendation from the board and took a long holiday to recover from the task.

    After the holiday I looked for a more challenging role to develop my management skills and found a university who had a very dysfunctional service desk team and had a 6 month contract to straighten them out and rehabilitate the managers who were off long term with stress related illness. That role gave me a lot of opportunity to review the service desk and PMO processes and procedures and rewrite many of them in alignment with the ITIL core exams I had been studying.

    Through reading, understanding and applying the principles it gave a lot of improvements to the service and hence to the credibility of the IT manager who had to deal with the businesses unhappiness with the poor support services that were being delivered. I always remember that a big part of our job is to make our managers look good even if we don't always get the credit for it...

    Now through further studies and working closely with other senior managers (who take you much more seriously when you can talk the same business talk they can) I have been able to see more and more of the real life application of the processes discussed in the ITIL volumes, see how well crafted changed can make a difference in the profitability or even the reputation of the department and have a positive effect on the business - something you tend not to really "touch" when you are working with the foundation level material.

    My new role is to run a service desk covering 3000 users and to perform service delivery functions for 14 offices around the country, and soon around Europe. My poor car is going to be doing a lot of miles until I can get videoconference facilities installed around the estate.

    Next steps are to work closely with the PMO (Program Management Office who control all the projects in the business) and get more closely involved in the strategy and design side, with a view to moving to this arena in a few years.

    The skills I will be studying next compliment this - Six Sigma, TOGAF and a few technical areas to fill some of the weaknesses in my understanding.

    That rambled on a bit, but I hope it explains a bit more about the areas you asked about.

  • arunm17arunm17 Member Posts: 27 ■■■□□□□□□□

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the ITIL exams. Its pretty clear that the ITIL intermediate papers add weight to your CV.

    Please share the name of the online training center you subscribed to? I would like to check on this as well. I been thinking of pursuing a course in ITIL since i have the ITIL foundation.

  • UncleBUncleB Member Posts: 417
    Hello Arun, I sent you the details off board as I don't want to be seen as advertising although I don't have any connection to either the coupon company or the training provider othe than as a user of their services.
  • Claire AgutterClaire Agutter Member Posts: 772 ■■■■■■■□□□
    Thanks for sharing your experiences Iain. It's great to hear from someone who is studying hard and seeing value from their ITIL training.

  • jonwinterburnjonwinterburn Senior Member Member Posts: 161 ■■■■□□□□□□
    Thanks for such a comprehensive write-up. I'm currently studying ITIL Foundations and PRINCE2, with the plan to move into InfoSec/IT management (I've worked as a techie in IT and InfoSec for 15 years). Could you please share with me the ITIL Intermediate training course details? Thanks!
  • SolgudinnenSolgudinnen Member Posts: 20 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Congratulation. I would like to hear where you took your courses.

    How did you choose your courses?
  • UncleBUncleB Member Posts: 417
    Congratulation. I would like to hear where you took your courses.

    How did you choose your courses?

    The courses come as a bundle - the ITIL Expert certification requires you to complete a range of courses within the ones they offer, but most people chose one of two well defined routes of Service Capability or Service Lifecycle. I chose the Service Lifecycle as it had more of a focus on the strategy and design side rather than its operational use day-to-day and this fitted in with the career path I am on to be a Service Architect / Service Transition specialist.

    The courses I took were all online and on-demand so you access them as and when you want (they are well protected and I couldn't find software that could rip them for offline use) and use tracking of your use of the videos to establish if you have covered the course material. Of course they cannot establish if you learned the material, but that is equally true of a face-to-face course and it is only in the exam that this is established.

    In terms of how did I chose the training provider - that is easy. I found one that offered all the training courses for US$150 that I could access for the next 12 months and would give me the completion certificate after watching the videos to allow me to sit the exams.

    I admit I learned far more from the offcial books than the videos, but it is hard to cram 200+ pages of info into 7 hours of videos in the same way. The instructor even said to read the book for full details...

    I hope that helps.
  • GrindzGrindz Member Posts: 21 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Thanks for sharing UncleB, I too am from a Support background aiming for Expert level so your post is very encouraging. I broke into management ranks this year so I am 5 months into my management career, "junior manager" some may say until i get more experience under my belt.

    Completed S.O and now studying for S.T which going by everyone's comments is a very tough cookie to crush so do you have any tips for tackling the S.T studying and exam?
  • SolgudinnenSolgudinnen Member Posts: 20 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Thanx for the information. I've tried to send you a private message, but you can't recieve it.
  • UncleBUncleB Member Posts: 417
    Thanx for the information. I've tried to send you a private message, but you can't recieve it.

    You could send me a Linkedin connection - click on my username and you can see the link.
    I'm not sure how to get the PM enabled on this site but I'll have a look.
  • nelson8403nelson8403 Member Posts: 220 ■■■□□□□□□□
    I am just beginning my journey to ITIL expert now, I have my foundation exam completed and passed and I just got the groupon, I thought I'd share my link to anyone who is also interested, and we can save 32 dollars each on the program. I'm hoping to have the same success as you!
    Bachelor of Science, IT Security
    Master of Science, Information Security and Assurance

    CCIE Security Progress: Written Pass (06/2016), 1st Lab Attempt (11/2016)
  • jonwinterburnjonwinterburn Senior Member Member Posts: 161 ■■■■□□□□□□
    How hard are the ITIL intermediate exams compared to the ITIL Foundation? Having skimmed the books, it seems to me that they're simply diving deeper into each of the areas covered in ITIL-F. But how deep does the dive go? Also, are there any test/retired questions for any of the exams available? I'm not asking for dodgy ****, but legitimate practice tests.
  • nelson8403nelson8403 Member Posts: 220 ■■■□□□□□□□
    That's exactly what it is, about 20 hours studying is what they recommend for each intermediate exam. You take an 8 question exam each question has a few right answers and you have to score a 28/40 to pass.

    For expert you have to pass a certain number of intermediate exams to quality for it.

    I sent you a PM with a practice example test from the gogotraining company.
    Bachelor of Science, IT Security
    Master of Science, Information Security and Assurance

    CCIE Security Progress: Written Pass (06/2016), 1st Lab Attempt (11/2016)
  • eSenpaieSenpai Member Posts: 65 ■■□□□□□□□□
    Thanks for sharing. This has made me feel a lot better about my own compressed path to Expert. There is so little out there to prepare you for the tests that it feels daunting going in semi-blind after only the 2 practice exams you get with most courses.
    Working On:
    2018 - ITIL(SO, SS, SD, ST, CSI), Linux
    2019 - ITIL MALC, AWS Architect, CCSP, LPI-2, TOGAF
  • workingoncertsworkingoncerts Registered Users Posts: 1 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Hi Nelson,

    Do you have experience with the training company offering the groupon?

  • UncleBUncleB Member Posts: 417
    Hello all, well after a 4 month break due to a job change that involved an average 13 hour working day, I finally got around to studying and passing the MALC exam to complete the Expert qualification.

    Points to note - don't leave much time from completing the other exams to taking MALC as there is so much information from the component exams in the MALC exam. It does tie them all together so I found I had to go back and re-read all the books (about 1,000 pages of material) and try to remember all this while applyining it as in a lifecycle context where an obvious answer from say the Operations course would be inappropriate as the context is more of a Design situation.

    My relative lack of preparation (ie I only really covered about half the MALC questions) was due to time constraints - I sat the exam at 3pm and at 6pm I was leaving for a 2 week holiday, so it probably explains why I only got 70% for this exam compated to an average of 80% from the others.

    There is nothing much in the way of hints and tips to add, but the fact I have completed the qualification has opened up 2 job offers (one as Service Delivery Manager and one as Head of Service Management for companies with over 1,000 staff. Both required experience in using ITIL at this sort of level and the qualification was a deal breaker so there is a lot of value in it if you have a few years of relevant experience to back it up.

    It has added about £20k to my current salary which was more than I expected, but the market is short of staff in the UK at the moment, so I'm really pleased with the very direct benefit that this has given. I just need to put it all into use and make sure I can move into the areas on specialisation that interest me (Service Transition with a Service Design sideline).

    Thanks again the people on here who have posted their experiences and thoughts which helped me along the way.

  • Claire AgutterClaire Agutter Member Posts: 772 ■■■■■■■□□□
    Congratulations Iain icon_smile.gif
  • happyIThappyIT Registered Users Posts: 1 ■□□□□□□□□□
    @ UncleB : thank you very much for your testomnial, it gave me a much needed postive wave and encouraged me to carry on my certification path, i would be very gratefull to you if you could send me the link from where you took your courses (i sent you a linkedin invitation yesterday)

    @ Nelson8403: have you tried this groupon ( ? how credible it is ?
  • eSenpaieSenpai Member Posts: 65 ■■□□□□□□□□
    happyIT wrote: »
    @ UncleB : thank you very much for your testomnial, it gave me a much needed postive wave and encouraged me to carry on my certification path, i would be very gratefull to you if you could send me the link from where you took your courses (i sent you a linkedin invitation yesterday)

    @ Nelson8403: have you tried this groupon ( ? how credible it is ?

    Although their website is not great the GogoTraining ITIL classes themselves aren't bad and appear to be on par with most other "online" ITIL training sessions. For comparisons sake, the Gogo classes are slightly better than the ones offered via the tech giant which recently split in two. I got the latter classes free due to company credits but purchased an earlier Groupon sale for the GoGo classes and it was insanely cheap but legit (apparently they routinely offer ridiculous discounts throughout the year). I also have the more expensive books so it's time to stop procrastinating I guess.
    Working On:
    2018 - ITIL(SO, SS, SD, ST, CSI), Linux
    2019 - ITIL MALC, AWS Architect, CCSP, LPI-2, TOGAF
  • UncleBUncleB Member Posts: 417
    I see there is a Black Friday offer from the same training company that may be of interest:
    Black Friday 2015 Offer from GogoTraining

    Note this covers up to 5 courses for $199 but the full expert route is 6 courses (7 if you include Foundation) if you chose the Lifecycle route, but if you have Foundation already then the Capability route would be covered in one of these vouchers.

    You also need to cover exam fees as described above ($1,800 or $1,500) when you come to book the exams.

  • jot2016jot2016 Registered Users Posts: 1 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Iain; I found this a very useful post. I too am based in the UK and I would very much like to hear your experience with the formal foundation-level ITIL prep and exam.

    I have a lot of IT experience primarily in software development, portfolio and program management. I had never thought to acquire any formal ITIL certifications, deciding to focus instead on enhancing portfolio & program management via PMI and because I had experience with ITIL principles "in action". However I am more and more dealing with service delivery points of contact and now feel that getting at least the official foundation certification enhances my credibility in those conversations. Also, my ITIL exposure is from a (soon-to-be-deprecated?) older version so I'd like to understand the latest

    Any helpful hints on exam format and preparation would be greatly appreciated.


  • Cerebro 2.0Cerebro 2.0 Member Posts: 24 ■□□□□□□□□□
    I must say this was an excellent informational read. I am from the UK, in SA at the moment in operation management, when I return to the UK I will be looking to utilise my experience. Unfortunately I cant PM yet, it would be good to pick your brain for more information.
    ITIL SO [In progress]
    Prince 2 Foundation [In progress]
  • littleicklelittleickle Registered Users Posts: 2 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Hi I currently have 17 points through sitting ITIL Foundation, and Intermediate Lifecycle exams. For the Lifecycle ones I could not sit the exam without having attended an accredited course, is the same the case for MALC, or can I st the exam without attending a specific MALC course?

  • UncleBUncleB Member Posts: 417
    The MALC course and exam are just like all the other intermediate exams - you need to completion cert to even book an exam.

    It is also more difficult that the other intermediate exams in my opinion (with a correspondingly lower percentage of people passing it) and you would probably benefit from a teacher led course where you can focus on the areas you are weak in.

  • anfearranfearr Member Posts: 27 ■□□□□□□□□□

    Just wondering how you are getting on in your ITIL journey. Any updates ?

    Passed: MCTS: Vista, MCITP:EST, SAP Earlywatch (ABAP Performance Analysis in Netweaver 2005), CCENT, CCNA, CCNA Voice
    Next: MCITP:SA (70-640)
    Studying: BSC (Honours) in IS/IT Managment.
  • UncleBUncleB Member Posts: 417
    anfearr wrote: »
    Just wondering how you are getting on in your ITIL journey. Any updates ?

    I've worked in 2 roles since gaining the Expert cert, one in a contract role for a media intelligence company who lost their whole IT department and needed someone to rebuild it in the most useful way, and the other taking over a stable role in charge of a support team for a major football league and raising their game so to speak.

    The media intelligence role was very challenging as the whole team had dissapeared by day 3 into my tenure so I had almost no documentation covering a very unusual range of in-house developed apps and a very poor team reputation built up by the outgoing staff that needed some serious Service Delivery input. It took a month to clear the backlog of calls with rolling my sleeves up, getting a decent contractor in to help and documenting everything I worked with and by month 3 the reputation of support had gone from 1.3 out of 5 to 4.6 on company wide surveys (500 staff).

    Understanding how best practice works and communicating this to the business were key, but having a pair of us working out butts off and actually fixing things was a big improvement from the predecessors.

    The current role is very unusual as the company is cash rich and the IT manager very clued up about technology and keen to get the team researching new stuff. I'm loving it.

    The next steps are to update my Microsoft skill set (MCSEs in 4 areas in 12 months) so I'm hitting the labs hard at the moment before looking at TOGAF for the next stages of my development.
  • ItsmHarunItsmHarun Member Posts: 178
    Thanks for sharing information, keep it up guys best luck for your ITIL exam ...
    Prince2 Certification in Pune Learn the Themes and how they are applied in projects activities and create the key management products within each process Understand the PRINCE2® Project Management team Roles and their Responsibilities
  • tavorrtavorr Registered Users Posts: 1 ■□□□□□□□□□
    UncleB can you share with me the link to the site you found?

    Thank you.
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