The definitive guide to passing the ITIL 4 Foundation Exam

The ITIL 4 Framework is a comprehensive source of best practices for delivering IT services that are aligned to customer needs. As an IT management framework, ITIL 4 can help businesses manage risk, strengthen customer relations, establish cost-effective practices, and build a stable IT environment that allows for growth, scale and change.

The ITIL 4 Framework was published by AXELOS in February 2019 with an emphasis on maintaining agility, flexibility and innovation in IT Service Management, while still supporting legacy networks and systems. As of 2021, ITIL 4 has been fully published and AXELOS announced plans to discontinue ITIL 3 completely by the start of 2022.

What is ITIL 4?

The ITIL 4 Framework is a comprehensive set of principles and practices for the effective delivery of services in IT. It provides guidance for you, the IT Professional, on how to align people, processes, technology and partnerships to deliver better quality services to your customer.

Studies have shown that the most consistent complaint from C-level executives is that IT Departments are too technology-focused, and are instead misaligned to business objectives.

What is the ITIL 4 certification scheme?

There are 4 levels to the ITIL 4 Certification Scheme:

ITIL 4 Foundation Certificate

No matter which certification path you commit to, the first step is to pass the ITIL 4 Foundation exam. This introductory course covers the core concepts, principles and practices of ITIL 4.

ITIL 4 Managing Professional Certificate

The ITIL Managing Professional certification is for IT practitioners who work with technology and digital teams across the organization. It addresses the knowledge required for running IT projects, teams and workflows using practical and technical skills. To complete the ITIL Managing Professional certification, you’ll need to pass a series of exams:

  • ITIL Specialist Create Deliver & Support: This certificate course covers core service management techniques, service performance and service quality and improvement methods, and is aimed at ITSM practitioners responsible for the end-to-end delivery of IT services and products.
  • ITIL Specialist Drive Stakeholder Value: This certificate course covers engagement and interactions between customers, users, suppliers and partners with the service provider. You’ll cover the design of Service Level Agreements, multi-supplier management, communication, relationship management, CX and UX design and mapping the customer journey.
  • ITIL Specialist High Velocity IT: In this certificate course you will learn how to integrate methodologies such as Agile and Lean with other technical skills, including cloud, automation and automatic testing, to deliver rapid delivery of products and services.
  • ITIL Strategist Direct Plan & Improve: In this certificate course, you will learn the practical skills you will need to create a learning and improving IT organization with a strong and effective strategic direction. You’ll focus on how to leverage Agile and Lean to plan and deliver continual improvements.

ITIL 4 Strategic Leader

The ITIL 4 Strategic Leader certification is for all digitally enabled services in the organization, not just IT Operations. This certification focuses on how IT influences and informs business strategy. To earn your ITIL Strategic Leader certification, you’ll need to pass two exam modules:

  • ITIL 4 Strategist – Direct Plan & Improve: This is the same module as offered in the MP certification, covering the necessary skills to create a “learning and improving” IT organization.
  • ITIL 4 Leader – Digital & IT Strategy: In the second module, you’ll learn how to align the business and IT strategy and how to handle disruptive technologies.

ITIL Master

To become an ITIL Master you will need at least five years’ experience working in IT service management in a leadership, management or higher management advisory level.

The ITIL Master designation requires a strong background in ITSM and extensive hands-on experience working with ITIL, but there is no training course or fixed syllabus for this designation. You’ll be tested on a situation of your choosing, so the material will be personal to your experience.

The certification requires hands-on experience and you will need to “explain and justify how you have personally selected and applied a range of knowledge, principles, methods and techniques from the ITIL framework and supporting management techniques to achieve desired business outcomes,” according to Axelos.

Who is the official Examination Institute for ITIL?

In January 2018, AXELOS appointed PeopleCert as the only official provider of ITIL Examinations. PeopleCert is a global leader in the assessment and certification of professional skills, with over 10,000 test-centers worldwide.

Make sure you buy an exam voucher for a PeopleCert Exam. Watch out for fake “Certificate of Completion” offered by non-accredited training companies.

Free subscription to MyITIL

The AXELOS MyITIL subscription is a superb resource for IT service management professionals. It contains all the practical help, easy-access support and professional endorsement you’ll ever need to advance your ITSM career. Once you have passed your ITIL 4 Foundation Exam, you will get access to resources and content relevant to your ITIL 4 training, such as:

  • Implementation Resources. With a few clicks of a button, you’ll find all the publications, templates and toolkits you’ll need to implement best practice
  • Industry Insight. We’ll keep you up-to-date with the latest thought-leadership; as the industry moves, MyITIL moves with it.
  • Education from the experts. Within the home of best practice, you’ll have the opportunity to learn from the industry’s most accomplished subject-matter experts.
  • Professional endorsement. Complete continuing professional development (CPD) activities each year and you’ll earn a digital badge aligned to your certification and demonstrative of your commitment to best practice.

Where did ITIL originate?

The ITIL Framework is the most widely-accepted publication of best practices for the management and delivery of services. It was initially created alongside PRINCE2, by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), a division in the UK government. ITIL and PRINCE2 were later incorporated into AXELOS (a joint venture between the OGC and Capita). Earlier this year AXELOS was sold to PeopleCert, an Exam Institute.

As a framework, ITIL is intended to provide guidance on best-practices without codifying standards. There is no MUST in ITIL, only SHOULD, and it opens up a wealth of opportunities and possibilities. Managers can choose to implement the practices that apply most readily to their business model while skipping other ITIL practices that are not applicable. Furthermore, there is also a recognition that there are multiple good practices which lead to the same outcomes.  
ITIL has, unfortunately, also attracted criticism for creating needless bureaucracy, but upon further examination, one finds that this is the result of a rigid application of the practices without consideration for the needs of the organisation.

It should also be added the Service Management Theory is a fairly new body of knowledge having only emerged in the past 50 years, compared with Industrial Management which has emerged over 400 years. As a result, the theory which constitutes good practice is under constant scrutiny and is subject to continuous improvement. The versions of ITIL thus reflect the growth in understanding of Service Management principles and practices.