AICP Exam Changes for 2017

The AICP exam has been revised for May 2017. Here's some insight into the changes and links to resources that can help candidates prepare for the exam.

3 minute read

January 26, 2017, 12:00 PM PST

By Jennifer Evans-Cowley @EvansCowley


New Age Cinema / Shutterstock

The American Planning Association (APA) has updated its American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Exam for 2017. Every few years, the APA reviews the exam and makes updates with the help of professional planners, who prepare questions for inclusion on the exam.

The 2017 version of the exam includes several key changes prospective exam takers should be aware of. To start, AICP simplified the number of topics and provided greater clarity in the topics included on the exam. Most of the topics on the last exam are still on the new exam. AICP offers an outline of the exam's subject matter online. The updated exam increased the importance of ethics, based on the new AICP Code of Ethics. That section now represents 10 percent of the exam.

AICP has 800 questions in its AICP exam question bank. AICP reviewed all of the questions and developed approximately 100 new questions, which are replacing the same number of old questions on the exam. It's important to note is that participants will experience no more than 20 new questions on the exam. However, these questions will not be graded. These are used for pre-testing to make sure the questions perform as expected. That said, new questions were added two years ago, and these questions are now ready to be included in the graded portion of the exam. 

The passing score for the AICP exam is not determined until after people have taken the exam. A committee will be convened to review responses and develop the scaled score. For the past exam the pass score was a 55. That passing score will change, however, and will not be determined until after the exam. 

Because the pass score has not been determined then test takers will receive a score report when they take the exam. Then 6-8 weeks later, test takers will receive a letter in the mail notifying candidates on if they have passed the exam. 

There are many courses and materials available to assist candidates as they prepare for the exam. Be sure to note whether the materials are updated for the 2017 exam, or whether they are for a previous exam. Those for a previous exam are still be helpful, but will not fully reflect the revised exam.

  • Planetizen offers an AICP Exam Preparation course reflects the 2017 revised AICP exam and its subject outline. For example, the practice exams reflect the weighting of subjects on the revised exam, as well as the addition of new practice questions that reflect new topics. New lessons have been added reflecting the new AICP reading list, as well as new video content.
  • The APA has an AICP Exam 3.0 preparation course that was created in 2014 for the previous version of the exam and is providing users with a “crosswalk” that explains to users how the 2014 AICP 3.0 course lessons and apply them to the new exam.
  • The APA has made the planning advisory service reports available for members via the website. These are very useful and are reflected on the revised AICP exam.
  • Several APA chapters provide AICP Exam preparation materials from previous exam cycles, such as Treasure CoastTexasand Pennsylvania.
  • has a database of practice questions that reflect the previous exam. This is a helpful resource for example questions. 

I know it is challenging being in the first class preparing for a revised exam. As the instructor for the Planetizen AICP Exam Preparation Course, I will do everything I can to help you as you prepare for the AICP ExamIf you have useful suggestions on preparing for the AICP exam, feel free to share below.

Jennifer Evans-Cowley

Jennifer Evans-Cowley, PhD, FAICP, is the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at th eUniversity of North Texas. Dr. Evans-Cowley regularly teaches courses to prepare candidates to take the AICP exam. In 2011, Planetizen named Cowley as one of the leading thinkers in planning and technology. Her research regularly appears in planning journals, she is the author of four Planning Advisory Service Reports for the American Planning Association, and regularly blogs for Planetizen.

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