Everything You Need to Know about ITIL 4 Certifications

In this post, I will delve into the ITIL 4 certification scheme and explain the various ITIL 4 certification exams and paths that have been laid out.

The ITIL 4 foundation certification was introduced on 28th February 2019. During the second half of 2019, the intermediate modules and managing professional was launched. The ITIL strategic leader certification was released in September 2020. With the availability of strategic leader, ITIL master is also made available.

The ITIL 4 certification scheme is similar to ITIL V3. It is hierarchic in nature. In both the certification schemes, you have the ITIL foundation certification as the basic one. Then right at the top, you see ITIL master which is at the pinnacle. In between is where the changes are massive. Let’s take a closer look at all the certifications.

ITIL Foundation

ITIL Foundation is like primary school. It’s the first test of your understanding of ITIL. The objective of this exam is to check your basics and concepts of ITIL 4. No trick questions. Questions are straightforward and if you have understood the concepts well enough, you should have no trouble passing the exam.

There are no pre-requisites to take up the certification exam. Axelos, the company behind ITIL recommends that you undertake two and a half days training but it’s not mandatory.

Become ITIL 4 Foundation Certified in 7 Days

My book – Become ITIL 4 Foundation Certified in 7 Days will help you become ITIL Foundation certified. This is the second edition to my first book, Become ITIL Foundation Certified in 7 Days. The ask is for 1 hour of study for 7 days, and you will be confident and ready to take up the ITIL 4 Foundation exam.

The book is segregated into 7 unequal parts indicating 7 days of study, and the estimated study time is indicated as well. This will help you plan your study in a structured manner. The USP of my books is the use of real-life examples to explain tough concepts and I have used plenty of it throughout the book. There are several practice questions as well to help you get a feel for the exam.

Talking about the exam, let me tell you what it entails. The exam questions are in a multiple-choice format. For every question, there are four choices. There is one right answer and three wrong. Choose the correct one and you will get 1 point. There are a total of 40 questions on the exam and you need to get at least 26 right. That’s 65% passing score. You get 60 minutes to answer the 40 questions. For the record, I must also mention that this exam, well, not only this exam, and the intermediate ITIL exams are closed book – which means that you cannot refer to any reference material during the exam.

If you have ITIL V3 foundation certification, do note that there is no bridge exam. I have seen some training institutions put out ads on the bridge course. Don’t believe, you still must take the ITIL 4 foundation exam.

ITIL Intermediate

Passing ITIL Foundation gets you the ITIL Foundation certification which is like graduation from primary school. Next up is high school and college.

The certifications between the foundation and master are referred to as intermediate certifications. It comes in three categories of certifications.

  1. ITIL 4 Specialist
  2. ITIL 4 Strategist
  3. ITIL 4 Leader

Remember that ITIL 4 Foundation is a pre-requisite for the intermediate certifications.

Under ITIL 4 Specialist category, you have three certifications:

  1. Create, Deliver and Support
  2. Drive Stakeholder Value
  3. High Velocity IT

Under ITIL 4 Strategist category, you have one certification:

  1. Direct, Plan and Improve

Under ITIL 4 Leader category, you have one certification:

  1. Digital and IT Strategy

While you move up the ladder of ITIL 4 maturity, you get to gain a couple of designations that are associated with ITIL intermediate.

  1. ITIL Managing Professional and
  2. ITIL Strategic Leader

ITIL Managing Professional

You must target Managing Professional if you want to be a service architect or work in an area that is a blend of ITIL management and technical stuff.

To become ITIL 4 Managing Professional, you must complete all certifications under ITIL specialist category:

  • Create, Deliver and Support
  • Drive Stakeholder Value
  • High Velocity IT

And the certification under ITIL strategic category:

  • Direct, Plan and Improve

ITIL Foundation is a pre-requisite before you can attempt any of these certification exams.

ITIL Strategic Leader

Leaders in organizations who aren’t hands-on but who’s decision lies on their sound ITIL knowledge need to take up the ITIL Strategic Leader certification.

To become ITIL 4 Strategic Leader, you must complete the certification under ITIL strategic category:

  • Direct, Plan and Improve


Complete the certification under ITIL Leader category:

  • Digital & IT Strategy

As I mentioned previously under Managing Professional, ITIL Foundation is a pre-requisite before you can attempt any of these certification exams.

If you have earned the designation of a Managing Professional, you just need another intermediate certification to become Strategic Leader.

The objective of the intermediate exams is not to test concepts but rather the ingrained knowledge that you have gained. It’s about the application of the concepts that are packaged as scenarios and questions are asked based on these scenarios.

Before you can write the exam, you need to get 21 contact hours from an Axelos accredited training institution. This is equivalent to 3 days’ worth of training.

You have 40 questions that stem from scenarios. You need to get 28 of them right to pass the exam – which brings the passing grade to 70%. You will have 90 minutes to answer the question. The additional 30 minutes compared to Foundation exam is because the questions are not straightforward. It will make you think and apply the concept to the situation on hand. Plus, you will need time to read the scenarios. The exam is closed book. 

ITIL V3 to Managing Professional Bridge Exam

If you have the ITIL V3 Expert certification or 17 credits from ITIL v3 certification scheme, you can write a bridge exam and become ITIL 4 Managing Professional. You will have a single exam that’s 90 minutes long. Scenario based. 28 to get out of 40. Similar exam format as we saw in the previous slide.

ITIL Master

With Managing Professional and Strategic Leader designations in the bag, consider yourself having been graduated from college. The next agenda on your list will be a PhD. That’s the ITIL master certification.

Only when you earn both the ITIL Managing Professional and ITIL Strategic Leader certifications, you become eligible for taking up the ITIL Master certification.

There is no ITIL master syllabus. There is no certification exam. All that you need to do is draft a thesis based on a real case study.

To state it in verbatim – you must be able 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 in one or more practical assignments.

In the erstwhile ITIL V3 certification scheme, there were about 100 ITIL masters only. With the introduction of ITIL 4, Axelos has put out a sponsorship program to fund the study for 50 eligible candidates.

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