AICP Comprehensive Planning Examination Preparation

Step 1: Contact your chapter/section Professional Development Officer

Your Professional Development Officer is a critical information source, whether you are seeking advice on how to prepare for the AICP exam or want to meet other individuals who are studying for the exam. They are your best local resource and may even know of study groups in your area.

Exam prep sessions offered by PDOs or chapters are a valuable starting point. They can provide detail on the application process, exam content, and testing tips. The depth of these offerings varies, with some chapters offering multi-session prep courses.

Step 2: Map your study plan

Review the exam content outline to understand the scope of the exam and make an initial determination of areas on which you should focus. The percentages indicated for the six major exam topic areas approximate the number of questions addressing that topic in the exam question pool. Balance your exam preparation accordingly.

Given the breadth of information covered by the exam, studying over a period of multiple months is recommended.

Formulate a study plan — where, when, and how often to study, and what resources you need to properly prepare. Revisit your study plan as you progress and revise as necessary.

The AICP Comprehensive Planning Examination has been developed to be taken by a national audience and focuses on a wide array of planning topics. When developing your plan, concentrate on planning knowledge, principles, and practices that are applied nationally, rather than those unique to a region, state, or locality.

Step 3: Select a Comprehensive Preparation Product

A comprehensive exam prep resource is an important component of exam prepartion. Obtain additional information from suggested resources for clarity and to fill in areas where your background is weak.

Purchase AICP Exam Prep 3.0

NEW: AICP Exam Prep 3.0

The new AICP Exam Prep 3.0 product addresses the entire exam content outline. It is 100 percent web-based, so you can access it anywhere you have a web browser and access to the Internet. Features include:

  • Content organized into six modules based on the exam content outline.
  • Over 50 lessons/sections on topics that cover the entire exam content.
  • Content from selected PAS QuickNotes, the Journal of the American Planning Association, and Zoning Practice, so you don't have to purchase those publications.
  • 12 hours of streaming video and PowerPoints on 51 topics in 8-15 minute lessons that are easy to review and understand.
  • 4.5 hours of streaming video of ethics sessions at APA's 2013 National Planning Conference.
  • Sample questions from: retired questions from the actual AICP exam, Exam Prep Package 2.0, AICP staff, and AICP Exam Prep 3.0 work group. All questions for all sources were reviewed and if needed, improved, by former AICP Exam Committee members. Questions are provided in three different forms:
    • Assessment exam to determine areas of weakness and strength to inform study plan
    • Pop-up questions at the end of each video lesson to reinforce learning
    • Timed practice exam with 170 questions delivered in the actual format to simulate your exam-day experience
  • Searchable glossary with thousands of definitions from A Planners Dictionary and the AICP Exam Prep 3.0 Glossary Workgroup.
  • Access to a discussion forum to interact with other students and course faculty.
  • Tips on how to approach scenario and multi-part questions.

The faculty for and contributors to AICP Exam Prep 3.0 included planners from around the U.S. in the public, private, and academic sectors. Among them were:

  • Experienced Professional Development Officers who offer AICP exam prep on the chapter level.
  • Faculty from Georgia Tech, the University of North Carolina, and Louisiana State University.
  • Attorneys who specialize in land use and zoning law.
  • AICP members with Advanced Specialty Certification in transportation planning and environmental planning.
  • Fellows of AICP.

System Requirements

  • Browsers: Internet Explorer 9 and above, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, or Google Chrome
  • Browsers: Allow pop-ups from PLANNING Online Learning System
  • Adobe Flash player
  • Strong Internet connection

Step 4: Access resources available on the web

Some resources are available online. Online research can be particularly useful for exam content that is a weakness in your background. 

The following resources are useful starting points provided by APA:

Selected Readings: AICP Comprehensive Planning Examination

APA Policy Guides

AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct

In addition, check out APA chapter websites (contact your PDO).

Step 5: Familiarize yourself with taking an exam

In addition to studying concepts and facts, it is important to feel comfortable with the testing experience itself. Practice exams will familiarize you with the structure and flow of exam questions and help identify areas of knowledge that need additional study. Do NOT use example questions as the sole source of facts and knowledge you need to pass the exam, and keep in mind that non-APA source questions may not closely approximate the structure of actual exam questions.

APA offers all exam takers a no-cost computerized examination simulation.

APA also provides AICP Exam Illustrative Questions.