Confusion around Best Practice in ITIL - Foundation exams questions unfair

Recently I sat the ITIL V3 Foundation exam. Studying for it, sample questions show that there is now officially a distinction between "best practice" and "good practice" and it is worth a point in the exam to know the difference (and it was!). But I don't know how a student is expected to know about that distinction in meaning. In fact I think the questions are totally unfair.

Apparently the distinction is that

  • Best Practices are proven activities or processes that have been successfully used by multiple organisations but has not yet become common industry practice
  • Good Practices are practices that are in wide industry use, they are Best Practices that have been commonly applied

...but the really interesting bit is that although this may be written into the ITIL V3 Foundation training and certification I can't find it in the books and in fact they contradict themselves and each other as to which one ITIL is.

The ITIL V3 Glossary defines best-practice as “Proven activity or processes that have been successfully used by multiple organisations. ITIL is an example of best-practice.” The Glossary has NOTHING to say about Good Practice.

And the five core books all say in section 1.2.2 "There are several sources of good practice including public frameworks...Publicly available frameworks ... such as ITIL..." " and in 1.2.3 "the ITIL framework as a source of good practice... The ITIL Core - Best practice guidance..." The books don't as far as I can tell make clear the distinction between "Good" and "Best" anywhere as defined in the exams.

Yet the Official Introduction says on p4 "Good Practice - Not every practice in ITIL can be considered best practice and for good reason..." just after it has finished telling us that ITIL is best practice.

I can't find my Passing Your ITIL Foundation - what does it say?

Confused? Imagine how an ITIL beginner feels.

All the ITIL V3 Foundation syllabus has to say is "01-1. Describe the concept of Good Practice (SS 1.2.2)". How can anyone be fairly expected to answer ITIL V3 Foundation questions on distinguishing good and best practice when not only do the books not explain the difference but they can't even agree on whether ITIL is one, the other, both or neither?


ITIL is good Practice


Remember this for the rest of your life,
ITIL is not best practice but good practice only.
For IT service management, the best practice is ISO/IEC 20000.
Hope this is clear now



clearly trolling. Anyone who suggests ISO20000 is in some way superior (or inferior) to ITIL is clearly picking a fight.

And anyone who suggest ISO20000 is in any way "best" is throwing beer in a bar.

I can't figure out how this

I can't figure out how this can be a question in an exam...

Would it be like:

What is the difference between a good practice and a best practice?

a) Best practice is blablabla and good practice is blablabla
b) Best practice is blablabla and good practice is blablabla
c) Best practice is blablabla and good practice is blablabla
d) Best practice is blablabla and good practice is blablabla

Is that what you mean? Because that does not make sense...

My understanding is that ITIL dropped the "best practice" approach, and defined itself as a "good practice" instead, aligning with the "adopt and adapt" mantra.

After all, that's why the "Best Practice Logo" was taken off from V3 books.

So, a good question would be "Why ITIL is considered a good practice and not a best practice?". This would help ITIL beginners to understand that "ITIL is not a religion" from their very first contact with it.

BTW, I consider the "best practices" references in the books just another example of bad text revision.


Still beating that drum?

I thought best practice was dead and buried as far as ITIL V3 was concerned. To have the topic still coming up on the foundation exams in the manner you described seems like just one more disconnect between intention and practice.

No exams are perfect...

What you are pointing out is symptomatic of all exams to test your knowledge. After doing many of these multiple choice exams I have come to believe that all exams are partly to test your knowledge and partly to torture you as a student. :).

The only way these exams are going to be perfect is if the body making the question sets up a "good cop/ bad cop" committee. That is; the "bad cop" creates the question but is also requried to reference from the official documentation where the answer can be found (no prefaces allowed!!). Then the "good cop" has the job of finding contradictory information that the poor student may also know. In the end the questions have to have an indisputable right answer.

As for the question around "Good Practice/ Best Practice" the most important thing to ask is why does this matter to someone at the "foundations" level of learning. Both are subjective terms, not objective, and more iportant to practitioners at a higher level.

copyright issues

I face copyright and disclosure issues in quoting questions but as i recall they are of the form

Good practice is

  • bleeeble blurble blooble blee
  • practices that are in wide industry use
  • yibbida yabbada
  • buddaka baddaka

or the other variant

Best practice is

  • yadda yadda
  • proven activities or processes that have yet to become common industry practice
  • ping pong pang
  • ippity pippity

OK, so they are really

OK, so they are really working with the definition of a good practice being a "best practice recognized by the industry as a common practice".

Really confusing.

It would be much easier to just say that ITIL is a good practice. The best practice is the one that is best for your environment. And that is what I recall understanding from reading the V3 books.

best vrs Good - Its in the Preface


A common complaint from those examined at this level. The best explanation I have found is in the preface of the Service Strategy book. Paragraph 2, line 10, "Successful innovations gradually become best practices. Best practices quickly become good practices, which become commodities (presumably this is where ITIL went commercial on us), generally accepted principles, received wisdom (?), or regulatory requirements (???)".

This good trumps best was one reason why I had to introduce the 'Practice Lifecycle' to the USMBOK ruminations. Why the transition innovation is 'gradual' and from best to good 'quickly' - I just don't know. A wave of the ITIL magic wand (perhaps by inclusion in a publication?) helps them become a commodity.... and through DIKW we get wisdom... which I thought could not be stored in a database - another Foundation question I recall...

Perhaps I need to rename my online best practice library - good practice library... hhmm...

all Foundation students will have studied the Preface

Ah that's where that line is!! I was looking for that. Of course all Foundation students will have studied the Preface

And the appendices....?

Add the appendices to that.... tons of content... not generally referenced in the syllabus yet....

If you ever get the chance or the inclination... check the language used in the question with the text in the book referenced by the answer key. It seems that 'on occasion' - they fail to match, which means even if you do have a photographic memory and have studied the more than 1100 pages in ITIL V3 - you still might fail to recognize it.

Its 'best practice' when developing exam questions to match the text in a question with the reference source at the very least where a definition is being tested.

An example

True, but even when there is a text reference it doesn't always translate exactly into the question. For example, on the EXIN ITIL V2 Support and Restore exam, there is a question something along the lines of:

Which of the following will ALWAYS lead to an increased workload for Problem Management?
a) more CIs
b) more incidents
c) more changes

I was absolutely stuffed with this question, especially when I saw a) was the answer. Checking the text reference, there was ONE sentence in the whole Service Support book that said, "An increase in CIs will LIKELY lead to an increased workload for problem management".

I think it was that moment that finally broke my faith in the exam moderation process.

How to Fix the ITIL v3 foundation Exams

How to Fix the ITIL v3 foundation Exams

Clumsy execution in the ITIL world is often excused on the grounds that it is run by volunteers. This is not the case with certification. The governing body is filled mostly by commercial organisations (except itSMF). There are eight examination institutes. Just one of them, EXIN, reported 160,000 foundation trainees last year. Every candidate pays a three-figure sum just as an exam fee (not including training fees). There are tens of millions of dollars in exam fees flowing into the industry every year.

It would be nice if some small part of that were spent on hiring adult education experts to design, write and test best-practice exam questions, and to quality assure the delivery.


Aale, you've misunderstood me. "There are eight examination institutes. Just one of them, EXIN, ..." does not imply that i think EXIN write the questions, nor that EXIN should employ the experts. i simply held them up as an example of the volume of $$$ flowing in.

David, all ITIL V3 questions are written by APMG and are standard over all EIs. Any perception by your students that those foreign chappies have worse questions than good down-home Yankie expertise is just that - perception.

Since I haven't seen the exams... :-)


All I can do is report what the students told me after taking the exams. One of the questions I ask is which EI did you use. about 60% said EXIN, the other 40% were CSME.

IF APMG supplies the questions, then Yankee English (and related spelling) isn't likely to be a factor either way.

Now, that said, for the students perception is reality (independent of fact :-))


erception and...translation

Aside perception some translation issues have been noted. And of course there are differences between English, American and Australian english as well as between Spanish Spanisch and Latin Spanish, French French and Canadian French. So.....not an easy job to satisfy everone.

Speaking of anyone aware of the progress in translation of the core ITIL books in other languages?

I know that the French

I know that the French version of Service Operation was released a couple of months ago.

It's a start

It is indeed, thank you! Funny thing though is that the TSO bookshop does not mention the french translations of the ITIL V2 Service Support and Service Delivery books to be available. Nevertheless I've got them on my bookshelf!

An English bookshop list French titles?

An English bookshop list French titles?


Yup, they do, but they are not just a bookshop. They are Her Majesty's Book Shop, the offical printer and editor of OCG stuff

small correction

Just to clarify the last point: TSO is a privatised part of what was once HMSO. It is not part of the public sector anymore and they are not appointed by HM the Queen. In fact TSO is owned by Williams Lea. It is a private company and nothing to do with the small residual role of HMSO which was,confusingly, retained by the UK Public Sector on privatisation.
This is why TSO is called TSO -- it lost the HM bit on privatisation.


TSO is The Stationary Office, originally known as HMSO Her Majesty's Stationary Office and yes, is today part of Williams Lea but they did not change the name, TSO was for some time a Crown Company.


Small correction

The full facts are found on TSO's own site
'In 1996 the trading functions of HMSO were privatised and became TSO (The Stationery Office).'
A privatised body is commercially owned and so by definition is not a Public Sector Body -- not even for a short time.

Ok, but Williams Lea bought it in 2007

Yes you are right but who owned TSO before 2007, I think it was the Crown through OGC?

the murky depths of corporate history

...Williams Lea bought TSO from Apax for an estimated £120 mill. Apax bought TSO from a consortium of venture capitalists in 1999 for c. £82 million in 1999. It publishes for its clients, including OGC, as many other commercial publishers do -- under contract.

Don't blame EXIN

APMG is solely responsible for the ITIL exam questions. The questions have been approved by Chief Examiner i.e. Sharon Taylor.

I sincerely doubt that adult education experts could write ITIL exam questions, it is quite hard to invent questions that measure understanding of the issues.

Must admit that I have been working with Exin in developing and reviewing the ISO 20000 series questions, not at Foundation level but at most of the others. My experience is that the review system has been pretty strict.


EXIN vs...

I've had students take Foundation exams in the US from either EXIN or CSME. For both ITIL V2 and V3 there have been more reported problems with EXIN (poor or ambiguous wording, out of scope questions, wrong version questions (e.g., V2 question about and urgent change, where that was the correct answer couples with CAB/EC on a version V3 test) than have been reported with CSME exams.

This should not be taken to suggest that CSME uniformly better than EXIN, some of the CSME questions are "questionable" -- but more reports of problems with the EXIN exams. Consequently, I recommend that if students have a choice (i.e., the exam isn't included as part of the class on day 3) that they look for a CSME test center.

To the best of my knowledge, CSME is the only ITIL EI located in the US.


EXIN is located in US last I heard

David - I'm not one to defend exam institutes - I have given all of them as hard a time as anyone and still do almost every day.

That said, EXIN runs a vibrant and quite professional US based operation. You can check their address here EXIN contact information. They were previously located in Boston MA, which last I checked was this side of the border....

US operation isn't the same as US-based

I wasn't sure so I checked.

This is from the CSME Web site (

"CSME is the only US based ITIL Examination Institute

CSME has been providing the highest level of ITIL Certification Services to the US for the past seven years. And on March 2, 2009 we advanced that level of service by becoming a fully accredited ITIL Examination Institute. There are only eight in the entire world, and CSME is the only one of those eight based in the US, serving the US and the Americas."


Vendor B.S.

Vendor B.S. They are the only one with head office in the USA but several "serve" the USA. Loyalist are head office in Canada which makes "and the Americas" dubious. And Ian's link shows EXIN have a permanent presence in the USA. I bet others do too. I know APMG have a presence (in a questionable piece of governance, they are an EI in their own right as well as accrediting EIs).

Besides, so what?

EXIN exams

EXIN may use questions provided by APMG, but I believe they are responsible (and Accountable !) for getting exams marked and the results issued in a timely manner.
I work for a UK ATO and at present, we are seeing a delay of 6 or more weeks for results to be issued by EXIN, at all levels of ITIL exam. This is way too long for our students, especially those who have other training courses booked for which Foundation is a pre-requisite or freelancers who have contracts pending that depend on them having a particular qualification.
Does anyone know why this delay is still ongoing or when it might be resolved ? Is it just EXIN or all EIs ?
It is embarrassing to have to set expectations of a 6-8 week wait time for an exam that is marked by machine. I’d happily take the time to mark them myself for a few weeks or recommend students to take the Prometric version if they can’t afford to wait.
EXIN – you must try harder !

Electonic tests OK, but certificates and paper-based exams SLOW!

I've seen the same thing here. Electronic results from EXIN are immediate, but any paper based exams are running close to 30 days to get results. Certificates for either are running 4 to 6 weeks.


Why not exams on line

If your ATO is an EXIN Partner and Accredited Exam Center and they have an appropriate infrastructure they can offer the participants to take the exams directly after the training online within their training center. In that way the participants will have immedate feedback. Have your ATO check with EXIN

why the delay

That still doesn't address the question of why the delay. Prometric issued me my EXIN V3 Foundation certificate on the spot but I waited a very long time for the EXIN followup.

incidentally as directed by the website I contacted the "service" email address at EXIN Australia - my nearest office - to try to get a copy of my V2 certification on 3rd June and I have never heard back

Is someone is polluting EXIN's well...?


If you are saying that EXIN's exams differ from CSME's for ANY ITIL V3 exam I fear someone is diddling with the exams. They are to my knowledge all supplied by APMG.

If you are referring to V2 then thats fair game. I have experience of every source of V2 exams and frankly it will be a good day when they are retired. We suffered for 11 years with poorly structured and worded exams during the V2 'experience'. The move to APMG was a must-do for OGC given what went before.

My disappointment is that they still have problems - claims the syllabus is 'blooms compatible' are ludicrous. recommending oen exam institute over another for V3 makes no sense unless there is a problem with the administration - shipment and speed of marking. I have had NO problems with that aspect from an EXIN and always felt CSME were very professional indeed.

If you are to cast stones - please be very clear and specific - your explanation read garbled. Also, comparing a V2 question with a V3 question is just plain daft as V2 questions were either written by EXIN or ISEB, and V3 by APMG.

Only reported what students told me

The subject pretty much says it all. I've had more students report problems with EXIN questions than CSME.

Note: more is relative. I've gotten reports of bad questions with CSME, too. But the issue is out of scope questions with CSME -- e.g., and V2 Change Management question on a V3 exam).

I don't know if all of the questions are or aren't supplied by AMPG. If they are, then there is something in the EXIN process with the way they present the questions.

Yes, I'm talking V3 Foundation.


APMG versus EXIN

Yes we can blame EXIN..........for not having won the tender instead of APMG or for not having bought APMG (if ever they could) ;-)

EXIN had the ITIL question development "machine" well oiled running. APMG had only experience in PRINCE2 and had to start from scratch with ITIL

I agree with Ian that itSMF deservered a much more important role as counterpart of OGC and APMG. Perhaps itSMF has not tried hard enough or was not given opportunity.

An old call for common sense


A well tried trumpet for common sense. Tim's point reinforces my initial critique of the exams as sent back to the exam institutes - the higher up the certificate tree you go the more obscure the answer in the text. This has nothing to do with Bloom's taxonomy...

It requires a full scan via Adobe of all core publications and careful analysis to find a reason why some answers are what they are.....and why fix it when few complain...? ITIL teaches us (well its implied) priority is calculated from impact and urgency. No impact - no money lost due to no competition - and no urgency = limited priority... where is the itSMF in all this - I thought they could/would represent their members...

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