Do you need customer support or technical assistance? Click here to submit a support ticket...

TOPIC: Busy single mom passes PMP on first try

Busy single mom passes PMP on first try 8 years 6 months ago #4389

  • Lois Yu
  • Lois Yu's Avatar Topic Author
  • Offline
  • Fresh Boarder
  • Fresh Boarder
  • Posts: 2
  • Thank you received: 0
Hi All,

In case it might be helpful to others, I thought I'd add my story to discussion.

Goal: Pass the PMP and get a more meaningful and better paid job to support my children and myself.

Working full time, sole custody of two minor children whom I adore and are very demanding time-wise, almost no spare time
Current employer will not pay for PMP certificate expenses or cram courses, but will pay for credit earning university courses

Resources used:
UCI extension PMP prep course (3 units, 12 weeks) - included Prepcast & Simulator & Rita's PMP Exam Prep book
PMP Exam Formula Study Guide
Earn Value course (half day, part of on the job training)
Study partner

Cost: ~$700 not reimbursed expenses + ~200 hours of study time spread out over 8 months.
~$500 for PMI membership (to get PMBOK and reduced exam fee) + exam fee ~20 hrs of application and reading PMBOK
~$1000 for UCI extension online course (reimbursed by employer) ~100 hrs of study
~$30 for PMP Exam Formula Study Guide ~30 hrs of study
~$170 for used ipad and used ipod to listen to the PrepCast
~50 hours of simulator and other study

Nov-Dec 2013: Applied for PMP certificate and read the PMBOK
Jan - Mar 2014: Study based on UCI extension PMP prep course and PMP PrepCast - good overview of all the material
April-June 2014: Study based on Formula Study Guide questions and the PMP simulator - quantified my knowledge of material
June 20, 2014: Passed the exam - first try

Lessons Learned:

1. Self studying on my own was ineffective. I tried that approach in Nov/Dec 2013 and learned almost nothing. My sole accomplishment was finishing the application and reading the PMBOK, which was as dry as chalk and barely made any sense.

2. The PrepCast rocks. If not not for the PrepCast, I would not have had the time to study regularly. I listened to it daily on my commute to work and when riding my bike. I invested in a used ipad ($150) and ipod ($20) to be able to access the PrepCast. It was worth it! Plus as a bonus, my kids think we are "rich" because now they have an ipad to play on like kids have.

3. The UCI extension course was my first online course. I liked the flexibility of an online course. The instructor was supportive of my schedule limitations. I worked in bursts as I had time. I'd get ahead when I had time to study. Then not study at all for two weeks. Then have another study sprint and so on. The structure of a course really helped me cover the overall material. And the PrepCast and Simulator were included in the price!

4. Also thanks to the online course, I found a study buddy. We have never met in person, but after the course, we called talked on the phone ~30 min every two weeks to check in and keep each other accountable to our study goals. My buddy helped me stay on course with my goals. Thank you, Stacey!

5. The Formula study guide and a half day Earned Value course helped me understand those concepts. Once you do several formula problems, what was once confusing becomes simple. So much so I cheered every time the simulator gave me a formula question. Solving formulas is so straight forward compared to the scenarios. Easy wins.

6. I highly recommend the simulator. First, the simulator has a quiz mode. You can take any number of quizzes in learning mode that gives you immediate feedback on your answers. You can tailor quizzes if you want to focus on certain process or knowledge area. Second, taking a four hour simulated exam gives you an honest assessment of your PMP readiness. The first time I took a simulated exam, it was a stressful ordeal. A) it was hard to find four hours to take the exam. B) covering a four hour exam actually took me about six to eight hours because of prep time, review results time, and retest time. Due to the actual time needed to prep for, take and review a simulated exam, I was only able to take one or two simulated exams every two weeks - a slower pace than I originally projected - 3 months verses 2 months. But it was very worthwhile to take the simulated exam as doing so pinpointed knowledge gaps and helped me close them. I ended up taking eight of the nine simulated exams. My first exam was 70% and the last was 80%.

7. The day before the exam June 19th, I took the day off work to devote to a full day of study and to drive to the test site. Doing so helped relieve me of test jitters. On that last day I reviewed the PMBOK which I had not reviewed since Nov 2013. Unlike the first time I read the PMBOK, it made sense now, especially the ITTO diagrams. I would draw them based on my understanding and then verify with PMBOK. The next day I sent the kids to a friend's and took the exam.

8. The exam was repetitive to me. It seemed almost every question was given blab blab, what should the PM do? The answer was always the same. Do what it says in the PMBOK/PrepCast. It seemed the purpose of all that studying was to deprogram me from the way we usually do things at work and program me to know what the best practice is - the correct exam answer.

9. Compared to the simulator, the real exam was harder/longer. I consistently finished the simulated exams in 3.5 hrs, but the real test took the full 4 hours with only ~30 seconds to spare and no time to review my answers. When I hit submit at the end of the four hours, the screen went blank white. My thought was, "Oh no! The computer/software crashed. I'll have to re-take this test!" Fortunately, after an eternal 30-60 seconds, the "congratulations" message appeared. I didn't take the survey.

My final score was moderately proficient (average) in all the areas except monitoring and control where I scored proficient (above average). My little girl told me my final score was "bad" because in her mind mommy should be above average in everything. But to me the score was perfect. If I had scored above average in everything, I would have felt I over studied (i.e. I spent time studying I could have spent with my kids). My goal is balance work life and give my best to my kids.

Thanks for reading my story. I'm interested in any feedback you have!

Busy single mom passes PMP on first try 8 years 6 months ago #4390

  • Joy Iyer
  • Joy Iyer's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Fresh Boarder
  • Fresh Boarder
  • Posts: 13
  • Thank you received: 6
Lois, first of all congratulations on becoming a PMP.

Your narrative will give hope to a number of PMP aspirants, who face a similar situation i.e with their hands full and not too many resources to rely on.

Thanks for your feedback on the PM Prepcast!

I too found the PMP Exam Simulator experience to be easier than the actual test, but I think this is because the actual test center environment creates added pressure, which is not possible to simulate in the confines of your living room. For me, it was the thought of having to prepare for the PMP re-exam which worried me the most.

I think your score is perfect as well! Congratulations once again! :)
Joy Iyer, PMP, FS Eng (TÜV Rheinland, SIS, PH&RA) & Community Moderator

Busy single mom passes PMP on first try 8 years 6 months ago #4392

  • Lois Yu
  • Lois Yu's Avatar Topic Author
  • Offline
  • Fresh Boarder
  • Fresh Boarder
  • Posts: 2
  • Thank you received: 0
My study strategy was to study 10 hrs every 2 weeks when the the kids went to visit their dad and listen to the prepcast on my commute to work in between the every two weeks.

Busy single mom passes PMP on first try 8 years 6 months ago #4396

  • Dawn Upperman
  • Dawn Upperman's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Expert Boarder
  • Expert Boarder
  • Posts: 116
  • Karma: 4
  • Thank you received: 19
Congratulations Lois! I totally agree with your point #7 regarding the ITTO diagrams in the PMBOK guide. I found them to be extremely helpful for understanding the flow. They also make for a great summary study aid after studying the overall material. I actually photo copied them for each area and made a little booklet out of the copies so that those pages were easily accessible.
Moderators: Yolanda MabutasMary Kathrine PaduaJohn Paul BugarinLisa Sweeney PMPHarry ElstonBrad Pennington, PMPKyle Kilbride, PMPJean Kwanda

Training for Project Management Professional (PMP)®, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®, and Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®