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TOPIC: This is fantastic, a must read for present PMP's and aspiring PMP's; got it from LinkedIn

This is fantastic, a must read for present PMP's and aspiring PMP's; got it from LinkedIn 7 years 2 months ago #9208

  • Kelly Coughlin
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8 Tips to Pass the PMP Exam, 1st Try, No Classes

Published on December 6, 2015
Michael B. Howard
Leader, Educator, JROTC Instructor

First of all, stay current with the PMP standard. It evolves with the profession, with official changes announced periodically. Keep tabs on updates at the Project Management Institute’s website, www.pmi.org/certification/exam-changes/pmp.aspx .

Are you in a situation like I was? Is it nearly impossible to attend the various exam preparation classes and groups that are offered? Is individual study the only way you have to prepare for the exam? In my case, the remote location and demands of my military service precluded everything but individual study. Here’s how I passed the PMP exam on the first try with only individual study, and so can you.

Tip #1: Commit!

Make the decision. Take action. Join the PMI, pay your membership fee, and buy the PMBOK® Guide (a.k.a. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge). Commit to study three or four work nights per week and one weekend day, for 2-4 hours per session. Tell your spouse, significant other, coworkers, and/or boss, as appropriate, that you’re going to earn your PMP Certification and what your study plan will require. Ask for their moral support. Then stick to it. Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.

Tip #2: Don’t start with the PMBOK® Guide.

It’s as dry as Tatooine, as cold as Hoth, as regulated as the Death Star. And as forbidding. Instead, go to the Dagobah system of PMP training—buy Head First PMP. There you will learn the ways of the PMP exam from Jennifer Greene and Andrew Stellman, PMP masters who instructed me. They will teach you with stories and pictures. They will train you with practical exercises. You will say, “This is hokey. That is corny. And I’m never getting out of this slimy mudhole.” But your brain will actually absorb the lessons and never forget them, thanks to the hokiness and corniosity. Do every exercise. Trust me, Luke. Use the Head First PMP study guide. (Save the realistic, 200-question Practice PMP Exam in the back of the book for your final session of study. See Tip #7 below.)

Tip #3: Work through Rita’s book, too.

Buy Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep. It is more clinical and less organic that Head First PMP, and it is meant to be studied with the PMBOK Guide® opened side-by-side. This makes it more challenging and rigorous, so it will fill in the gaps and test you at a level Head First PMP does not. Why two study guides? Consider this. Luke had two masters. Obi Wan introduced him to the ways of the Force. Yoda prepared him to face Vader. Similarly, Head First PMP will give you a solid basic foundation (especially if you are like me, starting from zero), and Rita will finish your training.

Tip #4: Understand your failures.

Each chapter of both Head First PMP as well as Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep ends with a few dozen sample test questions. They are strong with the dark side of the PMI. You will never find a more wretched hive of misdirection and distractors. You must be cautious. When you emerge, check your answers. Ponder the explanations. Write in the margin why you got the question wrong. Do not rail against the machine. Accept the right answer for what it is—true insight into the ways of the PMI. Believe me, you will learn more about yourself and the PMP Exam from your errors than from anything else. So when you rush off to confront the real PMP Exam, remember your failures in the Cave of Sample Test Questions and do not fall into their traps again.

Tip #5: Do less memorizing and more understanding.

Many aspiring PMP initiates believe they can memorize their way to a PMP certification. Many of these are seduced by the dark side of the PMI. Impatience, anger, and hatred of multiple choice exams lead many astray. They fall prey to misdirection of superfluous information in the question and are consumed by the distractor answers. The truth is, the ways of the PMI cannot simply be memorized. They must be internalized. A PMP feels the Process Groups flowing through the project, surrounding it, binding it. The Knowledge Areas fill the PMP’s mind with right thinking. Only then will the correct answers on the multiple choice exam stand out as luminous as the beings we truly are. Of course, a PMP knows the Schedule and Cost Management formulas by heart, but these are merely tools and weapons—grappling hook and blaster—useful for overcoming a few exam questions, whereas embracing the ways of the PMI will illuminate the solution to a great many more questions and ultimately be useful on the job.

Tip #6. Finish with the PMBOK® Guide and practice exam.

During your last few study sessions, review the PMBOK® Guide. If you’ve diligently worked through the material and exercises in Head First PMP and Rita’s, you will be pleasantly surprised at how much is familiar and well-understood in the PMBOK® Guide. Your review will be easy and will reinforce what you have learned. Then, on your last study session, take the Practice PMP Exam in the back of Head First PMP or with the PM FasTrack® software that came with Rita’s. Check your answers, and learn from your mistakes one last time.

Remember, the exam will test your knowledge of the Project Management standard as presented in the PMBOK® Guide, not your experience. Like you, I’ve accumulated years of professional experience and thousands of hours supporting, sponsoring, and leading projects. However, before I began to prepare for the PMP exam, I had received no formal training in project management and had never heard of the Project Management Institute. (I only became aware of the PMP Certification when I was preparing to retire from the military and begin a second career as a civilian.) As I studied for the exam, all of my experience—good and bad, successes and failures—came flooding into my mind. “That’s not how we did it on the job,” I caught myself thinking many times. You will, too. You must unlearn what you have learned. Your thoughts betray you. I can feel the conflict within you. Don’t underestimate the power of your pride to blind you. Give yourself to the PMBOK® Guide.

Tip #7: Hydrate, get plenty of rest, don’t over-study.

Throughout the weeks of study, be sure to get plenty of sleep. That’s when your subconscious works on organizing and making available for recall all the material you feed your conscious brain. Study does little good if not followed by sufficient quality sleep. In addition, your brain works better when fully hydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of water a couple days prior to, and the day of, the exam. (Don’t worry, you are allowed to take comfort breaks during the four-hour exam.) Finally, the day before, do the practice exam but don’t do anything else. At that point, you know what you know. More cramming will only hurt.

Tip #8: Believe in yourself.

You’ve studied. You’ve worked hard. You’ve learned the ways of the PMI. The PMBOK® Guide is your ally, and a powerful ally it is. You’ve rested up. You will spot the correct answers. You will scoff at the distractors. You will be a certified PMP! Remember, the PMI will be with you, always.

(Apologies to George Lucas.)

Michael B. Howard is an executive with experience in Change Leadership, Finance, IT project management and development governance. He's an Air Force veteran of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM and a born consultant. Contact him through LinkedIn or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

This is fantastic, a must read for present PMP's and aspiring PMP's; got it from LinkedIn 7 years 2 months ago #9210

  • Cornelius Fichtner
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Kelly -- Thank you for posting this here. However -- just to make sure that we follow the code of ethics -- did you obtain permission from the copyright owner (Michael Howard) to republish this article in our forums?
Until Next Time,
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM
President, OSP International LLC
The following user(s) said Thank You: Mahmoud Sharina

This is fantastic, a must read for present PMP's and aspiring PMP's; got it from LinkedIn 6 years 10 months ago #10388

  • Michael B Howard
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I gladly give my permission. Here's the link to my original (but evolving) post. ( www.linkedin.com/pulse/8-tips-pass-pmp-e...ael-b-howard-mba-pmp )

This is fantastic, a must read for present PMP's and aspiring PMP's; got it from LinkedIn 6 years 10 months ago #10390

  • Mark Wuenscher, PMP
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Thanks Michael.
Mark Wuenscher, PMP
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