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TOPIC: Passed PMP exam on first attempt

Passed PMP exam on first attempt 1 year 6 months ago #12897

  • Su Abraham
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Hi Folks!

I passed the PMP exam on my first try on Thursday 18th Jan 2018, after several months of studies and balancing work/family/studies. This exam is more challenging than anything I did at University. However, it is definitely doable if you commit to it and give it priority.

My journey:
-Did the 5 day course to give me the required hours in early 2017.
-Then due to a busy work schedule, I Joined PMI and got their softcopy of the PMBOK in Aug-2017. Later than originally intended.
-I started reading it thinking 'how hard can this be' and was completely put off by the book. Dry is definitely an understatement.
-Then got Rita Mulcahy's book - this is more narrative and it resonated with my style of learning. Given English is my fifth language - reading a book that at least tried to 'make the complex simple' helped me understand the concepts better.

So I read Rita's book first, summarized it as I went, so I wouldn't have to reread whole chapters later on and could just read my own summaries if I needed to. Then, when I was somewhat more familiar with the Project management terminology, concepts, etc through Rita's book, I got stuck into the PMBOK guide. This time around the 'dryness' of the PMBOK was bearable because I had some insight into it already thanks to Rita. It's a bit like reading a movie or a book's plot summary so you know roughly what's going to happen. This usually peaks my interest and helps me understand the storyline better. I mean try watching something like Inception without knowing anything about it. But if you've read a quick plot intro then watch the movie after, you understand the story way better. So the same applies to PMBOK. At least in my case.

Once I felt semi ready, I applied for the exam in November-17 and lo and behond, I got selected for an audit. I collated all requirements and sent it to PMI as soon as I could and within a few days I got an email from PMI giving me the go ahead to book my exam. I went ahead and booked my exam for December 20th, thinking I would be ready by then given I was already scoring well on Rita's sample exam questions and a few pmp exam prep apps I had downloaded. I cranked up my studies. Managed between 2-4 hours almost daily.

However, around a week before my exam I did the Oliver Lehman 175Q and 75Q tests and performed poorly on both. That is when I decided to purchase the prepcast exam simulator and took the first exam. Again, my scores were low at ~70% and everyone was saying that I needed to score at least 80% on these exams to pass the actual exam. Over the next few days I tried more quizzes and continued getting below the 80% scores. I wasn't happy with this not only because I was getting lower scores than I needed, but also because I was guessing a lot of the answers. Especially re ITTOs. So I postponed my exam by a month to 18th Jan 2018. Much to my dismay because I really wanted to get it done in 2017. Alas, that wasn't going to be. So that was a bit of a downer for me personally.

I realized a lot of the questions I wasn't sure about and was only guessing, rather than being sure of them, were ITTO based questions and this was the area I needed to focus my attention on.

So I focused my efforts on ITTOs. With every ITTO I looked at, I asked myself "why is this ITTO needed here?" and usually I could find a reason why it would be required. Some ITTOs are obvious why they would be needed - for example, to manage a team, you need conflict management and interpersonal skills. Or to validate scope, you need to inspect a deliverable. So just going through the ITTOs and thinking about why it would be required for a particular process was the first step. During this process, I marked all the ITTOs which I wasn't sure why they were an ITTO for a particular process. And there were many like that. So it was a matter of going through these one by one and trying to understand it bit by bit. I had to employ some rort memorization for some of the ITTOs which were not quite clear to me. In the end, I still couldn't get my head around all the ITTOs but I had a good grasp of at least 85% of them.

I watched a few youtube videos and I used the prepcast quizzes quite a bit. If I had to recommend apps, I'd say the best one I used was PMP Exam Prep. It has a lot of the Rita type questions and I found the exam had similar question lengths to Rita's. I used this during my commutes and before going to sleep.

Additionally, I compiled a list of nearly 400 terms which were vague and unclear to me from PMBOK, Rita's book and reviewing the ITTOs. I used excel to list these terms with their definitions, in my own words, in the next column. I reviewed this often and as I felt confident I understood a term, I changed it to a green colour and continued reviewing until the last few days when I only had a handful of terms which I was still slightly unclear about. I can't stress enough how important it is to understand things in your own terms, your own way of thinking. This helped me quite a bit. For example, I called the process "Direct and Manage Project work" >> "doing the work". For me this simplified things considerably and I could then also identify the PMBOK terminology accurately in a multi choice question.

If I had to do this all over again, I would do no more than 2 full fledged 200 timed question exams. This so you get a feel for how you'll go timewise. But I feel there is no real need to do more than that as it is better to do the shorter quizzes of say 20-50 questions each and then reviewing the explanations for all questions you got wrong and all questions you were not sure about but still got right. This is where the real learning is. I marked questions I wasn't sure about vs questions I was sure about on a paper. And in the end I reviewed to see how far off I was. And then took it from there.

I find doing 200 question exams takes too long and takes time away from your actual learning which for me came from the reviewing part. Just make sure that when you are attempting the quizzes, always select to get questions from the 'unanswered' pool of questions. This gives you a good sense of where you're at with your preps otherwise repeat questions don't give you that benefit as you're answering questions based on previous exposure to the question. Lucky the prepcast simulation has nearlyl 2000 high quality questions so you have plenty to practice on.

The exam itself:
I was security searched like I was at the airport and even had to pull up my pant legs to show I hadn't written any notes on my ankles and show my pockets were empty. I wasn't allowed to take in my water or food and the exam took me precisely 4 hours so if I had taken a water, food or bathroom break I would not have had enough time to finish all the questions and reviews. The temperature that day was nearly 40 Degrees celcius and the room was not properly cooled so it was hot. Add to that the anxiety of the exam, and for the last hour at least, my heart felt like it was going at twice the speed and I felt faint and shaky. But soldiered on.

It took me 3 hours to go through all questions and I marked for review around 60 questions. I then used the last hour to go through the marked for review questions and changed at least half of them. In the end I had just over a minute left. I wasn't too confident that I had done a good job but given my time was almost over, I prayed a prayer to God, and clicked on submit. I covered my eyes waited a few seconds and peaked to see what the screen was doing. I was afraid I was going to see a fail score but instead a message congratulating me appeared. A feeling of sheer relief washed over me. I was teary and cheery all at once. Not only had I passed, but I achieved an above target score in most areas.

Wishing you all the best of luck with the exam. It is a tough exam. But it is definitely doable!

Now, how to get those PDUs... :)
The following user(s) said Thank You: Kim Naylor, Linda Orr
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