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TOPIC: Passed the PMP - 1st try, finished with 90 mins left

Passed the PMP - 1st try, finished with 90 mins left 3 days 8 hours ago #22660

  • Mike Cheung, PMP
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I am very excited to share that I passed my PMP exam on July 25, 2020!

Reading other lessons learned in this forum served both as a source of inspiration and encouragement throughout my journey. I would take a break from studying every once in a while to read lessons learned and get excited when others shared that they had passed. I decided that I would document my journey closely so I could share an accurate picture of my journey - in case it’s helpful for anyone else.

I anticipate that this will be a long post, so I’ve split this post up into 4 sections for ease of navigation.

1. Education Hours
2. Studying for the PMP
3. Exam Experience
4. FAQs

1. Education Hours

I first considered and started learning about Project Management in 2016 when I took an online course on Project Management Essentials. The course wasn’t great, and then work got in the way and I pursued other things… fast forward to September 2019, a year and a half into a new role - I decided that I wanted to learn and gain skills for professional development. Since my goal was to learn a new skill and apply it to my job, I had decided that completing a certificate at a University would be the best approach (and worst case scenario, I would take the first intro course, and if I didn’t enjoy it, I could stop there). Well, I did enjoy it, quite a bit.

Then I learned about PMI and the PMP certification. I had a bit of an internal debate - do I continue with this certificate (5 courses) or do I just stop at one course (which gives me the education requirement) and pursue my PMP exam? I had to weigh my options based on finances, my goal of learning and time. Eventually I decided to continue with the courses (mainly because I started studying by reading the PMBOK and found it too onerous). My initial goal was to complete my fifth and final course by September 2020, earning my Certificate in Project Management from a University and study and hopefully pass my PMP exam by Jan 2021 (before the content change).

I had completed 4/5 courses before the pandemic hit and found myself with a bit more time on my hands, so I thought I would do some studying for the PMP and see where that led me.

2. Studying for the PMP

I started really studying for the PMP exam on Friday June 12 and took the exam on Saturday July 25. I studied for an average of 167 mins (2.78 hours) a day.

The first thing I did was to do some research (frankly, probably too much research) on the different prep books, online courses and reviews.

If you are reading this and you have not watched Ricardo Vargas’ video here:
just stop reading and watch it now. I wish I found this link earlier than I had. It should be the first thing that anyone watches as they start their journey. It gives a very good big picture overview of the PMBOK.

The next thing I would suggest doing is signing up for a PMI membership. This gives you access to projectmanagement.com (where there are many good articles about PM). A PMI membership also gives you a free soft copy of the PMBOK as well as a discount to the PMP exam (together, this is worth more than the PMP membership).

I read and studied Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep as my main source of content knowledge. Lots of reviews recommended Rita but also shared that her tone is very condescending. I would recommend Rita - it was really helpful. My journey studying Rita’s Exam Prep book:

- Read Rita, one chapter at a time
- Research online any content that needed additional clarification (ensuring by the end of the read and research that I understood everything)
- Then, immediately after read and research, I would write out notes by hand
- Do the practice exam in Rita

I only read Rita once, and I never reread my hand written notes from start to finish (though I would reference it and flip through it regularly when I needed to be reminded of a definition, TT, etc.). It took me 2.5 weeks to do this.

I created the attached formula sheet to help me memorize the formulas.

PM Exam Simulator

After Rita, I purchased and used the PM Exam Simulator. This was 100% the best purchase I had made. I cannot recommend this more. For me, when I learned about it, purchasing and using it was a no brainer. Since I only had 90 days to use it, it was more about finding the right time to start using it. I wanted to make sure that I activated it with enough time to use the simulator to study for the PMP exam for the second time in case I didn’t pass.

I did 4 practice exams on the PM Exam Simulator and 5 practice tests (10 questions each). On the practice exams, I scored: 69.5, 75, 81, 77.

For the practice exams I flagged any question I was uncertain of. I made sure I did not rush my practice exams, I timed my breaks and did the exams at the same location (my work office) that I planned on doing my actual exam. For each practice exam, I also did them on the same time of day I had planned on doing the actual exam (1pm) and for my last two practice exams, I did them on the same day of the week (so I would get used to traffic, noise around that time, lighting, temperature, etc. I reviewed every practice exam (this part is more important than doing the practice exam itself). I made sure to review every flagged question, even if I got them right and think through the logic (why did I chose the answer I did, why did I not choose the other answers, why was my answer right or wrong, what did I think correctly or incorrectly).

I also created a lessons learned register, where I took a screenshot of each question (regardless of whether I got them right or wrong) that I was either confused about, or felt was important or me to reference again in the future. (I was thinking about 3 months later, should I fail my first exam, what notes would be beneficial for me to reference).

Reviewing the answers for the PM Exam Simulator took a very long time (but conveniently I was able to do this on my computer and also on my phone). I remember doing a practice exam outside during a fire alarm, in the car while waiting for my mom to do groceries, standing in line at the store, etc. I also selected the filter “marked” and “answered incorrectly” when reviewing.

The PM Exam Simulator are the only practice exams (other than Rita) that I used to study.

Other Resources
Thanks to other recommendations on this forum, I also consulted the following resources as supplementary resources:

Videos:
Priaizion Mainline Video (highly recommend):

Aileen Ellis: www.youtube.com/user/aileenellis9/videos
Linkedin Learning - I only watched a couple videos, I got bored after a while

Websites:
Edward Designer Study Notes (I just skimmed through them when I had spare time): edward-designer.com/web/pmp/
Edward Designer 47 Commonly Confused Terms (I read through these even if I knew the difference between the terms): edward-designer.com/web/pmp-easily-confused-terms/
Other study notes I skimmed through: pmstudycircle.com/study-notes/

3. Exam Experience

It was difficult for me to decide when to schedule my exam. I wanted to be prepared and feel ready, but I also know that if I didn’t pass, it was likely because I didn’t study hard enough - so maybe I keep studying?

Eventually, I decided that I would schedule the PMP exam after scoring over 80% in a practice exam. I scheduled my exam for one week after my 3rd practice exam, with enough time to do one more practice exam before the real thing.

Frankly, after reading Rita and taking a couple practice exams, I was losing steam and finding it more difficult to study daily. I had considered getting another study guide, or signing up for PM PrepCast. I knew I had to take the exam soon because I didn’t want to lose the motivation and details for the material that I could recall from all my studying.

I did my exam online through PearsonVue. Registering for the exam was very easy and there were many time slots. Since I wanted a specific day of the week and time, I decided to schedule a week in advance, instead of a day in advance (which I had also considered).

In preparation for the exam, thanks to other lessons learned shared here, I did the following:
- Bring an extra laptop just in case (obviously tested it)
- Cleared everything from my desktop (it was 100% empty, minus my laptop and mouse) - I took away my desktop, pens, landline phone, etc.
- Used paper to cover my bookshelf (others have used bedsheets)
- Removed all items from the wall (I did have a poster of a watch)
- Closed all my blinds and doors (I was worried that someone would walk by)
- I made sure to lock the door and sign out all the keys to my office so that I knew no one else would have access
- Since I was at work, I also put a sign on my door that said do not disturb from x to x time
- I brought my passport and drivers license (though I used my drivers license)

Starting the exam, I signed in 2 mins later than the 30 min in advance (I decided last minute to use the bathroom for a second time).
- I signed into PearsonVue using the email they sent as a confirmation after I had registered for the exam to test my device
- I was prompted to close all my browsers on the computer except for finder and PearsonVue
- I was prompted to use my cell phone to take a photo of my drivers license (both sides) and all four corners of my office - this went seamlessly (though I had to take a photo of the front side of my drivers license twice)
- After doing all of this (approx 10-15 mins), I waited less than 5 mins for someone to start my exam
- I was given the opportunity to use a tutorial (which I did, but it wasn’t helpful at all)

I will mention that I was very extremely nervous for this exam. I arrived in my office 3 hours early to prep. I did everything I listed above and also some meditation and a walk outside.

During the exam, based on lessons learned shared here, I made sure to :
- Take my watch off (though I had a ring on for good luck)
- Empty my pockets (so I wouldn’t accidentally drop or use my chapstick)
- I placed my phone out of reach, on silent, face down, on a separate counter - visible and next to my watch
- I made sure to not touch my face (I caught myself doing this quickly a couple times)
- I did not talk or make any noise (though I coughed once or twice)

When I was allowed to take a break, I reviewed my marked responses (only changed one answer) and took a 5 min break. At this point I panicked and for some reason thought I couldn’t leave to go use the bathroom - you can, and I did. I had one small sip of water before returning.

I completed the exam with 1.5 hours left and didn’t change my responses for the second half. I even took my time for the exam. I had 2 EVM and 1 critical path questions. A few agile ones too. The whiteboard and calculator was easy to use. I planned on not using it because of all the feedback here saying they were difficult to use. It wasn’t pretty or easy, but it was useable. I didn’t highlight or strikeout anything as I didn’t know I could so I didn’t practice doing it.

I felt that the PM Exam Simulator really helped me prepare for this exam and the PM Exam Simulator questions felt more difficult and definitely more wordy and the average length of each question was longer. This piece is very subjective though. I probably felt this way because I could review the answers in the PM Exam Simulator and find out my actual responses and numerical score, while I couldn’t do the same for the PMP Exam.

In the end, I scored AT in all areas. Upon completing the exam, I was given the congratulations, and like many others here, I was in disbelief and was a little dazed, so I don’t think I read through all the details of that page and wasn’t sure if I was congratulated on completing the exam or passing the exam. I do wonder what the message for “you failed the exam” says. After completing the optional survey for PMI and PearsonVue, I was done. I eventually logged back onto PearsonVue and was able to look at my score report and find that I received AT in all areas. I still didn’t really believe that I passed until PMI emailed me, at 5am the next morning!

Very thankful for all the resources I have listed here, for everyone who shared lessons learned and encouragement on this forum and for the PM Exam Simulator. Wishing everyone here best of luck on their journey!

4. FAQs

How many times did I read Rita?

Many other lessons learned shared that they read Rita and the PMBOK multiple times. To be honest, I just found that to be a huge barrier. I also know that I study more effectively by reading, highlighting and writing hand written notes. My backup, had I not passed the PMP exam the first time was to sign up for the PM PrepCast videos and watch those.

Did I read the PMBOK?

I did not read the PMBOK from front to back. I did use it as a reference. I bought a physical copy, even though I had a soft copy so I could flip through it as I reviewed my responses on the PM Exam Simulator. I found it helpful to read through mainly the appendices.
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The following user(s) said Thank You: Ramin Edalat
Last edit: by Mike Cheung, PMP.

My PMP Exam Journey 2 days 7 minutes ago #22685

  • Yolanda Mabutas
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Hi Mike,

Warmest congratulations on your achievement!
Thank you for sharing a very detailed PMP experience.
Yolanda Mabutas
OSP International LLC
www.pm-prepcast.com
The following user(s) said Thank You: Mike Cheung, PMP
Moderators: Yolanda MabutasMary Kathrine PaduaJohn Paul BugarinKyle Kilbride, PMP

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