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TOPIC: Passed the PMP Exam Yesterday, First Attempt, 5x AT

Passed the PMP Exam Yesterday, First Attempt, 5x AT 3 years 9 months ago #23030

  • Brad Pennington, PMP
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I've followed this forum for almost five months now, and I'm very excited to finally be adding my lessons learned. Yesterday I passed the PMP on my first attempt with 5 Above Target, and I can confidently say that my success is largely due to the efforts of Cornelius and the PrepCast Team. The following is a description of how I prepared for the PMP and my personal lessons learned. As we say in the military, Bottom Line Up Front, or BLUF...

1. Use the PrepCast Exam simulator and the Premium lectures...they work!
2. Include the PMBOK Guide in your study efforts, as well as another reference. I used Andy Crowe's book.
3. Know your limitations on preparation time. I took five months, which worked for me but may be too much time for some to remain motivated.
4. Drive to the exam site a week prior, get a good night's sleep and don't cram the night before the exam, and carefully adhere to the ID requirements!

I applied for the exam in early April 2020, using my military and flight test experience as a project officer for the experience requirement. As part of my Master's degree a couple of years ago, I'd taken a course in engineering project management, and I'd always kept a detailed log of the projects on which I'd worked, so getting my paperwork together was relatively easy. Once approved to sit for the exam, I chose a date roughly five months out, as my current job requires a lot of travel and I knew that my study time would sometimes be limited. While I admire those who can do three months of study and pass, I knew this was not going to be realistic for me with a demanding job and three young kids. As you look at potential exam dates, be realistic with yourself and know your limitations. I would argue that it's better to spend five months studying and have a successful result rather than three months studying only to take the exam a second time. I felt adequately prepared after about four months of studying, but I had to keep up the intensity for an additional month.

I started with the PMBOK Guide, 6th Edition and read it cover to cover in parallel with Andy Crowe's book, The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try. Once I covered one knowledge area in the PMBOK Guide, I covered the same in Crowe's book. I’m a visual learner, so I had separate notebooks for both references and took detailed notes while reading. I attempted to spend around a week on each knowledge area between the two books. I spent extra time on cost and schedule management, and less than a week on the smaller topics such as communications and procurement management, and stakeholder engagement. I'd already been exposed to EVM and CPM in the aforementioned graduate school course, so these concepts were not difficult for me to grasp. Once I finished reading the PMBOK Guide and Crowe's book, I took the final exam at the end of the latter reference and scored a 72%. Knowing that it was my first full-length, timed exam, I was happy with this result. Around this time, I also created a few study aids, the most valuable being a blank table for the process groups and knowledge areas like that in Chapter 4 of the PMBOK. I highly recommend creating one of these in Excel or a similar program. I probably filled out hundreds of these over three months; I always had a few blank sheets with me, so if I had a few spare minutes in a meeting at work, etc., I would take one out and complete it. I created an equation sheet with definitions and blanks for the equations as well, but I rarely used it. I found it more valuable just to practice writing out a dump sheet prior to each practice exam. As with blank knowledge area table, I always carried a few blank sheets of paper with me for practice dump sheets.

My next step was to purchase the PrepCast Premium course, Exam Simulator, and the Equation Guide all together. I was under three months from the exam at this point, so I timed it out so the exam subscription would not expire before my PMP exam. I scored a 72.5% on the pre-test, which was encouraging because I saw a little bit of improvement. I started going through Cornelius's lectures. He is truly a great teacher, funny, motivated, and keeps your attention better than most of the college professors I've had. Again, I spent about a week on each knowledge area, sometimes less depending on the number of lectures in each. By the time I got to procurement, I was traveling again for work (travel had stopped due to COVID-19 about the time I applied for the exam), so I readily used the podcast feature and downloaded many of the lectures to my iPhone. I listened to most of procurement, stakeholder, and the applied lectures at the end while on airplanes flying back and forth across the US from my home in Memphis.

I was almost religious with my use of the exam simulator. I took a practice exam every weekend for seven weeks, throwing in timed quizzes for my problem areas and also taking a couple of shorter exams with Andy Crowe's Velociteach free book trial program when I had time. I usually took the exams on Friday or Saturday night, and thoroughly reviewed my answers on Sunday afternoon. The PrepCast exams were the ticket. After taking the PMP exam, I can confidently say that there is nothing more similar to the question format, length, skill level, etc. than the PrepCast exams. This is a must when preparing for the PMP. All of my scores were in the high 70s and 80s, save the ITTO exam on which I did a few questions the night before the exam and didn't finish. Because of the PrepCast exams, I walked into the testing center feeling confident that I would be successful, especially after I answered the first few questions on the real exam.

At the point when I was about two thirds complete with the PrepCast lectures, I started going back through the PMBOK Guide and Crowe's book on a less thorough basis, primarily just reviewing the terms and concepts which routinely gave me trouble on the practice exams. Both were valuable in my preparation. I see a lot of success stories in this forum saying that they never cracked the PMBOK Guide, which is good because it's very dry and boring, but I believe that I found success because I added PMBOK to my regular study efforts. A few days before the exam, I attempted to watch Vargas's video on YouTube, but I couldn't really get into it. At this point in my study, this video was probably a bit elementary. I recommend watching Vargas's video at the outset of any study plan for the PMP rather than at the end. A few days before the exam, I took the PMI-provided practice PMP exam, which I didn't think was useful. I answered about half of the questions until my confidence had taken a sufficient hit and then ended the exam. After taking the real exam, I can say that the PMI practice exam is of no practical use unless you need to be humbled. The questions were not at all similar to those on the real exam.

One week before the exam, I drove the route to the exam site at exactly the time that I would do so a week later. My exam site was in a high-rise in midtown Memphis, and luckily the building was open the Saturday morning prior, so I was able to go in and find the exact room. I highly recommend doing this; had I not, I would have been very nervous the morning of the exam driving up to a high-rise knowing nothing about parking, exact location, etc. To Pearson's credit, their description of the exam site, directions, etc. were top-notch. The night before the exam, I did about a third of the PrepCast ITTO exam, filled out a few blank knowledge area tables, wrote a couple of dump sheets, and went through a few concepts in Crowe's book that I needed to solidify. I got eight full hours of sleep...a must for future exam takers. The morning of the exam, I filled out a couple of dump sheets and blank knowledge area tables while I ate breakfast and then set out for the exam site. I arrived 45 minutes before my exam and sat in the parking lot to study a bit more, then walked into the building approximately 30 minutes prior to my sitting time.

The exam site personnel were very helpful, and the check-in process went smoothly. Remember to have a couple of forms of photo ID when you arrive at the exam site! Another person at the exam site (not sure if this person was taking the PMP) did not have the correct ID and was sent away. Read the requirements over and over again before you take the exam to make sure you don't miss out on something silly like ID. I had my driver's license, military ID, passport, and passport card with me when I arrived at the exam site. It never hurts to be over-prepared. When you sit down in front of the computer, take the exam tutorial. Some of the functionality was a bit cumbersome, and I might have had a little bit of trouble with it had I not taken the tutorial. Overall, the exam was very, very similar to the PrepCast exams. I saw a couple of network diagram questions and less than five EVM calculation questions. Everything else was exactly as Cornelius describes in his exam prep lectures. As advertised by Pearson, I received a built-in 10-minute break after 90 questions, which was invaluable. While you can opt to skip the break, DO NOT DO THIS! Take the break, get some water and a snack, and clear your head. It's 10 free minutes.

With 110 questions following the break, I was already tired and losing focus. By about question 140, I was completely drained, but I'd done this 7-8 times over the last few months and I knew that this point in the exam was my weak point. I ended up marking quite a few of the last 50 questions, as my focus was declining. Once again, a testament to the PrepCast exam simulator. The PMP is as much of a test of stamina as of knowledge, and you must be prepared for this the morning of the exam. I answered the last question with approximately 45 minutes remaining, so I had time to thoroughly review my marked questions. I ended the exam with about 20 minutes remaining on the clock. At the end of the exam, the pass screen appeared 3-4 seconds after I clicked "End Review" and the double confirmation. It was the longest 3-4 seconds of my life. After I learned that I'd passed, there was a short survey. I received the print-out from the exam site staff just as Cornelius described, and as soon as I had my phone, I took a picture of the print-out. My exam pass result was filed away in my OneDrive before I drove away from the exam site. I treated it like gold.

So happy to finally be a PMP, and the best of luck to those studying for the exam! It's worth the work!
Brad Pennington, PMP
PrepCast Community Moderator
Last edit: by Brad Pennington, PMP. Reason: Added a word.

Passed the PMP Exam Yesterday, First Attempt, 5x AT 3 years 9 months ago #23051

  • Yolanda Mabutas
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Congratulations on your great achievement!

Thank you for sharing your PMP journey .
Yolanda Mabutas
OSP International LLC
Moderators: Yolanda MabutasMary Kathrine PaduaJohn Paul Bugarin

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