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TOPIC: After 3 Reschedules, I Passed the PMP Exam First Try!

After 3 Reschedules, I Passed the PMP Exam First Try! 2 months 4 weeks ago #23216

  • Jennifer Hutchison
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I took and passed the PMP Exam on August 22nd with 4 ATs!

I purchased PM Prep Cast Premium back in July 2019, confident that I'd be able to study and pass the exam in early 2020. After diving into the information from the course and inside the PMBOK, I realized that while I had a decent grasp of project management as a whole, I lacked a lot of specific knowledge and more importantly, practical experience (I work for a very small software company where I am the sole Project Manager and I handle a lot of Agile projects and feature releases over the year). So I knew that I would need to focus on filling out the gaps in my knowledge and to supplement my lack of practical experience with a better understanding of everything. My first exam date was in February. As the date approached and I took a few practice exams, I realized I wasn't ready and decided to reschedule for April. I think we all know what happened in April. April got pushed back to September when hopefully the test centers would be back open in California. After February, I ended up taking about two months off to deal with work projects and personal projects. I will admit that I let the test psych me out a little. Once May came around, I realized I would need to get serious if I was going to gain my PMP and that there was no better time than now. So I sat down, reformulated a phased approach, and did my best to stick to it. By the end of July, I felt confident enough to reschedule my exam to an earlier date than planned and to take it online. In the end, I passed with 4 ATs (my only T being in Monitoring and Controlling.) I'm very happy with the result.

Learning Materials:

PM PrepCast Premium - I went through each of the podcast lessons 3 times when all was said and done. I took notes on each lesson and used it to fill the gaps in my knowledge. I read the PMBOK guide alongside it as well. The lessons were well presented and at first, I listened to them on my commute but after March, ended up listening to them at lunch and after work when I studied. I also took every little quiz at the end of each chapter to help me gauge where I was still lacking.

PM PrepCast Exam Simulator - I really cannot stress the value of the Exam Simulator enough (if you're on the fence, just jump off of it and go buy it!). I believe I answered well over 2000 questions when all was said and done. I felt that most of the questions were actually tougher than the exam itself but they really helped me solidify my reading comprehension and helped "train" myself on how to think and answer each question. When I first started preparing, I jumped into the exam simulator and scored 70%, 69%, and 66%. Seeing the words "Failed" next to the last two attempts helped me decide to reschedule. But when I jumped back into the simulator in July/August, I started with the learning and timed quizzes (after a while, I selected the option to only ask me missed questions which helped as well) and built my way back up to the big exams. I ended up taking all of the exams except for #8 - ITTOs. I found that after I came back to it, I was scoring about 10% higher and felt more confident about my answers. The very last practice exam I took, I scored a 75% and it almost threw me for a loop but by then, I was a day out from the test and knew that it was now or never.

Rita Mulcahy's PMP Exam Prep Book and study materials - I lucked out and one of my father's friends had just taken the exam. He gave me Rita's book as well as her Hot Topic flashcards and Process cards plus a few sound pieces of sage advice for studying. Her book was great for putting a lot of the process and components in plain speak. I spent the last two weeks playing with her process cards and memorizing the order of the Planning process via a mnemonic device (suggestion from my dad's friend which proved to be very very useful!)

Process CardsEarly on, when I was struggling to remember what Inputs go into what and what Tools and Techniques help where, I drew up my own flashcards to use in addition to RMC's process cards. I had my husband grill me on these cards by only giving me one or two Inputs, one or two Tools and Techniques, and one or two outputs. We turned this into a bit of a game where I had to puzzle through why these inputs were important and how they helped the process. It was a fun little game and I'd like to think it was a little effective in helping myself prepare. Plus my husband enjoyed being able to help me study so win-win! These cards also helped me learn which process was in what knowledge area and process group which was a big boon.

Youtube videos from Richard Vargas, PMPwithRay, and Aileen Ellis - Aileen's videos helped with figuring out the intentions and keywords behind some questions (i.e. is the question asking for what is the best route to take or what to do next?). Richard Vargas helped a bit with Inputs and Outputs. I had a very hard time with Decision tree analysis and EMV. For some reason, calculating EMV and performing decision tree analysis escaped me (EVA I can do all day and realized I really enjoyed it.) I watched several of their videos during the last two weeks after reading suggestions from posts on this very forum. I wish I had watched their videos a few more times in preparation, to be honest.

Reddit's PMP forum and this very forum - for the last few weeks, when I wasn't going over previous podcasts, notes, watching videos, or taking practice exams, I was going through Reddit and this forum to read various lessons learned and suggestions so that I could better improve my own studying and to also help calm my nerves.

My Study Methods/Plan

When I first started studying, I read the PMBOK, then I listened to the Podcast lessons from PM PrepCast. I passed the course, and then came into possession of the RMC book. I read it and then postponed the test because I still didn't feel confident enough. And my studying plan was a little all over the place. When I came back to it, I decided to approach it in a phased approach. First I would read the section in the PMBOK guide, then listen to the podcast lesson on it. Last I would read the corresponding section in the RMC book. I took notes throughout each because I know I tend to retain knowledge better when writing it down. After each chapter, I took both the PM PrepCast quiz and the RMC quiz. I marked down all my results in a spreadsheet and noted the areas I felt weak in. Anything that was under 70% was marked for me to come back to. Once I finished the podcast and the book, I went back and focused on each area. I clocked an average of 3 hours a day with a few more sporadically on the weekend. When I was within two weeks of the exam, i worked on memorizing formulas and finessing my mnemonic device so I could remember the order of Planning. This helped so much! When it came time to sit for the exam, all I had to do was summon up that device and write it all down on the whiteboard. I also took the time to watch youtube videos and peruse forums for more advice. By early August, I felt confident enough to reschedule the exam for an earlier time (I was going on vacation in late August and did not want to break my studying again) I took a few more practice exams in the last three weeks, making sure to space them out. I reviewed each wrong answer after each test and cross-referenced the ones I was still confused on.

The week before my exam, I kept my studying light. I focused on playing "games" like memorizing inputs/outputs and the order of processes in Planning. I messed around with the RMC flashcards I had, putting each process and action into the correct category. The night before I didn't do any studying. I tried to take the day off but because it was also the last day before I went on a weeklong vacation, I ended up working half of the day and reviewed a few key videos. I spent that evening relaxing and trying not to freak myself out.

On the day of the exam, I took it very easy. I reviewed a few keynotes I made and went over my formulas one last time. I logged on 45 minutes earlier and had to switch to a different computer when I realized my new web cam was not working correctly (this is why I had my laptop set up as well!). I tested everything and started the exam on time. The exam went well. I was worried about touching my face or saying anything outloud so i kept my mouth shut and my hands on my keyboard and mouse to prevent any issues. I also kicked every animal and person out of my house during the test and put a sign on the door asking that the doorbell did not ring. I finished the test with a minute to spare. I was able to review every single question I answered through both parts. I also cut my break short by a few minutes because I just wanted to dive back in and finish it up. I was absolutely floored when I saw the words "Congratulations" on the screen after submitting! After that, I rewarded myself by going on vacation!

Lessons Learned

I learned a few key things during this journey:
  1. I'm glad I listened to my gut when I felt that I wasn't ready in February.
  2. A year of studying/preparing was probably overkill but I needed it and I'm glad I took the time to make sure I was completely prepared. I also lost steam at a few points over the past year and I think that definitely affected me in the long term but I'm ok with it. After all, I've always been more of a marathon runner than a sprinter
  3. The exam simulator was worth its weight in gold. I don't think I would have passed the PMP exam without it
  4. Understanding the concepts and when things should happen is key! I did not end up memorizing all the ITTOs in the end but I tried to understand at least what was important and why/when it should happen

Sorry for the long post but I wanted to lay out my story. I hope it helps any other PMP aspirants as much as reading through the posts on this forum helped me!
The following user(s) said Thank You: Todd Blackwell

After 3 Reschedules, I Passed the PMP Exam First Try! 2 months 4 weeks ago #23220

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Congratulations on passing the exam!!
It seems like you used both prepcast and Rita Mulcahy’s exam simulators, correct?
Do you think if you would have passed the exam just by practicing on Prepcast simulator only, or do you think that Rita’s exam simulator was vital in your success as well?

After 3 Reschedules, I Passed the PMP Exam First Try! 2 months 3 weeks ago #23348

  • Todd Blackwell
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Congratulations on passing the exam!

You mentioned memorizing the order of the Planning process via a mnemonic device (suggestion from my dad's friend which proved to be very very useful). Would you mind sharing that mnemonic with us? I know I need to create one that is unique and memorable for myself, but I would love to see what you came up with. Thanks for sharing!

After 3 Reschedules, I Passed the PMP Exam First Try! 2 months 3 weeks ago #23352

  • Jules
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Hi Todd,

print out the empty sheet of the knowledge area overview table and try to fill it out. Start with the process groups and the knowledge areas and then go from top to button. If you do that for one week every morning, lunchtime and everning (will probably take you 10 minutes before and after work) it will be all memorized soon :) - trust me.

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Last edit: by Jules.

After 3 Reschedules, I Passed the PMP Exam First Try! 2 months 2 weeks ago #23364

  • Todd Blackwell
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Thanks Jules - I will give it a try!
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