I’m returning as promised, having taken the PMP earlier this week. (Sorry for piggy-backing your thread, @Daniel Soerensen, rather than starting a new topic, but I hope it makes the conversations easier to follow.)
First of all, I’m very happy to report that I passed on my first attempt, with AT/AT/AT. I can confidently say that using PM PrepCast’s PMP Exam Simulator questions (all of the Premium Quizzes content and Exams 1-4, all once each) was crucial in helping to develop the knowledge and mindset necessary.
My preparation started ten weeks ago along with the first contact hours in a local in-person class run by a very experienced PMP trainer. Since then, I have spent a total of just under 100 hours using PM PrepCast either answering those questions or, significantly, reading through all of the solutions and explanations to the questions. That was really the key for me, I believe. There’s a little treasure in each one! While sitting the practice exams is a marathon, going through 180 solutions and the explanations after each one took me two or three times more than each exam session. Definitely useful, though, in my opinion.
Alongside PrepCast and the class contact hours, I can account for another 50 hours spent reading texts, making notes, creating 600+ virtual flashcards, watching YouTube videos (including many by Cornelius Fichtner), and in some pair study sessions. Of course, real world project management experience also counts for a great deal, but while I have a number of years of PM work under my belt (I’m no spring chicken), this was the first time that I’d really absorbed formalized theory on the subject… and I loved it. I was highly motivated during this learning phase, not just to gain the certification, but to really integrate the knowledge in order to further improve my approaches to project work.
Our contact class used two core texts: the PMBOK 7 and the Agile Guide. (The Scrum Guide was also a key source.) Interestingly, I have still never had any contact with the PMBOK 6. I did find Ricardo Vargas’ 53-minute video on the processes in PMBOK 6 highly informative, but I think I developed my understanding of the process groups and the associated inputs, outputs, tools and techniques principally from the explanations to PrepCast Quiz/Exam questions more than anywhere else. I did actually buy an electronic copy of the new Process Groups: A Practice Guide a week or so after it was published, but I have to admit that I didn’t get much further than skim reading parts of it and working through the glossary to check what was new to me. (Just didn’t have time, and was making prioritization decisions.) I’ll be reading through it in the near future, now that the exam pressure’s off, as I still want to gain better knowledge of this aspect.
As for exam preparation, I was doing pretty well in PrepCast. I took Exam 1 a month before the real one and got 72%, building up progressively to 83% in Exam 4 just three days before the PMP. I even took the good advice to back off on the day before and to try to be fresh. That’s easier said than done when you’re finding it hard to sleep and you have to be up before 6am to get to the test centre in the snow… but I did my best (minimal caffeine the day before, some light exercise, not studying anything new, and then trying to switch off mentally six hours before lights-off).
Come exam time, I knew I was as ready as could be reasonably expected. My food and drink plan was spot on (tried and tested doing the PrepCast exams at the same time of day as the real thing), and I was almost looking forward to the experience! I get shown to my assigned station, put my earplugs in, follow the Pearson VUE tutorial, and… what fresh hell was this?!
Okay, so did I pass with a good score, so all was well in the end, but the exam-taking experience was not pleasant. I’m still trying to put my finger on what makes the PMI questions feel so different to the ones I had got used to in PrepCast. Yes, the PrepCast ones are more detailed; yes, the PMI ones tend to feel ‘vague’, but… there’s something else. Very often, I got the feeling that the exam questions left too much of a chasm between the question context and the answer options, meaning that I couldn’t grasp what they were really trying to get at. Often, not just two but three answers seemed like totally acceptable answers. I suppose I lucked out in many cases when going for the option I selected.
I’m a native English speaker and took the questions in English. I’ve spent the last 25 years working in international contexts and in other languages. I am used to reading and working with American English and even approximative ‘international English’. In a number of cases during the exam, there were errors in syntax and grammar that aren’t attributable to variants and styles of English, but simply a lack of proofreading. Odd that these don’t get properly checked.
Errors aside, I still have to say that the questions that I came across in PMI Study Hall were of a similar nature to what I saw in the exam. I did decide not to spend more time with PMI Study Hall in the short time I had left before the exam, but I wouldn’t dismiss the platform as not useful. Instead, I’d say that having PMI Study Hall would have been a good complement to what I was doing with PrepCast, and that having more contact with the vague question style would have been better earlier in my process. I am very glad to have used PrepCast and wouldn’t have replaced it with PMI Study Hall, especially since I didn’t have PMBOK 6 as a resource, only PMBOK 7.
To anyone reading this who hasn’t taken the exam, I hope that it’s useful. I’d recommend above all else an active learning approach, like the PrepCast questions enable, and a regular, daily intake of information. And yes, being fresh for the exam is extremely important. Anyone can perform at a high level mentally for, say, 20 minutes, when tired; 250 minutes is an entirely different challenge.