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TOPIC: Question My Exam Experience & Lessons Learned

My Exam Experience & Lessons Learned 7 years 3 months ago #1913

  • Sanil Neelakantan
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Lessons Learned (submitted by Sanil Neelakantan)

I passed the exam recently and received the coveted PMP® certification. I am both happy and proud to have those three letters behind my name now. Described below are my approach, the material I referred and what I underwent on my exam day.

My Approach & Material Referred

I started studying about 3 months ago and made rapid progress in reading and digesting the concepts, methodologies and theories. I have a total work experience of 14 years, which includes more than 6 years in project management role. I had the advantage of hands on experience in almost all the processes and knowledge areas. This aided me a lot in making rapid progress in the preparation. During studying whenever I read about a process or environment, I could relate and visualize the situation as most often I had “been there” in such or very similar situations.

I set aside 4+ hours for studies every day during these 3 months of preparation. No parties, no movies, or no picnic – literally. I owe a lot to my family for their cooperation and support. First of all, I started with the PMBOK and after reading each chapter I referred Rita’s guide for the corresponding chapter. In parallel, I was diligently following Cornelius’ course which definitely help me digest and cement the concepts in my mind.

I read the PMBOK cover to cover twice and Rita’s guide twice with special focus on Ethics chapter. These were the two ‘books’ that I studied. Besides these, I sedulously studied the course by Cornelius and applied his tips & advice when answering questions. Once I completed the reading phase, I entered the testing phase, in which I started taking practice tests. I subscribed to various websites that offer sample questions and discussion forums. In the beginning stage I demonstrated mediocre performance (receiving 65% to 70% score). Reviews revealed that I was not often ‘thinking in terms of PMBOK’. I soon made sure that I was wearing the ‘PMBOK thinking hat’ when answering questions. Adopting this strategy, I soon realized that I was getting more or less 75% of the questions right. Identifying the weak spots and further sharpening of the exam taking skills (such as taking a break every 50 questions and a short walk), I saw myself at the 80+% level. By then I was on week-12 and I was doing 150 to 200 questions every day. Every morning I prepared the brain dump sheet and drew the chart on page-43 in PMBOK.

My Exam

I had submitted my application at the PMI and already received the eligibility confirmation during my second month of my preparation. Soon after reaching the 80% score in practice exams, I booked my exam date. I had one week to poise myself and sharpen the savoir-faire.

Since I knew exactly where the exam center was, I didn’t have to go for a drive on the previous day to know its location. On the exam day, I reached the exam center 15 minutes prior to the appointment time. The staff member at the front desk asked me to sign in, and assigned a locker. I was asked to empty my pockets, leave the jacket on the hanger and come in with a picture ID. By then there were two staff members at the desk. One person verified my ID, gave me 3 pencils, a small booklet with 6 pages and informed me the rules and regulations (about what to do, what not to do, the clock that does not stop during breaks, etc). I was then asked if I was ready to go in. I said yes and the other staff member accompanied me to the exam room. We walked past a few cubicles where other examinees were taking exams and I was shown my cubicle where I would be assayed for the next 4 hours.

I clicked the mouse, and went through the tutorial. I utilized this time to create the brain dump sheet and the chart on page-43 in PMBOK. I still had 2 to 3 minutes left in the 15 minute tutorial time. I ended the tutorial and the computer asked me whether I am ready to start the exam. I took a deep breath and clicked ‘Begin Exam’.

The first question was a mile long. It seemed to take forever to even finish reading the question. I went to the bottom of the question to know what actually was being asked. I selected one answer which I believed to be the best one. The exam progressed and in 45 minutes I reached the 50 question milestone. I decided to take a short break. I proceeded to the front desk and signed out. The staff member reminded that I should not access the locker during breaks. I soon returned from break and the staff member confirmed that I still had my pockets empty. I was allowed to sign in and I went back to my cubicle. I looked at the time and saw that the time elapsed during my break was 4 minutes. I immediately resumed the test from question # 51 and made progress as in the first leg. After each milestone (every 50th question), I took a break and in less than 3.5 hours, I completed all the 200 questions. I then reviewed the questions and my answers and decided to change my answers to 4 or 5 questions. Some people have strongly advised me against this approach, but I don’t believe in that ‘gut notion theory’. It however would never be known whether the changes I made increased or decreased my score.

I clicked the ‘submit’ button to end the exam when the clock was at 3:59:50. The computer started to grind and came a display asking me to take a survey. I answered those questions and the computer screen went blank again. It was thinking whether to allow this guy to have those three letters behind his name when he walked out of that room. It took about 10 to 15 seconds and then, the message that I had been dreaming of was displayed. It said, ‘Congratulations on passing the exam and the certificate would be mailed in about 6 weeks’. I gathered the booklet, pencils and my picture ID and headed to the front desk. The staff member gave me a printed confirmation of my passing the exam that bore the Prometric seal. I thanked the person and congratulated myself.

I went to my locker, took out my stuff, went out of the exam center building and soon called my wife to convey the good news. So, that was it, end of a journey and it was really an experience. I would like to express my gratitude to Cornelius Fichtner for his excellent work in teaching me the project management concepts and guiding me with easy to remember tips and tricks to digest the concepts and score higher in the exam. I really enjoyed his every episode and would strongly recommend subscribing to his course to anyone who is planning to go for PMP.

Finally, my advice to all those aspirants who are in the path of certification – read the stuff well, be thorough and practice, practice and practice and you will be in good shape. Good luck to all.

Sanil Neelakantan
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