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After three months of studying, it's finally over. Here's how I succeeded, and how you can too.
I studied about an hour each morning during the work week and about 4 hours each weekend, over a three-month period. Toward the end, I added evenings and other spare time to the mix. The key was to comprehend the information, not just memorize it. Here's what I did:
- Watched the PM PrepCast videos (an excellent product, by the way; thank you Cornelius!)
- Read Joseph Phillips' Project Management Professional Study Guide twice and took all the chapter-end, self test questions twice; opinion: great source of foundation material (concepts and processes), but slightly lacking on the ITTO front
- Skimmed through parts of the PMBOK guide, as needed, to address areas not fully covered in Phillips' guide
- Downloaded the PMP® Exam eFlashCards™ I purchased (thanks again, Cornelius!) onto my smartphone and studied during lunches
- Performed a 15-minute "memory dump" every other morning the second month into my studying, then every morning the two weeks leading up to the exam date; my memory dump consisted of the following:
- All the formulas (3-Pt, PERT, variance, float, PV/FV, # communication channels, and EVM formulas like EAC, CPI and TCPI)
- Sigma 1,2,3 and 6 values
- HR theories (Maslow, McClellan, Hertzberg, McGregor X & Y, Ouichi Z, Expetancy)
- All 42 PM processes, exactly as they are laid out on pg 43 of the PMBOK guide
Note: I didn't memorize the ITTO's, but had a general understanding of the flow of inputs and outputs, as well as the tools and techniques required for the PM processes
2) Test prep
I took seven 4-hour, 200-question simulation exams. I can't tell you how valuable this is. If you want to pass the PMP exam, you need to practice using timed tests. It's the only way to gauge if you're ready, in my opinion.
Here are the practice exams that I took:
- 2 master exams that came on the CD with Phillips' book; opinion: good questions for testing general knowledge, but not as challenging as other exam simulators
- 1 of Rita Mulcahy's PM Fastrack exams; opinion: questions were ridiculously long-winded and intentionally tricky (just read her exam notes and she'll say, 'I bet you thought the answer was A'); I didn't like this product
- 4 PM Study exams (PMStudy.com); opinion: this is the best route to prepare for the actual exam; the scenario-based questions really made me think, and I attribute today's success to the practice I got with the PM Study exams; I scored 64%, 68%, 70% and 68% respectively on the exams; even though the site says you should get 85% to be ready for the PMP exam, the scores I got were sufficient for me
3) Prometric Testing Center dry run
In order to psychologically prepare myself for the exam, I decided to visit my local Prometric Testing Center a week ago. It was a smart decision. Not only was I aware of how to get there (and not worry about getting lost on the day of the exam), and how long it took (30 minutes in my case), but I was able to speak to the receptionist and find out what to expect on the day of. I highly recommend you take the time to visit your local testing center.
4) Exam experience
I didn't sleep well last night...too much nervous energy. But I did take Cornelius' advice and not eat any exotic foods yesterday. Unfortunately, I thought I was toast this morning because I was so groggy. Good thing I knew what to expect from my dry run down to the Prometric testing center.
I ate a simple breakfast and did one last memory dump before making my drive. I arrived 45 minutes early and checked in. They gave me a locker to store my belongings. Since you can't bring anything into the testing room, I had to put everything (wallet, food, drinks) into the locker. I downed a Red Bull, then went into the testing room. It was nice and quiet, and I donned ear muffs to make it even quieter. At the two-hour mark, I got up and downed a second Red Bull (it helped me concentrate), then took one last break right before I went over all the questions I marked for review. Each break required I sign out, then in, and show my empty pockets. When you take your simulated exam, I recommend you follow the same strict circumstances (except for the empty pockets) so you can be mentally (and physically) prepared for the real deal.
5) Exam results
I bet everyone feels like I did when I clicked the End Exam button: nervous, anxious, feeling as if time had stopped. And then you learn your fate. Mine was passing on my very first try!
You don't actually get a score. You get a printed document that shows you passed, along with a proficiency ranking ("Below Proficient," "Moderately Proficient" and "Proficient") in each knowledge "domain." Remember when I said I got 64-70% on my PM Study scores? Well, I think I did better, comparatively speaking, on the actual exam. Here's how I did in each domain:
- Initiation --> Moderately Proficient
- Planning --> Proficient
- Executing --> Proficient
- Monitoring and Controlling --> Moderately Proficient
- Closing --> Moderately Proficient
- Professional and Social Responsibility --> Moderately Proficient
If I had to equate that into a score, I'd say I got a 75%.
The bottom line is this: you need to study on a continuous basis, memorize key concepts and formulas, and take practice exams in order to best prepare for the PMP exam. While every person has their own methodology, I recommend good-old fashioned hard work over bootcamp-style "test and flush" memory methods. Good luck in your venture toward becoming a Project Management Professional!
This interview with Simona Fallavollita (LinkedIn Profile) was recorded at the magnificient Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Conference 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. We discuss the how, what, why and when of the changes that are coming to the PMP exam.