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TOPIC: Passed PMP with 4 Ps on 6/22 - My Lessons Learnt
Passed PMP with 4 Ps on 6/22 - My Lessons Learnt 3 years 6 months ago #3507
Profile: I am a graduate in Engineering and have almost 5 years of experience as a PM working for an IT consulting company. All of this is from a vendor side working at client locations.
PMP Journey: Thought of getting certified for some time but never got enough time because of project commitments and was always of the opinion to register for the exam only after preparing to certain extent. Collected lot of info from Internet regarding PMP exam and started reading Rita last year and after 3-4 chapters, couldn’t continue further because of project commitments. Other reason because of which I couldn’t continue my study last year is because of picking up some wrong study plan from internet which targeted to complete one chapter from Rita in a day or two. I was never able to cope up with this schedule and finally lost interest. This year around March read somewhere that PMBOK 5 will be effective from 31st July. At this point decided that I have to get certified before June as all the material I bought and collected will go in vain.
1. Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep 7th Edition.
2. PMBOK 4
3. PM Prepcast
1. Continued reading Rita’s book where I left last year. With the preliminary understanding that I got about PMP from this first read, prepared my own preparation plan.
2. Simultaneously bought PM Prepcast and got my 35 contact hrs certificate post taking an online exam. I read each process first from PMBOK and then listen to the corresponding process from Prepcast which helped me understand the fundamentals.
3. Took PMI membership and submitted my PMP application with PMI. It got accepted in couple of days. (Learning: Even if you have more hrs of PM experience than what is required for PMP, only include the latest experience that is mandated by PMI for PMP so that it will be easy for you to submit the material in case your application is chosen for audit.)
4. Paid the exam fee to schedule the exam. Unfortunately my application was picked up for audit. I was very much worried based on the feedback in some of the forums that the audit process will consume nearly 2-3 weeks of your preparation time (considering PMBOK 5 effective from 7/31).
5. To my surprise, audit process went very smooth and my application was approved within a week. (Learning: Irrespective of the managers with whom you worked on your previous projects, you can get your entire experience endorsed by your current manager itself. If required your current manager can validate your prior experience offline by contacting your previous managers. Approaching each of the earlier managers and getting their physical signature might take lot of time. This approach really helps and saves lot of time.)
6. Started reading Rita 2nd time as per my own plan prepared in step #1. Kept highlighting all key points with a highlighter while reading. Answered end of chapter questions in a score sheet provided in Rita and kept it for record. (Learning: My own custom plan prepared based on how much time I can spend every day kept my motivation levels high. I targeted to complete limited number of processes from each knowledge area every day and the volume of reading is based on the number pages (10-15/day). I used to logically conclude at the end of a process every day.)
7. Prepared similar plan for PMBOK as well and kept highlighting all key points while reading.
8. After first read of PMBOK, planned to read both Rita and PMBOK by Process Group (instead of by knowledge area) by referring each process both from Rita and PMBOK at a time. (Learning: I tried this approach based on comments in PMP forums that some of the books are written by Process Group. But this didn’t help much other than one more round of quick reading of both Rita and PMBOK.)
9. I got I&O and T&T matrix prepared with different processes on the top row and unique I&O and T&T entities on the left hand side in an xls. Marked the matrix where each entity relates to a process as an i/p or o/p or t&t. I should thank my wife Prameela who made this matrix for me and saved lot of my valuable preparation time. This matrix helped making some ITTO notes of my own. (Ex. Project Management Plan is not an I/O of any of the processes under Initiating & Planning except that it is an o/p of Develop PM Plan process. Project Management Plan is an i/p to all the processes under Executing, Monitoring & Controlling and Closing process groups.)
10. Also I took snapshots of the ITTO diagrams at the beginning of each knowledge area from PMBOK and took a print out to keep it as handy reference at all times of reading. I believe understanding ITTOs and ability to apply these to processes listed in page 43 of PMBOK is a key to succeed in PMP exam. Knowledge of ITTOs not helps in answering some of the direct questions during PMP but there will be lot of indirect questions where you might need your knowledge on ITTOs. I think one can gain this knowledge only by understanding ITTOs rather than memorizing. If you memorize ITTOs, you may be able to answer only the direct ITTO questions.
11. I also kept on using ITTO tool at webgale.com/pmp/itto_4th/ to estimate how well I am doing with ITTOs.
12. I prepared my own key notes throughout my preparation period. The key reason behind this is the challenges I came across during some of the mock exams. I was able to knock off two of the wrong answers but between the final two most of the times there is a very thin difference and decision is tough to make among these two. Collected all the info referring to nearly related terms at one place as part of these key notes like status /progress/ variance/trend reports or quality/grade/precision/accuracy etc.
13. Prepared list of all formulas and the scenarios in which they will be used specifically the earned value.
14. It is very essential for every PMP aspirant to read glossary of terms as part of Appendix in PMBOK and PMI Code of Ethics (you have to download this pdf separately from pmi.org).
15. In total I had almost 3 months of continuous preparation in which last 3 weeks was completely answering questions from different sources including 8 full length exams (all the mock exams I took were available for free on the web). Simultaneously I kept on reviewing Rita/PMBOK and adding notes to my key notes list. As I answer more and more sample questions, the way I look at the book content while reviewing used to change. In the initial reading, I didn’t expected that questions can be framed from that topic but as I answer sample questions from different sources, I realized this aspect and had little concentration to understand on those particular topics. (Learning: Spread taking sample questions and mock exams from different sources based on the time available to you instead of taking from same source as more questions are available.)
16. During the last week of my preparation (I had my exam scheduled for 12:30pm on Saturday) I reviewed the highlighted content from both Rita and PMBOK. Answered Rita’s end of chapter questions in score sheet as 2nd time (1st time in step 6 above). The improvement I made from 1st time increased my confidence levels of taking the exam.
17. Morning of the day of the exam, I reviewed my key notes, formulas, ITTOs and the terms glossary.
1. I arrived at the Prometric Center an hour in advance and my exam started immediately after sign-in process irrespective of my scheduled appointment time. This seems to be because of the availability of seats.
2. I did brain dump of the page 43 and formulas during the tutorial time slot based on the experiences shared in forums. I don’t see much use of page 43 brain dump if you are well prepared and have good confidence in your preparation. Do consider that you have to do this brain dump in a hurry just minutes before your exam which increases some pressure on the individual. I feel writing down earned value formulas helps as the formulas are different for different scenarios and you can just have look at these formulas based on the scenario in the question and decide which one to use.
3. I felt this pressure personally for the first 10-15 questions in the exam after which I could pick up.
4. There were several of EVM questions and it is very critical for one to understand the concepts than simply applying a formula. This is very important when it comes Earned Value (EV) as you have to make this value from the description given in the question.
5. I marked several questions for review where my confidence levels were low in the first half. Also I read questions back and forth to make sure that I am answering correct. This is because of my experience from mock exams where I answered some of the questions wrong because of ignoring some key terms in the question even though I know the correct answer. But this approach is taking time and I could estimate (when I am nearer to 100 Qs) that I will be able to answer only 100 Qs in the first 2 hrs and if I go at the same rate I will not have any time to review my marked Qs at the end. So I increased my speed and finally could complete all 200 Qs in 3.5 hours. Could review all marked Qs as well with around 8 min still left. Started reviewing from beginning in the left over 8 min and could review almost 50 Qs when message popped up that time is over.
Huh…what a relief finally when the ‘Congratulations’ message popped up after I completed the survey.
6. Final suggestion is to be prepared (I hope all of you understand ) to avoid taking breaks in case you are running tight. Based on what I understood, taking a break is not simple at Prometric and a little time taking process as each time you have to do a sign-out and sign-in in a register. I am not sure if it is the same process at every Prometric.
7. I passed PMP with 4 Ps in Initiation, Planning, Execution and Monitoring & Controlling. When I saw similar scores in forums, I tried concentrating little more on Closing process as there are only two processes and questioning myself why we can’t get a P in closing. But finally what I realized that it is easy to get 80 out of 100 but tough to get 8 out of 10 (less volume of Qs from Closing process).
8. These are all my personal opinions and lessons learned during my journey through PMP exam.
Subba Reddi, PMP.