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Step-by-step on self study for the PMP certification
Join the PMI and your local charter. This will cost you some money but you need to do it. The main reason is to get the PMBOK and the discount on the exam cost.
Once you join PMI, download the PMBOK and the best practices resources from the library. The best practices are often overlooked but these are vital parts of the PMBOK. The contents of the best practice guides support various areas of the PMBOK, such as estimating, scheduling, etc., and are assumed knowledge when reading the PMBOK. That means that you have to know the best practices for the PMP certification.
Don't read the PMBOK or the best practices. What? No, seriously. They are rather dry and confusing. You need to have them, but for later and throughout the next steps. Don't just start reading these resources or you will become discouraged and give up.
Go to PM Prepcast and get the PMP Prepcast with the Exam Simulator bundle. This podcast is the best self study tool for the PMP, hands down. If you are any type of self learner, kinetic, aural, visual, the Prepcast is for you. It systematically covers all the material of the PMBOK and more through a PowerPoint style podcast which you can either watch or just listen to from anywhere on any device. For instance, I listened to a majority of this podcast while driving across country to go on vacation and back. OSP International does a fantastic job with the material and provides a very high quality product. They include newsletters with helpful tips, advice on testing techniques, and even interviews of other PMPs and their experiences. Moreover, the exam simulator will be the cornerstone of your preparation process in the later phase. I cannot recommend this product enough.
Start listening to the Prepcast. Work your way through some of the major sections, noting to skip the Project Integration section. Once you get through a section, break out your PMBOK and read that section. If there is an associated best practice guide for that section, read that too. This is particularly important for visual learners as it will re-enforce what you just heard. If you are a kinetic learner, I recommend putting the Prepcast on your iPod or the like and go exercise while you listen to the podcast. In this way, your mind will be most receptive to the information covered. How long will this stage take? It takes a while, considering each section is about 3-4 hours long. Expect to listen to the Prepcast for at least 2 weeks if you listen to it at least 3 hours a day. I recommend listening a little at a time over a long period, since your absorption of the material will degrade in long doses. The key is understanding here, not just to get through the sections as quickly as possible.
Once you are through the Prepcast, go back to the areas that weren't entirely clear. For instance, Earned Value Management involves a fair number of equations that are not familiar for most people. Go over these areas carefully. You need to understand how to do all the formulas and when to use them. For this reason, I also recommend the Formula Guide offered with the Prepcast when purchasing. This guide is a collection of all the formulas you will need and includes brief descriptions on when to use them.
Claim your credit hours. Feeling more comfortable with the material? Good. Now you are ready to claim those credit hours for the PMP application. Find the section in the Prepcast that details how to take the test for claiming your credit hours. The test itself is easier than any typical PMP exam simulation and is geared toward proving you really did listen to the podcast. You did listen to the podcast didn't you? Once you pass the test you will have a certificate showing you have the credit hours and you are almost ready to apply for the PMP with PMI.
Prepare your data for the application. Before you actually start the application process, you need to prepare your data. The PMP requires very specific hours and years of experience, see the Handbook for details, and it can be confusing whether you have all the necessary information. What I did was to plot out all my past projects in a Gantt chart, with each project as a different line. In this way I could easily see the overlaps of projects. Additionally, I put all the information into a spreadsheet so I could verify the duration of the projects. This also becomes very useful in the reporting on the application because the Handbook doesn't explain that you need to report the hours spent in each Process Group for each project.
Send your project data to your project sponsors. Part of the PMP certification application process is that you need to provide the contact details of the sponsors or stakeholders of the projects you managed. PMI will use this information if they decide to audit your application. You don't want to surprise your sponsor with information they never have seen or worse yet that they might contest. Get their agreement on the data first before you provide it to PMI. Once you get the correct data and agreement with your sponsors, you are ready to apply.
Log into the PMI site and start the application process. PMI takes the application process very seriously and so should you. You should apply the PMI code of ethics and principles of the PMBOK in the application process. If you put any false information in the application and are audited, you will be black balled from the test, forever. Moreover, you should clearly articulate your roles in past projects as they relate to the PMBOK. This helps put your projects in the same context as what PMI expects. Provide your credit hours thanks to the Prepcast and then submit.
Continue to review. You should get a notification that your application is under consideration. This might take a while. You should use this time to continue to study. I recommend reading through the PMBOK a second time, specifically focusing on areas that you feel weak. You might focus on the glossary and memorize definitions of terms. You may want to go ahead and take one of the practice exams at this point to benchmark your knowledge. Another option is to read a supplementary study guide (I didn't use one, so I cannot comment on this much).
Take lots of practices tests. Once your application is accepted you enter the scheduling and auditing phase. It is between the time that you are accepted and schedule the test that PMI may choose to audit you. Don't freak out. Just make sure you have documents supporting all the information you stated on the application and you will be fine. I didn't get audited and the chances are you won't be either (PMI is quiet about the rate of audit but I have heard figures of 5-10%). More importantly during this time you should be taking practice tests. There are 9 tests in the Prepcast Exam Simulator and I recommend taking them all. The test is 4 hours long so you need to plan a good bit of time for these. I suggest one every other day and save the ITTO test for last (this one should really be a confirmation of knowledge). My average on the tests was around 80%. In every test I had around ten questions I knew but stupidly answered wrong, around ten that I honestly didn't know, and the rest were in that vague category where the question was tricky and deceptive. As much of testing your knowledge during this stage is practicing your test taking skills. I used throughout and in the real test a few approaches I picked up from the Prepcast and other blogs:
The real test has a tutorial on Computer Based Testing that lasts 15 minutes. Most people use this time as a "brain dump" period where you put down all the formulas and whatnot that you can remember to help you in the test. I personally didn't do this but I can see how it would help. Instead, I wrote down the numbers 1-200. I then used these numbers during the test to note potential answers or thoughts about the questions as I progressed. I then referred back to these notes during my review.
Start the test by going through and answering all the short questions first. If the question is more than a sentence or two, skip it. If you get stuck on a question, mark it and skip it.
Once you are through all the questions you go back through and answer the ones you left blank, skipping the marked ones. With these long questions I would first read the last sentence of the question. Sometimes this question would be obvious and lead right into the answer, allowing me to skip all the fluff above. If it was something like, "What would you do in this scenario?" I would then have to read the question from the very beginning.
Once you complete all those, go back and answer the marked questions.
Take a short breather and clear your mind.
Now review all the questions in order. I often would work the question in reverse here. For instance, I would read the answer and then read the question. In this way I try to confirm if that sounded right.
Once I got through the review, if I still had time, I would take a break and then review again.
Conduct a testing review and retrospective. In taking the practice tests you should get a good sense of pace. For instance, getting through the short questions might take you X minutes and the long questions generally Y minutes. In this way you will feel like you are on pace in the real test and can relax or speed up as necessary. If you don't consistently pass the simulations, then you need to go back to the PMBOK, supplementary study guides, or the Prepcast and review. Get more simulation tests if necessary. You should consistently pass the practice exams. You should also reflect on your testing and study process at this point. What is working well and what should you change?
Once you feel confident with your knowledge, schedule your test. Make sure it is at a time of day that you work best, for instance if you are a morning person. You should have been taking the practice tests at that same time of day as well.
Get a good rest and then go take the test.
And yes I am using the Prepcast to prepare for the PMI-ACP. Keep up the good work!
The following user(s) said Thank You: Markus Klein, PMP, Vijayalakshmi Iyer, Mark Wuenscher, PMP, Aung Sint
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.