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TOPIC: Start to Finish - PMP in 6 Weeks (4P, 1MP)

Start to Finish - PMP in 6 Weeks (4P, 1MP) 2 years 1 month ago #4703

  • Steve Sandoval
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I’ve been working as a project manager for the past five years, but I’m hoping to get a job in a different geographic region so I decided to pursue a PMP certification as a resume booster. Since I was eager to be able to list PMP on my resume, I was motivated to set a very aggressive schedule. My goal was to earn the certification in two months.

I just took the PMP exam on Wednesday this week, and passed with 4 Proficient knowledge areas and 1 Moderately Proficient. This was after only six weeks of preparation, so I actually came in ahead of schedule! It was a rather intense six weeks, but I feel that it is definitely doable if you set your mind to it. During the exam I felt adequately prepared — there were a handful of questions that I did not know the answer to, but overall I felt that the amount of preparation that I did was about right for me. I studied on average 3 hours per day (typically about half spent on the PM PrepCast, and half studying Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep 8th Edition).

I have some general advice to share, as well as some things that I would do differently and some things that worked well for me.


General Advice

1. Make a Plan
I knew that my goal was aggressive and I was motivated to succeed at meeting it, so from the very beginning I ensured that I planned well. I determined what tasks I needed to do to study, and laid it out against the calendar. I knew that I wanted to finish the PM Prepcast and Rita’s Exam prep in 30 days. For the PrepCast I divided the overall length into four roughly equal chunks, and set a milestone of finishing each in a week. For Rita’s Exam Prep, the book is fifteen chapters long so the math was easy — I needed to complete a chapter every two days. After the first month, my plan was to review Rita’s book a second time, and to use the PM Exam Simulator until I could consistently score at least 80 percent on the full practice exams.

Having this plan in place was critical to my success — by having this baseline, I was able to measure my progress and to stay on track. I there were a few times that I fell a day or two behind, but each time I was able to recognize that I was off track and then made corrections to recover.


2. Cover Each Topic Three Times
I believe that repetition is important when you are trying to learn something. I wanted to cover teach topic three times — a thorough reading of Rita’s Exam Prep, a complete run-through of the PM PrepCast, and a second, faster reading of Rita’s Exam Prep.

For me this had several advantages:
- I allowed me to hear the same topics from two different authors / points of view. This helped since the PrepCast and Rita’s Exam Prep sometimes focused in on different areas. Having the two sources really complemented each other.
- Consuming the information via two different mediums (written word and spoken word) was effective for me since it provided two different pathways for my brain to process the information — both visual learning and auditory learning.
- The 3x repetition helped to leave a leasing impression, as each time I re-visited a topic it reinforced how well I had learned it


3. Do All of the End-of-Chapter / End-of-Section Practice Questions
I completed all of the practice questions immediately after finishing each PM PrepCast section and after each Rita’s Exam Prep chapter. After doing the practice questions, I reviewed each wrong answer to determine why I got it wrong. On each answer sheet I recorded a list of the topics that I got wrong so I could easily go back and review my weak areas.

4. Focus on Understanding
This really is key, since it allowed me to minimize the number of items that I attempted to memorize. If you really understand what something means, you can often use logic to derive the correct answer. For example, I did not memorize any of the formulas for how to calculate EAC. Instead, I knew that EAC was equal to the amount of money you estimate to have spent by the end of the project. Using that information, you can deduce several of the forms of the formula:

EAC = money already spent + money you expect to spend
EAC = AC + ETC
EAC = AC + (BAC - EV)
EAC = AC + new estimate for ETC
EAC = AC + + (BAC - EV) / CPI if you expect to keep the same CPI performance
… etc


5. Use the Exam Simulator
The PM Exam Simulator was a key factor to my preparations — not only did it help me prepare, but it enabled me to *feel* prepared, which is just as important since if you are nervous during the exam you will not perform as well. I took my first exam after completing the PrepCast and Rita’s Exam Prep (which took 30 days of studying). I was able to score in the mid-80’s that first exam, which made me feel good but I didn’t yet feel ready — I wanted a consistent pattern of success before taking the real exam. I ended up taking a total of 4 full exams, all with scores in the mid-80’s. I felt ready after three exams, but had enough days left before my scheduled test date that I took a fourth practice test in the meantime in order to stay as sharp as possible.



What I Would Do Differently:

- Don’t buy a paper copy of the PMBOK
I hardly touched my paper copy PMBOK at all. Since it makes sense to become a PMI member in order to get the reduced price on the PMP examination, I also had access to the free PDF version of the PMBOK that is provided as a PMI member benefit. I used this PDF version almost every time that I needed to review the PMBOK, so the paper copy ended up being a waste of money for me.

- Start taking practice exams early
I waited until I had been studying a month before taking my first full practice exam. At that point I had already studied all of the material and was scoring quite well. I feel that an earlier practice test would have both helped me to pick up the information faster since it would expose me to the full range of topics earlier in my preparations, and it would have also given me a more effective way to measure my progress as time progressed.

-Apply to PMI Earlier
I waited until I had been studying almost a month before I became a PMI member and applied to schedule an exam date. Once my application was accepted and I was looking for test dates I had the option of taking the exam either earlier than I wanted (after 2 more weeks), or later than I wanted (after about 6 more weeks). I ended up taking the earlier date and things worked out fine, but I wish that I had applied earlier so I would have more freedom to schedule the exact date that I desired.


What worked well for me:

- Highlight the key ideas and unfamiliar items in your exam preparation book (for me this was Rita’s Exam Prep)
This helps activate another learning method (kinetic learning) by physically interacting with the text. Also, once I had read the book through the first time I had every key topic highlighted. This enabled me to do a second review of the entire book in much less time (1 week total) by only reviewing the highlighted areas, and re-doing the practice questions at the ends of chapters.

- Review questions that you miss
I mentioned this earlier, but it is important enough that I will cover it again: review every question that you answer incorrectly. This is your opportunity to focus in on your weak areas and specifically work to get better at them.

- Utilize your down time for the PM PrepCast
I have a daily commute that can take up to an hour each way, depending on traffic. This provided a perfect opportunity to me for listening to the PrepCast. Since I was driving a car I was unable to watch the video portion, but the audio is very good even on its own. Using this approach helped me to effectively utilize two hours every day that would have otherwise been “wasted”. (Note: I normally spend the time listening to other podcasts. I missed my regular podcasts during the six weeks of studying, but ultimately it was a good tradeoff for me.)

- Make yourself as comfortable as possible on exam day
For me, this meant that the day before I did only minimal studying (15 minutes to review some of my weak areas). I also scheduled my exam to start mid-day and took that day off from work. This enabled me to sleep in, eat a good lunch at home, and have plenty of time to arrive at the testing center before my exam. The exam itself is stressful enough — take advantage of everything you can do to remove other sources of stress that day!



For anyone who is trying to determine how to prepare for your PMP examination, I hope that my posting proves useful. If you want to get it done quickly, it is possible but it takes a lot of work. But even if you’re not crazy like me I still stand by all of my recommendations — they are equally valid for a 6 month preparation as they are for a 6 week preparation.
Steve Sandoval, PMP
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