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TOPIC: PMP in the First Attempt

PMP in the First Attempt 1 year 11 months ago #4733

  • Rahul Kakkar
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If you’d like to get straight to it, please scroll down to “Lesson Learned”.

For the rest, read on for my experiences and thoughts.

Firstly I would like to thank the following who played a BIG role in my success to clear the PMP exam:

1. Cornelius Fichtner and the PM PrepCast. No this is not a shameless plug; I will explain later as to why I was glad I made the decision to do the PrepCast.

2. Edward Chung's PMP Certification Journey. I'm so glad Edward took out the time to meticulously and generously share his PMP journey on his website. This was THE starting point for me to understand the structure and flow of the PMP exam as well as a major contributor to make my PMP study plan. His notes were very useful too! Please check out his website at: edward-designer.com/web/pmp/

3. At the risk of sounding like a Miss Universe Pageant, last but not the least I would like to thank my family for supporting me through this journey

I would also like to thank Ahmed Amin Abdullah, the community moderator on the PrepCast forum to diligently and without any complaints help me, by responding to all my queries with regards to questions I did not understand while taking the PMP practise tests. Finally I would also like to thank Michael DeCicco and Dawn Upperman, the other two community moderators of the forum who helped me with my application form.

Ok, now to get down to the nitty gritties my PMP preparation. *Finally*

When I decided to take the PMP exam, I had to figure out a way to get the mandatory 35 hours of project management education required by PMI. it basically boiled down to two choices for me - either take a boot camp classroom session spanning a couple of weekends or do an online course. Now initially I was hesitant to do the online course, cause frankly I've never paid for one before nor have had the need to attend one of this scale; I was more attuned towards the classroom environment. The money factor was not a big factor for me because the boot camps in my country costed more or less the same as the PrepCast or at least made up in additional resources. The reason that eventually made me to go for an online course, or in this case, PM PrepCast was the fact that it was accessible whenever and wherever I needed. In a classroom session, once it's done, it's done. It's gone forever and anything you need to re-clarify or re-understand you were pretty much in your own. However with the PrepCast I could watch the same lesson video as many times I want and whenever I want. I could come back to it after a few weeks and it'd still be there. This thought process finally made the decision easy for me and in retrospect I'm really glad I took it. It was a fantastic companion to help me understand the PMBOK better and Cornelius' humour really brought the life to an otherwise dry and technical topic.

My study plan would seem a bit elaborate (4 months) but that's only because I'm a slow learner. No wait, actually I'm not a slow learner I'm a terrible procrastinator. I love to keep things for the last minute and it's my biggest curse. Knowing that about myself I started to make my study plan. Before I get to it, let me list down the resources I used to study:

1. PM PrepCast

2. PMBOK 5th edition

3. The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try, by Andy Crowe.

4. Head First PMP

Contrary to popular opinion I did not refer to PMP Exam Prep by Rita Mulcahy. I'm sure her intentions were noble but I found her style of writing to be very condescending and that just put me off. You can read an excerpt on Amazon and best judge for yourself.

So with those resources in hand, I set out to make my study plan. Now knowing that I'm a serial procrastinator, I knew I was going to start slow. So I made a ballpark estimate stating that since there are a total of 13 chapters (Knowledge Areas + Introduction to processes + Ethics), I straight away allocated one week per chapter. This was keeping in mind that I work 9 hours a day, 5 days a week, leaving the weekend for the major chunk of the study time dedicated to the chapter allocated for that week. In that week, for each chapter, I would first go through the lessons in PM PrepCast, then followed by Reading that chapter from Head First, then Andy's book and finally PMBOK. This flow seem to work for me at the time since it was ordered from least complex to most; however, as stated in my lessons learned below, by the time I reached the PMBOK guide, I pretty much skimmed through it since I had referred to resources before for that chapter and as such did not internalise the PMBOK as thoroughly as I should have. So use this order with discretion. I also did the exercises provided by all the aforementioned resources and kept a track of all the answers I got wrong in a separate document which proved to be an invaluable resource for my last stage revision just before taking the practices tests. So that's more or less 3 months right there.

The final and fourth month was for practise tests. Now I cannot stress enough on the importance of practise tests! It's like asking out a girl - you can get ALL the advice in the world and read all about it, but unless and until you don't step out on the field and actually see what works and doesn't work, you're never going to get good! No matter how thorough your preparation is, I recommend a bare MINIMUM of three full length (175/200 questions) tests. I used the free ones mentioned on Edward's site including the PM Exam Simulator. In addition to those, I also referred to the small tests as recommended in Oliver Lehman's page; but really you can't do enough. So the more the better but don't spend more than a month on this activity. Before you consider that to be a lot of time for just tests, you need to understand the fact that just test taking isn't the sweet deal. The real manna is in the analyses of your performance after the test! Analyse each of your mistakes thoroughly. Go back to your resources if you don't understand why and most importantly note them down separately to serve as quick reference during the last few days prior to the actual exam.

In addition to the above, I also found the following resources very useful:

1. Excellent videos on Critical Path method and calculation, as well as EVM. Check out their channel at: m.youtube.com/user/izenbridge

2. Nice video on how to do your brain dump for Table A1-1 of PMBOK:

3. Guidance on how to actually analyse test papers:

And yup, that's about it. I've tried to give as high-level a summary I could, of my PMP study plan and process. Note your mistakes, learn from them, and then finally revise them. Last few take aways in the form of lessons learned are given below.

Lessons Learned:

1. The devil is in the details. Just when you think the differences between two concepts are too minute to bother with, PMI will smile.

2. PMBOK. They made it for a reason and despite other instructional guides out there, make sure you read this at least once FULLY and THOROUGHLY underlining concepts and minute details (see point 1). Not the way we would read FaceBook. Actually spend time trying to re-collect what you just read 5 minutes ago and highlighting all the important stuff for the last minute revision. I didn’t do this, that’s why it’s in the lessons learned. I’m pretty sure this was the main reason as to why I didn’t get as many “Proficients” as I could’ve.

3. ITTOs. You can’t memorise them. Hell if you tried, you’d probably give up the PMP altogether. But it’s going to take effort to visualise the way the knowledge areas and processes are connected through ITTOs. It’s important to do this, because a considerable chunk of questions are directly or indirectly based on this! Take out the time to study for this in addition to simply understanding the concepts. I thought I could go in and try to decipher the ITTOs based on “logic” since I have only four choices to choose form. Not a very good idea; especially when it comes to “tricky” knowledge areas such as Quality, Risk, Procurement etc. Study them by understanding how they hold the process and knowledge areas together. There are many ways in which you could study for them, and one thing I understood is that no two people follow the same way. So use your own method or the method you’re most comfortable with. But yes, again, take out a good amount of time in your plan to study them. Want the best chance to get “Proficient” in all five process groups? Get your ITTOs pinned down. Hey, who said PMP is easy? :)

4. PMP Formulas. *Ugh Math* Really? Yes, really. And for the sole reason that they are very simple and probably the EASIEST way to score on the exam! So boost your result by making sure you get the math questions right. There would only be a handful of questions in the exam, but they are all easy (at least the ones I got on my test). The resources I referred to are given above.

5. Did I mention PMBOK?

End of the day, you will still do it the way you would want to :). Too many lessons learned spoil the broth. So pick up the key points to incorporate into your plan and method, and most importantly, get started and get moving. Plans will change, but momentum and consistency is key.

If you have any questions, please feel free to respond to this post and I’ll try to reply as and when I can.

Wish you good luck!
Rahul Kakkar, PMP, MBA
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