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TOPIC: Lesson Learned from Anna Chumakova

Lesson Learned from Anna Chumakova 1 year 8 months ago #5126

  • Cornelius Fichtner
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I passed my PMP exam on December 19, 2014 at the first attempt with Proficient in Planning, Execution and Monitoring&Controlling, Moderately Proficient in Initiation and Closing. Here are my lessons learned.

1. Before you start the preparation

1.1 Non-native English speakers, choose a language for the prepataion and exam carefully.

I used study materials in English only and this helped me to avoid few mistakes. Don`t be afraid of unknown words, on the real exam you can use the free language aid for the scary branch-specific words like "ball-bearing". Just for example: terms "grade" and "quality" are usually translated to Russian as the same word. It may cause confusion and a resulting mistake, if appears on the real exam and if you rely on language aid only.

1.2 If you do not have an unlimited budget (and who does? :) ), pay the necessary attention to choosing the right prep materials. Do not just rely on Google top-3 search results, do read a few reviews and consider your preferable learning style.


I have got a one-month Velociteach subscription to get the necessary 35 PDUs. I barely had time to watch all the videos because of high pressure on my work project and being unable to watch offline during that month. I decided to buy a PMPrepcast to review the tough chapters, and this was one of the best decisions in my whole PMP preparation journey. If I knew about the Prepcast earlier, I would definitely have saved USD 219. Thanks to Cornelius and his team!

1.2.2 Prepbook

Same as the previous part: choose wisely. I had 2 books: Rita`s "PMP Exam Prep" and Andy Crowe`s "The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try", and I liked Rita`s better. Andy Crowe has a much easier language and funnier explanations, but in Rita`s book there are lots of more valuable nuances.

1.2.3 Exam simulator

Though you are going to use the PMP Exam simulator only at a later stage of your preparation, these are often sold in a bundle with a book or with a prepcast, so you can make barely a good deal.

I used 2 commercial simulators: Rita`s PM FASTrack and The PM Exam Simulator, self-assessment questions from the Prepcast and from Andy Crowe`s and Rita`s books, free mock exams by PMstudy.com and oliverlehmann.com (oliverlehmann.com/). My detailed statistics are here (link dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/12387216/Perm/stats.jpg ).

Rita`s questions were the closest to the real PMP exam questions: very few direct ITTOs, lots of situational questions with built-in ethics and EMV calculations and the interpretation of the results.

Self-assessment questions were a lot easier than on the real exam, but definitely helped in finding out whether I understand the knowledge area well.

At first I planned to use PM Exam Simulator for quizzes whenever I have free time or after reviewing a knowledge area, and use PM FASTrack for a full-length exams. But then I found out both simulators have the same weakness: the questions repeated sometimes and there was no way to eliminate these repeats.

I would love to have two optional checkboxes in a simulator: "generate exam using only questions I have never seen before" and "generate exam according to PM Examination Content Outline" (with the correct percentage of questions from different domains and with 25 dummy questions not counting in a result, like it is made in PMStudy mock test). This would have greatly boosted the value of a simulator for me.

2. Preparation

2.1 Organization

Plan the timeframe for you studies. Make a plan and make it happen. Explain the importance of this credential for you to your family and have their support. This advice might look too familiar, but it is extremely important.

Forget about tv series (yes, Game of Thrones too), computer games, reading and movies. As a proverb goes “a jug must be empty for something to be put into it”.

Also take a day off before and on the exam and, if possible, do not plan any important tasks to the last week before.

2.2 Studies

I worked out the following best scenario.

· Watched the Prepcast, answering all the self-assessments at the end of each knowledge area.

· Read Rita book for hard concepts (like CPM, CCM, EVM, Decision tree etc.) or the concepts I do not understand well as shown by self-assessment result. When I got tired of reading, I watched prepcast. When I got tired watching,I read the book. When I got tired of reading, you know what I did:Watched the prepcast and had quizzes.

· Took one full length exam on a simulator. Analyzed all questions I answered, not only ones I got wrong. Then I wrote down not the errors, but the reasons why I was wrong or did not know the answer. It looked like: remembered TCPI formula wrong, missed the word LEAST likely in a question, did not know what the Tuckmann ladder is, etc. And then I dealt with the reason, not with the mistake.

· After getting 70+% on the mock exam, I scheduled the exam in 5 weeks. During these 5 weeks I reviewed 2 knowledge areas a week and tried to take at least one full length exam on the weekend and analyze the reason behind errors.

· 2-3 times for the first four weeks I wrote a brain dump sheet with formulas. During last week before the exam I did it every day, and still it took me 13 minutes to write the brain dump on the actual exam.

3. Day before the exam

I reviewed the notes created by Edward Chung, these are a very good material, thanks to Edward!

I visited the testing center, made sure I understand how to get there. A nice person from the Moscow Prometric office kindly agreed to check that my exam was correctly scheduled and explained me some details about the exam process. In Moscow Prometric office you are not allowed to access your locker until check-out, thus any food, medicine or drinks have to be put on a special table, not into the locker, so we are able to use it during breaks.

In the evening before the exam I prepared comfortable clothing for the exam, re-checked my IDs and, just in case, had my eligibility letter from PMI and confirmation letter from Prometric printed.

4. Day of the exam

Have your usual breakfast, no exotic food. Banana, bottle of water and chocolate M&Ms :) I advise you to locate and use the bathroom just before the exam.

I answered all questions in a row; I did not leave calculations to the end. I marked all questions I did not know the answer, is was about 20 to 30 questions.

I made a small break for a snack after 100 questions. I did not really want to have this break, but I read that if one takes break later than 100 questions, it is harder to get concentration back.

On the practice exams I usually had all 200 questions done by 2:30, 2:50, but on a real exam it took me 3:20. I often re-read the questions, was afraid to skip the important word.

After 200 questions I did some stretching and then a review of the 20-30 marked questions.

I did not review the unmarked questions, but I checked on the grid that no question was left answered.

Then I had a short review about how I liked my experience with Prometric, and then I saw the Congratulations screen.

Few helpful tips:

When you write on your scratch paper a calculation or draw a critical chain for a question, make sure to draw the lines to separate the zone of one question`s from another and write a number of the question you are scratching for. It helps to find the necessary drawings quickly, if needed for the review.

Prepare your brain dump as soon as you know what to put into it. My brain dump contained HR and Quality theorists, Table 3.1 from the PMBOK Guide and the formulas.

CV,SV,CPI,SPI formulas I remembered with the phrase "sea air in september".

"Sea air" sounds to me like "с-e-a", and "september" gives us "sep".

Then I write it down 2 times like this:





Then I incert the following letters:





Then I incert the symblos:

CV = EV - AC

SV = EV - PV



Of course this simple memorization technique does not replace deep understanding of the concept, but for me it was useful.

Then I added the 4 EAC formulas, TCPI, VAC, ETC, Comm.channels, Triangular distribution, Beta Distribution, Standard PERT deviaton, PERT Variance for the activity, PERT Variance for the project, Present Value and the Sigmas. And these were enough for me for the exam.

Good luck!

Anna Chumakova, PMP
Until Next Time,
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM
President, OSP International LLC
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