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I passed on the first try with four Ps and one Mp in Initiating!! This is significant for me for a couple of reasons. I had to first ask: I am an engineer, why would I do this? I have been at the same R&D lab for 26 years, still have no guarantee of retention, but won't likely go looking at 60 years of age. We continually do exciting projects, but only in the last 2~3 years our new director has formed a PMO that is changing the culture to apply a PMBOK and INCOSE System Engineering framework to develop processes. Prior to the new director, I looked at a obtaining a quality certification. At that time however, our organization placed no value in this, or any other certifications. Now, the PMO requires PMP and ASEP certifications for all PMs. Our PMO has 4 certified (now 5!) with an employee base of ~250. A coworker in the PMO at another site has 30 years PM experience, mostly consulting. He is a very bright guy with a masters degree (perhaps even in PM) but was not certified. He failed the exam a week before I took mine, apparently due to overconfidence. I was assured by the others that I would be OK since they knew I was faithfully drilling on the PMBOK and sample exams. Nevertheless, this got my attention.
I had been working in engineering services and could see the need to tighten up our workflows since budgets and research funds are being squeezed for years. Our funding sources are also tightening the belt with more formality in reporting and accountability. This has triggered a reaction from the old guard in engineering that is openly hostile to PM processes. My unpopular decision to support the PMO was to hopefully defuse these conflicts; since I have been here so long, I am not seen as so much of a threat as newer employees who are seen as evil change agents for the PMO.
I will not reiterate all the favorite materials, methods, and time involved as everyone else has expressed very well, all these are important. What I will emphasize is what I have not seen posted so much:
1) Know why you are going down this road and remind yourself of it frequently. What is your narrative, what is your story? Write it down (Like I did above) and share it with others; this helps keep you motivated and committed to study. Find someone to coach and mentor you; study with others if you can either through online forums like this or face to face.
2) It is great to take in knowledge. I love to read a lot of stuff, but pouring the information back out will expose your weaknesses, build your confidence, and increase your speed in navigating the exam. Practice your memory dump of the 47 processes and formulas until you can do this without hesitation.
3) Use your time wisely. Try to find high quality resources and practice exams. Much of the free material will lead to frustration because it is not worded well, many answers seem highly subjective, some are too easy which gives you a false sense of security, and many still include lots of 4th Ed artifacts. Cornelius has a well researched list of his top exam question picks on this website. Of course the PrepCast Simulator is great and the highly recommended Christopher Scordo Exam Prep Q&A (~2000 questions) is an eRead readily available to PMI members. Several other study guides can also be accessed in the eReads with your PMI membership if you don't want to spend money on a printed book. Oh yes, join PMI.
4) I found flash cards to be an invaluable study aid; I made my own on 4x6 cards because 3x5 was too small. There are lots available for purchase, but there is value in making your own. In the top front corners I put: Process number 1-47 and Process Group, in the center: name of process and process definition, bottom corners: knowledge area and PMBOK section reference. I listed the ITTOs on the back. I also made one for formulas and other definitions like Process Groups and Knowledge areas. Once I had these, I found a variety of things for which they were useful. In the end, they showed more wear and tear than any other item in my resource set and stayed with me even to the end as I was in and out of other study guides and stuff. I felt naked if I left home without them. The earlier you make them, the better. They come 50 to a pack, don't leave any blank.
5) When you sit for the exam, calm yourself and don't panic (Like I did). Do not hit the last button on the tutorial before you dump your processes and formulas (Like I did). This was the fastest dump I ever did and could barely read it! I knew at that point I would not get a break. The time goes by very quickly, even more so if you allow your nerves to rule, I had to take a deep breath and recall my nerves several times. It is essential to mentally prepare and pace yourself for a four hour exam. Once you have a number of questions answered and your time looks comfortable, explore the exam environment so you can quickly navigate to marked and unanswered questions. Keep alert for hints in one question that may help in another and mark those as you see them. Above all, locate the "END EXAM" exam button and keep your mouse pointer far away from it (like I did)! This would be worse than sinking the eight ball before you get all your colored balls off the table.
Best of luck to you, I will enjoy my freedom for a bit then it's back to the grindstone once again for the INCOSE CSEP (Certified System Engineer Professional). Thanks to the moderators and other contributors for all their wisdom and patience in walking with us along the journey.
After you pass, check for your name in the PMI registry and don't forget to keep up with the PDUs.
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.