I passed the PMP exam today with Proficient score in all 5 process groups. Here are a few lessons learned from my little project that is the PMP exam prep –
I started thinking about the PMP exam last year and on the spur of the moment bought a few courses from Udemy which were providing the 35 contact hours.
After going through a few course materials, I planned to get certified and signed up for PMI Membership. I also started putting together a list of sample exams. The Udemy courses also contained 300-400 questions.
Next, I bought the following books –
i. Rita Mulcahy
ii. Head First
iii. PMBOK (Hard Copy) – I have never felt comfortable studying from PDFs, hence spent few extra bucks and got the hard copy.
a. Preparation started from Feb 2016. I studied for 3-4 hours every day, including weekends.
b. After each chapter of Rita’s I’d complete the exams and review the mistakes, then go back and note down my gaps in understanding.
c. Next I read the PMBOK once and noted the keywords which I didn’t find in Rita’s like Activity Types (Apportioned, Discrete & LOE), Probability Distributions (Continuous, Uniform, Discrete)
d. After that, I went through the Head First book. Frankly, I did not find this a lot useful, but one point I remember that it defines what a run chart is.
e. Once all these books had been covered, I started with sample exams, the free ones to begin with. Below is a chart of the exams I went through.
f. I also bought couple of IPhone apps which would allow me to take quizzes and short exams anywhere. The best among these, in my opinion, is PocketPrep. Others include PMPro, PMP Exam Mentor.
g. I used the PM Prepcast at the end, when I had exhausted all the other exams and also was scoring quite consistently.
4. Monitoring –
Monitoring and controlling this project involved reviewing each and every incorrect answer, noting down the gap, doing some online research to clarify doubts around it and then revising mentally to ensure that I had understood the topic.
I also went through a few 30-40 question exams in difficult surroundings, just to see if external disturbances affected my concentration.
At the end, I had filled up almost 80 pages worth of notes, which also included periodic reviews of ITTO.
On the ITTO topic, I never could completely memorize them, so I tried to remember them logically. Like what you would need to complete a HR Mgmt Plan – you need something related to resources, so it has to be Activity Resource Reqs. These type of logical grouping (almost like mind maps) helped me remember these during the exam.
5. Closing –
The weekend following up to the D-Day, I went over the PMBOK and then a quick glance over Rita’s book. I took two 4 hour exams on Friday night and Saturday evening. I went over the ITTOs once again Sunday morning.
From Sunday afternoon, I stopped any sort of reviews and exams and spent time with my family. I went to bed early as I had a 1 hour drive early morning.
D-DAY: Today, I reached the Prometric at 7 am and realized it opened only at 7.30 I spent this time going over my notes and glanced over the ITTOs once.
Exam started around 8 am and the first few questions were quite complex situational ones, so I started lagging behind time-wise. I did not take any breaks and finished all my questions with 27 minutes to go. I had a lot of questions MARKED so I started reviewing them, but for the most of it, I stuck to my initial response, unless I had a compelling justification to change it. Finally, while I was reviewing the last few questions, the timer ran out.
There’s a Prometric survey that comes up after that, which was quite annoying as I was literally having a heart attack by then. Finally the word Congratulations came up, to my relief.
My 2 Cents on the overall process –
1. Get your org’s templates etc and go through them to get a real world idea of what’s being discussed in the PMBOK.
2. Give as many exams as you can, but beware of old content. I wasted $40 on an exam bundle called CertChamp and when I started the first exam I realized it was based on PMBOK 4.
3. All incorrect answers are a learning opportunity. Do not be disheartened by low scores, go through the answers patiently and improve your understanding.
4. Apart from the incorrect ones, you will have a lot of answers which you did some guess work. Go through those as well and make sure you understand why that choice is the best one.
5. Keep your cool during the exam even if the first questions are tough. Choose the best possible answer, mark them and move on.
Prometric Tips –
1. Arrive early. Bring water. Drink before you lock everything up. If you are like me that’ll take you through the 4 hours.
2. My exam had options of highlighting text and also crossing out incorrect choices. The crossing out option helped a lot.
3. Read your options before you read the question. That will help you identify phrases which support one of the choices, or at least help you rule out some.
Is there any other resources material for simulated practice exams that you would recommend on the market other than Rita Mulcahy? I realize that there is a mass variety of resource material on the market claiming to be a panacea for passing on the first attempt. I'm preparing study time and resource material in preparation for the PMP certification exam, and any additional recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
I passed my PMP exam a couple of weeks ago and wanted to feed back to this group some hints and tips on how to study and pass this exam. So in no particular order here are some of my thoughts:
- Use Rita Mulcahy's PMP Exam Prep study guide. There are other study guides out there but I found this one the best in terms of presenting the material in a manner that is easily absorbed. The practice questions in this book are also more difficult than other books which is good for your study
- Read the chapters on Scope, Time and Cost management at least 5 times, and do this before you move on to any other knowledge area. Knowing these 3 in detail means that everything else falls in to place really easily. Also when you get to Risk management, read this at least 5 times as there are a lot of questions on this on the exam
- Know all the processes, what sequence they are executed in and which process group they fall in to. I was advised that I should know the inputs and outputs as well but I found that during the exam where it was asking about a input / output I could usually use deduction to get to the right answer.
- Use practice exams properly. Practice exams are great for re-inforcing the knowledge that you have and highlighting gaps in your knowledge. But they by no means are are a good simulation for the exam. I found the actual exam questions a lot harder than practice exams so don't stop studying because you're blitzing these practice exams. The real thing is a lot harder.
- Develop and practice good exam technique. Practice reading the question and properly understanding what they're asking you. In any situation question always frame it with the question "Has this happened yet?". If it's happened then your focus should be on an answer pointing to corrective action. If it's something that "may" happen then you need to be looking at risk. Also on exam technique, always be looking to eliminate wrong answers which allows you to get to the right answer quickly. I found that most questions could have at least 2 answers eliminated almost immediately for being no where near correct. This increases your chances of getting things right
- Know Earned Value formulas and they're application inside out. I probably had at least 10 EV questions on my exam and knowing the formulas meant that I could answer these with confidence, and move on quickly. There's easy marks to be had in knowing the formulas, and being able to analyse what the the outputs of forumlas mean.
- Know how to find critical paths and the amount of float in activities. I had about 5 questions on this which again were easy marks because I'd studied this in detail
- Know all the contract types in Procurement management intimately. These come up in a lot of questions and knowing when you would choose one over the other is a key to easy marks
- Choose the best answer based on the PMBOK rather than your experience. A lot of answers to questions may be what you would do if you were actually in that position, but that's not always how PMBOK views things.
- Don't approach the exam with mindset that you simply want to pass. Whilst the result you get at the end will be a Pass / Fail, with a little more detail on your competency in each process group, the PMP is a certification that acknowledges your skill as a project manager and "close enough is good enough" should not do. You should be going in with the aim of getting 100% which will mean that you fully absorb all the material and most importantly, will be a better PM at the end of the process
Whilst I found the exam harder than the practice questions I'd done, due to the fact that I'd studied the material in significant detail the exam itself I thought was pretty easy. If you work hard and don't get complacent you'll hopefully have the same experience. I'm happy to provide any further advice to those of you studying or about to sit the exam. Good luck!