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I should start by saying that my study habits are not something I would recommend to others, especially those that aren't comfortable taking high-stakes exams or have any doubt about whether they are ready. There's a lot of good advice out there regarding study plans, using multiple resources, etc. that I would point you towards instead.
I took a minimalist approach; my contract ended recently and I'm still looking for my next gig, so in my case the emphasis was on speed and expense. I originally purchased the PM Prepcast because I couldn't afford to shell out the $1700+ it was going to take to sit in a classroom for four days, though in hindsight this was a blessing as I found that spreading out the lessons was better for me. I would usually try to knock out 5-6 lessons in a sitting - somewhere around 3 hours or so - which was about as much as I could do at one time without losing my focus.
I didn't use any other resources outside of the Prepcast, the exam simulator, and the PMBOK guide (which I used mostly as a reference, as I found the format too disjointed for sustained reading). I know that Cornelius and his team are likely wagging their fingers at me for admitting to that, but again, do as they say, not as I did. I was taking a gamble, and one that luckily worked out in my favor as I now have three new letters I can put to work in my job search.
That said, here are a few things that I found important along the way:
- I'll vouch for the "don't memorize" advice that was repeated throughout the Prepcast lessons. The ITTOs are important, but the types of questions I saw were focused much more on the way the outputs of one process become inputs to other processes and how the different pieces fit together, not on spitting out a complete list for a specific process. The Prepcast talks about this, but after taking a few practice exams I found that studying the flow of ITTOs between processes was one thing that I needed to focus on on my own using the PMBOK Guide, and this definitely paid off on the real exam. Focus on the relationships, not the lists.
- Use the exam simulator - it's definitely worth the money. It's good to practice locking your door and immersing yourself in the exam mindset for 3-4 hours at a time, as there's definitely a fatigue factor that sets in somewhere around question 120 or so. I found myself making more "dumb" mistakes (e.g. missing the word "least" or "except" or "not") on the second half of the exam, and knowing that was a problem allowed me to focus on that aspect more during the actual exam. There are also a handful of "trick" questions meant to mess you up - they aren't necessarily reflective of the actual exam, but after four practice exams I was pretty confident that I'd be able to handle any curveballs the real exam threw at me.
- Don't over-think the questions. I wasted some time on a couple of questions by working through equations, only to find that the specific numbers weren't as important as the qualities of the answer choices given. In my case it wasn't a problem as I had time to spare, but I would have hated to have run out of time on question 197 because I spent too much time doing unnecessary math back on question 18. In other cases I ran across questions where the answers seemed "too obvious" to be right; yes, these sorts of questions should make you slow down and re-read the question to make sure you got it right, but if you come up with the same answer both times, trust yourself and move on.
- Definitely take the time to visit the test site before your exam date - it seems unnecessary, and I almost skipped it when my schedule changed, but I'm glad I did it. My local test center was in an office building along a freeway currently under major construction, and while getting there was easy enough, had I missed the driveway it would have cost me about 15 minutes to get U-turned and back to where I needed to be. I also found out during my pre-visit that the main door to the building that I had used would be locked on test day (a Saturday), and that I'd have to use an alternate entrance in the back (which could have led to some brief but totally unnecessary anxiety). You also want to take their advice to show up 30 minutes early very seriously; when I first arrived I was behind another test taker for a different exam who was having problems getting checked in, and when they sat me down for my own check-in the computer crashed and took 15 minutes to get sorted out. It's not a lot of fun to sit around a waiting room, but I'd rather have to do that while calm than to be anxious about starting on time, and depending on how full the test center is that day you may not even have to wait at all.
- Last tip: make sure to review both the marked AND the unanswered questions at the end of the exam! In my case I had three questions that I know I answered but that the system didn't have an answer for (not sure if I accidentally clicked the answer choice twice, or maybe just missed the radio button, or what). It only took me 45 seconds to fix this at the end of the exam, but I'm glad I looked as I hadn't skipped any on purpose and wasn't expecting to have to review those again.
At the end of the day I'd say the real exam was pretty much what I expected it to be after doing my prep work, so if you have been preparing and feel ready, and are doing well on your practice exams, you should be just fine.
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.