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TOPIC: Lessons for people with mental health issues

Lessons for people with mental health issues 1 year 3 months ago #6311

  • Haroon Hafeez
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I passed my PMP exam on 26 Sep. I passed it just 2 days before the expiration of my eligibility period and I wasn't hopeful at all. I have suffered from mental health issues throughout my life. This includes Depression, Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Dyslexia. People who suffer from these mental health issues would know how much above-mentioned issues are crippling and put you at disadvantage in a competitive exam. The first 2 conditions are well-known. Just a bit about Dyslexia - in simple terms the words swim before my eyes and while reading some words gets missed or read as some other word which look similar but has altogether different meaning. If I try to read loud I just get stuck at some word and the effort to recognize that word makes me forget the meaning of previous sentence.

1st Attempt
Went for the exam with no preparation - was hoping the project management experience would help me or take it as a PMP exam learning experience real time. My advice is to always reschedule if you are not prepared don't waste your attempt.

2nd Attempt
I moved to Canada and most of my PMP eligibility period was past - only 4 months were left. In a new country I was busy doing all necessary paper work and looking for a job. I have a young family with a little son who is only 3 months old. When nothing came around I decided to utilize the time and enhance my resume with PMP which might help me to grab a job. So first month was just not very productive, I was trying to find the right material and confused should I do PMP or keep looking for the job. I found HeadFirst PMP book, found it really helpful especially due to my mental health condition, pictures really helped. But still the information didn't sink in. I tried to read Rita's book but found it boring. Just 2 days before the exam I tried to read Kim Heldman's book. It was wordy but it is very nicely written in simple language. I solved all Rita's exam questions at the end of each chapter and scored between 56-70%. I was sure that I will fail the exam but I went ahead and failed. My time management was really poor. I solved only 25 questions during the first hour. Hence I struggled throughout the exam. In last hour I tried to attempt remaining 100 questions. Lesson to take; practice a lot before the exam, read PMBOK and time yourself.

3rd Attempt
I had only 1 month left before my eligibility expires. I bought PMPrepcast and simulator as a package. I started reading PMBOK first time and finished one chapter each day. Then I started listening to Prepcast - one chapter per day and sometimes 2 chapters per day. After Prepcast, I started to attempt simulator exams. Dyslexia and anxiety really slow me down. Sometimes I had to read questions 3-4 times to make sure I am reading right. On Simulator I attempted 2 full test and 2 quizzes. I scored approx. 75% which wasn't enough to give me confidence that I am ready to take the exam plus 4 hour time management was still an issue. (I wanted to attempt more full exams but time didn't allow me) 2-3 days before the exam, Simulator went down. I didn't anticipate that this could happen. So one more practice day was gone. Two days before the exam, anxiety took me over and I started slipping in vicious circle of nervous breakdown. I was pretty sure that I will fail the exam. For some reason I used to feel better in afternoons than the mornings. My sleep was gone due to anxiety and on exam night I couldn't sleep. My exam was in afternoon which worked better for me because I used to feel less anxious in afternoons. I struggled to find the parking and I was so confused and disoriented.(So much so for the confidence eh...). Anxiety is really crippling it affects all your sensory skills. Decision-making was difficult for me that I can't even decide where to park whether at road side or purchase a parking ticket. Before the exam I decided that no matter how many times I have to read the question I will not give up and try to focus as much as I can and won't sway away with thoughts. I adopted the strategy to leave all the calculations/mathematical questions for the end and also those which I am not sure or which are too long. I finished the exam 4 min before the due time and didn't take any breaks. To be honest during the exam I felt today is my day and I started to feel hopeful that I might pass. And I did pass (I guess marginally). During all this journey sometimes I felt may be Project Management is not for me due to its pressures and demands and I don't have good coping skills but which job is without pressures.

People who suffer from anxiety disorder and depression really struggle to manage their time. My advice is to always allow yourself more time than anticipated and don't take any breaks during the exam. Put a buffer for yourself and practice a lot. Simulator really helped me to prepare and difficulty level is up to the mark.

I really want to appreciate my wife who encouraged and supported me alot throughout this journey. And hopefully I will be able to find a job soon.
Last Edit: 1 year 2 months ago by Haroon Hafeez.

Lessons for people with mental health issues 1 year 3 months ago #6333

  • Jay Fitzgerald
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Suleiman, your story is quite an amazing one. I am truly encouraged by it!

I failed my first attempt at the PMP just a couple of weeks ago on October 9th. It was totally my fault. I was very unprepared for the exam. I thought with PM experience, a PMP Boot Camp class, and Rita's book and CD I was good to go. I took a few test runs on Exam Central and also took a shot at Rita's simulated exam. I judged my readiness by the Exam Central tests. But, I only did well (81%) on Exam Central tests because they continued to give me the same questions, just in a different order. When I took Rita's exam, I should have known better. I scored a 56% the night before the exam. I went into the exam nervous and frustrated because I knew I hadn't prepared enough. I was right! I scored 4 BP's and 1 MP.

Your story has shown me that with the proper dedication and correct study tools that this test can be overtaken. Thanks for sharing your story and encouraging others with mental health issues who strive to be PMP's.
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