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I have a formal education in Architecture with over a decade of experience in architectural design. A change of employment at the beginning of 2015, led me to Project Management with no previous awareness of PMI, PMBOK or any formal project management methodology, but a contractual commitment to acquire the PMP credential within one year.
I ordered the PMBOK, 5th ed. in January. Upon reading the first chapter and doing a little online research, I confirmed my existing skills were complementary to those I would be using in Project Management, but realized Project Management had a language all its own which was simply befuddling at the time. I knew that reading the PMBOK alone would not suffice – I needed supplemental instruction which was less static than the PMBOK material. Looking at the live PMP Exam prep courses available, yielded only sticker-shock, so I started investigating online learning options. A colleague told me she had studied with the PM Prepcast, and listening to some of the free online material I felt the conversational, example-based content might work well for me.
Beginning in June, at which point I had only read a few chapters of the PMBOK, I began spending one afternoon each week at my reading, undertaking a chapter each week, making thorough notes as I went along. With a busy family life and a busy job, I wished for more time to devote to my studies, but had to trust I was doing what I could. In late August I started listening to the PM Prepcast on my daily commute to work, with a lag of a few chapters behind my PMBOK reading. I hoped that the alternate presentation of the material offered by the podcast would offer a good review of the material I had covered some weeks before, to either illuminate things that were still a little fuzzy, or at least keep the material I knew fresh in my mind. I really appreciated the regular sample questions for the boost of confidence they offered. In mid-August I started doing 15 question module quizzes embedded among the Prepcast episodes or by free weekly email from PM Prepcast. I dabbled at it, drawing on a few other free online question sets recommended by Cornelius Fichtner. I finished reading the PMBOK at the end of August. Tracking my quiz scores in a spreadsheet, I could see my overall performance was about 70%.
In mid-September I completed the final test successfully, in order that I could submit my 35 contact hours along with my experience log to the PMI. I had purchased the PMP Exam Simulator with the Prepcast, and I did my first sample exam at the beginning of October – with a score in the mid-70s. I was on the right track.
Then I took a break. For 2 ½ weeks, I vacationed with my family, cleared my head, let the material percolate a bit without the steady work of the months before. When I got back to it toward the end of October, my focus was sample questions, and making the material ‘real’. To make it ‘real’, I started envisioning how many of my day to day experiences, with friends or family or community activities, could be articulated in the language of project management. This earned me some eye-rolling among my family, but brought me some humour in my studies, as I considered the different human resource management styles demonstrated by my children, or analyzed the cost variance to the grocery shopping.
Hoping to write my PMP exam before the end of the year, I felt I needed to pinpoint my target. I was approved to book my exam at this point, so at the start of November, I booked an end of November date. As I had not finished listening to all of the PM Prepcast before completing the final test, I continued listening during my commute, to make better use of otherwise idle time. Following some advice in one of Cornelius’ weekly posts, I wrote up a schedule of study time up to my exam date – planning to write 3 more full sample exams, and a dozen shorter quizzes in the time I had left. The shorter quizzes were drawing on chapter review quizzes from Rita Mulcahey’s text, to provide me sample questions from another author. The PMP Exam Simulator exams were time consuming, but I was managing to complete each one in only 3 ½ hours, with good results. By the week before my exam, I had raised my overall score on sample questions to about 78%.
I closed my books two days before my exam, taking only a short time the evening before to review some formulas and definitions, to calm my nerves. Exam day came. I had booked off work so I could focus. While writing the exam, I felt the language and content was much denser than I had expected from the Exam Simulator, and I needed every single minute to answer the 200 questions and review those I had marked. The result was a pass, though, with better proficiency indicators than I had received in any of my sample exams.
And so I feel the old adage appears to be true: slow and steady wins the race.
My schedule remained flexible because I was on my own time with the Prepcast – not giving up numerous days in a sit-down course – with my resulting training cost being 10% or less of what I could have paid. I carved out a reliable piece of time each week, maintained complementary routines of reading, listening to podcasts, and answering sample questions, and allowed life to carry on.
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.