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• Became PMI member and ordered PMBOK guide, PMPrepcast and Exam simulator (best value I could find), Rita Mulcahy’s “PMP Exam Prep” (invaluable), and Andrew Crowe’s “The PMP Exam” (which I barely used)
• Read through Prepcast (L00.10) Student Workbook (based my study plan on it)
• Watched every Prepcast LXX.00 video to acquaint myself with the material and prepare to pass the Prepcast final exam
• Reached out to every former manager on linkedIN to ensure (if audited), I would have them lined up to sign off on my hours. Thankfully, I was not audited, so began my study journey.
• Prepared my application: I spent weekends combing through 8 years of emails to gather the information required to fill out the application. As suggested by Edward, I staged all the information in a spreadsheet and entered into the PMI portal in one sitting. You can only go back 8 years for the experience requirement, and since most of my experience was a while back, gathering this info proved time consuming. I also had to ensure to not exceed the 40 hour/week (173 hour/month) max allowable experience hours limit (which complicated matters). It’s not specifically stated anywhere I could find, but I discovered that you can submit the application at the end of the month and still count all the hours for that entire month 8 years ago. In other words, they aren’t counting 8 years back to the day, but to the month. So I submitted my application on Oct 31, 2015 and was able to count experience hours from Oct 1, 2007 - Oct 31, 2015 (which essentially means I was able to include 8 years + 1 month). Had I submitted the app on Nov 1, I could have only gone back to Nov 1, 2007.
November 1 - Dec 27 (8 weeks of studying)
• Took the Prepcast Pre-Course Self-Assessment (scored 61%)
• Created a study plan spreadsheet, which proved invaluable, and kept me on track to complete my formal studies by Dec 27 and head into 1+ week of daily 4 hour Exam simulations prior to Jan 5 Exam day. Because my studies were over the holiday season, I had the privilege of using all the extra days off to catch up, review, and deep dive into more challenging topics.
• Studied 3 hours per night on weekdays, 7-8 hours per day on weekends from Nov 1 - Dec 27. I was in complete lockdown between Nov 1 and Jan 5 (exam day). My life consisted of work, studying, meals and daily hugs with the family. Thankfully, since I work from home, I was still present, but not very available (unless there was an emergency). My lovely wife was kind enough to pick up all my usual family duties during this period to release me to fully engage in my studies. I could NOT have done this without her.
• Study Plan (part 1): Watched every Prepcast video from start to finish (leaving chapter 4 for last), following along page by page in the PMBOK guide (this saved time and reinforced the video content). I would watch until a natural break point (e.g Inputs) and then stop the video and read through those few PMBOK pages before moving on (e.g. to T&T) To aid in the learning experience, I purchased an adjustable laptop desk to position the PMBOK guide just below the Prepcast video on my large 24” computer monitor. With highlighter and pen in hand, I made notes in PMBOK and created a separate text file on the computer to take notes/write down question for further study/review. At the end of each chapter, I would take the short exam. If I scored below 70%, I would read through same chapter in Andrew Crowe’s book and take his exam. Thankfully, only had to do that once.
• Study Plan (part 2): Read through Rita’s book cover to cover. It offered a different perspective (more holistic than the PMBOK guide, which is dry and lacks practical context). It is somewhat demeaning in its phrasing (at times) but a VERY valuable resource and exercises that really challenge you to think.
• What did I memorize for my brain dump? PMBOK page 61 and the formulas (compiled from Rita, PMBOK and Prepcast content). Got it all to fit on 1 page and practiced it daily for 2 weeks leading up to the exam.
• What did I not memorize? The ITTOs, and so grateful that I didn’t. It would have been a waste of time, brain energy, and emotions as my exam had few ITTO questions on it. This was the only area of the exam I was worried about and it turned out to be an non-issue. However, I did want to understand the processes and how they interacted (per Cornelius) so I took note of ITTO patterns (e.g. Project document updates are an output of every M&C process). I also learned the key output of each process and followed deliverables, change requests, and work performance data through the processes and mapped them out. This demystified the ITTOs and enabled me to pass the ITTO Exam Simulator test with a respectable 83% score.
1 week before exam day: I visited the Prometric testing site on the same day and time 1 week prior to exam day (as suggested) with a full page of questions for the receptionist. (They really need to have an FAQ for people like me .) Glad I did because I learned quite a bit about what is and what is not allowed. I created a detailed prep/packing list for exam day.
Final week before exam: I took 4 full 4 hour simulation tests plus the ITTO exam (200 ITTO questions). Scoring mid to high 80s, I felt confident I was ready for my PMP exam.
Day before the exam: Per Cornelius, I took the day off from work and studies and watched movies with my family. It was challenging because I still wanted to review some more material (e.g. PMBOK glossary), but I forced myself to rest and be present for my wife and kids.
Exam day: Took the day off from work and went through my normal daily routine (devotional time, coffee, short walk, breakfast). My exam was at 12:30 pm, so I had plenty of time to ramp up, get ready, and eat a light lunch just prior to leaving home for the test site. Upon arrival, I signed in, visited the bathroom and went over a list of final notes I had gathered to refresh my memory (primarily my brain dump and ITTO patterns). The Prometric staff didn’t let me take anything into the exam room but the clothes on my back and an inflatable back pillow I use to help me with my seating posture.
Exam: As soon as I sat down (during the 15 min tutorial), I created my brain dump sheet. This gave me the confidence to not have to recall these key concepts while I was taking the test and freed up my mind to focus on the questions at hand, which were hard. IMHO, the real exam is even harder than Prepcast simulation. The situational questions were shorter in length and required more assumptions to be made, which really ate up my time. I didn’t think I was even going to pass they were so hard, and I burned up my 1st hour on only 30 questions. However, I had lots of simulator practice and knew I needed to have a 50 question per hour pace just to finish (without any review time). Thankfully, I picked up the pace between hours 2-3 and finished with 15 minutes to spare (whew!) which left me time to review some of the ~20 marked questions before the exam ended. I didn’t take (nor did I need) any breaks for food, water, or bathroom (my body seemed to go into a biological hyper sleep while my mind ruled those 4 hours) because I knew I was pressed for time.
After the short survey, when I saw “congratulations” and “proficient” in every process group, I was relieved and floored…. literally. I fell down to my knees right there in the exam room, and thanked God for helping me get through it with such high marks.
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.