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I took PMP exam on 7th Jan morning (8:30 am) and passed in the first attempt. I got 4 P and 1 MP (Initiating). I will admit that I didn't expect this score as I never reached 80% on PMP prepcast simulator. While the score made me feel that I was not prepared well (most recommend 80%), looking back I think I did very well during the preparation. For sure, there was a room for improvement as 1 MP suggests but then at some point the trigger had to be pulled. My PMP journey started early 2015 and I took about 9 months to prepare with a family and full time job. In between work travel and family vacations the schedule got stretched a bit more than I wanted to. My goal was to finish it within six months. Nevertheless I am glad that I had the luxury of time and I enjoyed the learning journey instead of stressing over.
BACKGROUND - I have MSME and 10 years experience working as mechanical/project engineer for a manufacturing company. I have been fortunate enough to work on some big projects which had followed PMI principles pretty close though PMP wasn't a requirement. Also, working as an engineer for a manufacturing company had exposed and prepared me well for certain areas such as quality, cost and procurement management. From early on I decided to focus on a few though quality resources (as following).
1. PMI PMBoK
2. Rita Mulcahy's prep book and exam simulator (FASTrack)
4. PMP Prepcast and PMP exam simulator
STUDY METHOD: I have developed a method of study since high school which had served me well. I am not very good in memorizing or cramming but I do well if I have understood the concept. At the beginning I wished I had the former for ITTO (more on this later) but then the latter came to rescue. If I am reading a book/chapter for the first time, I'll just go through the content without focusing on understanding it. So the first thing I did, I went through the content of PMBoK and Rita's book without stressing over the content. I have to admit PMBoK was a drag and Rita's book was a lot fun compared to PMBoK. So I started going through the chapters in Rita's book followed by PMBoK content. That way PMBoK wasn't so dry and I had some background to it.
After the first run, I went through the study materials second time. This time I focused on the concepts and made notes. I didn't do this with PMBOK as I found Rita's book to cover that pretty well, for the most part. So I went through each chapter in Rita's book, made notes and worked through the problems at the end of chapter. I was scorning between 60-70% in each knowledge area. I highlighted the important sections in the book and I also wrote that down in a notebook. This helped me in reinforcing the concepts and to an extent memorizing it.
At this point, I started PM Prepcast to get PDU and to work on the application. I listened through the podcast during my idle hours (driving/lunch breaks). I wanted a break from the book which I used to complete the application. My application was approved within a week and without an audit!! After my application was approved I went back third time to Rita's focusing only on the highlighted sections and respective notes in my notebook. I spent more time on 3-4 knowledge areas with the least score. I went through the questions at the end of each chapter second time and compared my scores. For sure, the second time I remembered the answers to a few question but interestingly I had a few repeated offenders.
Next was working on the problems in FASTrack. I worked on all knowledge area questions followed by all processes. In between I went back to Rita's book in refreshing the concepts I have missed in FASTrack. At this point I also registered for exam simulator by Cornelius Fichtner. I took my first exam on exam simulator and got around 72%. I started taking time based quizzes during the weekday and took exam during the weekend. I took second exam on FASTrack and I scored 82%! I probably remembered answers to 20% of the questions nevertheless my confidence was high and I registered for 01/11 exam.
I decided not to go deep with PMP exam simulator and reserved the question bank for 4 hours exam. All in all I went through 2/3 of question bank between random time based (10-30 Q) quizzes and five 4-hours long exam. I scored between 69-76%. ITTO was my weakest area and I looked for tips online. I realized it's impossible to memorize them. So I did the bare minimum. I understood and memorized Table 3-1, as recommended by everyone. I found an excel file uploaded by a gentleman for ITTO which I used to filter the most used ITTO and tried to put a few tricks behind it, e.g., enterprise environmental factors are always input.
EXAM - I took the test drive at Prometric 3 days before the exam which I also highly recommend. This way there were no surprises and I was able to save first 15 minutes to do a brain dump which I used to note down Table 3-1 on the exam day. During the simulator tests, I realized that my brain takes a few question (5-10) to get conditioned to the exam. So I decided not to spend more time on first few questions. I also took a break every 60-70 questions during the preparation and exam. Both Rita's Fasttrack and PMP prepcast are very much similar to the real exam in terms of environment. However I found the real exam to be difficult than the other two. I always had 30-45 minutes leftover in hand after going through the marked questions, not so much during the exam. I barely had time to finish through the 20-30 questions I marked for review. I noticed that quite a few mathematical based questions compared to the practice exams I took. This worked in my favor .
LESSONS LEARNED: If I had to do all this over or advise someone, I will go through PMP Prepcast first without going through either book. Cornelius Fichtner's approach to PMP is great and fun. I whole heartily recommend Rita's book, the Prepcast by Cornelius and Exam Simulators by both. It's worth every penny instead of scavenging through free exam questions. Besides these the only thing you need is time and patience to go through TONS of questions, to the point that you enjoy reading those long paragraphs.
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.