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TOPIC: Question Passed the PMP Exam on First Attempt on June 1st - Lessons Learned and Exam Experience

Passed the PMP Exam on First Attempt on June 1st - Lessons Learned and Exam Experience 2 years 1 week ago #7558

  • Mark Wuenscher, PMP
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I want to start by stating that I am thrilled to have passed my PMP exam on the first try June 1, 2016 after 3 ½ months of preparation!

As much as the PMBOK guide emphasizes the importance of documenting lessons learned for projects, I figured I probably should document my PMP lessons learned for others and hope that someone will find my experience helpful and motivate them in their preparation for the PMP exam.

Lessons learned (in no particular order)

• Read and study the PMBOK guide! I read/studied it three times and studied some individual sections even more. Yes, it is dry, but the test is largely based on this guide.
• I should have been reading and studying the PMBOK guide in parallel with the Skillsoft learning modules I used to obtain my course hours required for my application. I didn’t start reading it until after I went through all the modules and that was a mistake which extended my overall prep time for the exam.
• I did not buy Rita’s book, but in hindsight I wish I would have done so. I did buy Eric Verzuh’s “Fast Forward MBA in Project Management” and it was somewhat useful. Early on in the process I was answering a lot of PM Challenge questions on the website and I found that to be a useful to reinforce what I was learning.
• Take as many practice exams and answer as many questions as possible. I took 5 or 6 full practice exams and probably 20 or more practice quizzes of varying lengths. I answered well over 2000 questions and over 1200 of those were in the PM Exam Simulator. My overall average score for questions answered in the simulator was 78%.
• Pay the extra money and subscribe to PM Exam Simulator and use it. It was extremely helpful and I doubt I would have passed the exam without it, especially on the first try.
• I did all studying on my own but it would have been nice to have found someone else to study with and help reinforce the material. Find a study partner if you can.
• I found the Ipad Apps “ITTOsAPP” and “PMP ITTO” helpful to learn the ITTO’s. I did not try to memorize all the ITTO’s. I did memorize some of them (e.g. Quality Knowledge Area) that I found particularly difficulty to recall. I found it very helpful to use Table 3-1 from the PMBOK guide by printing multiple copies and then highlighting all of the processes that had, for example, OPA’s as inputs and outputs. I did the same for many other ITTO’s (e.g. Work Performance Data, Information and Reports) and was able to see patterns emerge that made it easier to recall ITTO’s for particular processes without the need to memorize them all.
• Practice your brain dump regularly. During the last two weeks, I was doing my brain dump daily. Mine consisted of the process groups (i.e. Table 3-1) and the majority of the PM Prepcast formulas.
• Don’t oversaturate yourself with this stuff. I went through a period where I was way too immersed and lacked a good balance with other activities. Make a good plan and stick to it. Take well deserved breaks and enjoy life!

Exam experience
I scheduled my exam for 5:30 pm since I really didn’t want to have to deal with rush hour traffic in the morning and have that additional stress before taking the exam. It also allowed me to be sure I was fully rested in the event I didn’t sleep as well as I would like. I got a good night sleep and the day of the exam I studied an additional 2 hours, did my brain dump a couple of times. By 2 p.m. I stopped all review and just relaxed, ate an early dinner and then headed to the Prometric exam center, arriving about 4:45 pm. I sat in the car and did my brain dump one last time before entering the test center. I was a bit nervous about what to expect since I had seen some pretty bad online reviews for this Prometric center. I had thought about visiting the test center a day or two prior to the test but I figured that if the bad reviews were validated it would only stress me out. I checked in at the main desk, was assigned a locker, went to the restroom, bought a water bottle from the vending machine, took a sip and then left it on top of the lockers for later. I then went into another room and waited for about 10 minutes to do the final check in for the exam. The young woman at the desk took my information and then provided me with two dry erase type markers and two 8 ½ x 11 dry erase type sheets. I was then wanded and the proctor led me inside the room and had me wait by the door while he prepped my cubicle. I sat down at my seat and made myself comfortable and took the time to arrange my workspace as desired. There were noise cancelling head phones available for use during the exam. I started up the tutorial, completed that in a few minutes and then began the brain dump with my remaining tutorial time. It was quite annoying to have to use the dry erase markers since the tips were much thicker than a pencil so I ended up needing more space for everything but still had enough room left for scratch space during the test. Still, it was annoying and it threw me off a little since all my brain dumps used pencil and paper. I put on the headphones and began the exam. I found the first 20 questions or so to be pretty difficult and started to lag on time a bit and lost some confidence. Note that I did like the ability to strikethrough answers as it prevented me from paying any attention to answers I knew were wrong. As the test wore on, I continued to find the questions more difficult than expected. Half way through I was at least back on a more reasonable pace in regard to time but still didn’t think I had time to take a real break. Fortunately, I didn’t really need one. I did periodically (every 25 questions or so) stretch and adjust the head phones. The headphones worked great to cancel the noise by they were a bit tight, pressing my glasses against my head, which began to get uncomfortable. You might want to consider the foam ear plugs. I wish I had. As I continued with the remainder of the test I began to grow less confident in how I was doing on the exam and I found it to be a challenge to fight off moments of doubt. By the time I answered the 200th question, I had maybe 6 or 7 minutes of time remaining. I started to review the 15 or so questions I had marked but by that time my brain was fried and I don’t think I changed any of my answers. At that point I really thought that I did not pass the exam. It was the most difficult exam I have ever taken. I then answered the test center evaluation and click the button to see if I passed. Cringing, I looked up to see that I had passed!! A giant wave of relief washed over me. I scored Proficient on Initiation and Closing and Moderately Proficient on the other three. I checked out, received my scoring sheet and left the facility. Thankfully, the Prometric test center was not nearly as bad as the online reviews had indicated. Regarding the exam content, the questions were mostly situational type and I thought the choices for answers were more difficult than those on the PM simulator exams. In hindsight, the Skillsoft exam was probably most like the actual exam in both difficulty and the way the questions were structured. I only had a few very easy EVM questions. I really don’t recall hardly any non-PMBOK type questions and I was surprised to have almost no ethics related questions. Of course, I’m sure every exam will be different in question content.
Mark Wuenscher, PMP
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