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I just passed the PMP on first try. 4-Ps and an MP in closing. A coworker did not pass at the same time. I think the big difference was the practice exams. That actual PMP had many more vague questions and answers, but the practice exams were a good step toward working through them. My coworker took a classroom crash training where the final exam only tested knowledge, not situational responses. While I could offer many suggestions to improve PrepCast, it clearly properly prepared me for the PMP.
I started the process on March 8, 2016, so all in all it took a few days over 3 months. While I did not lay out a detailed plan, my goal at the beginning was to take the exam in June, so I met my initial goal.
My study plan was to put 10 to 15 hours a week into reviewing the PrepCast lessons. This worked well for me since they could be watched while traveling. I felt I needed 35 hours of lesson time to meet the PDU required time, so after reaching that amount I took the final exam and completed my application. Timing for this became a concern for me because I needed to allow for an audit of my application and still make the June goal. As it turned out, I did not get audited, so I set a June 13 date for my exam and laid out a plan for completing the lessons and preparation.
In taking the lessons I followed Cornelius’ recommendation to review section 4 last. While I see his logic, I struggled with the integration of the knowledge areas until I finally completed that section. I started taking one exam a week on a schedule that would take the last exam the Friday before the PMP exam. I had focused on getting the first 35 hours of lessons initially and had not reviewed the PMBOK in any detail. After the first practice exam, I started reading the PMBOK, mainly to try to reinforce what I got from the PrepCast lessons. I never read it deeply, but went through and captured inputs, outputs and tools and techniques to try to understand the reasoning for them.
After catching up on the PMBOK, I would review a section before watching the PrepCast lesson. I still got more from the PrepCast than from reading PMBOK. After completing all of the lessons, I skipped to sample test 9 that week to test on ITTOs specifically.
Throughout this time I had been scoring 75 percent or better on the sample exams. Typically the areas below proficient were those I had not covered yet. I would typically take a practice exam in under two hours, so when I reviewed my mistakes, a few of them would be due to me missing the word “not”. Reviewing the missed questions helped me to see some errors in my assumptions about how the processes worked. I would correct my thinking and move on.
After completing all the lessons, I was frustrated in that I seemed to plateau at 85 percent on the practice exams. I kept finding areas that I could not fully grasp. Organizations were a big challenge for me. The lines between functional and weak matrix, weak and balanced matrix, etc. were hard for me to grasp. I went back and read the section in PMBOK a couple of times. I can memorize the terminology, but when an organization is described, I struggle to be able to translate the description into the correct area. Recognizing that this area would be a small part of the PMP exam I moved on. Another area I struggles with was the difference between OPAs and EEFs.
I was concerned that the actual PMP exam would be much harder than the PrepCast sample exams, so I tried some of the free exams Cornelius points to. I got 75% on the Oliver Lehmann 75 question test. I tried one other one that had the answers with the questions, so it was more a review than a blind exam, but in the process I determined that the PrepCast exams were at least consistent with other samples out there.
I took the last practice exam on schedule; 86.5 percent with one missed due to not carefully reading the question and one missed because I did not realize the answer was not checked when I moved on. On this test I used the computer calculator for the first time, and clicking from the calculator to the test page only transferred focus, but did not click the answer. I did not note this before moving on. It was a good learning experience and helped me avoid a similar error on the actual exam, although I did a thorough review of questions before completing the actual exam.
On the weekend before the exam I spent a few hours reviewing the flow diagrams for all of the processes, focusing on how they relate with each other. This was probably the best time spent in getting my mind around the integrated process of a project.
So for the actual PMP exam, I had never planned on regurgitating processes by knowledge area on a sheet of paper prior to starting the exam, but you have 15 minutes to prep, so I did. I did not write out all equations, but that is an area of strength for me. The fact is you have 15 minutes, so plan on using them. That is time to relax and be prepared. If writing out a mind dump will help you relax, do it. I never referred by to what I had written, but it was there if needed.
When I read the first question, my first thought was I got the exam in a foreign language. It looked like English, but it made no sense. The same with the second question. At this point I felt my fears were confirmed and I was doomed. However, I plodded along. When I had a question in which I really did not know if I understood what they were asking, or there were more than one apparent answers (or in some cases no apparent answer), I marked it for review. It seemed I was marking every question. I only had one that I skipped for later because it was so vague I did not want to get bogged down trying to understand it. After completing the last question I did a count of marked questions. To my relief there were only 68 of them. While I would likely miss a couple of those I did not mark, odds were high I was in good shape.
I went back to the skipped question and for the first time I used the cross out feature. I reread the question and determined what I could understand and went through the answers. It turned out that the half of the question I understood allowed me to cross out three answers, leaving only one possibility. After that I went through all marked questions and used the cross out method to check each one. In many cases this resolved any doubt because there was only one answer not eliminated. In many cases there were still two potential answers, but it made the process of elimination easier.
In my last practice exam I had two MPs and three Ps. I had 100 percent in closing. On the actual exam I got four Ps with an MP in closing. As they note on the practice exam, there is no guarantee of similar results on the “real” PMP Exam, it was close enough to say the practice exams are close to the real.
So my lessons learned are:
Study the flow diagrams early and often to fully understand the process integration.
Take as many full practice exams as you can.
Use the cross out tool on the exam at the beginning.
Know that the actual PMP language will not be as clear as the practice exams, but the nature of the questions is the same.
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.