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TOPIC: PMP Prep/Exam Lessons Learned

PMP Prep/Exam Lessons Learned 5 months 1 week ago #7632

  • Brian Falvey
  • Brian Falvey's Avatar
So I'm a little late to the forum, but here are my recollections from studying for and taking the PMP exam back in 2014:

Starting with a little background, I had just graduated college with a BBA in Business Information Systems in May 2014 at the ripe old age of 46, having paid my way entirely out of pocket while working a full time job. After only a month or so of job hunting for something new back in my home state of Kentucky, it occurred to me after plenty of feedback that the degree wasn't going to be enough. Having worked as a PM since 2006, I began to research PMP certification to "beef up" my resume. After some serious self-discussion about whether or not I wanted to go back into study mode after just completing 3 1/2 years of college, I decided it was in my best interest to go after the PMP certification to help better my station in the work force. That said, I researched PMP training and ran across the PM PrepCast. I guess you could say we kind of found each other at that point!

How I studied: I purchased the PM PrepCast on June 30, 2014, and began watching the videos immediately. My plan was to follow along with the PMBOK guide as I watched each video but, as most of you know, Cornelius highly recommends not to do that in the very first video! So, I put the book away and pulled out a tablet to take notes as I watched the videos. During the work week, I would try to squeeze in at least one video during my lunch break, then watch maybe 2-3 more when I got home at night. On the weekends, I would watch anywhere between 10-12 videos on both Saturday and Sunday. As previously mentioned, I was taking notes as I went along, so there was a lot of pausing, backing up, and repeating to make sure I got everything. After all was said and done, I averaged around 2-3 pages of notes per video. I believe I had somewhere in the neighborhood of 250+ pages of notes when I finally completed all the videos in the PM PrepCast. At that point, I spent several days going back over all of my notes in preparation for reading the PMBOK guide, which followed soon after. While reading the PMBOK guide, since the videos mirrored the book, I followed along with my notes making changes or adding things as necessary. After finishing the PMBOK guide, I then read through the glossary of terms several times over for a quick, high-level review. After about 2 1/2 months, I felt ready to move on with the free trial of the PMP Exam Simulator, although I don't remember exactly the duration. Once the free trail was over, I purchased the actual Exam Simulator and began taking quizzes of various lengths depending on how much time I had, if I was at work or home, etc. I mostly stayed with quizzes during the week and on Saturday's, then moved on with actual 200 question exams on Sundays once I was comfortable with the Simulator. While I won't bore you with all the statistics, my percentages for quizzes and exams was always in the 70%-90% range or better. I also used some free quizzes/exams I found on the Internet, but mainly stuck with the Simulator. I felt ready to register for the PMP exam after about 1 1/2 months of using the Simulator and, having found a new job back home that would increase my starting salary by $10k if I passed the exam before I began, I found ONE testing center in the city I lived in that had ONE slot to take the exam before I moved back home to start my new job. I signed up for the exam, took it on November 21, 2014, and passed it on my first attempt. Needless to say, the $10k salary increase was great motivation!

Exam Day: Having taken the day before off completely from studying, and being heavily motivated by my new job that was waiting for me, I showed up at the testing center bright and early, ready to go. The registration process was a little slow, but soon I was at the computer ready to roll. Having been at a point with the Simulator where a 200 question practice test was taking me about 2 1/2 hours, that was what I was expecting with the exam. I couldn't have been more wrong. I could tell after about 30 minutes, this exam was TOTALLY different than the ones I was used to with the Simulator. While I won't go into all the details, I would say 80% to 90% of the actual exam questions were all scenario questions, with only a few short answer questions and maybe 1-2 formula questions. I was heavy on all the formulas, so I was very disappointed I didn't get to demonstrate my proficiency in that area. Total test time was 3 hours, 50 minutes, which was just under the 4 hour limit. To be very honest, I wasn't very confident when I hit the submit button, but submit I did. If memory serves, I was moderately proficient in 4 areas, and proficient in 1. Not the results I had hoped for, but a passing grade nonetheless. I felt like I'd given birth to an Accountant!

Materials Used: PM PrepCast, PMP Exam Simulator, PMBOK Guide, various free online quizzes/exams

Takeaways: While I don't think there was anything different I could have done to prepare for so many scenario questions on the actual exam, it was clear to me the knowledge was there from all the preparation I had done. Looking back after almost a year and a half, I think I approached it the right way for me, and that is the key. Each individual has to figure out what works best for them, mostly through trial and error, and proceed down that path at a pace that will eventually dictate itself. There is no set-in-stone correct way to approach studying for and taking the exam. Everyone is different, and everyone must formulate their own game plan when striving for PMP certification. Some need more time than others, some need more material than others, and some will have their path dictated my personal and professional demands. The key takeaway is this - no matter the path, you CAN do it!

Sincerely,
Brian Falvey, PMP
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