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The plan – 9 weeks of studies, over a period of 12 weeks, with 24 hours a week.
I’d been thinking about getting PMP certified for past few years but never got serious enough to go past the first few chapters. On Apr 18 this year, I picked up the Rita book which my friend had left with me. I had no plans for PMP, just wanted to read Integration Management. By the end of that week, I had finished two chapters, had decided to go for PMP and had done enough research to build a plan and a schedule that projected that I could take the test towards end of July. The only problem was that I had a 3 week period in between, during which I knew I won’t be able to study at all. I decided to still go for it and completed building my schedule in MS Project Plan. My further research turned up that one of the best simulators out there was PrepCast and if I bought the whole program, I would get the contact hours as well. Another benefit of my research was that it helped me prepare for audit in advance. I put together my experience in an Excel spreadsheet, and before filling out my PMP application, I shared that spreadsheet with my supervisor (lucky for me, I had been working with the same supervisor for more than 4 years) and got his nod ahead of time. He said he would be happy to verify the experience, should I get audited. Luckily – I escaped the audit!
The Studies – Rita and PMBOK
My plan called for completing Rita’s book once, then taking a full-length mock test, before proceeding to listening to podcasts and reading PMBOK. However, within a couple of days of trying to listen to the podcast, I realized that I am one of those people who need to read the book and take notes to learn. The podcast just didn’t work for me, as I would often zone out. So, I revised my plan and replaced the podcasts with a second pass of Rita’s book. I read each process from PMBOK and then read the same from Rita’s book, taking notes all this while. However, I had barely into the Time management, when I hit the three week interruption (May 20th – Jun 10th). I was worried that I will lose all the momentum and it will take me weeks to get the momentum back, but luckily, I found a study group on Facebook and joined it. Even though I wasn’t able to study much, I kept participating in the discussion and kept answering the questions posted by people and that kept me from forgetting anything I had learned.
I resumed my studies on Jun 11th and it took me just a couple of days to get back my momentum. However circumstances created by certain development forced me to crash my schedule and take the test sooner. On Jun 14th, I scheduled my test for Jul 10th and, instead of attempting to read Rita once again and PMBOK twice, I decided to refer to Rita only for certain processes, like Quality Management processes, Procurement Management, etc. and only read PMBOK twice. During my studies, I:
Did not memorize ITTOs – I thought I would memorize a few processes in the end but, I just couldn’t. Instead, I found patterns and commonalities (e.g. all M&C processes update Project Docs, produce WPI and CRs as output).
Did not need to memorize the processes by process groups; I knew them by heart by the time I completed the first pass of PMBOK.
With each test I took, I reviewed the wrong answers and for each wrong answer, I googled, if needed, to go deeper on the topic. I think such targeted studies were the key to me being ready for the exam by Jul 10th.
I just skimmed through the first three chapters, mainly paying attention to the figures depicting organization types in PMBOK and reading up on EEF & OPA.
I solved all the quiz at the end of the chapter from Rita’s book and also, the end of chapter quizzes (the PDFs) downloaded with podcasts.
The practice tests: Results ranging from 78.5% to 90%
I took my first Prepcast 200 question test after the first pass of Rita’s book and scored 78.5%; I knew I was in a good shape. During my two passes of PMBOK, I took various free tests that I could find online (Oliver, Headfirst) and several 50 question tests from a book that I borrowed from a friend. I only attempted three more tests from PrepCast simulator because I wanted to keep at least 5 full length tests for the end; so that I get used to sitting for the full length test. During my tests, I:
Scored above 80% invariably. I was scoring 87-88% in the last few tests and then finally broke the 90% barrier in my last PrepCast test.
Marked every question where I kinda knew, but wasn’t sure of the answer. Reason I did that is because if I did not mark the question and got it right, I would miss the chance to review it and get the explanation to fill my knowledge gap.
For every question that I did not mark, still got wrong, I looked for the reason why I was confident of the answer and yet got it wrong. Most of the times, the reason was that I had not read the question right. This was specially happening in the last 50-60 questions.
For every question where I found the knowledge gap, I dug deeper into the topic by googling it online and reading up or watching videos. I also prepared bullet notes on the gaps and revised them every other day. I kept adding to these notes with every test and every question I got wrong.
Completed all my mock tests in less than 3 hours. My timing ranged from 2:20 to 2:55. I usually took a couple of 5 mins break.
Took the last 5 PrepCast test in the last 5 days leading up to my real test on Jul 10th. On each such day, I took the tests at the same time as I was scheduled to test. I don’t know if it helped, but the idea was to get my brain used to reading and solving questions – 200 of them!
Did not attempt the ITTO test.
The test center was more than 45 minute drive from where I live. A week before my test, a friend of mine was scheduled to test at the same center. I decided to give him a ride and use that as an opportunity to go check out the center as well. I don’t like surprises! I was scheduled for 8 AM on Sunday; I got a call from Prometric on Thursday reminding me of the appointment and asking me to be there between 7:00-7:30AM. I am nervous test taker… I know I am supposed to take it easy the day before the exam and get a good night’s sleep; but, I did not get any sleep on Friday night. I slept for a few hours on Sat but as night approached, I started panicking a bit and decided to review my notes. But then, I could not fall asleep. Woke up 2-3 times in the night and then I was wide awake at 4:30 AM. I got out of bed, got ready, and drove to the Promteric center. It wasn’t even 7. I sat in the car for a bit, listened to the music and then before I went upstairs, I watched a few video clips of my kids on my phone – that was an instant stress buster. I went up, signed in and was shown to my computer by 7:30. I spent 5 minutes going through the instructions. Spent 2 minutes debating if I should do the dump sheet; but I really had nothing that I had memorized or needed to dump… So I started the test.
I had only 5 math question. Another 15 that I thought were very easy, about 40-50 were of medium difficulty level and the remaining – I found really hard. I had to read those questions twice at least, and still was finding it hard to pick the right answer. To give you an idea, it took me 3 hrs. 45 min. to complete the 200 questions and I took only two breaks of a total of 15 minutes. I had marked roughly 25 questions that I went through in 12 minutes, changed 7-8 answers and submitted when the timer had 2 min and 52 seconds remaining.
The moment of truth! Almost a heartbreak!
The friend of mine who took the test a week before I did told me that as soon as he submitted his test, the congratulation message popped up on his computer screen. After which he was prompted to take a survey. Well, guess what? I submitted the test and there was no “Congratulations” message. I was too shaken to read what the screen said, but there was a button. I couldn’t believe I had failed… I was literally shaking! The survey began upon clicking the next button. I didn’t even look at the options; I just picked the top one for each question… I wanted to be out of there. When I got to the end of the survey and submitted it, I saw the “Congratulations” message flash! I can’t explain in words what those 2 minutes felt like. After clicking another button or two, I saw the grading sheet appear on my computer screen with Moderately Proficient in Executing and Proficient in the remaining process groups!
The following user(s) said Thank You: Mark Wuenscher, PMP
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.