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Before I started my PMP journey, I wondered, “how long would the PMP take?” and “how much studying would I have to do?”
TL;DR: From application to exam, it took about 4 weeks and 120 hours of studying including seven 4-hour mock exams (through PM Prepcast / OSP) averaging about 80%. I got 4 Proficients and 1 Moderately-Proficient ratings.
If you’re just interested in the stats, you can stop now. If you want to learn about my methods and assess how fast you can pass, then grab a coffee and read on!
I’ve run my own consulting business for the last 20 years doing website and e-commerce projects. I decided I wanted a PMP because some companies prefer the methodology. Plus it’s a form of external vetting. (What can you say? Some companies just like the piece of paper)
My project management experience helped with envisioning questions, but since I’ve never heard of the “PMI-way” there were some conflicts in my head. (Just accept that you should answer the PMI-way, and not what you think is idealistic or realistic)
Lastly, I have been fortunate enough to establish my own schedule so I could put in the required hours.
You can use my background as a baseline to assess how fast you can study.
Looking for a R.E.P. source
Due to cost and timing, I didn’t want a live Boot-camp, so I looked for online providers that could give me the 35 pre-req hours and/or simulators.
I visited a competitor and was going to buy their product. The agent felt STRONGLY that since I was self-employed (well, technically, I own a corporation with staff, but he felt I was self-employed), that I would be audited, “for sure”!
I mentioned that based on what Cornelius has said, this was not correct. The auditing process is totally random once you pay. Then we argued again because he felt it would take me 2-3 months+ minimum to get my certification and so I quit the chat, provided feedback, and then bought the PM Prepcast videos.
Lessons Learned: The other provider was cheaper but I was looking for a reputable source that actually “knew their stuff”. Plus the customer service here has been exemplary and I can’t say enough about them.
The 35-hour pre-req videos
Videos are the only way to get the 35 hours online. I personally prefer reading books, but everyone’s learning style is different. For instance, I know some people that prefer Boot-camps, because it’s easier than self-motivation.
I downloaded the videos so that I could use a program to speed up the delivery. (Specifically, I used VLC on Windows). I found that I still had comprehension at 1.7x speed but couldn’t understand anything faster.
Lessons Learned: By speeding up the videos, I could learn more in a shorter period of time. (Note that there are about 70 hours of videos, so at 2.0x speed, you will still get the required 35 hours!)
Application / Audit
Next was the application. My issue is that I have a lot of projects with various client companies. This meant I had to draft my description, contact them and get permission before I continued. (This was in anticipation for an audit)
My initial application was rejected. The review committee felt that publishing a technical book was considered “not-professional” and that some contacts were relatives. (There was an interview that Cornelius did where the interviewee mentioned putting himself as a contact. In hindsight, I might have tried that if I had listened to the interview earlier)
I reworked my second application to include new projects that qualified and was happy that it was accepted.
Afterwards, I paid for the exam and there was no audit. Hurray!
Lessons Learned: Despite the myths out there, Cornelius was 100% correct. Your initial application may be rejected due to completeness, but afterwards, the “audit” is COMPLETELY random.
1) PMBOK – After I read the first chapter, I realized that it was impossible me to understand anything. Next!
2) Rita – I read Rita cover to cover and did all of the practice exercises.
3) 1st mock-exam – My first mock-exam on PM Prepcast got 76%. Then I studied about 4-6 hours to fill the gaps in my knowledge. The simulator answers referenced the PMBOK so I could study eery questions in detail. (The PMBOK started to make more sense at this point)
4) 2nd and 3rd mock-exam – I averaged about 80%. The PM Prepcast simulator also allows you to have LIVE FEEDBACK with their PMP people. I probably submitted about 2 dozen feedback questions and successfully got about a dozen changed due to ambiguity.
Once I could logically debate the answers and averaged more than 80%, I booked the exam 2 weeks out.
5) 4th to 7th mock-exam – My last exam was the ITTO exam, because memorization wasn’t my strong suit.
Lessons Learned: 7 mock exams were definitely over-kill. My knowledge got better, but there were diminishing returns happening. I booked the exam when I felt I was “good enough”. As many people say, you’ll NEVER be 100% confident with the information.
Every study session, I would rewrite my “dump-sheet” of the 47 processes and the various formulas.
My exam pace:
1) 100 questions by 2:40. Break.
2) 100 questions by 1:20. Break.
3) Review 100 questions by 0:40. Break.
4) Review 100 questions by 0:00. Done.
I kept this consistent for all the mock-exams.
Lessons Learned: Like a marathon runner, you have to pace yourself and have an exam plan!
“Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson
I took Cornelius’s advice to visit the premises about a week beforehand and I asked some questions to increase my comfort level.
On the day of the exam, I arrived about 60 minutes early and they said I could take it whenever I wanted. After a quick review of my notes, I went in 30 minutes early.
Let me say, the exam was REALLY HARD! Seriously, no joke. I’ve written many exams before and I was not confident at all I would pass.
My exam pace wasn’t even close to my exam plan - I only took one break at 2:00. By the time the exam ended, I only reviewed up to question #168.
I was actually quite afraid I’d fail the exam since I was not confident with the questions. But fortunately, it appears to be “belled”, so with 4P’s and 1MP, I was happy to pass and get the heck outta there!
[Pure conjecture: they probably take the 25 out of the 200 questions as a baseline to figure out the relative difficulty of the question. Then they weight it to come up with a score. And most likely, they have targets for X% to pass, so even if you did poorly, it’s about how well you performed versus the other students]
Lessons Learned: Although plans are useless – planning is indispensable. I didn’t use my dump-sheet, probably because at that point, it was already ingrained in my head. Similarly, I didn’t keep my normal pace, but it gave me a baseline to figure out whether to speed up.
If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself:
1) ITTOs aren’t that important
Most texts tell you not to memorize the ITTO. I tend to agree with this. You really have to understand how everything fits together. Sure, there might be some “freebie” questions where it would help, but best bang for your buck, try to understand the process, not the individual ITTOs.
I spent a LOT of time trying to memorize this. It wasn’t worth it. I should have spent more time understanding my knowledge gaps and drilling down deep on some processes.
2) Take fewer mock-exams
I spent a lot of time on mock-exams. I felt diminishing returns by about exam #3.
Also, I went online to try other mock-exams. One particularly famous, free exam definitely had some errors. Maybe it was based on PMBOK 4, but they had mixed up Work-Performance-Data with Work-Performance-Information. So be careful out there!
I’ve also had some online debates with PMP groups. Frankly, there’s no point in arguing with another student who “thinks” they have the right answer. At least talk with someone who has experience.
This goes back to ensuring a reputable source. At PM Prepcast the instructors can clarify the answer if needed! (The interactivity was a surprise, but highly welcomed)
3) I’m not sure how much you can prepare
[Disclaimer: I don’t remember the exam. I’m just spit-balling here and there are no specifics. If someone has a problem, I’ll remove it]
I think you have to understand everything at a basic level and then figure it out situationally. The PMBOK doesn’t give the answer to every issue, so you just have to guess.
For example, if there’s a question like, “Where do you add a change-request”? And the answers were:
A ) The Change Log
B ) The Risk Register
C ) The Procurement Management Plan
D ) A Banana
You’d happily answer and move on with your life – no studying required!
But try grouping a bunch of related things together. Do you really understand the differences between the schedule data, the project schedule, the schedule management plan, the schedule resources, the schedule milestones, the schedule baseline and the schedule breakdown structure?
PS: You don't need to reach for the PMBOK, I just made up some new terms.
This whole ordeal has been pretty grueling and I’m happy I passed.
Just to give someone the complete picture, it took:
2 weeks to complete the 35-hour course
2 weeks to get the application completed and approved (after one re-assessment)
4 weeks to study for the exam once it was accepted
In total, About 80 hours were spent on evaluating PMI (whether PMP was for me), studying the 35 hour pre-req and getting my application accepted. The remaining 120 hours was actual studying time.
As a final note, it’s time for the next 3-year phase in my PMP life. This Lessons-Learned is considered “Giving Back” PDUs!
Good luck on the exam!
The following user(s) said Thank You: Cornelius Fichtner, 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.