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It is almost a year since I registered to write the PMP exam. If it wasn’t for the 1 year deadline, I am not sure I would have ever taken the exam! In case you’re wondering, I didn’t study for a whole year and my journey was a very stop-start one. However, I am happy to say I have passed with 4 Proficient and 1 Moderately Proficient.
I think it is worth mentioning my context as I learnt that I was quite unrealistic in thinking I could stick to a study plan. When I registered for the exam, I was working on average 10 hours a day, I had a 10 month-old baby that demanded all of my free time, a husband who worked almost every waking hour including weekends and no one that I could rely on consistently to look after my daughter on weekends. As such, I didn’t do much studying from February to September after which my situation changed quite drastically. My husband and I packed up house and moved countries with our daughter and I found myself unemployed for 2 months. Luckily, we could hire a live-in domestic nanny and I had one whole month to dedicate to studying. Here is what I did to prepare for the exam:
February to July:
1. PM PrepCast – I listened to these in the car on the way to work and managed to get through most of the knowledge areas but not any of the additional topics. I think it added a different dimension to my learning but I found that this method did not work well for me.
2. Head First PMP – The layout of this book is nice and easy to follow. I would read a few pages here and there for months but I managed to get through the whole book eventually.
3. PMBOK Guide 5th Edition – I tried to read this, but it was very dry and I lacked the concentration to absorb any of the information as I was thinking about work the whole time. I think I managed to get through Scope, Time and Cost Management but was unable to retain any of what I had read.
As I was no longer working and I had help at home to look after my now 19-month-old daughter, I could study for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week for 5 weeks. What I did:
1. I studied one chapter a day from the PMBOK Guide and concluded my study session by doing the assessment for the corresponding chapter from the Head First PMP book and the PM PrepCast, and review incorrect answers
2. After 3 weeks, I was ready to start writing practice exams. I found the PMP Exam Simulator most similar to the real exam but it was still slightly easier and tiny bit more straightforward:
a. PMP Exam Simulator (purchased with the PM Prepcast) – I got through 5 practice exams and wrote 7 quizzes. The exam scores on first attempt were:
i. Exam 1, 85.5%
ii. Exam 2, 90.5%
iii. Exam 3, 83.5%
iv. Exam 4, 83.0%
v. Exam 9 (ITTO), 81.0%
b. Free exams/questions (I cannot remember all my scores but I was scoring around 81% to 83% consistently):
i. Oliver Lehman 75 questions
ii. Oliver Lehman 175 questions
c. Exam Central 100 questions
3. I came across Edward Chung’s PMP site which I found very useful and used that to help me review certain topics
Lessons learned and Insights into the PMP exam
1. Be realistic about the best study methods for you and if you don’t know, experiment until you find one that works. Part time study did not work for me and I found myself far more effective when I could spend a lengthy period studying. Writing notes while reading the text was what worked the best for me in the end.
2. It is unnecessary to rote learn the ITTOs. Almost all the questions that I encountered on the exam were situational. I would recommend rather to understand how each process’ output feeds as an input into another process.
3. Try to put what you learn into practice at work or in your life. I found that I was able to remember the content much better when I related it to real life and actively thought about how I would use a particular tool or technique.
4. Practice, practice, practice. 4 hours is a long time to be reading one situational question after another. Your brain needs to be trained to be able to focus. I completed 200 questions in 3 hours 5 minutes and took a break to eat a sandwich before coming back to review questions I had marked.
5. Know the formulae, it helps to be able to retrieve from memory quickly under pressure.
6. Practice drawing network diagrams and determining the critical path. I found that while I understood the concept well, when it came to putting it to practice, I was a bit shaky.
7. Schedule the exam at a time when your brain functions the best. For me, afternoons were the worst so I sat for the first session at 8:30am.
8. I was able to do a brain dump but because I had read that some exam centres are no longer allowing test takers to write anything during the 15 minute tutorial, I was totally prepared not to write one. In the end, my brain dump included the matrix of the process groups and knowledge areas, and the EAC and TCPI formulae. This did help in the beginning to centre myself but I referred to it only once during the exam.
I hope this helps others in preparing for their exams and good luck to all the test takers!
The following user(s) said Thank You: Mark Wuenscher, PMP
Last Edit: by Mark Wuenscher, PMP. Reason: changed Prepcast to PM PrepCast
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.