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TOPIC: Passed PMP First Try- Above Target All Areas

Passed PMP First Try- Above Target All Areas 1 year 4 months ago #14140

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So I passed my exam. I’m pretty surprised, honestly. I passed with Above Targets in all 5 areas. This will be long, but I am including stuff in my lessons learned I wished others had included in theirs.

Here is how I studied. It’s not the best plan considering how most people say to study. But I’m more of an operations engineer than a PM, so I don’t do a lot of this stuff. I had never heard the word Project Charter before this. Study time was about 2.5 months.

I did not read the PMBOK (or ever even open it for that matter). I did not study ITTOs, either. But I’ll talk about that later.

I started out doing some small review thing on a website my company has called Skillsoft or something like that. The questions at the end were easy, so I signed up for the test. I didn’t realize that it was nothing like what is actually on the test.

I purchased the PM Prepcast. I watched some of them. They are great videos, but they didn’t work well for my learning style. The content is good and the program is excellent, it just wasn’t for me. I would recommend for most. I did think the quizzes at the end of the modules were good. Close to the exam.

I purchased Rita’s PMP Exam Prep book. This was my biggest resource- all 700 pages. It kept me from reading the PMBOK which is printed on some sort of god awful grey paper that no one would ever want to read. I worked through this book in one month. I studied on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for about 2-3 hours. I would do the questions at the end and write down my score. I was averaging about 75-80%. Some better. Some worse. I kept track.

I was scheduled to take the exam June 5th but was tired of studying so I moved my test up to today and figured it was worth it not to have to study like this. These last couple weeks I studied more than my normal nights.

Once I finished Rita, I took my first PM Simulator test from Prepcast. I got a 71.5%. Read through everything and wrote down notes. Studied them. Took the next one. Got a 69.5%. Did the same thing again. I took all 5 tests in about 2 weeks.

My scores for all 5 exams were as follows:

71.5, 69.5, 73, 73, 72.5

I was worried because these were not the 80%s that people were suggesting. And no matter how much I reviewed, my scores didn’t change. Also, I never finished a test with more than five minutes left. I was barely finishing. I ended up doing maybe 100-120 more questions just doing the timed quizzes, even though they were questions I already did.

2-3 days before, I just thumbed through the Rita book again to refamiliarize myself with certain terms. That helped.

I didn’t memorize ITTOs or even study them. After a while, they just make sense. Sort of. Some things just sort of clicked in the last week and a half and started to make sense.

The actual test:

The Prepcast Simulator Tests were WAY different than the real test. They were about 3 times as a long. Way harder, IMO. But they weren’t as vague. The test itself... it was just mystical. So many questions had four great choices. So many had zero. The math questions were easy. Maybe 7-8 EV types. A couple PERT type. One or two Network Diagrams. For me, those were a gimme. Super easy. Most questions were situational.

I didn’t do a brain dump except for the EV formulas because I was worried about time. But after an hour, I decided to do the whole chart, just for reference. I realized I was way ahead of schedule.

I finished the first pass (no breaks) with about 30 mins left. Decided to do a second pass for the ones I marked.

I marked all math questions, just because they are easy to make mistakes. And when I went back, I found some mistakes- not solving for the right thing. Changed a few.

I finished with like 20 mins left. Clicked submit. Did the stupid survey. Hands trembling. Then I saw that I passed. I was shocked I got Above in everything, considering my exam scores.

I would say, if you’re getting around 70 in the Simulator exams, you’re good. Those questions are way harder than the actual exam and much longer. And the math questions are MUCH more straightforward.

Thanks for a great simulator that helped me over prepare. The explanations at the end are great.

Passed PMP First Try- Above Target All Areas 1 year 4 months ago #14142

  • Stan Po, MBA, PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM
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Dear Jojo,

Congratulations on passing your exam!

Thank you for sharing your success and lessons learned. We are glad to hear that our products helped you prepare for and pass your exam.

We highly value your genuine feedback. Insights like yours help us improve our products for all our customers. You have mentioned our questions were different and less vague than those on the real exam. Would you mind elaborating these points (of course without disclosing any details that would violate the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct)?

Thanks again and good luck in all your future endeavors.
Regards,
Stan
Last edit: by Stan Po, MBA, PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM.

Passed PMP First Try- Above Target All Areas 1 year 4 months ago #14146

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Sorry my name is different, but I was not logged in when I posted as Jojo.; I was on my phone :-)

Quick question... how do I let someone know that I passed the exam so they can use the data for the simulator statistics? I think that data is incredibly helpful to benchmark. It was the main reason I decided to take the test earlier than planned. I also think it would be helpful for the statistics to have information about whether people passed with BT, MT or AT ratings. That might be a bit more difficult to incorporate and it would take a LOT of data to find trends.

"We highly value your genuine feedback. Insights like yours help us improve our products for all our customers. You have mentioned our questions were different and less vague than those on the real exam. Would you mind elaborating these points (of course without disclosing any details that would violate the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct)?"

I did want to point out that I thought the Prepcast videos would be great for most people. For me, I was not able to concentrate on that many videos. But I think I am in the small minority. Those videos are high quality and have great material. And when I first purchased it, I started watching the 5th Edition stuff because the 6th was not yet released. There is a marked upgrade from those editions, in my opinion. Great videos, just not for my learning style.

Some of the following details are just observations. Also, I will give you a couple of examples of how questions are different from the Simulator. If I use an example, I am making these questions up; they are not questions from the exam.

1. The length of the questions was the greatest difference, by far. When I took my Simulator exams, I was always strapped for time. Other than one test where I had about 5 minutes left, I was hitting the last question within the last two minutes every time- no time for review. That was with no break during the 4 hours. The simulator tests were very wordy. They would be a paragraph of reading, as opposed to the actual exam where I don't know if I saw a question more than 4 sentences long. The actual exam is WAY quicker and more streamlined. I went from having zero time left to having 20 mins left even after I reviewed my marked questions.

2. The calculation (EV) questions were more straightforward on the actual exam. Rather than having to interpret values from a Gnatt chart, it was explicitly stated. For instance, a question may read like this made up example, "You have an earned value of $200k, a planned value of $250k, actual costs of $300k and a budget of $500k. Assuming the same progression, what is the EAC?" I found there to require less interpretation. However, I believe the way they are written in the Simulator to help teach a bit better.

3. I felt the exam was typically a bit more vague in terms of which process you were working. The Simulator seemed to be pretty clear. But I didn't find that the exam explicitly stated it as often as the Simulator did. You had to decipher where you were more often than not.

4. One comment I had on the Simulator exams... I felt like one exam would be very heavy on a single topic. For instance, Exam 5 (I think) had numerous questions on mandatory/discretionary/internal/external dependencies. I don't recall seeing any questions on the other exams about that. The actual exam seemed very evenly spread, IMO.

5. Nearly all questions were situational. I do not feel like the exam tried to 'trick' me as much as the Simulator did in terms of asking things that are small nuances. Now, I think it's good that the Simulator did for learning, but it was not indicative of the test. I also don't think the real test gave as much unnecessary information.

6. There were a lot more questions on the real test that I would read and immediately know the answer, before seeing the choices. That rarely happened on the Simulator for me.

Overall, the Simulator was a very good training tool. I think shooting for 80%, based on my statistic sampling of 1, seems a bit high. I received all Above Targets with pretty mediocre Simulator results (I answered 71% of the questions correctly on the first try, according to my statistics). I saw someone else post last week who had scores nearly exactly the same as mine who passed her first try, as well. I think having people shoot for the mid 70s is probably enough. I honestly don't know what I would have done to get my score another 10% higher. I was scared I might have to read the PMBOK. :sick:

-Jojo
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Passed PMP First Try- Above Target All Areas 1 year 4 months ago #14148

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Jojo, I can't thank you enough for taking your time to explain it in length about your experience. I am very nervous, my most concern currently is to have enough time to read the questions, comprehend and then read and comprehend the choices. From your testimony, I think I'm going the right path of doing the "study mode" and tackle as many questions as possible. The questions on this site are lengthy, sometimes I read then reread then reread to try to understand the context, then there are tricks "gotcha" kind of questions as well...don't get me wrong, I like it because I think this exercise whip me hard so I can be hardened-trained for the real PMP exam. I think I learn the concept from the book much better with the questions on this site. The explanation for each choice (correct and incorrect ones) help me greatly. With your very informational tips, I'll try to get more questions done in study mode first and I can do the mock exams later, but what that means is when I do the mock exams, the questions are already familiar in my head :D

My current study mode is to do 30 questions per session, two sessions per day. I review my answer for each question after I select the choice. I bang my head when I see I fail the question and try to comprehend why I did wrong. I scream "oh yeahhhhh" when my reasoning is correct resulting in the correct choice. I have to say that there are other PMP simulators on the web, but most of them don't have the quality in the explanations like Prepcast one...hats off to these guys. I started out at 40 to 50%. I'm now hovering around 60-80% on the non-answered questions.

If you have more tips, please share. The more the better :)

Passed PMP First Try- Above Target All Areas 1 year 4 months ago #14149

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Joseph,

Thank you so much for sharing these details and contributing to our efforts of continuous improvement!

Regarding your question, "how do I let someone know that I passed the exam so they can use the data for the simulator statistics?" It's easy - a few weeks after your access to the simulator expires, you will get an email asking for your feedback. The email will have the instructions on how to fill in the details. Thanks in advance for your readiness to help keep our statistics up to date!
Regards,
Stan

Passed PMP First Try- Above Target All Areas 1 year 4 months ago #14150

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Luke wrote: Jojo, I can't thank you enough for taking your time to explain it in length about your experience. I am very nervous, my most concern currently is to have enough time to read the questions, comprehend and then read and comprehend the choices. From your testimony, I think I'm going the right path of doing the "study mode" and tackle as many questions as possible. The questions on this site are lengthy, sometimes I read then reread then reread to try to understand the context, then there are tricks "gotcha" kind of questions as well...don't get me wrong, I like it because I think this exercise whip me hard so I can be hardened-trained for the real PMP exam. I think I learn the concept from the book much better with the questions on this site. The explanation for each choice (correct and incorrect ones) help me greatly. With your very informational tips, I'll try to get more questions done in study mode first and I can do the mock exams later, but what that means is when I do the mock exams, the questions are already familiar in my head :D

My current study mode is to do 30 questions per session, two sessions per day. I review my answer for each question after I select the choice. I bang my head when I see I fail the question and try to comprehend why I did wrong. I scream "oh yeahhhhh" when my reasoning is correct resulting in the correct choice. I have to say that there are other PMP simulators on the web, but most of them don't have the quality in the explanations like Prepcast one...hats off to these guys. I started out at 40 to 50%. I'm now hovering around 60-80% on the non-answered questions.

If you have more tips, please share. The more the better :)


You are welcome. I read a lot of the lessons learned before and I wanted to include in mine what I wish people had included in theirs.

I would recommend against using up all your questions on the Simulator. It really is something different to take a full, 4 hour test than to take the 30 minute ones. You need to have a baseline. If you have already seen the questions, then your baseline is off. After I took all of the exams and was taking quizzes, I would get in the 90-100% range sometimes, because I had already seen those questions. It was not because I know 90-100% of the answers.

The best thing, in my opinion, is just go and take a 4 hour test so you know where you are. The simulator questions are WAY longer, no doubt. But that is not to say that the real test questions are a breeze. They are NOT. The test is very difficult. Even the Prometric lady said that was a really hard test. They see a lot, so I assume she sees a lot of fails.

I would say if, on the four hour test you are getting a 70-75%, you should probably be alright. Just to warn you, I took some 5th edition quizzes early on and I scored pretty well on the 20 minute tests. It's easier to get a good grade on shorter tests, IMO.

Best of luck.
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Passed PMP First Try- Above Target All Areas 1 year 4 months ago #14168

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I apologize in advance for the length!

TL;DR:
  • I agree with Jojo's experiences taking the practice exams and actual exam. The Simulator exams were harder than the actual exam, but the actual exam was still challenging.
  • There were a few things I did differently than Jojo to prepare. I also had some professional PM experience as a foundation that gave me a headstart.
  • I watched all PrepCast videos, read through each process in the PMBOK, and made 160 notecards to study.
  • I did not memorize the ITTO's; I just became familiar with each.
  • I spent 4-6 hours studying each day over 36 days, took the actual exam on May 9, and passed with AT in all five domains.
  • I would not recommend my approach unless you enjoy studying or have a deadline.
  • Exam strategy: immediately skip long questions, immediately mark then skip formula questions, then revisit all marked/unanswered questions at the end.
Jojo,

I just passed the PMP exam on May 9, 2018, also on my first try, with Above Target in all five domains as well. Much like you, I was pretty surprised by this result. In fact, our experiences seem to be so strikingly similar that I had this surreal feeling like I was reading my own Lessons Learned post, with a few exceptions here and there (which I'll elaborate below).

I logged in this morning to post my Lessons Learned, read your post and decided that our study processes, simulator test/quiz results, and actual exam experiences were alike enough to warrant a reply instead of a new thread.

First, the similarities:
- I agree that the PrepCast Simulator Exams were noticeably different than the actual PMP exam. The Simulator questions were often substantially longer and denser (meaning, the practice questions often took me at least two read-throughs, sometimes three). In general, I felt the Simulator questions were more difficult, both in terms of their length, sentence structure, and complexity.
- To further illustrate this point, I scored a 63% and a 63.5% on the two full-length Simulator exams I took in the final weeks leading up to the actual exam, yet scored Above Target in all five areas on the actual exam.
- The actual exam questions felt easier - they were more concise and used simpler language. Like you said, some of the actual questions had four great choices, some had zero, but many (to me) had one clearly correct answer. This gave me confidence during the actual exam that I would pass, but I did not realize by what margin until afterwards.
- I also did a limited brain-dump just of the EV formulas, even though I felt fairly comfortable with them: CV, CPI, SV, SPI (both, including alternate method), EAC (all methods), ETC (all methods), TCPI, and EF/ES/LF/LS. That’s all I wrote down in the beginning.
- I also finished the first pass with about 30 minutes remaining, which was very different from the two Simulator exams where I only had a few minutes remaining after four solid hours. I went through all marked questions, then went through all unanswered questions (more on that below), and still had 20 minutes remaining when I clicked submit. Also did the survey. I was enormously relieved to see that I had passed, and, like you, shocked that I got AT in all five domains considering my Simulator exam scores.
- I agree that most of the actual exam questions were situational (e.g., what should the project manager do / do first; what could the project manager have done to avoid this situation / prevent that situation; what process or task may the project manager have missed, etc.).
- There were a handful of math/formula questions - not many, but you need to know the formulas.
- I agree that the Simulator was a very good training tool. I feel this way whenever a practice exam is harder than the actual exam - you go into the actual exam even more prepared. I only wish I had known this prior to the actual exam - it would have relieved a lot of pre-exam stress.

The differences:
- I started my career working as an analyst in the PMO for IT/enterprise software implementation projects for a large, well-known consulting firm. I became familiar with project finance and cost/schedule management topics like the EV formulas I mentioned above. All this is to say, while I had never formally studied project management or read the PMBOK before I began preparing for the exam, I did have professional experience and exposure working with many of the topics covered by the PMBOK. This foundation almost certainly shortened my study time.
- I watched every single PM PrepCast lesson, start to finish. Sometimes on my computer, sometimes in my car while traveling for work, and sometimes on my iPhone. I did this to start getting familiar with each process, the ITTO’s for each process, and how they relate to one another. I often had to replay the last 30 seconds if my mind drifted, but I tried to pay attention as best I could. I was putting in several hours a day watching or listening to the video lessons. I found the video lessons to be comprehensive and well done. They cover every process and its ITTO, plus a bit more that is beyond the scope of the PMBOK.
- After completing all video lessons, I took my first full-length Simulator exam on 4/22/18 and got a 63%. I was a bit disappointed. The practice exam felt pretty challenging, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to improve in time for when I had planned to take the actual exam on May 9. The day after that practice exam, I thoroughly reviewed each incorrect answer. First, I read the explanation provided by the Simulator. Then, I went to the PMBOK pages referenced in the answer explanation and read through that topic until it made sense.
- I took a second full-length practice exam on 4/24/18 and got a 63.5%. I answered only one more question correctly this time. I was feeling frustrated, anxious, and worried that I wouldn’t pass the actual exam.
- Instead of taking another full-length practice exam, I decided to read the PMBOK (chapters 4-13). I didn’t read the chapters start to finish, but I did read quite a bit. I would start off reading the initial description of each process, its key benefits, and how its inputs and outputs related to other processes visually. Then I would go further and read any additional information about the process that either didn’t sound familiar or that I wanted to make sure I understood. I read each of the inputs, scanned the list of tools and techniques (only stopping to read anything about which I wasn’t already familiar), and read each of the outputs. This took me several days to do, spending 5-8 hours each day.
- I also read through each Domain and Task from the Exam Content Outline several times over several days. I did not memorize these, however.
- I never read any other text, including Rita’s. Just the PM PrepCast video lessons and the PMBOK.
- During the month or so while watching the PrepCast videos and reading the PMBOK, I made notecards on everything from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to the Total Float formula (to pick two notecards at random). I ended up making about 160 notecards on various topics spanning each Knowledge Area. I drilled these notecards during my final week.

Additional notes on my preparation:
- I purchased the PM PrepCast course and formula guide on March 27, 2018. I created my daily study schedule on April 4, which is the day I began watching the PrepCast video lessons. I took and passed the exam 36 days after I began studying. This timeline was intense and very difficult to fit into my schedule, considering I was also working full-time. I had to watch the video lessons at 1.25x on my iPhone to further compress the time required to cover everything - this helped a lot from a schedule perspective.
- I do not recommend following this highly compressed study schedule unless you 1) are a masochist, 2) already know the material pretty well, or 3) enjoy spending 4-6 hours a day studying. My particular circumstances required that I earn my PMP by mid-May, so I had no other choice.
- If I didn’t have the deadline that I had, I would have spread out my studying over three to four months, doing a few video lessons each day (which is about 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on the lessons). I would have followed each video by reading the associated chapters in the PMBOK.
- I *cannot* recommend the Exam Simulator enough. I found this to be critical to my passing the actual exam. If nothing else, it prepared me for the mental endurance challenge required by a four-hour exam with two hundred taxing multiple choice questions. More than that, though, it made me go back through the PMBOK to 1) review each question I answered incorrectly, and 2) read through the material I had already heard during the PrepCast, which helped connect the dots and firm up my understanding of how the various processes related.
- Here are my exam and quiz types and results. I ended up going through 500 Simulator questions between the exams and quizzes (some repeated):
- PMP Exam 1, 4/22/18, 3 hrs 54 min, 126/200 (63%)
- PMP Exam 2, 4/24/18, 3 hrs 54 min, 127/200 (63.5%)
- Timed Quiz, 4/28/18, 9 min, 8/10 (80%)
- Timed Quiz, 5/3/18, 11 min 30 sec, 7/10 (70%)
- Learning Quiz, 5/3/18, 43 min, 8/10 (80%)
- Timed Quiz, 5/5/18, 11 min 24 sec, 8/10 (80%)
- Timed Quiz, 5/6/18, 9 min 56 sec, 10/10 (100%)
- Learning Quiz, 5/8/18, 1 hr 45 min, 38/50 (76%)
- My strategy during the exam, which I picked up from someone else's previous Lessons Learned post, was to skip immediately any long questions (anything with 3-4 or more sentences), skip any questions where the answer wasn't immediately obvious, and immediately mark then skip any questions that required a formula. This technique allowed me to focus a bulk of my time on the shorter questions where I felt I knew the answers, which got me into a good rhythm during the actual exam. After my first pass, I went back and first answered all of the marked formula questions, then went back and answered all of the longer unanswered questions.
- I want to emphasize: while I do think the actual PMP exam was easier than the Simulator exams, that does not mean I thought the actual PMP exam was easy. It was not easy. The actual PMP exam was very challenging and requires significant preparation for most people to pass. I studied intensely (4-6 hours a day) for 1 month and 6 days, and had professional experience as a foundation. Without that foundation, it likely would have taken me at least two months. I suspect most people, with kids or with full-time jobs (or both), would need at least three to four months of 1-2 hours a day to pass with confidence.

Anyway, I know this was long-winded, but I hope others find one or two useful tidbits that help them prepare (as previous poster’s lessons learned helped me).

Good luck!

Ryan
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Passed PMP First Try- Above Target All Areas 1 year 3 months ago #14232

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Dear Joseph,
Congratulations on you success and thank you for the book! I will use your lesson learned as a guide for my exam prep. :-)

Passed PMP First Try- Above Target All Areas 3 months 4 weeks ago #17509

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Ditto for me. I had exactly the same experience as you except I studied for 3.5 months. Just took it today so I'm still decompressing.
I sweated it out til the bitter end....17 minutes left but my study patterns were same as yours...no PMBOK and no studying ITTO's
Also got above target in all 5
Congratulations
I think you really have to read those situational questions very very closely
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