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TOPIC: PMP: Pass - First Attempt Lessons Learned

PMP: Pass - First Attempt Lessons Learned 1 year 10 months ago #15966

  • Robert Budach
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This forum board was tremendously helpful in passing my PMP and I would like to pay it forward and share my Lessons Learned. I passed on 12/13/2018

This journey took me about 6mos, with 2 little ones and a demanding job, although I do believe it could be done a bit more compressed in 3-4. I spent a lot of time dreading getting auditing and worrying about my application. While it took a while to document it all on an excel file and then translate it to website, this part was relatively painless and easy. People wondering about the workload of simply's not that hard.

My materials and Plan:
(1) PMBOK Guide 6th Edition
(2) Rita Mulcahy
(3) Rita's Flashcards supplemental (optional)
(4) PM Prepcast Simulator Exams
(5) Aileen Ellis books x3 on Contracts, EVM, and Network Diagrams
(6) Platinum Online PMP Training (for 35 contact hours) Series a videos and online quizzes and such

I would echo the Prepcast Simulator is the only thing that is must-have to solidify your knowledge and give you a sense of when you're ready.
Timeline -
Month 1 - Read PMBOK 6th, this was more of a cursory reading to get some context. I wouldn't say I retained or understood a lot in the first run through. In hindsight, I might not have read it first.
Month 2 - Completed the online module to secure my 35 contact hours. Outside of the corny videos as of today, I could not tell you anything about this module. I took it so long ago. I remember barely staying awake through some of the content and oriented my mind to think of this as more of a requirement to complete than something to actually learn. I did focus on the quizzes, and I am probably not giving the module the credit it deserves toward contributing to my overall knowledge growth. Despite that, I can't rate it very highly as something that sticks out to me as being the axis between success or failure.
Month 3-4 - Read Rita First Run. Took a month to read Rita and did all the quizzes at the end of each chapter. I'd say I was scoring between 68-77% on them, but didn't track it. Focused more on learning why the answers I chose weren't right. First run of Rita is is where I would say I first "leveled up" in my understanding of Project Management. Leveling up is a good metaphor for how I would describe the process of learning Project Management. You can read a chapter and learn the static content, but you level up when you start fit what you've learned in one chapter into context with information from another. It was beginning to come together. Later I would watch Ricardo Vargas' video (Helpful to watch early on and later in your studying) and I would honestly suggest to everyone to skip the Integration Chapter and read it last, even though it follows chronologically first.
After I finished Rita the first time, I hadn't taken an sim exams, although around this time I finished my application and a week later was cleared to take the exam. I had read that taking simulators was important, but didn't realize the full importance of it. Between purchasing the simulators, I bought all the Aileen Ellis books. I had heard people say it will solidify your understanding of the more math-based concepts. Each book can be burned through in really a couple of hours. They're helpful references and do teach you something. If you have any anxiety about the math pieces, they will build your confidence. I bought the Rita Flashcards only as something to bring to work and thumb through. I did play Rita's Process Chart game online until I was getting that perfected, although some of the things Rita teaches you in the process chart conflict a bit (I thought) in what you learn from the simulator exams. The Process Chart is still a good game and helps you see the flow of work, but for example it refers to the planning column as the only column with a set order. That's not what Ricardo Vargas would say. Just be aware of that, if you put a lot of stake in that game.

Month 5 - 6 Around early November, I decided I needed to purchase a simulator because (initially) I thought I just needed to build endurance for a 4hr mental test. What I will say is that the simulator is the tool that cements everything and puts it all together. I did re-read Rita a second time (much faster) but the simulator is where Wax on, Wax Off, Paint the Fence, and Side-to-Side becomes Karate. When you mentally start to recognize that, you've leveled up again. This is where you actually realize the chapter on Quality is a step that spits out your verified deliverables back to your scope process to be validated before you head off to closing. The simulator sharpens your understanding of how Project Management flows chronologically also. Sure you know Perform Integrated Change Control is where change requests go, but it helps to know that it ends when requests are approved or denied. The chapters in the texts don't always detail the limits of each process, but the simulator will get you for it if you don't know.

I only took 5 simulator exams, once a week on the weekend. I set it up to take full 4hr exams as close to the real situation as possible. After my first exam, I scored 75% and felt confident (no where to go but up, right?) Second exam was 74%, third was 71.5%, fourth was 76%, and last was 81%. After each exam, I would comprehensively review the questions I was wrong on, reference the PMBOK (which became a far better resource later in my training than it was at the beginning). I could categorize my errors in the following way:

1. A stupid mistake because I was tired from the night before and was tired taking the exam (this happened a lot on the test where I scored a 71.5%). Take note, the test is exhausting. Don't drink or stay up late the night before. It will tax you, and your mental energy will have a demonstrable impact on your final score.

2. An ITTO or term that I fundamentally did not know the definition of it. One time I got "Brain-Writing", another time I got "Risk Workshops". The simulator loves to find the most obscure items in the PMBOK and turn them into questions. Frustrating, but still important. You don't make the same mistake twice. Which brings me to another point...through progressive studying you will simply learn most of the ITTOs. Once you're at a level of being ready, you will know most of them. It's a waste of time to study them to memorize individually. While the effort will help you with terminology, it'd be fairly brutal to memorize the hundreds of them. I took the advice of so many others and did not dedicate any time to the specific studying of ITTOs. I had a few apps on my iphone to tinker around with ITTOs, but didn't even really find that helpful.

3. A situational question that I got wrong that really got me or I felt was just bizarre. This is when you just have to adapt your mind to PMIisms. Didn't happen often.

4. A question I got wrong because I didn't know the flow or order of events. These are the questions you really want to pay attention to mastering.

This forum was also critical. On this forum, you can go back as far as page 6 and still find people who passed the PMP exam on the 6th edition. Read all of their posts. More often than not you will find people failing sim exams, or never scoring the coveted 80% mark, yet still passing the exam. Read their stories because it will help you benchmark yourself and push you forward. The 80% mark is definitely nice to achieve, from a confidence standpoint, but know that people pass often without hitting it. In hindsight, it was risky of me to bail on simulator exams after scoring 81% one time (exam 5). I was (mostly) a mid-70s test taker. But by that point, I had already scheduled the exam and was going to go through with it one way or another. Time to get it done.

My feeling of the exam itself is that it was neither harder nor easier than the simulator. It's about parity. Some of the easy questions were real easy. Some of the hard questions were real hard. I did not get a single Agile question, and the EVM questions were not as straightforward as Aileen Ellis, but easier than the simulator. Some people though in the forums will swear that the real exam is easier than the simulators. To each his own, and if that ends up being true for that to build your confidence.

I did not do a brain dump. Simulators or real test, I usually ended with about 2mins to spare, partially parkinsons law. By the time I got to the test, I was chanting the process chart in my sleep and the Earned Value formulas were second nature to me.

My final scores were T, AT, T, AT, AT

Since passing the PMP exam, the most frequent question I get is, "Is the PMP exam hard?"

Here is my answer. The LSAT is hard. The GRE is hard. The PMP exam is neither hard, nor easy. It's like the Driver's License Exam. If you walk in believing you can wing it because the few times you drive are easy and you've been watching signs as a passenger your whole life, this situation will humble you when you fail. You weren't prepared. If you study and train, you will pass. There is no incentive for PMI to create a test that stringently excludes people. They also can't let everyone in without some measure of ensuring you're speaking the same language as everyone else. You can beat the PMP. It's just a matter of training. The simulators even give you a way to measure your readiness.

Good Luck to others

The following user(s) said Thank You: Janis Tolliver

PMP: Pass - First Attempt Lessons Learned 1 year 10 months ago #15967

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

Congratulations on passing your exam!

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