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TOPIC: Passed on First Attempt - AT/AT/AT/AT/AT - 7/6/19

Passed on First Attempt - AT/AT/AT/AT/AT - 7/6/19 1 year 2 months ago #17901

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I took, and passed, my PMP Exam today, first attempt, earning Above Target in all core areas. Despite not using the PM PrepCast's simulator, I did regularly reference this forum, so I hope posting here is ok.

Here's a summary of how I studied and what I experienced on the test. (As much as I can say without violating the confidentiality clause, that is!)

I decided to go in for the PMP back in early April, and committed to a three month study period and locked in the exam for July 6th. From there, I did a few days' worth of research, and built a study plan that would work around my very busy (and regularly mentally exhausting) 40-45hr/wk job. To start, I signed up for / bought / used the following:

* BrainBOK 3mo Subscription (quizzes, practice exams, flash cards, etc)
* Rita's PMP Book

The first week was dedicated to skimming the PMBOK, and I took a 'cold' practice exam (via BrainBOK) that first weekend. I got a passing score in the low 60s. From there, I took two weeks to read Rita's book end to end while taking notes. Took another BrainBOK exam and got.. a 62%. This frustrated me quite a bit (a point I'll touch on later), but I kept going. The next few weeks involved doing targeted readings, quizzes, and practice exams (every other weekend), until I finally got so fed up with BrainBOK's (in my opinion) absurd 'Oh, the answer you picked was 75% right, but the answer we were looking for was actually the one that was 76% right'-type questions, that I bought the PM Master Prep exam / quiz access, and started using that.

PM Master Prep (which was.. $50 for lifetime access, I think) is certainly cheap, but you absolutely get what you pay for. I found most of the questions to be pretty easy, and there were a ton of typos and grammatical mistakes. Still, I was averaging 75-85% on the tests and exams, and was feeling more confident.

Fast forward to June, and I'm into the final five weeks before showtime. I took more full-length practice exams (using both BrainBOK and PM Master Prep), identified my weak points, did targeted readings (with Rita's book), and started doing drills for my 'download' sheet. At its fullest, my download sheet involved all of the EVM formulas, Critical Path stuff, risk formulas, all of the Sigmas, estimation methods (Triangular / PERT-Beta), Project Selection stuff (FV, PV, IRR, NPV, etc), and all of the major behavioral concepts I've read, like Total Quality Management, Prevention vs. Inspection, Hygiene Factors, etc. (And, on the back of the download sheet, I would draw the entire Process Group / Knowledge Area matrix with its 49 processes.)

The week before the exam, I took one final round of practice exams and included my download sheet to try to recreate, as much as possible, the exam setting. This didn't fully prepare me though, for the reasons I'll go into next.

The proper exam was much vaguer and more abstract than any of the practice tests I saw. It felt like the majority of the questions were 'What should be done next / first', and tons and tons of questions felt like they had two obviously wrong answers and two potentially right answers. To compound this panic, I was only given one 'sheet' to write on (it was a dry erase thing, but you couldn't erase; and it was 8"x13" or so - you could get another from the proctor, but you could only ever have one on your desk at any time), so my whole download sheet plan was thrown in the gutter. I opted to just go for EVM stuff and some other odds and ends but, in the end, I didn't even use it that much. (I guess the 'scratch paper' policy for Pearson is different than Prometric.) To be honest, I spent most of the test in a state of concern. "Do I pick 'Risk Management Plan' or 'Project Management Plan' since the Risk Management Plan is part of it?" Over and over and over. Tons of questions on Change Management, too. I think I did.. two EVM calculations.

I got through all 200 questions around the 3hr mark, but I had at least 70-80 questions marked. This is when the panic started to set in - the fear of 'Oh god, I'm going to bomb the exam and all of that studying was a waste'. So I focused and started going through my marked questions in batches; changing maybe 20% of my original responses. Time ticked down and it was judgment day - the moment of truth!

The 'Congratulations!' screen came up and I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I collected my results on the way out - Above Target in every category. My long nights spent studying, my weekends spent doing 4hr mock exams.. all of it had paid off in the end.

My top recommendations for people planning to take the PMP:

* Buy Rita's book. I found it, and its exercises, to be incredibly valuable. (The PMBOK is an obtuse reference guide at best; not a study aid.)
* Research and buy a high-quality exam simulator that gives you the proper four hour / 200 questions experience. (If I had to do it again, I would've absolutely bought Cornelius' simulator over BrainBOK.)
* Plan to study for at least three months if you're working a full 9-6 job. (End to end, I probably devoted some.. 250 hours to studying, including exam time.)
* Research Lessons Learned from other PMP aspirants and test takers. This site has been very useful in helping me prepare. (Thanks, everyone!)
* Try not to get too stressed the closer you get to test day. Build a schedule for the few days leading up, get a full night's rest, have breakfast, plan the route to the test center, and don't leave anything to chance.
* Make a study plan and stick to it. If you approach an exam of this size and complexity casually and disrespect it, you will more than likely fail.

You can do it, but you need to behave like a PM - plan, think critically, prepare, and know what you're getting into. Remember the old saying: 'To continue is power.'
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