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TOPIC: Passed PMP exam, 1st try, Above Target score

Passed PMP exam, 1st try, Above Target score 1 year 3 months ago #17941

  • GEETIKA HIGGINS's Avatar Topic Author
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I’m thrilled to share that I passed the PMP exam this week... 1st try, ABOVE TARGET scores. It felt like a very rewarding end to 8 weeks of an almost single mindedly maniacal pursuit. I apologize for the insane length of this post in advance.

I decided to acquire PMP certification because this qualification very nicely consolidates my experience in very diverse fields such as Film Production, Education Management and my work in the Development Sector, and will hopefully help with future opportunities.

I started out with reading forums online about the best way to study for this exam and formulate a plan. However, I quickly realized that one of the biggest challenges to the certification was going to be filling the application itself.

My application:

I decided to get the PrepCast premium subscription right away in order to earn the 35 credits to meet eligibility criteria, and to familiarize myself with PMI terminology to help fill the application. I zeroed down on 3 long-term jobs that I would cover in my application in order to limit the number of employers it would require to validate my work experience should my application be chosen for an audit. I also communicated to those three employers about my intention to get certified as a heads up. I wrote down a draft of the application covering relevant projects across the three chosen jobs, and then started watching PrepCast videos at 1.4 speed, making a note of relevant PMI terms for my rendered projects. After completing the 1st round of videos, I earned my 35 credits, made the required changes to my application, crossed my fingers and submitted it. I also emailed my past employers the corresponding project details I had included in my application as promised. Fortunately my application did not come up for an audit. 5 days after submission, my application was approved and I was directed to set an exam date. I sent thank you notes to my employers informing them about the acceptance of my application without an audit, and chose an exam date about 10 weeks away. It suddenly became real!

I spent the next couple of weeks browsing for effective resources and acquiring them, and creating an 8-week study plan. I also mentally prepared my husband and our 4-year-old daughter for what I was taking on and how it would profoundly limit my time with them (since I work full time too), rearranging things on the home front for the upcoming 2 months. Three cheers for an immensely supporting family!!!

My study plan:

My study plan was designed for 4 hours of intensive study every day, 5 days a week. I decided to keep the weekends for any overflows, and breaks. By now I had purchased my hard copy of the PMBOK Guide (6th Edition) and Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep (9th Edition) as well.

During my 1st round with the PrepCast video course I had made a note of areas that I was very unfamiliar with. It was obvious that Risk, Quality and Procurement knowledge areas would require repeated in-depth study for me. Fortunately, my film production background had prepared me well for Integration, Scope, Schedule, Cost, Resources, Communications, and Stakeholder management fairly well. However, there were many new concepts and terminology even from these areas that I had just been introduced to. I decided to start with the entire mathematical portion of the curriculum, since it predominantly covered areas that I was sort of comfortable with.

Week 1:

I spent the first 3 days of my study time perfecting the concepts of EVM, Pert calculations, drawing network diagrams, understanding depreciation, standard deviation, probability and expected monetary value.

The PrepCast formula emails that you get once you have subscribed and online videos by Engineer4Free were extremely helpful resources in understanding these concepts. Just make a note that Engineer4Free Network Diagrams assume 1st day of work as day 0 and not day 1 (as prescribed by PMBOK), but this series is really a great study tool to understand everything about making gantt charts, network diagrams, how to do a forward pass and a backward pass, how to crash your schedule, calculate critical path durations, pert calculations and many more relevant topics. Aileen Ellis’ video on Earned Value Management is fantastic for first time EVM students. After crystalizing my understanding of these concepts I took many free online tests on these areas and was happy to see I had grasped the concepts fairly well. These tests will help you find any gaps in your knowledge as well.

On 4th day of the 1st week I borrowed my daughter’s white board and ‘taught’ my husband all the mathematical concepts until his eyes glazed over. Did I already say ‘three cheers for a loving & supporting husband?! No issues… once more! I finished my first week by taking the 105 Sample Questions from the PMP Exam Formula Study Guide feeling pretty good about myself.

Score – 92%

I started doing a formula brain dump 2-3 times a week from here on.

Weeks 2 – 6:

During my first run through of the PrepCast videos I’d realized that the concepts wouldn’t stick unless I made notes. I used these five weeks to delve in-depth into each introductory area and knowledge area.

I would read a chapter from Rita’s book to assimilate the theory and concepts. I would then download a soft copy of study notes for the corresponding chapter from Edward Designer, and make any changes, additions to the notes as required. I would then follow up with the PrepCast videos from the same chapter (at 1.5 speed :D) while simultaneously going through the relevant pages in the PMBOK guide.

I finished each chapter by taking the PrepCast quiz and Rita’s end of chapter exam to assess my understanding. My rule was that if I scored above 80% in these tests I could move on to the next chapter, else I had to re-read my notes and take a 40 question quiz on the corresponding chapter from the PrepCast Simulator and score at least 80% on it before moving on to the next chapter.

This continued for five weeks. Out of the 13 PMBOK chapters, I had to take the extra PrepCast Simulator quiz on 5 occasions. The extra quizzes were required for Risk, Quality, Procurement (no surprises here), Scope (uh-oh!) and Communications (seriously??!!)

I had started doing the KA chart brain dump once a day by this time.

This rigorous and extended exercise had brought me to the end of 6th week. I had only 2 weeks to go for the real exam and I hadn’t taken a single 200-question exam!

Weeks 7 & 8:

I put aside Rita and PMBOK, rearranged my notes by process groups instead of KAs and printed out the 150 pages. I spent 3 days going through them repeatedly, referring to Rita only in case I needed more clarification on something, writing down additional notes on my printed sheets. By now, weekends had become a part of my study time, with pretty much no down time except to sleep.

I finally took the free online PM PrepCast Simulator Exam (120 questions) on 30th June and scored 83% on it.

I took my first full-length mock exam on 1st July. In total, I took 5 exams from PrepCast Simulator, and I also took the Head First and Oliver Lehmann (200 ques) exams. 7 full exams in 7 days! I consistently score ATs on all of the domains. Here are my scores:

PrepCast Simulator 1 - 87%
PrepCast Simulator 2 - 84%
Head First Mock Exam - 85%
PrepCast Simulator 3 - 85.5%
PrepCast Simulator 4 - 82%
Oliver Lehmann Exam - 81% (yippee)
PrepCast Simulator 5 - 90%

After the exam I would spend an hour going through the explanations for questions I had gotten wrong. I did not have the time to do the same for the correct ones.

On the day before the exam I did not take any tests. My exam was scheduled for a Tuesday, so I’d taken the Monday off of work for good measure. I just reviewed my notes, practiced the formula and KA brain dump twice and skimmed through the glossary pages from the PMBOK guide. I put aside all my study material by afternoon and spent the evening playing with my daughter, and relaxing.

Finally, the exam:

I reached the exam center at 7am, an hour before the required time, so I spent half an hour sitting in the car listening to music while ‘playing’ the Grey Campus ITTO game on my phone. Finally, I made my way to the exam center, went through the sign in formalities and was assigned a cubicle. I had been given a laminated sheet and permanent (!) marker pens to make notes, braindump, calculations, etc.

I finished the quick tutorial and with my heart pounding in my ears clicked the ‘begin exam’ button. Did not even dare to read the first question until I had spent 10 minutes of my precious time doing the KA and formula braindump. Then I read the 1st question, thrice, and started wondering if I should even list English as a language I’m proficient in. The bloody question made no sense. It was so ambiguous! I read the answer choices a few times to try and make more sense of the question. Neither the strikeout nor the highlight features worked in my center. I decided to employ the Mark-Guess-Move technique. Moved on to the 2nd question, again MGM. 3rd question, MGM. By the time I reached the 10th question I’d marked 7 of them for review!! I had also used up 22 minutes of the total exam time (including the 10 minutes for the brain dump).

*** At this point I had the option of either dissolving in a panic attack or calming myself down by summoning my confidence which had receded down to my heels by then. I opted for the latter, closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths while reminding myself that I had prepared well for this exam and had scored well on my prep exams consistently. I knew the material. I could do this.

I got back to answering the exam again, and slowly but steadily I got better. I finished the 200 questions in exactly 200 minutes and had 40 minutes to review the marked questions. Almost all the questions were situational, most of them had at least 2-3 really possible answers. For some of them it was literally a coin toss. I had marked about 70 questions to review. My time ran out with three questions remaining to be reviewed.

I clicked the end exam button and the screen flashed ‘Congratulations’. Wait… did I read it right? I was too spent too react. I took the survey and walked out of the exam room surprised that my trembling legs managed to even support me. I was then given a print out of my result.

Four ATs and one BT (yikes… that was close).
I was happy that I’d passed, but I was disappointed by the BT in Closing. I had consistently scored above 80% (even a 93% and a 100%) in the Closing process group on my simulator exams.

That evening I received my exam report from PMI and it looked like I had scored somewhere between 83-85% on my final exam, so I decided to be ecstatic that I had passed with good scores overall, my BT in Closing notwithstanding.

Lessons learned:

1. Browse forums before you even start filling your application or formulate a study plan. People on these forums have been through the battle, so learn from their victories and wounds.
2. Enlist help from family or friends. You will need their encouragement and support to keep up with the rigor this exam prep requires. ‘Teach’ them areas you find difficult and encourage them to ask questions that put you on the spot. If you know someone who has passed this exam, then nothing like it! You are lucky, enlist their help.
3. Know your capacity and time availability before setting the exam date. My 8-week study plan worked well for me. I was getting saturated by the end of it and just wanted to get it over with.
4. Limit yourself to a couple of good resources. PrepCast and Rita’s book both proved to be fantastic resources for my study methodolgy. PMBOK is not at all reading-friendly but is a must so just follow it along your PrepCast videos to check it off your study list. The glossary and T&T sections at the end are good for reference.
5. Do not spend too much time trying to memorise the ITTOs. I had taken a prinout of the PMBOK KA chart and had made a note of all the important outputs for each process. The unique ones. Once you understand them all the ITTOs will flow organically.
6. Everyone who contributed in making PrepCast such an invaluable study tool for PMP, a big thanks to you all for the amazing work. Cornelius had become my imaginary best friend for those 8 weeks leading up my exam!
7. A shout out to Edward Designer for the detailed study notes. They saved me a lot of time that I would have otherwise spent in making my own notes. I did make changes and add to them as I needed.
8. Engineer4Free, Ricardo Vargas’ process flow lecture and Aileen Ellis’ videos deserve a special mention. Very useful for understanding concepts well.
9. Studying something and preparing for an exam are two different skills. Just because you are an experienced and successful project manager, and know the material it does not necessarily mean you will pass the exam.
10. The exam is an artificial environment. Learn how to deal with it by taking as many full length mock exams you can. They are absolutely must for pacing yourself and for identifying gaps in your knowledge, and for helping you get into the ‘exam-mode’. I would recommend a minimum of 5 full length mock exams, hopefully with you scoring above 80% in each of them.
11. Do not limit your mock exams to one source. You need to be able to understand questions phrased in different ways. While PrepCast Simulator aces in getting close to the real exam conceptually, for me the simulator language was much more easy to understand. As I’ve already mentioned, my final exam questions seemed way too ambiguous and left to exam-taker’s interpretation. Practice that by widening your sources of mock exams.
12. While taking the exam do not lose sight of you confidence. If you have put in an honest effort in studying and preparing for the exam, then do hold on to that belief for those nerve-wracking 4 hours.
13. Do remember to thank everyone who put in the time and effort to help you prepare for the exam irrespective of whether you pass or fail. And do share your experiences with others to come.
14. And if you do have to take the exam again, then do it within a reasonably short time frame. You do not want to start from scratch again after 6 months. A lot of this information is pretty volatile and will dessipate from your memory and understanding if not put to use. And none of us really have to use all aspects of PMBOK consistently.

Sorry again for the very long post. I just hope future test takers find value in my experiences that I have shared here.

Wimbledon semis today. I’ve missed binge watching the matches this time. But here I come!
Last edit: by GEETIKA HIGGINS.

Passed PMP exam, 1st try, Above Target score 1 year 3 months ago #17946

  • Stan Po, MBA, PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM
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Passed PMP exam, 1st try, Above Target score 1 year 3 months ago #17957

  • Geetika Higgins
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Thanks Stan! Happy to join the PMP community. Cheers.
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