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TOPIC: Passed PMP, first attempt, 9/5/19 – Part 4 of 4: Question Types & PMI Shaming

Passed PMP, first attempt, 9/5/19 – Part 4 of 4: Question Types & PMI Shaming 9 months 2 weeks ago #18500

  • Lisa Sweeney PMP
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My Lessons Learned are lengthy, so I posted them as separate topics:

Passed PMP, first attempt, 9/5/19 – Part 1 of 4: Study Aids
Passed PMP, first attempt, 9/5/19 – Part 2 of 4: Driving to the Exam & At the Exam Center, Pearson VUE Experience
Passed PMP, first attempt, 9/5/19 – Part 3 of 4: Exam Interface & Answering Questions, Pearson VUE Experience
Passed PMP, first attempt, 9/5/19 – Part 4 of 4: Exam Question Types & PMI Shaming

Here’s Part 4 of 4: Exam Question Types & PMI Shaming


“Experimental Questions”
  • PLAN for 25 or more question/answer sets that are vague or nonsensical. There’s no reasoning or logical solution in them. They are not scored and you don’t know which ones they are. You WILL encounter these questions that simply should not be on a fair PMP test (more on this in the section below, PMI Shaming).
  • When you see these long, inexplicable questions and/or answer sets and have no idea what to choose,
    1- quietly say a swear to yourself . . . @[email protected]#!% experimental question, then
    2- make your best guess, then
    3- protect your time for the remainder of the questions that are scored.

In General:
  • All questions were written in the second person, using “you” and “your”, such as Your project or You’re managing a project.
  • 0 negatively worded questions. No questions included “least likely”, “not”, or “except”.
  • 0 visuals at all. No charts, no graphs, no diagrams.
  • 0 Agile terms like backlog, sprint, retrospective, scrum, etc. 1 “Agile-like” question which used iteration.
  • 0 quality/resource theorists like McClellan or Juran or Deming. Only 1 answer choice alluded to Maslow’s levels.
  • 2/3’s of my questions gave me a story problem or situation to solve.
  • Many questions asked what would I refer to or what would I use, but didn’t directly mention PMBOK terms, tool, technique, document, input, or output. I only had a couple of questions that directly asked for a tool, technique, or document, etc.
  • Most questions used non-PMBOK terms:
    —risk gathering meeting instead of Identifying Risks
    —issue a change request instead of Perform Integrated Change Control
  • Acronyms: only saw a few questions with the acronym WBS, with no explanation following it, plus 2 questions with contract type acronyms. These were followed by the name, like CPIF, Cost Plus Incentive Fee.
  • 2 questions about which contract to use, CPIF, CPFF, etc.
  • 1 question about activity relationships, like Finish-to-Start.

Process Questions:
  • The Initiating and Closing processes were the easiest to recognize, although questions used words like starting or completing a project.
  • Some questions described implementing or leading the work, so I thought I was in Executing, but by the end of the question, I was in Monitoring/Controlling.
  • Many passed over steps in the processes. If my next step was Perform Integrated Change Control, my answer choices skipped it and offered choices after the request was approved, like updating a plan, etc.

3 Calculations:
  • 1 simple float problem, no Critical Path diagram: if an activity was delayed by XX days, not on critical path, how much would it delay the project due, in XX days?
  • 1 CPI problem: CPI more or less than 1 using the provided EAC and BAC (EAC/BAC=CPI)
  • 1 PERT calculation that gave 3 estimates of earlier, latest, and middle number of days

Several questions:
  • When to use a certain analysis: variance, trend, What-if, qualitative, quantitative, probability distribution, Monte Carlo
  • Stated a problem that occurred and then asked what I would have done differently to avoid it in the future, like writing a plan differently or updating a document, etc.
  • Stated a problem, but didn’t want me to address it, rather what was the best way to illustrate it to my team vs. to a vendor vs. to a sponsor, after the fact.
  • Were short with 1 sentence

Few questions:
  • Audits and inspections
  • Project charter and fixing the business plan
  • Using and OPAs or EEFs (spelled out, no acronyms)
  • Managing vendor or team member conflicts, either they’re not performing or they’re not getting along
  • Reserves and Reserve Analysis
  • Corrective vs. Preventative actions
  • Sign-off charter vs. sign-off project management plan

Answer choices:
  • Interview vs. Questionnaires
  • Lessons Learned vs. Historical Information
  • Verified vs. Accepted Deliverables
  • Power and Interest grid, RACI chart, Scatter Diagram vs. Histogram vs. Sensitivity Chart
  • Many included change request, risk register, and lessons learned


Spoiler Alert! Warning! This is an open letter to PMI, difficult-yet-necessary . . .

a. Experimental Questions? More like lyrics from the Doors
Shame on you PMI, for randomly placing 25 “experimental questions” on the test. I found no reasoning or logical solution in these question/answer sets, only abundant ambiguities. The true goal of including experimental questions is to validate and improve potential new questions . . .
  • Does it accurately reflect the material being studied?
  • Are the conclusions drawn on correct interpretations of the question?
  • Does it produce correct results without wasting time and resources?

I agree with the concept. What I encountered, however, is what I consider to be a misuse of experimental questions. Their construction, basis, language, and high level of ambiguity did not reflect the PMBOK or anything resembling real-life situations.
  • Yes PMI, situational or contextualized questions contain a great deal of irrelevant information, requiring candidates to recognize what is significant to answer the question.
  • Yes PMI, as questions become less structured, you have a greater capacity to decipher the candidate’s thinking.

What I read, however, pushed the limits of irrelevant information and language so far that they were detached from any clear applicability to real-life and I question their construct fidelity. As they were written in my exam, I don’t see the value of them appearing on future exams as scored questions.

So if that’s the case, the question is what’s your real intention of the “experimental questions”?
  • Are they designed to maintain the reputation of the exam as difficult (more challenging than the GMAT), rather than to discern if they should be included in future exams?
  • Are they to encourage deeper learning or to protect your reputation?
It’s time to pull the absurd questions that don’t work. The PMP test is still difficult without those 25+ meaningless ones. Just like lyrics from the Doors, they’re pretentious and make no sense.

b. You Want It To Be Secret: Our Test Scores
Shame on you PMI, for not releasing our actual test scores to us. You have the same kind of rules for transparency as Brad Pitt does in Fight Club. When was the last time you thumbed through the PMI Code of Ethics? Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct
  • You are not demonstrating transparency.
  • You are not developing credibility by providing complete and accurate information.
  • You are not making decisions based on the best interests of your practioners. You are making decisions based on your best interests.
  • Since you expect PMP candidates to master 12 Earned Value formulas, calculate Expected Monetary Value, and understand probability distributions, I think we can grasp the “sound psychometric analysis” of your exam questions.

In the end, people feel 1 of 2 things when they hear the words “PMP Exam”. Either, you’ve had no relationship with it so you don’t care, or it’s punched you in the stomach. There’s no in between. Since your last four CEO’s (including your current leader) haven’t passed the PMP exam themselves, I imagine it’s the former.

Yes PMI, I see you going through a transformational crisis. I see why interest in your cash cow (the Golden PMP) is diminishing domestically. Can you relate to the evolving culture? Your true test is either to convince everyone your current practices and systems are still relevant or accept they aren’t and fix it. If it seems unfair to suddenly have your fate riding on understanding complicated, unclear problems, without the tools you’re used to, in a new, more agile world, you’re right. It’s painful. Just like a gut punch.

End of Part 4 of 4: Exam Question Types & PMI Shaming
The following user(s) said Thank You: Patrick Faherty, Randy Tan, Kakoli Bose
Last edit: by Lisa Sweeney PMP.
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