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TOPIC: Passed on first try, Overview of my preparation and application process

Passed on first try, Overview of my preparation and application process 11 months 5 days ago #18754

  • Katerina Slezinger
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I started preparation for PMP exam a few months ago and finally was thrilled to see “Congratulations” on the screen after submitting my exam. It was quite a journey and I hope my story will help
others with their preparation and contribute to more happy faces!

Once I decided to go for PMP Certification, I started my preparation at a slow pace. First, I researched the application requirements and lessons learned of other people who already went through
application process and took the exam. There are many resources online, including videos on tips and tricks for filling out the application and approaching the preparation and exam that I found
very helpful. This research gave me a good head start and better understanding of where I was standing in terms of readiness/ eligibility, and what I needed to focus on. One very important tip that I’ve
learned was to start filling out the application only after you get familiar with materials and terminology outlined in the PMBOK, as it is the key to use the PMI principles and terminology when filling
out the application and writing up project descriptions.
So, next I decided to do just that – read the PMBOK. After the first run of reading and attempting a few short practice tests (which I failed miserably) I realized that I cannot solely rely on PMBOK and
need additional study materials.
What helped me the most:
1. Reading Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep book once, taking tests after each chapter, performing lessons learned after each test to understand why I answered certain questions incorrectly.
Revisiting sections of Rita’s book and PMBOK which I have difficulties with, and also reading additional materials/ articles on certain weak subjects available online.
2. Watching/ listening to pmp preparation videos – there are numerous resources available online. I found the most well-structured and informative to be by IZenBridge, Praizion, Eduhubspot,
Ricardo Vargas.
3. Going through many exam questions available online. This exercise was very helpful for me to understand the types of questions asked and target my studying accordingly.
4. Practicing exam questions. This was the KEY for me. The more questions I went through, the more knowledge, confidence, and right answers on the following test I was getting. And I was getting
faster in addressing individual questions, too. I also performed assessment of my test results and studied areas where I was lacking the expertise. Lots of practice made it perfect!
- I started with free simulators available online to get myself up to speed. Oliver Lehmann is a good resource, and the hardest test. If you score 60-70 on this one – you are
doing fine. The following links contain many sources:

- I also downloaded the PMP Exam Mentor app on my phone that I used to study during my train commute. The app presents information by both process groups and knowledge areas, and has
many useful features such as flash cards, glossary tips, formulas, and simulator.
- Finally, slightly over a month before the exam I purchased PM PrepCast simulator and was focusing on the complete 4 hour exams (one full exam per week, and some shorter quizzes here and there)
and performing lessons learned and revisiting weak areas after each one of them. During the simulation exams I was marking questions that were confusing or I was not sure about for future review
and after completion of the exam I always reviewed questions that I got incorrectly and the ones that I marked. This was a great resource and great practice that got me to the point of scoring 80-90%
on simulation exams.
My lessons learned:
1. Use as many different study sources as possible, as they will give you a diverse perspectives, approaches and highlight different tips and tricks for consideration.
2. Start with free available resources first, but then invest in a good exam simulator and practice as much as you can.
I found PrepCast simulator to be great and very similar to the actual exam environment, questions were structured in similar format, so I was well prepared and did not have any surprises.
3. Set a study schedule and try to stick to it. Consistent studying and commitment makes a huge difference.

Application Process
Somewhere midway through my preparation I felt that I was in a good shape and it was time to fill out and submit the application. I already had all necessary requirements fulfilled, I just needed to
structure my project information in the format needed for the application. As many other mention, PMP application process is a project by itself and does take significant amount of time, so take this
in consideration and approach this task seriously (remember, you might get audited).
As I mentioned above, first I got familiar with tips and tricks of filling out the application (many resources available online).
To determine total project hours and hours by each process I used an Excel spreadsheet to help me organize and calculate the hours easily.
I also wrote up project descriptions in Word beforehand, so when I was filling out the application I had all this information handy. I made sure I broke down my descriptions by process groups, used
PMI terminology and was within 550 character limit. Here is an example of what I had:
Obj-rewrite K1 Checklist application on .Net platform (PM) IN-Identified and analyzed needs of stakeholders across multiple functional departments, evaluated high level project details: objectives,
success criteria, milestones, risks. PL-Using rolling wave planning develop PM plan, baselines, documents. Facilitate requirements gathering with stakeholders, document requirements, define scope,
decompose it into WBS. Determine resource requirements and stakeholder engagement plan, identify communication methods/ technology, perform SWOT analysis.

After having all the information required for the application ready, I sent it over to my manager, whom I identified as a reference to ensure I did not miss anything regarding the projects and we are on
the same page. This is a must do step. I also ensured that I have supporting documentation for all deliverables that I listed in each project description.
Once everything was in place and in order, the application process was a breeze. I scheduled an exam two months after my application got approved (luckily no audit) to give myself some additional
time for focused preparation and final simulation testing.

Prior to the exam I visited the center to make sure I can find it easily (for me it was a walking distance from work, so I did not have to account for traffic/ commute). The building security did not let me
come up to the floor where the Pearson center located, as it was not my exam date, so I was not able to get familiar with the center beforehand. Still a very useful step, in my view, as I knew exactly
where to go and how much time it will take.
A week before the exam I revisited my notes that I made during my studies, and read exam tips from Rita’s book. Two days before the exam I did my last simulation test and reviewed questions that I
got incorrectly and the ones I marked for further review. The day before the exam I only practiced the formula dump early in the morning, and NOTHING else. I just relaxed and did not do any studying/
revisions. This helped a lot to re-boot and appear fresh on the exam day.
I made sure I had 9 hours of sleep before the exam. My exam was scheduled at 12pm, so I had a light breakfast, then light early lunch and was fine without any food/ snacks during the exam. I was also
slowly sipping water throughput the morning to ensure I stayed well hydrated, but not overfilled with liquids.
I arrived at the exam center 30 minutes earlier and it was enough time for proper check-in, instructions, etc. The employees at the center were very helpful and accommodating, they answered all my
questions and addressed all the concerns. I was provided with the locker where I stored all my belongings, but I was allowed to keep snacks (or medicine if needed) outside the locker for faster access.
The center had a water fountain, but it was outside the actual exam room so check in/ check out was still required to access it. The bathroom was outside the center, but on the same floor and I needed
to use a pin to access it (luckily it was placed on the locker key that I needed to carry around with me anyways, very thoughtful of Pearson to make it handy).
Once I checked into the examination room, I was provided the laminated note sheet and a marker, was seated at my computer, and properly logged in. Each workstation had noise canceling
headphones, which I happily used throughout the whole exam and was not bothered by other test takers or outside noises at all. I first completed the demo portion (10 minutes), and then initiated the
exam. Once exam timer started ticking I did my formula dump, which later I found not really necessary as I did not have many questions that required complex formulas, and I was able to answer them
without referring to my brain dump.
I found that the format/ length of the exam questions was very similar to the PrepCast simulator questions, so for me it was very helpful and eliminated much of the confusion and the element of
surprise. Many of the questions were straightforward, some were hard/ confusing that required extra thinking and decision making (thus, time consuming), and there were a few that I did not know the
answer and had to guess. As I was going through the exam questions I was answering all questions right away (not leaving them blank), and marking questions that I was not sure of for further review.
I went through 170 questions without a break and had slightly less than one hour remaining. I took a quick five minute break (had to check out and check back in), then finished the remaining 30
questions. I had about 15 minutes left to go over questions that I marked for further review, but did not have time to go over all of them, so submitted my exam as it was. I’ve heard/ read the
recommendation from many different sources to not change your original answer during the review, as your initial answer is most likely the correct one. I found it to be true, as I only changed two
answers, but I was sure that I answered them incorrectly earlier (other questions on the exam gave me the hints to the right answers).
Overall, the exam is definitely overwhelming and far from easy, but with enough preparation and a few simulation practice runs it is definitely manageable and achievable. So, Good Luck to all of you!
Stay positive and you’ll do just fine!
The following user(s) said Thank You: Christopher Mullan, Sonam Arya, Dee Lindo, Kevin Puneeth
Last edit: by Katerina Slezinger.
Moderators: Yolanda MabutasMary Kathrine PaduaJohn Paul BugarinKyle Kilbride, PMP

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