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TOPIC: Passed PMP Exam 1st try! Used only the PM PrepCast + PMBOK - My lessons learned

Passed PMP Exam 1st try! Used only the PM PrepCast + PMBOK - My lessons learned 1 year 4 months ago #18782

  • Gary Gould
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Just passed the PMP exam this past weekend 10/19/19 with only the following materials and just a little over a month of preparation along with working full time + wife & kid, here is how I did it to hopefully help others.

Materials used:
- PMBOK Guide (printed and digital copy).
- PM PrepCast (videos and simulator).
- Exam simulator in learning mode only using unanswered questions.
- Scored 2 at Target and 3 Above Target.

Started my journey on 9/5/19 after researching many other PMP exam prep guides / courses, decided this one just "felt" right after doing some research and reading previous user reviews both on 3rd party sites and Google.

Started by watching all the videos and reading / following along in the PMBOK Guide. For how dry the material really is in the book, I feel Cornelius really spiced things up and made the material much more manageable. I felt I was actually retaining and learning the material and not just re hashing the text over and over. I would highly suggest not skipping a single lesson even if you feel its redundant or you feel you already have an understanding. I grabbed many pieces of information even during the overview videos or videos where I felt I knew the material inside and out. The way Cornelius talks about the material made me really understand the material and make sense of it and not just memorize it. He definitely adds more to the material and really drives it into your brain.

There are a lot of videos, some 40-50 hours of video I believe and I just made time every day to watch as many as I could. Some days I could only watch 2-4 videos, others more. Just keep pushing yourself to maintain the videos daily and get through the material first before attempting any simulator questions. This was key for me. Just get through the material first before moving onto the simulator. Sure, do the practice questions at the end of each module that are supplied with the videos, they help with the material you just learned but don't spend any time doing the exam simulator at this point.

Once I was through all the material and videos (a little over 2 weeks) I took the 35 contact hours test to get that part completed. Very easy and kind of a "gimme" test for sure, no time limit, very straight forward questions, no problem overall.

Then I submitted my application to PMI and scheduled my test for a weekend that worked for me. I scheduled on a weekend to avoid stresses of work and make it so I could wake up late and get my mind right and make my way to the testing center without stress.

After scheduling my test I began the simulator and honestly never did a massive 2 or 4 hours straight marathon, never did any timed tests, just focused on the learning portion of the simulator in the following ways:
- always set it to "Learning", not timed, 10-20 questions at a time and always selected "Use unanswered questions only". This ensured I was always learning and not just knowing the answer because I have seen the question before (unless I got the question wrong, more on that later).

- always read the question, decided on the answer and then after selecting my answer clicked show answer and not only reviewed why I got a question right or wrong but also why the other answers were right or wrong. This was the most beneficial action for me, it really started hammering home why things were right or wrong and just because an answer was wrong on this question for example I was able to retain that information where the answer could be right on another question later. When your reviewing this way its like learning about 4 different scenarios in one question. As I would read the answers I would alter the question in my mind and ask myself, if only this was changed, or this was worded differently how could these other answers be right? In what scenario would this incorrect choice be correct? What would need to happen differently to make this choice correct? See where I am going with this? It turns one question into 4 just by slowing down and really thinking about it. When you take a question and then start altering it in your mind to make the other choices correct your not just memorizing the material but actually applying it.

Person A is using estimating on their project based on a past similar project... blah blah blah? What estimating tool or technique are they using? Even though you know the right answer, modify the question in your head each time to make the other answers right and what would need to be different to make them right.

- After I did about 3-4 (maybe 80-100 questions in total) sessions like this I would then go back into the simulator and select "Only questions I answered incorrectly" to ensure I was retaining the information. Don't skip this step or move to it too fast, give yourself a couple days before you go back and re answer questions. This helped me ensure I was retaining the information. Still I was getting the same questions wrong here and there but each time I was still learning more and more about why and how to think differently when approaching the questions. Eventually you will have 0 questions answered incorrectly.

- Having the PDF version of the PMBOK Guide was also beneficial for me, sometimes when none of the answers seemed right to me I did a quick search through the PDF to see if I could research the right answer and drive home the information and answer the question. This was easier digitally than using the printed guide. Then after answering do the same process above again, why are these other answers wrong and what would need to be different about the question to make them right?

I did this process every day as much as I could, at home, at lunch, during travels, having the exam simulator always available and up on my phone to get one question here, one question there just throughout my day and at night during my studies.

Then it just started clicking, I would read the question and not just jump straight to the right answer, but try and answer the question without reading the answers, then read each answer and explain to myself why it was right or wrong and then ultimately make my choice. I started getting to the point where I could read a question, answer it in my head, then look and see if the answer was a choice, if it wasn't, then use process of elimination to figure out the best answer.

The day of the test came and I was very nervous, they make it very, very stressful, at least at the testing center I was at.
- no food, no drink
- sleeves had to be rolled up
- one camera above my station and a web cam staring right at me the whole time
- dry erase marker and laminated sheet
- that damn little clock in the upper right always letting you know your running out of time :)

It was very stressful for sure and there is nothing really that can prepare you for this part unless your doing this on a regular basis, you just have to remain calm and use the "training of the machine and test" time as there telling you how to use the computer to simply calm down. It doesn't go against your time and you can take a moment to take in the environment and acclimate yourself. Don't rush through this, just slow down and get use to the silence and stressors in the room. I actually had 10-15 minutes to learn how to use the machine :) (this is how you use the mouse, this is how you select an answer, and so on).

While taking the test I just used the same theory as taking the learning quizzes. I read the question and then answered by explaining to myself why the answer was the answer and why the others were not the answer and what would have to be different about the question to make them right.

Was this the best way to take the exam? Yes and no.... here is why.

Answering this way takes more time for sure, it did cause me more stress towards the end of the test because there were times towards the end that I had more questions than minutes left. So for sure in the beginning I should have answered faster and not spent so much time on each question. If I had to take the test again, I would still do it the way I did it, but maybe not spend so much time justifying my answers or justifying why the other answers were wrong.

Another major issue with this form of answering is I had no time for review of any questions at the end, no kidding, none. I didn't have time to review one question over again and that stressed me out pretty bad towards the end. But looking back, I did review the questions and probably didn't need to mark any of them for review because I was justifying my answers on each question each time, never rushing, so going back wouldn't of really helped me at all because I already reviewed them as I answered them the first time, a second look wouldn't of really helped me I feel if you do each question as I describe above.

I needed the entire time, finished the exam with seconds left on the clock and answering the last 10 questions was a little chaotic for sure.

Regarding the questions, they were very similar in format to the simulator. I wouldn't say the exam was harder or easier than the simulator, just different. Like the simulator there are many "gimmie" questions on the exam and then there are pretty difficult to answer questions as well. I found myself having to read the questions a few times on some of them to even fully understand what they were wanting as an answer. So overall the simulator is very good and very close to what you will get I feel on the exam. Some questions took mere seconds to answer because they were so easy, others minutes.

Regarding formulas, as others have wrote, don't spend to much time trying to memorize them, there are only a handful of questions regarding actual real numbers needing to be calculated and in most cases they gave you the calculations and instead want you to explain what the answers mean but they also throw you some curve balls like SPI and CPI are both on schedule and under budget but why is your project in trouble in this scenario. They made me scratch my head a little on what I was even trying to answer, and these could also be the experimental questions with no real right or wrong answer possibly? Some questions just honestly seemed like none of the answers fit or they all fit. They were just strangely worded and felt out of place in the exam to me.

Regarding calculations, again, just understand what the answers mean and which ones to apply. If you have a CPI under 1, what does this mean? Things like this are more key than memorizing I feel all the formulas. This was just my experience on my exam and could be much different for others.

All in all, respect the exam for sure, I never once felt this process would be easy or straight forward. It's hard for a reason and the reward you feel for passing it is hard to describe. I was actually pretty emotional at the end because of the length of the exam and exhaustion. It was just such a rewarding experience to finally see that congratulations message at the end.

Just keep working hard, put in the time the best way you can and respect the exam and process and don't take any shortcuts and you will ultimately succeed. I wish you all the best of luck and "until next time!".
The following user(s) said Thank You: Asghar Khan
Last edit: by Gary Gould.

Passed PMP Exam 1st try! Used only the PM PrepCast + PMBOK - My lessons learned 1 year 4 months ago #18783

  • Gary Gould
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Also, funny story... after my exam I was so exhausted that I went home and played Destiny 2 for a bit on my xbox... and I kid you not, got the exotic auto rifle "Monte Carlo" as a drop... I couldn't stop laughing. I was like, totally figures this weapon would drop today for me! See PMP is everywhere!
The following user(s) said Thank You: Alex Reyes
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