This blog is completely non-technical, unlike my other blogs. Its a long post, so please bear with me, as I wanted to share my experiences & the methodology so that it could benefit others who are planning to take up this challenge. And when I say challenge, it really means “CHALLENGE” – in bold. When you have a full day work shift, daily routine, a two-year old constantly seeking your attention, it takes up huge determination and focus to study and clear this Exam.
First of all, congratulations on taking the step to becoming a certified Project Management Professional.
I will divide this blog into four phases:
- Before the Exam
- On the Exam Day
- During the Exam
There are many institutions offering study materials for a fee for the PMP certification. All the study materials have their base in the PMBOK Guide. It is only the intuitiveness that makes each of the material stand apart.
All I had to do was to choose the material that would help me understand the subject much better, apply my thoughts. I chose Rita’s PMP® Exam Prep, 8th Edition from RMC Publications (Rita Mulcahy). It is one guide that explains the nuances of Project Management-isms in detail and in a practical way. It was easier to understand the most difficult of topics.
My preparations took approximately a year on and off. But my preparation came 3 months before I took my exam.
My study hours were 4-5 hours during a working day and almost the same number of hours during the weekend. I have read people spent a couple of hours a day and still, they have passed. I had to grind :).
The practice tests after the end of each chapter, helped me know where my gaps were. Reading each chapter 2-3 times cleared my doubts and established the basics for each process. Yes, you need to know the basics right for each process and Knowledge Area. It will help you get more situational answers right during the exam.
After thoroughly reading through the study material, I focused on to give rapid tests by subscribing to Rita’s PM FASTrack® Cloud for the PMP® Exam. It gave an abundant question bank to simulate the type of questions that I would expect on the real exam.
It gave me choice to test myself extensively on Process or Knowledge Areas or give a timed Simulation test (4 hours for 200 Questions).
Memorize the PMP Process Chart
A very important tool for you to memorize. It would provide answers for most of the questions in the Exam.
I call it the 6×11 Chart, because it has 6 Columns (Blank Cell + 5 Process Groups & 10 Knowledge Areas). If you are studying for PMP, you should be knowing that there would be 47 processes that fit into these 50 cells. I used to practice filling up the chart every other day. Ideally, as per my estimate, it should not take more than 5 minutes, to fill up the chart.
You can download my process chart here: PMP Process Chart
Before the Exam
This is the most critical part of your preparation – the mindset. If you are in a right frame of mind, you will have a good cognitive ability to ease through the Exam.
I read the PMBOK® Guide 3-4 days before the exam to clear the concepts. I further understood (and not memorized) the Input, Tools and Technique & Output (ITTO). Reading the ITTO in the PMBOK® Guide was very useful I must say. It is explained in a very lucid language.
Remember to pay attention to Closing. It may sound a simple Process, but it isn’t.
The night before the exam:
- Filled in the process chart
- Skimmed through the Formulas
- Read the Professional & Social Responsibility chapter in PMP® Exam Prep
- Read the Interpersonal Skills in PMBOK® Guide
On the Exam Day
I reached the Exam Center 30 mins before my scheduled exam time. I was asked to be seated and given a Prometeric Center’s terms & conditions on the examinees conduct to read.
After a while, I was called in and was asked to present my valid ID Card (you will have to carry your Valid ID Card or your Valid Passport). I was then provided a locker where the exam attendant requested me to put in my belongings like Watch, Wallet and other electronic devices and my beloved bottle of Water. I requested them, if could place it outside of the locker in their vigilance.
I was provided a key with a red tag, which eventually meant that I would not be allowed to open my locker during my exam hours.
I was then frisked by the exam attendants with a metal detector.
After the frisking was done, I was briefed on the exam hours & rules, and I was given a scratch booklet (which included few sheets of paper), pencils and an eraser and was being guided into the Exam room.
During the Exam
You will be greeted with a 15 min tutorial on how to use the Exam Tool. I skimmed through the tutorial and straight away started the Exam.
Be confident & smile 😀 you look stupid, but it actually works well. Your mind is in a positive state and will eventually respond cognitively.
After answering around 25 questions, I happened to see the timer, it was already 45 mins. That did not look good. The calculations meant that I wouldn’t be having enough time to recap my questions again. Did I spend a lot of time thinking about the answers or was it only nerves that is not allowing me to think.
I proceeded marking the questions, for review, after I selected the closest of the answers, which I thought of.
I then completed around 50 questions in around 1 hour and 15 mins. You should be good if you complete around 100 questions in about 1 hour 45 mins time. That leaves atleast 10 mins for your review in your current pace.
Take breaks. Drink water. It really helped me to calm my nerves. I took 3 breaks on the 50th – 100th and the 150th question.
After I answered the 200th question, I was about 10 mins away from my completion time, with 20 marked questions. Out of which most I had spent my time on. I then quickly browsed through them and completed by Exam with 6 mins to spare. :).
After you finish the Exam, you will be asked for answering the Survey regarding the Exam. This survey is optional. I skipped it. And went straight to the get the result. I waited for 5 seconds. I should tell you those 5 seconds were the longest I had spent.
Congratulations – was the message I saw on the screen and my dream of becoming a PMP was accomplished.
I collected a paper which had my results on it based on the Processes:
- Initiation – On Target
- Planning – On Target
- Executing – On Target
- Monitoring & Control – On Target
- Closing – Below Target (It was tough. Better read this process for your Exam)
I’ll have to wait for 6 weeks to get my official certificate from PMI.
Good Luck on your Preparations & your Exam.
Please feel free to comment.