Let me guess. After some deliberation and researching into possible project management certification options, you decided to take up PMP exam. You invested in top PMP study material, collected a bunch of free resources, came up with a study plan and schedule that suited your busy schedule.
You put together your management experience in a way that PMI expects, submitted your PMP exam application at PMI.org, and shared it with your previous managers in case your application was selected for audit.
You made many sacrifices, with most difficulty cut down on family time, gave up social engagements, managed office commute time better, and prepared for the exam.
You went ahead and scheduled your exam, reworked your study plan, rewrote your milestone plans, and with some doggedness tried to stick to the plan putting your best foot forward.
Now you are 1 week away from the exam.
You getting into the ‘Golden Week’.
And the question you have in mind is how best to utilize this one week to increase your chances of acing the PMP exam.
I remember vividly how this question petrified me when I was preparing for my own PMP exam years ago.
After my own experience and that of over 683 PMP students I have helped personally pass their PMP exam, here’s what I believe is a decently good plan for your golden week.
The only assumption I make here is that you have gone through your selected study resources at least twice by the time you are at your golden week. There is no substitution for study. The following tips will increase your odds of acing the test.
0. Visit Prometric center
This is about managing your risk. Depending on how far the exam center is from your place, you need to know how long it takes to drive/commute to the test center.
My exam center was just 17 km from my home, but depending on the day of week and time of the day it took me anywhere between 1hr to 3 hrs of drive to reach it! After I visited the exam center, I decided that I should start 3 hrs earlier and take public transport instead of driving down myself. I reached the test center about 1hr 20 minutes ahead of my slot.
One of my coaching students was so thankful for this tip because when she went to the test center a week prior she discovered that the exam center had physically moved to another part of the town! Imagine the shock if she was to find this out on the day of the exam.
If your exam center is in another city, of course, you’ll find a hotel close by and check in previous day. Still, you need to get a sense of how to reach the exam center at least 1.5 hrs before your exam slot.
Once at the center, cross check your details with the staff there and try to get a peek into the exam room. Gauge the temperature there, some centers are v.e.r.y. cold and others, manageable. Ask them specifically about the dos and don’ts that you need to be aware of.
And yes, most of the test centers do not allow you to take laptops inside their premises (in case you are planning to make e-notes and refer to it before the exam). I had to sit outside and go over my e-notes. 🙂
1. If possible, take the last week off from work
You probably manage multiple projects (accounts/verticals/teams/BUs/units – as the case may be) and have to deal with some or the other ‘fire’ at work.
You don’t want some issue that cropped up at work take up two days of your time just before the exam and leave you high and dry. If you ARE in the golden week when you read this post, there may not be much you can do. That’s okay. Just go with the flow. Hopefully, Murphy’s law won’t catch up. 🙂
What do you do with one whole week’s free time? That’s up next.
2. Go over your own study notes
When we make notes something happens in our brain. It is forced to understand what we just studied, process the information and form a summary in our own words. This process itself is a great learning experience.
Going over notes in the form of a summary in the last week is a fantastic way to refresh PMP content.
If you’ve used a video course such as PMPrepCast as one of study resources, you can run the videos at 1.5X or higher speed and cover entire content under 2 days!
Also, scan through the PMBOK annexures and glossary of terms.
3. Take as many 4-hr mock tests as you can
There are few advantages of taking 4-hrs mock tests covering 200 questions.
- You’ll get a dry-run of the real exam. See how it feels to sit for 4 hours straight and answer questions in (sometimes) a pressure-cooker situation.
- Helps you optimize 4 hours to spend in most efficient way. Click here and search for ‘proven strategy’ to try the age-old multiple-round-pass technique on one of your mock tests, to get most questions right. See if it makes any difference to your overall score.
- You will be able to identify gaps in your study (or gray areas) that you can focus more on and plug those gap.
The only difference between 4-hr mock test and real PMP exam is that the real exam contains 25 pre-test questions that are not considered towards grading your test.
Tip – Try to take your mock test in the same slot as your real exam. This gets you as close to the physical conditions as possible (post lunch session fighting drowsiness versus early morning session when one is fresh versus evening session when you might be a bit tired). Also, go to the exam wearing layered clothing. Some exam rooms are way too cold and you can adjust your clothing accordingly to feel most comfortable.
One of my coaching students even attempted mock tests by drinking water, having food, not taking break, taking break – every possible combination that she thought was possible on the real exam. 🙂
4. Create your brain-dump
Yes – test centers no longer allow you to utilize your 15 mins of pre-test time to write down brain dump. But this should not stop you from creating your own brain dump. The whole point of benefit is in the process of creating the brain dump itself. Alternately, you can choose to write down the brain dump when you clock starts ticking.
Let us see what is involved in creating your own brain dump (or borrow from mine), for a minute.
Brain-dump is essentially a cheat sheet you create for yourself just BEFORE the exam.
What does this contain?
Anything (formulas, names, lists,..) that you find difficult to recall quickly – something that enables you to quickly answer a question on the exam.
Here are few points you need to keep in mind about brain dump.
a) Brain dump may consist of the following –
- list of names
- mnemonics, doodles, or mindmap(s)
- complete names of gurus
- anything that you find difficult to remember
b) Write formulas even if you know them well. It just saves the time to recall them during the exam and might avoid an occasional confusion
c) You don’t need to have a structure to your brain-dump. The goal is to write down as much of it as possible under 10 minutes or so.
d) Start creating your brain-dump in the last week leading up to your exam. This is when you are pretty much done with the studies and the gray areas are apparent.
Remember that your typical brain-dump is very terse, a lot of it would make sense only to you. You may have to connect dots at few places to make sense out of it, and this is how it may look.
Make this 5-point plan for the last week leading up to the exam and chances are pretty good that you will ace your PMP exam.
Bonus tip –
Stay safe of the Initiating and Closing domain trap.
Focus on these two areas, in spite of they having simpler and fewer processes. There is a threshold in EVERY domain that candidate needs to pass in order to clear the PMP exam. And since percentage questions from these domains are lesser, the number of questions you can afford to get wrong are also minimal.
Here’s a bonus!
Feel free to write to me about how your exam preparation is coming along and if you have any blockers. Also, after you pass your exam, drop me a line at shiv-at-pmexamsmartnotes-dot-com (or from here) and you stand to get featured on this blog along with your PMP prep advice.
PMP students featured here have had their stories shared with over 30K practitioners in the project management field, so you can imagine why this will help you expand your professional network further.
And if your article is featured here, you will get my Profit Blogging Method course – absolutely free of cost! Yes, you can now learn how to blog about any subject of interest (your passion, hobby, or interest) and make it automatically pay, say, your mortgage payment, to start with.
Shiv loves to help start-ups build software products, PMP aspirants ace the exam and shine at work, and help individuals and SMEs get most out of their internet presence (read 'earn massive money' 🙂 ).
Shiv lives on the picturesque suburban Bangalore with his wife and two lovely kids and in his spare time he plays flute and paints.
Reach him at these social networks and say Hi, he'd love to connect with you.