I failed PMP, Now What? My mindset strategies and more to pass the PMP the 2nd time!
In this article Megan Gamble reflects on her first time PMP exam experience to analyze what went wrong, and then lays out the strategy she used to come up trumps the second time around. If you missed the PMP goal first time, this article may just help you recognize the areas to gun for, and strategies you can use to ace your PMP exam in the next attempt.
Think back on the day of the exam.
Once you completed the challenging 200 questions, took the survey to then press submit (after saying a prayer), only to get the disappointing news of “Unfortunately, we regret to inform you that you did not pass the Project Management Professional exam”.
After much studying and rigorous training, you do not understand how you did not pass the exam and you may be wondering if all hope is lost.
I can completely relate because I was one of the people that did not pass the PMP on my first attempt.
After I received the devastating results (3MPS and 2 BPs) I wanted to throw in the towel and say ‘forget it, maybe PMP is not the right thing for me’.
However, I realized that as Project Managers and evolving experts in our respective fields, we have to learn and accept to take the good with the bad and know when to change our approach to go back and tackle the task or project again.
After revising my strategy and my mindset, I sat for the exam the second time I passed (4Ps and 1 MPs) with some simple, yet effective modifications.
To give you some insight, here was my study strategy when I sat for the exam the FIRST TIME –
- I read the PMBOK 5th edition,
- Skimmed through Rita 8th Edition book,
- Bounced back and forth between multiple resources (multiple meaning anything that says PMP),
- Took any and EVERY mock practice exam that said “PMP”
- Studied 2 hours a day 4 days a week and took a practice test once every two weeks (I did not allot proper time to review ALL test/quizzes, etc)
- I always studied late at night (9pm EST) after work
After I completed the exam, I realized my errors, the process groups that I needed to revisit and REALLY focus on to understand the concepts to know how they correlate to the other process groups.
With some modifications in my approach, I passed the PMP exam on my 2nd attempt.
Now, I want to share some helpful tips on preparing to sit for the exam, again, and help you succeed in your PMP pursuits. Please note that theses are the steps that worked for me, and I urge you to validate whether they work for your unique circumstances.
Mindset: Breaking the horrendous barrier of NOT passing
This was the biggest thing for me. After working on my self at length I was able to bring about a turnaround in my thinking.
Despite your results not stating, “Congratulations, you have successfully passed the PMP…” still commend yourself because the PMP is NOT an easy exam. Do not focus on the cost of the exam, etc. There are MANY people that did not make past the application process, never paid the exam fee, or other reasons. Commend yourself!
Take a Break!
Yes, you read me correctly. Take a break after receiving the news to decompress and get yourself back in the mindset to prepare for the exam again. Allot a certain amount of time to break. I took a full month off from study because I wanted to tackle studying with a renewed mindset.
Keep in mind that too long a break may dampen your resolution so keep a reasonable duration.
Set a Date!
Ready to tackle the PMP again? This requires you to be mentally prepared to get back in gear to revise your strategy and keep pressing.
Do not delay taking the PMP!
You definitely want to tackle the exam while the information is still fresh.
I recommend setting the date a month or two after taking the exam the first time. Setting the date holds you accountable to tackle again and start preparing for your study regimen. Set date before you start preparing for your study regimen, work out a plan from the exam date backwards (like backward pass of network diagram 😉 ) and get started.
Ready. Set. Prepare!
Take what you (thought) you knew from work and Focus on the PMBOK concepts:
This is easier said than done, however, do not apply your work experience and incorporate those practices into the exam. Yes, your experience helped you get through the application process to qualify to sit for the exam. However, please keep your studies to the PMBOK and Quality resources (see #3 under “Game On”).
R.Y.R (Review your Results):
review the results from the first time you sat for the PMP exam and review the score category ranking for each process group. This will help you to determine your strongest and weakest areas in regards of the process groups.
Know the numbers:
What I mean by know your number is based upon the percentage of questions for each process group that will be on the PMP exam. Each process group has a certain percentage of questions that will be on the exam.
Here is the percentage of each process group that will be on the exam:
- Initiating : 13%
- Planning : 24%
- Executing : 32%
- Monitor & Controlling : 22%
- Closing : 9%
This means 100 out of 200 questions (before 25 pre-test questions) are from Planning and Executing process groups. You should know and apply the concepts from ALL process groups. But make sure you are strong in the two heavily weighted groups.
Shiv: I’ve noticed that people tend to ignore Initiating and Closing domains as they are simpler processes and the % questions coming from these are less. But this thinking is a trap. These have lesser threashold of passing so if you end up missing you may miss the boat.
Truly understand the scoring system:
with the revised scoring information, the PMP is scored using sound psychometric analysis which is determined based upon the content of the questions. There is no pass /fail based on percentage. With the new scoring system, make sure you understand how the psychometric analysis works. Please visit www.pmi.org for more information.
Game Plan ON!
Here are few points that worked for me.
1. Create an effective study schedule
This sounds easy but there is a wealth of information on the PMP exam, and you need to break it down into smaller components to help you retain and apply the information. Scale your schedule to not only include your allotted study time, but also family time, personal time, work, after work events, etc.
This will help you create a realistic schedule because you are properly allotting the necessary time.
Here are some suggestions:
a. Before diving deep, for three days, block off up to 4 hours at three different times of the day (morning, afternoon and night) to take quizzes and review content.
After three days, review over the practice questions and scores to see how you performed at the three different time blocks. This will help you identify the best time to study, assess how you retain the information and help with planning the remainder of the your day and week. I did this and realized early morning studying was the best option for me before going to work. That meant, going to bed early and waking up early.
Do what works best for your schedule.
b. Commit to 3 hours a day to study for at least four days a week.
2 hours for studying and retention, 30 minutes for practice quizzes/questions, and 30 minutes to review over questions and concepts of questions answered incorrectly.
c. Take a full length practice exam once a week with high quality content questions. I personally recommend investing in a PMP Online Exam Simulator.
The week of the exam, I recommend taking full length practice exams as many times as you can. Get in the habit of completing a certain number of questions or a certain amount of remaining time to then get up and take a restroom break. I either completed 120 questions or 2 hours to get up, stretch my legs, use the restroom and give my eyes a break.
2. Get in the habit of Brain Dumping
I learned this from Cornelius Fichtner’s “PM PrepCast” to write out concepts and more. However, kick it up a notch. During your practice runs, start your study schedule time block with a TIMED brain dump and complete in 10 minutes or less. This will get you in exam mode the day you sit for the exam.
The suggested amount of time to complete a brain dump is 15 minutes, I recommend you to aim for 10 minutes because on the day of the exam you will be nervous, anxious, etc. which may take you 12 minutes to write out.
3. Less is More!
Not in reference to less information, but more so LESS materials.
The first time I took the exam, I looked at anything and everything that had the words ‘PMP’. After taking the exam the first time, I realized that ALL PMP information is NOT the same and NOT of the same caliber in regards of content and quality of questions. Focus on select few resources to aid in your preparation that provided quality content to help you be fully prepared for the PMP exam. Please review the resources I utilized for my second time (not in any particular order).
- PMBOKv5 (the digital print is complimentary is you are a PMI Member)
- Rita Mulcahy 8th edition
- Oliver Lehmann Test and Quizzes
- The PM PrepCast & Online Exam Simulator by Cornelius Fichtner
- PM Exam SmartNotes
4. Pay Special attention to Rita’s Process Chart on page 69!
This is a MAJOR KEY! I learned this process chart forward and backwards and recommend that you do as well. And, this information on the process charts will help you create your personal brain dump.
PMP exam may be complex but the preparation need not be. With a good plan and some dogged determination you’ll be able to pass the PMP exam.
Here are the important points in a nutshell.
- Do not focus on the your results from the first time. Focus on PASSING on your 2nd attempt because you have a BETTER understanding on the concepts
- I recommend taking the day before the exam to unwind and not focus on studying any further. you prepared properly, then there is nothing else you need to learn/understand.
- Get plenty of rest before your exam.
- Eat a well balanced breakfast the day of the exam.
- Arrive at the testing facility early.
- Remain confident.
- Read through the questions thoroughly.
- Know and tell yourself you will kick PMP butt and PASS!
- If you have further questions, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn (Megan Gamble) and on Instagram @getlevelconsulting
Don’t let a failed PMP incident stop you from reaching your goal. Take a break, plan it again, commit yourself, and you’ll get your PMP certificate sooner than you think it is possible.
To your PMP success!
Megan Gamble, PMP
Also Read: My PMP Test Prep Tips: Grace Manjengwa, PMP
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.