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How do I prepare study notes?


simplicityAs you know project management is a vast topic. My goal in putting together these notes has been that I study only those topics that are required as per PMBOK® guide. AND, study them from a practical view point to know enough to put in practice at work, apart from being able to pass the exam comfortably.

I strongly believe in the following equation –

Knowledge + Fun + Practice = Sure Success

While knowledge of the subject is the core part of the whole learning process, gaining it in a fun-oriented manner makes for a great experience. Having gained the knowledge, you must practice the questions in a way that tests your understanding of the subject. This prepares you to face any kind of questions on the exam (twisted ones, red herrings) and answer them pretty easily.

“Simplification is the ultimate sophistication”

– Leonardo Da Vinci

My focus has been to prepare these notes in such a way that every hour spent going through these will give you the most value at least cost. In other words, you will be making optimal use of your study time. Which means you will be able to prepare yourself for the PMP® exam in the least possible time.

Yes, there is quite a bit to learn for PMP® or CAPM® certification exams, and the extent of knowledge you may already have depends to a large extent on your on-the-job experience as a Project Manager, and the kind of policies and practices your company has had around managing a project.

How?

When I took up PMP® study, I found certain Knowledge Areas extremely easy to learn since my work environment had greater focus on them (Communication Management, Scope Management, Human Resource Management, Quality Management etc, for instance), while some of the areas a bit unfamiliar (Procurement Management, Cost Management). And I found that I had not used ALL of the tools and techniques in any of the Knowledge Areas. Your assessment might be something similar. And that is okay. That is the reason you are attempting this formal project management study in the first place. Right? If you are early in your project management career, you may find some of the concepts new. You may even question some of the theories outlined in PMBOK®. But not to worry, you will find them all easier to understand, and given a logical thought they will make a lot of sense.

I subscribe to the belief that one must not learn a subject just for the sake of passing the exam. Any subject, learnt with heart changes us in a positive way. The knowledge helps us build our skillset. Which is very essential in today’s competitive work place. Or even if you run your own business. The exercise of preparing for PMP® or CAPM® certification is not different. My aim is to make you understand the concepts clearly and with ease, so you can apply them at your work, apart from getting the PMP® credentials.

Please note that these study notes are not to replace PMI®’s PMBOK® (Project Management Body of Knowledge) guide. Instead these are in additive to the study of PMBOK® guide, and help you to understand the concepts easily. I intend to cover ALL of the concepts from PMBOK®. And, align the notes similar to PMBOK® so you find it easier to map the two.

How do I make study notes?

I have used the study techniques I have discovered (still discovering), learnt and practiced throughout since my student days – techniques that have helped me sail through school, Engineering study, and Management study. These are what I use even to learn and remember what I require to on the job. Backing these study techniques with nine years of project management experience (where we built some of the well known software products in the market today) has helped me create these study notes, which are very easy to remember. Whole focus of these notes has been to make PMP® material ‘stick’ to brains.

  • Mnemonics. This is a very simple yet very powerful learning technique to remember a finite number of sub-topics of a main topic. Basis of this technique is to create a ‘trigger’ that the mind can remember easily, and associating the subject matter into this trigger. This trigger can be a picture, acronym, phrase, etc. Chances are that you would have used this technique already. Ever looked at your knuckles to figure out how many days are in a particular month? Or, used “VIBGYOR” to remember colors in a rainbow? Or Fleming’s Left and Right hand rules in Electromagnetism study? – these are all mnemonics. This is the basic technique I have been using for my study notes since high-school days to remember those lists and sequences.
  • Analogy. Mind remembers well those things that it can extrapolate from simple scenarios. Analogy is a great technique at it.
  • Pictures. Generally our mind remembers pictures better than words. What better than creating a picture that talks thousand words – related to the subject you study!
  • Mind maps are a great tool to get a concise overall view of a complex subject. Mind mapping is also a fantastic Brainstorming technique.
  • Simpler sentences. A complex sentence taxes the brain. How? It has to spend time and effort to make ‘sense’ of it. And then understand it. If a sentence is harder to understand, it will be harder to remember. So, KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) is the mantra.
  • Stories. Most of us loved stories as kids, and learnt a lesson or two about how to deal with our world through them. Stories are a great way to learn a concept. I use stories most effectively with my two kids.
  • Repetition. If you repeat something often, it ‘sticks’ in the mind. Redundancy is intentional. Do not skip it, simply go over and help your brain ‘get’ it. Again.
  • Selective Highlighting. Each concept defined has certain ‘power words’ that outline the gist of the concept. I highlight these for a specific reason. When you have gone through the notes and understood the concept, you can come back anytime and scan the page going through these highlighted words and refresh the concept. This makes it easier to revise!

Well, these are some of the tools & techniques (using PMP® parlance 🙂 ) that I have used time and again to learn anything. And I am super confident that you are already familiar or well-versed with some of these.

Any additional details I have provided about some of the tools and techniques is only from the perspective of understanding them better, rather than keeping them cryptic. So I hope you will find them useful.

Thank you for taking time to read this, and good luck for the certification exam. If there is anything I can do, please feel free to write to me using Contact page.

Cheers!
-Shiv

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