Shiv, I wish to share my PMP exam lessons learned for the benefit of PMP exam takers. You might be surprised to learn that PMP practice exams contributed to about 40% of my PMP knowledge. I have also shared few other ‘small adjustments’ that I discovered along the way, which have helped a great deal in my preparation for the exam.
First, here are my..
PMP exam preparation resources
- Rita Mulchay’s PMP Exam Prep
- Crack the new PMP Exam in 4 weeks
- The foundation guide for PMP and CAPM Certification Exam series by PMESN (via this free email course)
- Simililearn tutorials
These were my primary study resources, but I did not go studying them in the same order as above.
I would suggest not starting with PMBOK first – you may easily get overwhelmed. I chose to study PMBOM AFTER I read through other books – which made it easy for me to negotiate PMBOK. Plus, I found that this approach helped me learn most out of every PMP® concept. More on this in a bit.
My prep plan using PMP practice exams
I realized early that taking mock tests is of utmost importance for finding success in PMP exam. With this in mind I made few changes to my study approach.
First, I did not miss any ‘PMP Lessons Learned’ articles posted by successful PMP candidates. These articles, coupled with a lot of tips on PMESN really helped me come up with a plan that suited the focus I had to give for work, my need for travel, and the time I had to give to my family.
I allocated 1-2 hour of study 3 days in a week and 6-8 hours of study on weekends for two months.
First, I completed RITA and then PMBOK separately once again. Then I gave 4 mock tests on Simplilearn. I gained almost 40% of my knowledge from these PMP practice exams, and by way of analyzing incorrect answers. After every mock exam, I spent another 2 hours analyzing the confusion I had while I answered those incorrectly.
I managed to score 72% and above in all of the 4 tests. This gave me some amount of confidence.
Two weeks to the exam..
As my exam approached, 2 weeks from the d-day I slightly changed my study approach.
I went through each Knowledge Area 4 times across all my study resources. First in the 11 book series of PMESN (updated version here), then RITA, then PMBOK, and then Simplilearn chapter wise tutorial.
That would mean reading each Knowledge Area 4 times. This was a marathon experience but I cannot stress how much this approach helped me.
I followed the tip of stopping it whenever I felt I would get exhausted. I did not force myself to finish a certain amount of study in a stipulated timeframe. I allowed myself to take the time required to understand the subject, based on its complexity. This was a tip I picked up from ‘PMP Exam prep in 4 weeks’ book by Shiv.
I focused more on topics rather than entire Knowledge Area this time.
After taking many PMP practice exams I felt that this was required. Because during the mock exam I would find gaps in my study that are specific to few topics, such as the order of tasks (closing phase activity order) or some difference between similar processes which leads to confusion. I realized that it is all about getting clarity. So this approach really helped me.
What didn’t work for me and what did
Reading books one after the other really did not help me much.
Instead, what worked was reading one chapter (Knowledge Area) across at least 4 different books back to back. This made things very clear. In most cases, would start with RITA and move to the rest.
In case you are new to the process itself and do not have practical experience, RITA would be the best book as this details, out things which are strikingly memorable.
PMESN has explanations which sometimes you will not find in other books. For example, I could not understand critical chain method, until I read it in this series of books and let me tell you, I could not find a better explanation than this. Thanks, Shiv.
Apart from this, I also managed to keep some important screen shots of definitions from PMBOK and PMESN (start with ‘Smartnotes..’ menu above) which I felt I forget often, like critical chain method, critical path method, and when to use which one. I would also use my commute time and work breaks to study incorrect answers’ explanations through my mobile. This revision also helped me.
I had few blockers too
Blockers for me was the feeling guilty of not putting enough time in PMP study due to my work, unavoidable travel and the need to give time to my family.
I always saw people’s feedback of sticking to a rigorous schedule of study, which unfortunately had no scope for me, because I have a small kid, and my work and travel needs were demanding.
Do you feel the same?
But once I decided on taking up PMP exam I decided to carve out time for study. I gave up some sleep time, especially when I was about 4 weeks away from my exam.
To summarize, PMP study demands that you dedicate whatever time it needs for you to study the concepts and practice PMP mock exams (which is crucial for PMP success). If your work permits for a detailed routine of study then nothing like it (lucky you!), but in case it does not, then make sure that you stick to at least 1-2 hours a day regularly.
Scheduling the exam was the greatest motivator for me to study, else my study would not have started (or completed). So that induced some seriousness in my preparation. 🙂
Here are few tips in the closing. I found that Simplilearn mock tests were closer to the real exam, rest I felt were unnecessarily challenging. It was depressing at times. If you do feel the same, don’t bother too much about those results. Do your best, and take as many PMP practice exams as you can. They prepare you for the real exam in a way that no book will.
I got away with writing only 5 full-length PMP practice exams. Not because I didn’t want to take more, but I did not get time to do it.
Understand RITA well, then read PMBOK, you will find that PMBOK acts as a summary and it does not exhaust you.
The understanding of Project Charter/ SOW/RISK register/Org. process assets/Enterprise Environmental factors are best taken from PMBOK and some of the choices on the exam will sure come from those topics. So it is important that you take the screenshots or make notes of your own and keep reviewing them whenever you get time.
Expect questions related to lessons learnt from a project, project delay due to new features requests from the project sponsor, customer, or stakeholder, and about performance reports, about queries of stakeholders. This is obvious because these were some of the concepts introduced in the exam after Jan 2016.
Again, if there is one solid advice I have to share with you, that would be to take as many PMP practice exams as you can – especially as you get closer to the exam day. I cannot stress it’s importance enough.
So I am happy today that I cleared my PMP certification journey successfully. The feeling I had when I saw the word ‘Congratulations’ on screen was beyond words.
Good luck to all PMP aspirants.
Kasturi Murthy, 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.
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