“To get PMP certified you need to manage risks throughout”, said Marie Nguyen as I was talking to her after her exam.
Marie works as a project manager for a Consulting company specialized in Project Management. She is based out of France and has more than 12 years experience managing projects for several IT Companies.
You will find this PMP Lessons Learned article to be quite unique. This is a gritty story of a mom juggling responsibilities of looking after her little kids, demanding job, and ingenuity shown to get past hurdles to reach her PMP® goal.
This could be one of the closest ‘Phew’ moment I have come across about potentially losing the exam because of some unexpected event. The other closest incident was when one of my students took my recommendation to visit the exam center on the day before exam and discovered that the center has been moved to another part of the town!
While this is a lesson in risk management in the context of PMP® exam, this is also a proof of the fact that if you prepare for the exam the right way, you can get past even the last minute blockers and ace the exam.
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Let us hear from Marie Nguyen!
What triggered your desire to take up PMP® exam?
Getting PMP certified was a dream I have been nurturing since 2012!
Unfortunately, at that time in France the PMP® certification was not very well known for the IT companies.
And my management couldn’t see the benefits of me being PMP® certified and how my investment of time and money would benefit them.
I was young and maybe not enough motivated to fight for it. It was easy to find excuses not to proceed further – new project assignments, new baby, another baby, other life priorities.. ?
I couldn’t find the suitable time to kick-off the PMP® certification. So I decided to put this project aside!
After a while … 12 years in project management and being as a PMO and Project Manager, I felt ready and mature enough to take up this challenge!
So earlier this year I registered for a 5-day course which prepares you for the exam for PMP® certification.
It was an intensive week with a lot of project management concepts. I met people from different backgrounds and different working area and all with the same objective: to get PMP® certified!
At that moment I knew that I will find enough time to get prepared for this certification no matter what. No more excuses!
Which study resources did you used to get PMP certified?
I did not choose the material I got from the 5-day course as it was in French and I wanted to take the exam in English.
Thus I chose to study with 3 resources:
- PMP® Exam Prep from Rita Mulcahy (#ad) – the book for my study
- PM Exam ‘Last Mile’ Prep program – the brain-friendly video course and end-to-end support system (from application to exam-day prep)
- PMBOK Guide 6th Edition (#ad) – the reference book
How did you approach the exam and what was your study plan?
My initial plan was to register for the PMP® exam before the PMI moved to the new exam proctor. That gave me about 2.5 months to get prepared.
After 1 month of studying Rita’s book, I was confused. I learned several concepts but it was difficult for me to get the overall picture.
I was unable to fit the different pieces of the puzzle together. It was so frustrating!
But I keep studying. I started to read Part II of the PMBOK. And I realized that something went wrong: my brain did not retain anything I read from the guide!
After 1.5 months of study, I did not feel confident to register for the PMP exam.
That post on the PMESN blog changed my study plan in a very positive way! After an email exchange with Shiv, I was convinced that the “Last Mile” program was made for me!
Shiv told me, “if you can work out a simple step-by-step study plan, you will see that things will fall in place sooner than later”. And as it turned out, he was right.
I switched between “Last Mile” videos, games, mock-exams with PMBOK part I. And guess what? Everything felt in place: I finally found the glue to fit the different pieces of the puzzle together.
I felt comfortable and confident enough to register for the PMP exam.
Although I could not stick to the original timeline due to lost time, I felt confident with the new timeline. And I am glad I did it this way and avoided lot of pressure for myself. It was a realistic timing considering my professional and my personal constraints.
What was your study strategy?
From the day I registered for the exam I stayed committed and studied every day between 1 to 3 hours (including week-end).
I practiced several mock tests of 20/50 questions: the objective for me was to improve the speed of reading/answering in English.
I took 4 mock tests of 200 questions, as much as possible in the similar conditions: same hour, no food, no drink, and 1 paper for my brain dump.
It was not easy to schedule the 4-hour mock tests, specially when you are working full time during the week and you have young kids to give time to during the week-end.
For me the real challenge was to schedule half-a-day of mock test! The first 4hr-mock test I took was at 4 am just before going on holidays because I knew that after the test I could have a rest in the car while the kids were seated in the back. ?
How did you prepare during the week prior to the exam?
The week prior to the exam, I went through my own notes, reviewed the mind maps and the mnemonics from the “PM Exam Last Mile prep” program and few other online videos.
I read the definitions in the PMBOK and prepared my brain dump.
And I wrote the formulas several times and reviewed the key ITTOs.
Also, I went to bed early every night during those 5 days.
Can you share your exam experience?
My exam experience was unforgettable!
The exam center was 800km away from home. So I took the plane and arrived the day before. I stayed at the hotel located within 10 minute walk from the test center.
When I arrived at the hotel, I walked to the test center in order to get familiar with the places. In the way back, I stopped at a food truck close to the hotel and grabbed an hot dog for dinner. What a mistake! I was sick all night! I slept no more than 2 hours that night! By morning I was very tired.
When the test started, I didn’t know how I would stay focused for 4 hours without falling asleep.
The test seemed more difficult than the mock tests I took. There were not many ITTO based questions. I got situational questions mainly on Change Management and Risk Management.
Even though the questions were not so long (no more than 2 or 3 lines), I was reading so slowly. When I reached the first 50 questions in 1 hour 15 minutes, I knew that I was 30 minutes behind schedule compared to the mock tests!
After the 100th question, I was not able to catch up the delay. I felt stressed, exhausted and stared to lose my focus.
So at the 120th question, I decided to take a short break even if I was running out of time. I left the testing room only 5 minutes to have some fresh water.
When I came back to the computer, I had 80 questions left and about 1 hour until the end of the exam.
The 5 minute break gave me strength and renewed energy to complete the exam as I finally answered all the 200 questions in 4 hours. Yay!
What helped me increases my chances of acing the exam well within these 4 hours was the strategy I applied when answering the 200 questions.
I simply applied the strategies I have learned during the PM Exam Last Mile prep program.
When pressing the “Finish” button, what a relief it was to discover the sentence starting with “Congratulations! …”.
I was so proud that I have finally reached my goal after 3 and a half months of study: I’m now PMP certified. ?
Any specific study tips, advice, techniques, or strategies for PMP® aspirants?
On top of the PMBOK Guide, I highly recommend you to enroll the “PM Exam Last Mile prep” program.
You will be surprised how simplified and powerful education system it is and how it will help you ace the PMP® exam on your first attempt.
Stay committed during your study (study at least 1 hour every day) and stay focused during the exam day.
It is NOT hard to get PMP certified. Choose the right set of study resources, come up with a study plan you can track. And enjoy your journey. It will not be easy, make no mistake, but it will be worth the efforts!
All the best,
Shiv Shenoy –
After she passed her test I received this email, which truly made my day! 🙂