Being a busy working mom makes preparing for PMP® online exam is one of the toughest tasks. Shweta was up to it, she in fact aced the exam with Above Target score. Many have asked her how she did it, and in this week’s ‘PMP Lessons Learned’ article she shares all the insights she gained at every step of the preparation.
Shweta Sawant is a post graduate in Business Administration and E-business Management and a graduate in Electronics & Telecommunications Engineering. She has over 14 yrs of rich IT and project management experience. She loves connecting with people, is a polyglot and knows an 6 languages including German and French. Shweta is a foodie and a chef herself.
This is fairly deep-dive interview, get a paper and pen to make some notes, especially if you are taking the PMP® exam online.
What made you take up PMP®?
Since my developer days I have known that PMP® is a prestigious certification and it brings with it honor, recognition and opportunities. I took the plunge as soon as I was eligible for it.
I am considering CSM next, to be recognized by the Agile community as well.
Shortly after PMP certification I have already increased my network by 30%. I am sure it is just the beginning of great opportunities ahead.
Which study resources did you consider for the exam preparation?
Half way through Rita’s, I was also answering Andrew Ramdayal’s PMP Exam prep questions on audible, when I couldn’t be in front of the laptop. It made me realize the importance of PMBOK. I went through it completely a month before the exam.
In last 10 days, I took 3 PrepCast exams and the PMI’s 200 mock questions.
Mock exams take a lot of energy and time, I didn’t want to overdo it as I didn’t want it to work the law of diminishing returns.
How did you approach the exam and what was your study plan?
I took prints of the ITTO’s and data flow diagrams of all processes from PMBOK.
I would go through them questioning myself about what I want to achieve from the process, which inputs do I need, from where do they come, and what techniques I can use to achieve the process goals, also where the outputs would be used.
This I did for a month.
It did take time, as I had other commitments.
When I was confident I purchased PrepCast simulator, took full length 4hr exams, in the atmosphere that I would take the main online exam, assessed and reviewed areas of improvement.
Also read: How Swapna built a successful PMP campaign
Can you please tell our readers about some of the issues you faced during your PMP® journey, and how did you overcome them?
Too many things to focus on –
I started my journey an year ago, at that time the PMP application process itself was way difficult and in a few months I got to know that the exam pattern is going to change.
At this time I was already handling a lot of commitments including MBA, work, home and then the pandemic struck, leaving me without help and becoming the tutor for my twin 5 yr old boys, as I would receive their assignments online.
I could not add PMP to the mix, given the shorter timeline to the exam pattern change. Luckily PMI extended the deadline to December end, made the application process easier and made online exams available, increasing the number of slots. It was a boon for me.
Focus & commitment –
With PMP it’s important to stay committed and focused, which can be tough sometimes. I figured it would be better to be in the company of others taking the exam, so I joined the Facebook group run by Jose S. Morales Brunet and Ashok Nadagoud. It was very helpful in the journey, as there are many practice questions posted by aspiring individuals, and queries resolved. Also various resourceful links, updates and experiences are shared by the aspiring candidates and admins.
I realized that it is also necessary to make your family & colleagues aware of the commitment that is needed from you for this certification, so you can get their much needed cooperation.
Time management –
It felt that there wasn’t enough time in the day to study. Thus I began by setting small, manageable, realistic goals about what I wanted to achieve on the day, and when I achieved it, I felt good about it, and repeated the processes.
I took quizzes for the parts I completed, that was my endorsement, and made me more & more confident.
The week before the exam is crucial. What was your approach to study during this week?
After getting an average of 78% on 3 full length PrepCast tests, I scheduled the online exam for 5 days later.
I used the time to improve the weaker areas.
3 days before the exam I gave the 200 PMI mock questions, and reviewed the corrections.
A day before I just went over the ITTO’s of all the processes.
Why PMP® online exam, and how was your exam experience?
I took the online exam because I wanted to avoid going to test center. Also, taking PMP® online gave me the flexibility of choosing the exam slot for a time of the day that is comfortable for me.
There is an abundance of dates and the 24 hr time slots to choose from. You can schedule the exam when you are pretty confident.
Before the exam –
For PMP® online exam you need to run a check on your computer. I downloaded the PearsonVUE application on your laptop, and ran the basic speed, audio and video tests. It also adds some needed settings on your machine.
I had to remove any posters or pictures in the room where I would take the exam. Drew curtains, took care that the lighting is good enough and not right behind me, as I was going to be continuously monitored through audio & video by the proctor.
I told everyone at home that I am not to be disturbed till I stepped out of the room. If you have kids or pets make sure that they can go without you for over 4 hours. I had also turned off the doorbell.
I had a television in the room, I kept in unplugged.
Exam check-in process started 30 mins before the scheduled time. You are supposed to have only your valid ID proof which matches the name you have given for the exam.
This is also when your begin exam button on your PMI dashboard is available. Mobile is needed as you have to take pictures of your exam setting left, right, front and back, a head-shot and picture of your valid identification card and post on the link that would be sent on your mobile number.
After submitting the details, I was put in a queue for the next available proctor, it took around 10 mins, I used this time to calm myself.
During the exam –
For PMP® online exam PearsonVUE doesn’t allow water or snacks on the desk.
If the proctor is suspicious of anyone’s presence in the room or any interaction of any kind with anyone, the exam could be revoked. I was paranoid since I had heard cases of exam being revoked at around 170th question for someone.
However I must say, there was some background noise like kids playing in the garden, I also happened to accidentally hit my hand on the table, it made considerable sound, however the proctor did not even ping me.
At the beginning we get an option to go through the tutorial or skip it, this time is not counted as a part of the exam.
After this the exam began.
It is difficult to sit through 4 hrs though I had practiced it in mocks, I landed having a headache towards the end. Thus my advice is if you need a break, take it.
There may be times, where you may feel that you have probably got many questions wrong, have doubts whether you will clear it. Know that you are not alone, every candidate has been there. Put these thoughts behind you, you are doing well, calm down and focus on the question in front of you.
After around 89 questions I saw a Review page, where I could go through flagged/unanswered/other questions. When I submitted this, I could not visit the first part again.
I got a prompt and around 1 minute to decide whether I wanted a break, and I skipped it.
Was the exam tough?
I got a lot of questions on Stakeholders and Communications, where I had to choose the answer based on the situation whether stakeholder engagement was a problem or communications was the problem.
For network diagrams, I felt it was more convenient to use mouse on the whiteboard.
On completing 200 questions, I got the review screen for the 2nd part, and I was done.
Then I saw the Congratulations page!
It’s in small print, and doesn’t give you any more details, I’ve read that some felt whether they actually cleared the exam.
For proof you can go to the PearsonVUE site search PMI login and you will see the score report there. It takes 24hrs for the certificate to be presented on your PMI dashboard, and you get the digital badge on your mail in a few days.
I got Above Target score, I was in disbelief and so relieved! 🙂
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What are some of the specific study tips, advice, techniques, or strategies you’d like to share with those preparing for their PMP® exam?
- Don’t go with preconceived notions about the preparation time, difficulty of materials, and the exam. Every individual is different, it may be a lot easier for you.
- I would say PMBOK is essential. Many find it difficult and skip it and realize its importance later.
- Keep your PMP goal as realistic, achievable, and time-bound.
- You can practice with the PearsonVUE whiteboard, the exam interface will have the same whiteboard.
- Join study group and/or have a study partner or a mentor.
- Don’t go with too many study resources, keep it simple. Do your research and choose the resources that you find enjoyable.
- Take just enough mock exams and make sure you review your performance, don’t tire yourself.
- Rest enough and sleep well before the exam.
- If you are taking the PMP® online exam, check out this PearsonVUE page.
Finally, I would just like to wish the best for the aspiring candidates.