PMP Exam CBT vs PBT – my experience in taking my PMP certification By Lazard Toe, PMP, ITIL
My experience in preparing to take the PMP Exam is focused on the difference between the Computer Based Test (CBT) and the Paper/Pencil Based Test (PBT).
Though these two ways of passing the exam are recognized and provided by PMI accredited centres, but they are quiet different. This testimony might not interest or surprise or even be considered out of context for those living in the USA or Europe where CBT are available, in areas like Africa the Paper Based Test (PBT) is the only way to take the exam unless you travel far from your location.
PBT Vs CBT – decision time
Coming back to my own experience which could be same for many PMP aspirants, I attended a PMP classroom training in December last year in Lagos, Nigeria, West Africa. At the end of the training, the instructor mentioned that the CBT has been cancelled in Nigeria and that only the PBT is available. If we want to pass the test through the CBT, we would have to go to Accra – Ghana, one hour flight from Lagos.
This was not a concern for me at that time. It is worth noting that I had never taken a test using the PBT, so I did not have any clue about this. After the training, I quickly created my PMI account, paid for my membership. I applied for the exam and got my accreditation a week later. I downloaded the PMBOK and gathered some material online and from friends. I also had 2 simulators. I scheduled for April 2015 and later changed to June 2015.
I chose the PBT of course, since it was the only channel available in my location. I did not see any need to stretch myself to travel to Accra with extra cost. For me, once you are well prepared you could pass the test regardless the format. Readings, mock questions, full exam using my simulators with minimum of 80%.
My PBT test (Paper/Pencil Based Test) experience
I was set for the exam. I requested 3 days leave from my office for better concentration. I was ready and confident to pass the exam at my first attempt as I see most people posting such boastful messages.
On the PMP Exam day, I arrived one hour before scheduled time. I saw many people reading and reviewing their notes. 30 minutes later we were called for verification and access to the room. I was allocated a number and sat down on my place. The attendant read out the guidelines and later distributed a booklet where we were invited to write our names and identifier. And then a sheet called result sheet was given to everyone.
Tiny and small circles containing A, B, C, D, before each number starting from 1 to 200. The attendant was insisting that we should be very careful to fully color with the pencil the correct option. Surprised and astonished, I started panicking and wondering how I can achieve this fastidious work.
I was so used to the simulator where you read the question from the screen and with one click you select the correct answer. I opened the voluminous booklet and started reading, reflected on the question and found out the correct option A or B or C or D. Now I looked the result sheet to identify the question number and color with the pencil. To complete the first question I used 5 minutes which is largely above the allocated time for one question.
I kept my courage and started moving on.
No time was to be displayed for the number of questions remaining like available on the simulator. At some point, I noticed that the question number in the booklet did not match with the number on the result sheet. Disappointed again, I had to go back and found out that I missed the step of 10 previous questions. I had to erase the colored options and redo again with the correct answers.
When I looked at the time, I had spent 3 hours while I was still at the question 115, which was very late and impossible for me to finish the 200 questions within the required time. I struggled to move fast. And while at question 160, the attendant said that we had 5 minutes left. I can still remember I stopped at question 164 which means that about 36 questions were not yet answered.
Morally affected and revolted I gave my documents, signed out and left the place knowing that I failed. In distress, I sent a message to close friends and colleagues and promised to retake the test but using the Computer Based Test. I nevertheless awaited the official results before I can reschedule a new date.
One month later, I received a notification from PMI saying that my result is available. I checked and FAIL was the result. So this has finally confirmed my assumption. Now, I had the liberty to reschedule my exam but never using the PBT channel.
My CBT (Computer Based Test) experience
First of all, I booked the exam CBT on PMI website and paid the fee. I browsed Prometric website and found the only center organizing the CBT is Accra, Ghana. I bought some online material and one day coaching and was set to take the exam again. I traveled to Accra, identified the exam center.
Day of the exam, 7.30am I was in the center with other candidates, performed identification, control and other formalities. Admitted in the class, sat in my box with my name and the exam displayed on the screen. Ready to start. After few instructions, clicked on start and the race began. Concentrated, answering questions one after the other I was moving. The time was under control with some minutes ahead.
On an average, I was answering a question within a minute. Marking difficult questions for review, I completed the 200 questions with 20 minutes left. I reviewed some difficult questions and the time was exhausted. Now the instant verdict, the system ran and ran and 4 minutes the result was out with “Congratulations”.
Surprised, excited, joyful that I couldn’t contain and believe. The center printed out my results and I rushed out to spread the good news. From this story, I can say that the CBT (Computer Based Test) is far better than the PBT (Paper Based Test). They are not comparable in any point of view.
In conclusion, I will strongly advise PMP Exam aspirants to opt for CBT against the PBT. With the CBT, you easily finish on time, review difficult questions and get your results instantly. There is no risk of missing the question number or not coloring correctly the right answer.
– Lazard Toe, PMP, ITIL