“It is essential to unlearn few things to learn PMP®,” says Biju Nair, Director- Programs and Projects at Indian Air Force. PMP® certified recently, he shares his study advice in this week’s PMP Lessons Learned article. Don’t get surprised by his advice, you will find out how this makes sense in a bit.
An avid trekker and golfer, Biju enjoys traveling and photography. After passing his PMP® exam Biju decided to help other PMP aspirants by sharing the Dos and Don’ts he discovered during his preparation phase. If you find his advice useful, please consider sharing this article socially.
Biju prepared for the earlier version of the PMP® exam but then could not take up the exam. Then he doubled down on it while juggling his busy work schedule and aced the exam recently.
Let us hear how he did it.
What made you take up PMP®, did you consider any other certification exams?
Over the last couple of decades, I have been involved in different kinds of projects at various levels. While doing my Masters in Business Administration, we had to study project management as a subject. This is when I had my first exposure to PMBOK Guide.
It did not take long to realize the importance of PMP Certification and how that knowledge can improve my efficiency as a Project Manager.
I did some research on PRINCE2 as well but found that PMP certification is most appropriate due to its comprehensive nature, value in the industry, and of course the credibility it brings.
What was the core benefit you expected from the certification and how do you see PMP® helping now that you are certified?
The PMP is the gold standard of Project Management certification. It validates your competence to perform in the role of a project manager, leading and directing projects and teams. It prepares you for predictive as well as agile projects, like no other certification.
PMP Certification changes your basic approach towards Project Management. It teaches you how to Optimize Iron Triangle to bring greater value to both – your organization and the customer.
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Which study resources did you use to learn PMP®?
Initially, I was planning to take the exam before December 2020. I studied Rita Mulcahy (9th Edition) and PMBOK 6th Edition.
I used PMP Exam Fast Lane Pass by Shiv Shenoy for easy understanding of concepts by using Brain mapping techniques.
Also, I used Joseph Philips PMP ExamPrep Seminar for the 35 PDUs.
However, I missed the dates in December 2020 and decided to go with the new syllabus which had 50% Predictive and 50% Agile.
I made a 40-day study plan with the following –
- Rita Mulcahy (10th Edition),
- PMBoK 6th Edition,
- Agile Practice Guide by PMI, and
- The Scrum Guide 2020 (want pdf version? click to download).
The simulators helped me with learning concepts on the edge, practice my approach to 4-hour exam, as well as helped as a dry-run for the final exam.
How did you approach the exam, and what was your study plan?
Since I did the PMBok 6th Edition and Rita Mulcahy in 2020, I decided to take a sprint for 40 days and then attend the exam.
I made a 4-hour study plan to learn PMP during the weekdays and an 8-hour study plan during weekends.
I started with the Agile Practice Guide and The Scrum Guide 2020 and then went through Rita Mulcahy’s book.
By the end of the third week, I had finished my syllabus and started a quick revision followed by a fast run through PMBOK 6th edition.
My last two weekends were dedicated to Mock tests, which was crucial since I chose to give the proctored exam from home.
Can you please share some of the issues you faced during your PMP® journey, and how did you overcome them.
It was a real challenge to balance work, family, and studies.
Many times, I got engaged in the evenings due to social commitments and at times official commitments. I missed my 4-hour timelines quite a few times. But I went soft on myself and did not over-stress.
I studied during the morning hours and caught up with the pending topics during short breaks by having the PDF version of PMBoK on the smartphone.
The most crucial aspect was the support from family members, without which it would have been impossible to crack the exam.
Thank you for being part of the PMESN student community! Can you please share how did the course/support help?
I used the PMP Exam Fast Lane Pass for my revisions. The brain-mapping technique was easy to link and remember various aspects of Processes and knowledge areas.
How did you learn PMP® the week before the exam?
The last week was very stressful especially because I was constantly scoring below 70% in PM Prepcast.
I went through PMBoK multiple times and worked hard on my weak areas. During this time I continued to motivate myself to push through the week.
I stopped studying 48 hours before the exam since I realized that beyond this it’s only going to reduce my chances.
Instead, I prepared my workspace by cleaning up the area, making the seat comfortable, arranging a standby power supply and alternate internet connection to mitigate the risks of power breakdown or internet failure.
Just to relax I watched a couple of movies on Netflix.
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Can you share your exam experience plesae?
I had a great online exam experience.
Due to COVID-19 second wave lock-downs, the exam center options were not available. I enrolled for the proctored exam from home. It was a very good decision. Since you are sitting in the comfort of your home, the environment is friendly and familiar, and you don’t need to travel!
I decided to take the exam in the early morning since the internet connection and power supply are generally stable during the morning hours. I also went into stand by power-supply during the exam time since I did not want any interruptions that could lead to retaking the exam.
The proctor was very friendly and the check-in process was quick.
I started the exam on time and took both the 10-minute breaks.
I recommend everyone to take these breaks since this is the time you can recuperate. During the breaks, I did a few stretching exercises and had a coffee to keep myself fresh.
Time management is the most crucial part of the exam. You need to take your first break at about ~150 min (230-80) on display and a second break at ~ 80 min on display, if not earlier.
I submitted my last 60 questions with 35 minutes left on the display.
The exam was easier than I expected and most of the questions were situation-based and my tacit knowledge and critical thinking helped me select the right answers quickly.
I strongly recommend visiting the PMI website (www.pmi.org) and see the new pattern of questions like, match the following, drag and drop, select the hot-spot, fill in the blanks, etc. and use simulators that create similar types of questions. You can download the pdf file explaining new types of questions on this page.
You prepared for the earlier version of the exam (2020) and then took the new version (2021), how did you study for the extra syllabus?
Initially, it was challenging to adjust to the new syllabus with it being reframed into three domains People, Process, and Business Environment, and the addition of Agile and Hybrid Methodologies.
I decided to finish the agile portion first before going back to predictive. Reading the Agile Practice Guide twice did the job, and I could finish the Agile portion in one weeks’ time. Predictive was easier since this time I did not have to put that extra effort into memorizing ITTOs.
Thus I strongly recommend everyone to read the Scrum Guide 2020 as well.
Would you like to share any specific study tips, advice, techniques, or strategies for those preparing for their exam?
- Start with downloading PMP Handbook and PMP examination content outline from the PMI website. This will give a comprehensive view of the whole PMP certification process. It is highly recommended that you review the PMP Examination Content Outline to understand the percentage of questions that can be expected in each domain.
- Always have a study plan and stick to it. Do not take any break days once you start. Ensure you study for at least an hour every day, whatever the situation may be.
- A plan without a deadline tends to never come together. Do not stretch your plan beyond 90 days.
- Do not choose too many study materials. Stick to PMBOK and one other study book or course. Do have a mentored training program.
- The last two weeks should be planned exclusively for solving questions and mock tests. This will be key for passing the exam. You will know how well you are able to apply your knowledge in a situation.
- An exam simulator is a must to effectively learn PMP.
- The most important aspect to consider while preparing for PMP is to get the right mindset. Always think of yourself as a Servant Leader and get the Agile mindset. For predictive you need to get PMI-ism. To learn PMP you must unlearn what you do at your workplace and go exactly as per what PMBoK says. If you know PMI-isms and an Agile mindset you can crack the exam with ease.
I trust you find this helpful, and maybe use few insights to make your own study plan and learn PMP.
All the best,
Biju Nair, MSc, MBA, PMP, LSSGB
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