Joshua Render is an experienced project manager and business analyst. When he passed his PMP exam recently I requested him to share his PMP fast track strategy and other tips. He readily agreed and in this interview he shares his experience and study insights of preparing for the PMP exam.
Josh has been kind enough to share his study notes. Scroll down to find the link to his study guides.
Josh did his graduate work at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan and he now resides in Northern New York State with his wife and two daughters. He has certifications in Agile, Scrum, DSDM, Kanban, Lean Six Sigma, and ITIL.
Here’s Josh for you..
What triggered (event/experience) your desire to take up PMP exam?
A few years ago I really wanted nothing to do with certifications. I thought of them as pointless wastes of money. I never foresaw myself as a PMP. I never desired the certification.
In 2017 I decided to go ahead and try to get an ITIL certification. I began to realize I have to compete with everyone out there. While showing you can do the job is still more important, you have to make it past recruiters and catch the eye of the people who do the hiring. Certifications can help do that.
During my ITIL journey, I realized just how much I learned and how much I enjoyed passing the test. Aiming towards the certification focused my learning path more.
I wasn’t randomly taking courses in things that interested me at the moment, I was aiming towards a goal. It created a more structured approach to my studies.
So after my ITIL exam, I spent 2018 studying for other certifications. I became a Green Belt, got the PMI-ACP, the PSM, PSPO, and several others. At the end of last year, I was seriously considering the PMP.
On PMP though I wavered back and forth quite a bit but I did begin working towards taking the required 35 contact hours.
I had heard how difficult the PMP was. The ultimate challenge.
I wasn’t taking the exam to enhance my career or to find a better job (although I hope now that it will help), I was taking it for the learning experience and the challenge of passing it.
Now that you are PMP, what changes would you foresee in the near future? In other words, how may PMP impact your work?
Now that I am a PMP, I hope that it may lead me to a more interesting career. You spend 8+ hours a day doing your job, it would be nice if you actually enjoyed your work and gained value from it beyond just a paycheck.
Some of my favorite work was managing and handling projects, the PMP helps to show that I have experience with that and that I take it seriously enough to devote a lot of time studying it and trying to get better.
What study resources did you consider, and eventually used for the exam preparation?
In order to prepare for the PMP exam, I took the 3-course training from Project Academy to fulfill the required 35 contact hours. I read the PMBOK guide 6th edition.
I picked up a study guide called “PMP Exam Prep Simplified” by Andrew Ramdayal. It goes through a lot of the information you will find on the PMP exam and it provides a lot of exam like questions.
I have a bit of a theory when it comes to training for these certification tests. You will never get all the information you need from one source. An instructor may not cover everything you need, or their style may make it harder to learn from them.
So I usually look for a second course, typically on Udemy because it is good and cheap.
I took this course for my PMP: https://www.udemy.com/pmp-pmbok6-35-pdus/ (the instructor of that course also has a PMI-ACP training course that I took, if you are pursuing the PMI-ACP I also recommend his course on that.)
How did you approach the exam and what was your study plan?
I approached the PMP as an obstacle I needed to cross.
A lot of things actually got in my way during my studying (I had a baby born 3 weeks early a few days before my scheduled exam date). It almost led to me giving up and trying later.
Before the baby showed up I alternated daily between a couple of hours watching the Udemy training and a chapter or two in the “PMP Exam Prep Simplified” book. I shall give you my PMP fast track strategy in a bit. 🙂
Can you please tell our readers about any issues you faced during your PMP prep, and how did you overcome them.
The largest issues I encountered caused me to not be able to study for two-weeks right before the exam. When I started the PMP, my wife was pregnant with our second daughter. She wasn’t due until after I had scheduled my exam. The baby came early.
Then the testing center I was supposed to go to got closed down 22 minutes before my scheduled exam.
With the new baby and an unexpected case of the flu – I pushed on and made the new exam time for as soon as I could get in to take it. I wasn’t able to study much in the two weeks before the exam and I wasn’t at all confident I would pass.
How did you prepare in the week prior to the exam?
The week before the exam, I wish I could tell you how I prepared, but I didn’t prepare. I wasn’t really able to. I got maybe a couple of hours re-reading some parts of my PMP reference book.
I tried to spend it reading areas I thought were weak in my knowledge.
Normally I treat the week before an exam as a good cramming week and hit all the areas again as much as possible.
What was your exam experience like?
My exam experience was horrible. I walked in, not feeling confident. As I started to answer questions, my confidence sank even lower. I knew I was going to fail (thankfully I was wrong).
What is the PMP fast track strategy according to your experience?
For that I strongly suggest that you take notes.
Even if you are the type of person who can pass tests without taking notes (I could when I was younger), take notes anyway.
The ultimate measure of understanding is often being able to take an idea and explain it in your own words.
The PMP takes that one step further. It expects you to understand it when it explains things differently.
In order for that to work, you need a deep understanding of the material and you need to be able to understand it when others talk about it in their own words.
I would suggest getting a projectmanager.com account. This enables you to ask questions from practicing PM’s and you can read through other people’s answers. It has a wealth of information that can prove valuable to gaining a deeper understanding to project management as a profession.
What impact would you see of PMP certification in your career, short term, and long term?
I don’t know yet what impact the PMP certification will have on my career. I hope over time that it will help me find a decent and long-term position (I do a lot of contracting now) doing work that I actually enjoy.
The job market, being what it is, the PMP can help differentiate you from the crowd.
PMP, PMI-ACP, PSM I, PSPO I, PAL I, AgilePM, AgilePgM, Green Belt, Kanban Coach, ITIL V3