I cleared my PMP exam on the 1st of Oct – with just 2 weeks of preparation!
This was my first attempt and a very haphazard one. I want to share about things that worked for me to get my PMP. Hope this will help your readers.
I underwent PMP training Feb 2015, I became a PMI member and submitted my application in the month of April. I wanted to give the exam by Aug and had fixed a date.
But then job and other personal work took priority and I could not prepare. With a fine of $70 I postponed the date to the 1st of Oct. I thought I had enough time to study for the paper till then.
Once again, I got caught up with various other activities and PMP exam preparation took a backseat. Finally, in mid Sep, when there were barely 2 weeks left for the paper, I realized the amount of money that I had spent for this certification (including training) and the amount that would be forfeited if I didn’t appear for it. Though I had limited time to study, I made the best use of my weekends (4 days) and covered as much as I could.
I got MP in all process groups, something I think I could have improved on if I had studied properly, nevertheless, it did seem like an achievement to clear the exam on the first attempt, that too, with such little preparation.
Here are my tips for preparing for the exam when you have very limited time in hand.
Core PMP Study Content
1) Read the PMBOK end to end. Read again. Every single question in the exam comes from the PMBOK. You do not need any other book if you have the PMBOK. Make sure you read the entire book at least two times. I had Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep 8th Edition with me, but I didn’t have the time to go through it completely.
2) Go through the Glossary. It is the one-stop destination for maximum definitions of keywords.
3) Learn the Process Chart. It must have been mentioned a million times by all PMPs before and it stands true. Learning the process chart helps to answer the questions based on the Planning process group (sequence of activities).
4) ITTOs. I found the ITTOs the most crucial aspect of PMP preparation. It was surprising to see the number of questions that were based on the ITTOs. Memorize the ITTOs if need be. They are very vital for the exam.
5) There are 17 main formulas that you must learn. They are extremely easy to understand. Forward/Backward Pass and Float calculations are not a part of these formulas. There are many videos on YouTube which help to understand the forward/backward pass pass in under 10 minutes. They were very helpful.
My PMP Study Plan
Honestly, I did not follow a specific study schedule. I studied when I got the time and whatever struck my interest at that time. But I made sure that in the first week of study, I went through the PMBOK completely twice. In this week, I also focused on the formulas and how to use them. There are many websites which offer free PMP tests on the different knowledge areas. Every time you complete a chapter, try and solve questions related to that chapter.
In the second week, I did the memorizing part. The process chart and ITTOs took the most time. This was also the time I started solving the 4hr online exams. There are many websites which offer the 4hr exams for free and they were quite helpful in preparing for the actual exam.
I took the exams at home and made sure I didn’t get up for food/water breaks. Mostly, I was able to cover 200 questions in 3 hrs. With review, I was able to finish everything in 3.5 hrs. Initial tests gave me 50-60 %. But around 28-29th Sep, my score went up to 80-85%. this gave me some confidence.
I watched PMP related videos on YouTube whenever I could. There is an ocean of information out there. The videos are very helpful because they provide a visual imagery of the concepts and it makes it easier to understand the different knowledge areas.
Shiv’s FB page helped me a lot. Learning about other people’s experience gave me a very good idea of what to expect in the final exam.
I downloaded the PMP PrepCast app on my phone and every night before sleeping made sure to solve at least 25-30 questions.
The Ream Exam
I was not completely prepared for the exam. This is a fact. I had covered everything except Cost Management which for some reason, I found a bit tedious to understand. And guess what?! There were at least 15-20 questions from Cost Management. In fact, it felt like every other question was from that chapter 🙁
Use the the sound block headphones. Though the exam center was very silent, using the headphones blocked out every bit of external sound and it helped me think clearly.
Use the rough sheets to take down the process chart or formulas. I only wrote the process chart but it helped me a lot later.
I skipped ALL the formula based questions in the first round. I marked them for review and moved ahead with the theoretical questions. I had to read the questions at least 3 times to understand what the real question was. Believe me, no amount of preparation can prepare you for the actual exam questions because the questions aren’t direct.
Each question had at least 2-3 paragraphs! It took longer to just go through the questions than to answer them. Of the study material I had, only Rita Mulcahy’s book came anywhere close to the exam questions. If you have the book, do solve all the questions that are listed after each chapter and time yourself.
It took me 3.25 hrs to finish the first round. I had close to 40-45 questions marked for review and not enough time to finish them. I solved the formula based questions first. They were easy to solve. The questions on forward/backward pass were very complicated (ex: calculate total float based on a set of duration, then calculate the new float with new set of duration and then find out the critical path, etc).
To wrap up..
Overall, though it was tough, I can confidently say that each and every question was from the PMBOK and if I had begun my preparations earlier, I could have covered more syllabus and got a better score. So if you have the time (more than 2 weeks) then do make sure you cover the key points mentioned above. My inspiration for the exam was my Brother-in-law who gave the exam two days after his PMP training and got a Proficient in all process groups! Yes, there are people like that. If he could do it in 2 days, I knew I could clear it in two weeks at least 🙂
Good luck to you all.