I passed the PMP® exam many years ago. I had it scheduled on 31st December! 🙂 The thought of beginning the New Year without PMP® was hard to accept and I de-risked the exam in every way possible.
This is something that is consciously built into our PMP® prep program, and is a discussion of topic with every student during our one-on-one coaching calls.
I remember the very first discussion with Anupam Maji, where he mentioned that he had been trying for PMP® for a long time now, and each time priorities shifted and exam preparation went on back-burner.
It pretty much resembled my own experience. I promised him that I will ensure that he will stick to the plan and take the exam with complete confidence.
Last week when Anupam called to say that he passed the PMP® exam all-5 Above Target score, it was like a flashback 🙂
What a moment for him to have finally reached PMP® goal, after several false-starts!
In this article this week, Anupam shares exactly what he did to study in spite of busy work schedule and came out with flying colors.
Oh, and don’t miss his 7-pointer study insights at the end of this article.
Anupam Maji is a Bachelor of Technology from NIT and has an Exec-MBA from IIFT. He has been working on projects in Telecom sector for past 15 years.
What made you take up PMP®?
If we just look at Project management opening across IT industry, getting PMP® certified seems to be a common ask across companies.
This proves the point that PMP® is the most sought after certification in the field of project management and hence I wanted to go for it.
As I was already Prince2 certified, PMP® was my obvious choice.
What’s changed, having passed the PMP® exam now?
Studying for PMP® exam gave me a holistic understanding of how project should be managed.
While it could be difficult to follow all the process, tools and techniques on every process – it helps tremendously in tailoring the required ones for the project.
Plus, the confidence that comes from the fact that now I know all aspects of project management and thus can take up any challenging project – is unmatched.
Which study resources did you consider, and eventually used for the exam preparation?
I wanted to keep my number of resources to minimum. And throughout the preparation I planned de-risking my exam in any way I could. I will share these along the way.
For one, having too many study sources could mean information overwhelm, or even analysis paralysis. So, after my research into tons of study resources I zeroed in on these three –
- PM Exam Last Mile prep program – a mind-map video based + one-on-one coaching based training program
- PMBOK guide (for the uninitiated, what is PMBOK guide?)
- PMP reference guide book from Kim Heldman )ad)
I used all of these throughout my exam preparation.
In fact this PMP® book on Amazon helped me get started with my preparation, which sparked off my interest in the PM Last Mile program.
Apart from these I used the following for clarifying some of the doubts –
- projectmanagement.com (PMI’s sister site with tons of PM content, use same login credentials as that of PMI.org)
- videos in YouTube (such as Prazion and Izenbridge).
How did you approach the exam and what was your study plan?
Even though I started my study way back but I gained momentum only after application was accepted by PMI.
Having a study plan is very important even if its 6 month plan or it may be 4 weeks plan. My plan was to study everyday as per the study plan I created in the program.
I chose to go through each of the above 3 resources 3 times. The sequence that I followed was-
- I round – PM Exam Last Mile prep audio/visual training for a KA, Knowledge capsules in the program, then go through the same in PMBOK.
- II round – PM Exam Last Mile prep audio/visual training for a KA, Knowledge capsules in the program, then I stuck with PMBOK.
- III round – PM Exam Last Mile prep audio/visual training for each KA run in 2X speed, then referred to Kim Heldman’s book
Also read: Jayant says ‘PMP® practice test strategy got me 4 Above Target score‘
How about mock tests?
I used the mock tests from Last Mile prep program, and the free ones that it suggests. Then I bought Fahad Usmani’s 400 questions bank. Seemed good to me. I gave 3 full fledged (200 set) exams from those free resources apart from a few exams which were around 100 question a set.
Plus, I also did the 200 set was the PMI’s practice exam.
This is must as it will help to get used to language/wordings of the questions.
Finally, as PMP® is a 4-hour long exam, practicing to sit for that duration without losing focus is very important.
Hence it is better to take at least 2-3 full exam. In addition to that I analyzed my scores i.e. going though each and every questions of the mock exam to find out which were the areas/question I was making mistakes and the root-cause analysis.
Can you please tell our readers about some of the issues you faced during your PMP® journey, and how did you overcome them.
Since the syllabus of PMP® is quite vast, it is natural to loose focus while working and studying. So, having some elbow room definitely helps. I had some buffer built into my plan that helped me get back whenever I lost focus.
Having a study buddy definitely helps. Especially during those days that you feel like you are studying alone, so if one can find someone, that will help.
As I had my weekly coaching calls with Shiv, it actually kept me motivated and going. This acted like an accountability-buddy-cum-mentor kind of an arrangement, which is the best thing a PMP® aspirant could get.
The week before the exam is crucial. What was your approach to study during this week?
De-risked my exam – I took the week off from work to completely focus on study and make up for anything that I couldn’t follow as per plan.
I revised the entire content in last one week –
- using the comprehensive mind maps from PM Exam Last Mile program
- watching selected training videos from the program at 2X speed
- reviewing highlighted portion of Kim Heldman’s book + PMBOK guide + my own notes.
In the last week I did a mock drill taking a 200-question mock exam at same time of the day as my real exam slot – to get a feel of how my body responded during that time of the day sitting 4 hours at a stretch.
What was your exam experience like?
I booked my exam at center so I visited the test center couple of week back to be aware of the traffic condition and also the location. It is a good practice to visit the center if possible in advance, so you can avoid potential surprises on the day of exam.
I choose to give exam at center as I wanted to transfer the risk of internet connectivity issues, software issues and power cut issues. The centers looked quite good in terms of infrastructure as well safety measures undertaken due to pandemic situation.
Almost all the questions were situational, maybe they were designed to check if we can apply the concepts.
There were hardly any direct questions on ITTOs or processes. No need to mug up ITTOs. But it is better if we know the major Outputs from all the processes and also recall the processes in order to help us with what next questions.
So, ensuring that we have good understanding of all the processes and when to use which T&Ts is a key to success.
I found many questions were tricky but could be answered if our concepts are clear and if we read the question carefully. For some I could find a clue about the answer by reading though the question a couple of times.
A break is offered after 89th question, which is optional. I took it to freshen up and drink some water as 10-min break is not part of 240-mins of the exam.
At the end of it, I can’t describe the feeling knowing that I passed the PMP® exam!
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Any specific study tips for PMP® aspirants?
1. Studying everyday for the entire planned duration is very important. Practice writing down all the process in order, major O/Ps and all formulas every day.
2. Understand the following helps answer ITTO based questions easily on the exam –
- Why each process is used?
- Which other processes create inputs for this process and which other processes uses the output from this process? Use Data Flow Diagram for each process in PMBOK guide to understand this information.
- What & why major tools and techniques are used?
- What are contents of the some of the major plans – Cost, Quality, Risk, Resource, & Communications
3. Get complete insights into the content. I used the following strategy for this –
I studied by Knowledge Areas in the first round and & then by Process Groups in the second round. This helped to cement the understanding as processes move through process groups.
Hence, I chose Kim Heldman’s reference guide which cover all topics of PMBOK PG wise in a conversational manner that is – neither too formal nor too informal.
4. Do not overwhelm yourself with too much information right before the exam.
My recommendation is not studying too much or taking too many the mock exams in the last week just before the exam as it may have bad repercussions.
It may make you feel low if you don’t score well and also one may be biased with the questions that one get in the real exam (i.e trying to correlate the question in the real exam with some similar question encountered in the mock exam).
5. Being calm, hydrated and at the best of your health and that of the exam!
While you might have studied and mastered the concepts, if you are do not feel great on the exam day it will ruin all effort that you put in.
If possible avoid late night study at least 2 days before the exam and get at least 8hrs sleep before exam day. I also ate and drank moderately for last whole week.
6. Read the question carefully, go through all options to narrow down your choice and follow your instincts/common sense when in doubt.
Try not to put much time on lengthy questions or numerical question if not familiar, you can mark them and come back later. The clock keeps on ticking, so managing time is important as there are 200 questions.
7. Finally, I would say follow SSH strategy for your preparation-
- Simple recipe – Restrict choice of study resources to 3 (choose resources that suits you)
- Smart planning – Devise a plan that you can follow practically (not just looking good on paper).
- Hard work – Work hard as there is no alternative to it. It will at least give you peace of mind (as you have tried your best) and will prepare you mentally for the exam – which is very important.
It is an unbelievable feeling of freedom, having passed the PMP® exam. You will feel it too when you come out the exam hall. Make sure you give it some time to sink in, and then celebrate with your family. 🙂
I wish you all the best, study well and stay calm!