Earning PMP cert wasn’t easy for Jeff, don’t let the title mislead you. 🙂 In this article Jeff explains the unique strategies he used and the lessons he learned along the way, and finally how his preparedness enabled him to take a decision to appear for the exam on the spur of a moment while on vacation with his family, and nail it! I trust his experience will help you improve your study plan.
I am so happy to inform you that I successfully passed my exam and earned my PMP cert. Lot of this success is due to the approach that I took. I brought on board two other friends with me in order to share the common goal of obtaining our PMP certification.
This in itself was part of the effective formula in obtaining the PMP certification. For instance, each team member motivated one another and each of us had strengths that complimented the other while being fully committed to achieving our desired PMP outcome. Many a times team members’ insights about a circumstance helped other team members to grasp PMP concepts.
“I was about to go on a vacation for a week when my boss suggested to try and take the PMP exam while I was in a relaxed state of mind on my vacation. At first I laughed it off, but 3 days into my vacation, that thought still resonated in my head. It got to the point where I ran the idea by my family, and they agreed that I should go and take it while on vacation and in a relaxed state of mind.”
This Team Journey began on December 8th, 2015 when me and my other 2 colleagues decided that we owed it to ourselves to obtain our PMP certification and build our career in the industry. Once the plan was in place, we needed the resources to get our 35 contact hour education requirement mandated by PMI.
Our study resources
Around that same time we discovered the right training course that suited our busy schedules. We purchased the Project Management Academy‘s 2 Week | 4 weekend online PMP training course. Once the training course concluded on December 11th, we started to prepare for the test with just the PMBOK book and the PMP study material provided by the Project Management Academy which we could use for the duration of 6 months.
Our group met every day after work and on weekends we committed at least 4 hours to our goal.
As the study group continued, we added Shiv’s PMP ‘Last Mile’ prep resources including the package that included the 250 test questions and answers, the books on ‘How to pass PMP in 4 weeks‘, as well as 13 book series that covered all the PMP exam concepts in KAs such as integration, scope, time, cost, quality, human resources, and so on.
This particular package opened our eyes and gave us all clearer understanding of what certain PMP terminology meant as the wording was much easier to understand than what our PMBOK. I would highly recommend Shiv’s study materials as a good way to make sense of PMBOK terms and processes.
As time went on we added 1 more resource to our study arsenal and that was, Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep 8th edition study guide & Rita’s PM FASTrack Questions. I would also recommend Rita and her materials as her 8th edition book helps you prepare for the type of questions on PMP.
PMP prep plan
The prep plan that was used by our study group is as below. Self study requirements were to,
- Read assigned chapters in PMBOK/PMP Study guides at home
- Then we would meet up after work to share what we learned for the first 30 min
- The second 30 min would be taking up to 50 PMP practice test questions
- We would highlight the questions we had wrong or write down concepts we were not familiar with throughout the week to address in the weekend session
- Friday was the weekend session of our study circle, where we reassessed all the questions, ITTOs, and concepts we were not familiar with and we spent the entire duration of our session finding creative ways to store them into our memory bank. For instance, FISHCPP for 7 basic quality Tools
(2) Isikawa /Cause & effect / Fishbone diagram
(3) Scatter Diagram
(5) Control Chart
(7) Pareto Diagram
- We didn’t just read the study guides once, we read them at least 3 times so we understood the concepts well, which helped to reduce the need to know all 47 processes by memory. This information was part of our overall knowledge bank and as a result, we could rehash why each process was the way it was.
- Lastly,we all set individual exam day deadlines, so we weren’t just blindly studying. We had a date set to take PMP exam and needed to stay focused.
Although the study plan itself was overall satisfactory, there was one known drawback to our approach. We became obsessed with collecting best of the PMP study materials and it was certainly a strength in the beginning. But we realized that at some point we needed to consolidate our study materials and simplify the process as we had a decent amount of materials to go by.
So for those of you who are preparing to take the PMP exam and are in the same predicament, what I would recommend is to keep your materials to no more than 4 trusted resources, where you can spend time preparing for PMP. There were many times where a member of our group waned to add more materials, and we had to assess to see if it was really needed.
Anyone who sets out to achieve the goal of earning PMP cert is bound to face blockers along the way. I too had a few blockers. First blocker was health. At the beginning I came down with a bout of flu. I did not let that stop me though. As per our study group’s plan I attended study sessions remotely and we managed to keep the study momentum.
Another Blocker was that it actually took me three tries before I passed the PMP exam, but I learned along the way refined study approach and kept on improving.
In my first attempt at earning PMP cert I had a rude awakening. I was studying for ITTO based questions as well as terminology and math questions, only to find that majority of questions on the exam were scenario based. “What do you do?” sort of questions.
Second attempt at getting my PMP cert
After failing the first attempt, I went back into study mode where I purchased both Shiv’s and Rita‘s study materials and I then spent the next 4 months studying and getting more familiar with the scenario based questions that I saw on the first exam. I was scheduled to take the exam on Saturday June 22nd, and I was well prepared, but something unexpected happened the day before.
I studied for the exam late into the night before the exam, and I did not catch sleep even when I tried. I had to take the test at 8am, throughout the night my mind was running through possible PMP stuff I may have not studied. This made me arrive at the testing center running primarily on a can of Redbull. This affected me and I could not pass PMP.
Third attempt at PMP cert
I was about to go on a vacation for a week when my boss suggested to try and take the PMP exam while I was in a relaxed state of mind on my vacation. At first I laughed it off, but 3 days into my vacation, that thought still resonated in my head. It got to the point where I ran the idea by my family, and they agreed that I should go and take it while on vacation and in a relaxed state of mind.
Immediately I scheduled the test for that Saturday, July 16th at 1pm, at the testing center in that area. Prior to the exam, I read 3 chapters of study guide per day including attempting the questions at the end of chapter. On that Friday before my exam I didn’t study and remained in the belief that I would pass once and for all. Rather than studying, I took a dry run to the facility to make sure that I arrived in time the following day.
Saturday came, and I jumped in my car and arrived at the testing center moments before my scheduled time. The test took me 3.5 hours and I felt good enough to answer the survey questions to receive my grade. Then the moment came to see my grade, I had my eyes shut for a second in excitement, but once I opened them, the prompter screen read “PASS”.
Such a sigh of relief came over me, and it was by far one of the happiest moments of my life. As this PASS score was a true testament of one’s persistence. I could have said I failed the first time only to give up , but there was a stronger spirit in me that said “Jeff, keep going”. I was too determined to achieve my desired result and knew these failures were only temporary setbacks. So for those of you who have had trials while going for PMP, keep going, as your persistence and belief in yourself will pay off in the end.
I hope that this helps some of you on your journey to obtaining the PMP cert and just remember that feeling of accomplishment when you pass as it is an amazing feeling.
-Jeff Verdon, PMP