“When it came to choosing the right certification, PMP Certification by PMI was the best one for me to move into project management path”, says Mayank Shukla in this prep advice article.
Mayank is based out of Sydney, has 6+ years of experience in QSR industry with POS systems and Back office applications. He has good experience of Project Management, Deployment management, Incident and Problem Management and Risk Management.
In this post Mayank shares how he decided on PMP to be the vehicle to grow more into project management stream, and reveals his exact approach, strategies, and resources used for PMP exam preparation. Further in the end he shares some of the key insights he has gained in this journey – something you can use for your own exam preparation.
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With that.. let’s hear Mayank..
How did you decide on PMP certification?
I felt like being complacent in my current role in Service delivery, performing the same role and responsibilities for the past 2 years. There were other certifications that I considered before finalizing PMP, such as AWS Certification, Azure Certification, Salesforce and Scrum master.
However, I decided to move forward and get certified in Project management. Out of all the certifications out there I found PMP to be most versatile and best suited to move into serious project management role. This is something that would help me in moving ahead in my project management career.
I felt that PMP certification by PMI, which is the well-respected leader in project management education, will provide me the knowledge, framework, and best practices required to execute my projects efficiently.
How do you see the certification helping you now?
As I was studying for the exam I jumped in to implement what I have learned at work.
As of now I have been able to implement few practices like Stakeholder analysis and engagement plan. I have also created communication management plan and risk management plan.
With these I already feel better control in managing the project.
What study resources did you use?
One of the requirements for PMP exam was to acquire a 35 hours of Project management education. I enrolled into classroom training from PluralSight to fulfill this requirement.
I consider myself as a visual learner, and so when I came across HeadFirst PMP book (ad), I immediately grabbed it. This book helped me strengthen the essential fundamentals of PMP syllabus.
Then I took up Rita Mulachy’s PMP Exam prep book (ad). I studied the complete book twice.
In parallel I also used PMBOK guide, just for reference. I firmly believe that irrespective of which study resource you use – whether it is a book, course, or even classroom training – PMBOK has to be used as a reference.
How did you approach the exam and what was your study plan?
First, I completed 35 hours of formal project management training to lay the foundation of the exam. I spent 1 hour daily to study and then 1 hour of revision.
After completing the formal education, I picked up HeadStart PMP book. I completed it in about 2 weeks.
With these two I had a decent hold on PMP concepts, and this helped me go deeper into concepts of each process.
Thus next I picked up Rita Mulachy’s book and completed my first round of study in the 2 weeks. Subsequently I went over it one more time to cement my understanding.
I used to study at least 4-5 hours every day.
Looking back, this daily ‘study habit’ actually made overall study efforts easier. I have seen friends beginning their PMP study with all vigor and then pushing it to back burner when a high priority work came up. But by having daily study schedule we can get into the habit of studying every day, even for an hour on tough days.
What kind of challenges did you face?
Oh plenty of them. And I think most of us studying for PMP exam will face these. Here are my top 3 challenges –
- Taking out time and interest to study. Yes, PMP syllabus can feel a bit dry, but it is essential to study them.
- Long sitting hours to study. Most of us are not in the habit of studying for hours at a stretch. But again, this is essential part of PMP prep.
- Below par marks in the mock test. This was a bit demotivating at the beginning, till I gradually began doing better upon each attempt.
It was not easy to overcome these, but here are couple of ways that helped me.
- Enthusiasm to achieve that ultimate badge of joining the elite club of PMP® certified Project Managers. This was my goal, and constantly reminding myself gave me the motivation to move forward.
- Learning from my mistakes in the mock tests and improving in the areas where I was lacking. The only way I could get better was by focusing on my weak areas.
What was your preparation like in the week prior to the exam?
In the final week, I attempted at least 5-6 mock tests and analyzed the areas where I had to improve.
I highly recommend this approach to everyone, because the last week before exam is the last chance to really uncover areas to improve upon.
Given the nature of scoring the exam, where proficiency level is given in each of the 5 domains, I had to make sure that I focus more on the Initiating (just 2 processes) and Closing (just 1 process!) thoroughly.
What was your real exam experience like?
The test center whole environment was calm and comfortable.
I was able to complete the whole test in 3 hours, with 1 hour to spare.
It is my sincere hope that what I have shared with you in this article will help you get a similar result as well.
During the exam I realized that most of the questions were around Integrated Change management, Schedule compression, Communications management, Risk and Stakeholder management.
Also read: A gritty PMP story by Colette Coleman, PMP
Any specific study tips?
I followed a simple 5-step process to approach the exam.
- Understand linkages between the processes – how they interact with each other and how the inputs and outputs are logically related. Understand how they flow across knowledge areas and process groups, and you have a good handle on the exam content.
- Understand what each of those processes does – understanding what each of the process uniquely contributes to the whole big picture is essential. Many questions require us to deduce answers (where either the question is twisted or we are a bit rusty) and during that time the process level understanding helps deduce the right answer.
- Remember different tools and techniques of each process – while it is not 100% possible to uniquely remember ITTOs of every process, if we can logically associate important T & T of each process it becomes easier to understand them.
- Decode the exam question by understanding which processes the question is taking about – this may not be possible for each and every question, or may not be necessary for every question. The point is if you can connect the question to a process, you will be able to recall the information surrounding that process (preceding and succeeding process and their tools and techniques). This makes it easier and quicker to answer the question.
- Choose the BEST option – the 4 options of a questions can be tricky in that more than one seem like the answer. And PMI wants you to choose the best option from the given 4. If you are in a hurry and after reading first or second option you mark and move to the next question, you risk missing the best answer. Take your time and go over all options even if you feel that you have found the right answer among first 2-3 options.
At some point in time during your study you will feel a sense of overwhelm. I felt it too. Do not let it bother you. Just focus on the task at hand – studying today’s portion according to your study plan. Put one step in front of the other and soon you will reach your goal.
Mayank Shukla, PMP