PMP Certification Exam: All-5 ‘Above Target’ In First Attempt – Rajkumar S, PMP


pmp certification exam tips rajkumarI passed my PMP certification exam with ‘Above Target’ in all 5 process groups on my very first attempt. While this may sound hard and even impossible, here is my attempt to break down the process I followed. To be honest, I didn’t plan for all Above-Targets but sure planned to do the best I can.

Hope you’ll find some of my insights useful to include in your PMP exam preparation.

My background

I work as a Delivery Manager in Bangalore. I have more than 13 years of experience in Software industry, especially into Data warehousing & Business Intelligence area.

I heard about PMP for the first time from my client in Sweden in 2014, and decided that I should aim for it.

Thought I have been thinking about PMP since 2014, I could put in a serious effort only in about April 2017.

Also Read: My Mantra for PMP Success – by Arun Prakash Sharma, PMP

Study resources I used

I enrolling for iZenbridge course and finished the course along with reading Headfirst book by the end of May.

Then I came across and went through Shiv Shenoy’s Free 11-day PMP Blueprint email course. This gave me a crisp and essential understanding of all Knowledge Areas.

And after that, owing to work pressure, I could not maintain study momentum for next two months.

I knew I had to something to get back on track.

To inject some seriousness into my studies, I went ahead booked the exam slot with Prometric. This forced me to re-draft my preparation strategy with a goal to clear PMP on the very first attempt.

My PMP certification exam prep strategy

This is the strategy I decided to go with. Of  course I ended up doing things bit differently, but beginning with a strategy was a huge help. I highly recommend starting with a study plan and prep strategy.

  • Focus more on the 3 low hanging fruits – Initiating, Executing, and Closing process groups (which constitutes 51% of exam questions).
  • Read PMBOK + Rita Prep book, chapter wise, in 45 days.
  • 30 days for practicing mock exams.
  • Planned to attempt at least 5 full mock exams.

Here is how I went about executing this strategy.

1. I read PMBOK and Rita Exam prep book once – chapter wise.

I didn’t get enough time to read the books the second time around, and I only referred to them whenever I found gaps in my knowledge. I understood the ITTOs through data flow diagrams given for every process in PMBOK but didn’t try to memorize it.

2. I took chapter wise exams in a bunch of books.

Rita Mulcahy’s prep book, Sean Whitaker’s book (easy), PMP Exam Practice Test and Study Guide by LeRoy /Ginger Levin (purely PMBOK oriented), to be precise.

My initial scores were around 75 -85%.

Also, I attempted Rita’s Fast track Questions for the above 3 process groups (around 550 questions).

My favorite Knowledge Areas were Risk, Procurement, and Quality and I spent a lot of time in understanding these concepts. These topics were very well explained in Rita Exam prep book.

3. I referred to the following blogs –

Also Read: Short, Sweet, & a Bit Unconventional PMP Approach – Kalaveer M, PMP

Mock exams

By the end of October, I had kicked-off mock exams as per my plan. This gave me lot of confidence. With this now I could take my efforts to the next level with mock exams.

1. I started off with Scordo’s mock tests, and took all the short exams within 10 days.

Exams from 13 to 18 are generally considered to be tough and my average score was 89% in those – I would recommend to start with this exam, which would lay foundation step-by-step to your success.

2. Headfirst 200 questions (in 2hrs 45 mins) – 89% (few questions are outdated)

3. Oliver Lehman 75 questions– 78.6% (tough)

4. PMP Exam Mentor (Google Play, App store) 50Qs – 86%, 100Qs – 95%.

5. Andy Crowe book end 200Qs exam (in 3hrs) – 92.5% (good one, what I like is that questions are short😊).

6. iZenbridge 200Q Mock exam – 75% (most of them are lengthy questions with more than 40% are lengthy math questions)

7. PMP Certification Exam Practice Test and Study Guide by LeRoy 200 questions (end of the book) – 80.5% (only PMBOK based nothing more or less).

8. PM PrepCast simulator by Cornelius Fichtner

  • Exam 1 – 90%,
  • Exam 2 – 89.5%,
  • Exam 3-92.5%,
  • Exam 4 – 95%,
  • Exam 5 -95%,
  • ITTO exam – 95% and
  • Exam 7 (wrote a day before main exam) – 92.5%.

With all these, I was able to practice more than 3000 PMP test questions within a span of one month.

Also Read: Never-Say-Die Attitude Got Me PMP Certification – Mike Onuorah, PMP

Issues I faced

It wasn’t all hunky and dory. I faced few challenges along the way, and since these maybe common for PMP students, I’ve decided to list them here.

  1. When my world revolves around our 3-yr old, it is not easy to get time to study/practice exams during the weekdays. So I used to study for 2hrs once after my son goes to sleep everyday. Fortunately, I got some free cycles at work that I was able to utilize. Plus, I would to spend 5-6 hrs over weekend.
  2. Seasonal sickness. I drank lot of water and took care to prevent them.
  3. Didn’t find any study partner in my organization/friends circle but it was okay once I had joined the WhatsApp group.

My prep during the week before the exam

I made up my mind not to stress too much in the exam week. Hence I didn’t read much but focused on taking mock exam occasionally.

One day before exam – I wrote PM PrepCast mock test to boost up my confidence and it worked well. I asked my wife to quiz me on ITTOs, especially on Inputs and Outputs.

My PMP exam-day experience

  • Somehow I felt very confident and excited on the exam day and skimmed through the Rita’s flash cards (which indeed covers her book overall) in the morning.
  • My Exam was scheduled at 12:30 pm and so I reached the Prometric center by 11 am. I got accustomed with the environment. I was well prepared with food, water, snacks etc.
  • Exam started on-time and the first 30 questions were tricky, where n more than 2 options seemed correct. But then I marked what felt right and moved on. I had anticipated this through various lessons learned shared by PMPs.
  • I finished first 100 questions within 90 mins and took a break for a quick lunch (7 mins). After the security check (which took 3 mins), I resumed with quick progress. Once I got the rhythm I progressed well and finished 200 questions in 3hrs 15mins and reviewed my answers in the remaining time.
  • Most of my questions (more than 60%) were situational based like ‘What could have been done as a PM to prevent this situation from occurring?’ but not as lengthy as in the mock exams.
  • Only few math questions but surprisingly required calculation.
  • I easily figured out the pretest/unscored questions (I think) since I never heard of such terminologies.

At the end of exam, I was confident that I will pass but didn’t really expect that I would get ‘Above Target’ in all Process Groups! Thank God for this.

Just remember to do your best in the run up to your PMP certification exam, and the rest will fall in place.

All the Best for your exam!

Rajkumar S, PMP

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