“PMP® exam hard? Not if you can plan well”, says Neha Jain, who works in Supply Chain management domain for past 8+ years. She is also Lean certified and is currently working on her Green belt project.
In this article you will learn how she stuck to basics and in spite of a busy schedule managed to pass the PMP® exam on first try. PMP® was her very first professional certification, and now she plans to follow these strategies for other certification exams she’s gunning for.
What made you to take up PMP®? Did you consider any other certification exams?
PMP® is not only a certification, it’s my dream of 5 years. During these years, I have realized that nothing comes easy in life. I wanted to do this certification for few reasons –
- to boost my career as PMP® is a well renowned certification
- to prepare myself for the complete cycle of managing successful projects, both small and large
- to identify gaps in my current understanding in managing projects and fill in those gaps with the right knowledge
This is my first professional certification and has taught me that self development is a continuous process. I will continue to pursue more courses to up-skill myself.
How do you see PMP® helping you going forward?
To be honest – the moment you earn this certification, people start looking at you with respect. They want to learn from you. This is why I am writing down my prep experience here.
At work I am able to apply PMP® concepts in my current projects and I can already see improvement in my approach as well as productivity.
What were your study resources, and study plan?
I wanted to stick to basics – one book and one methodology. This of course needed some good research – talking to colleagues, studying preparation strategies of successful PMP® professionals, understanding my own preferred method of learning, and so on.
This research phase is as important as the actual preparation phase itself, because it can save ton of wasted time and frustration down the line. As someone rightly said, if I had 10 hrs to cut a tree I’d rather spend 6 hrs sharpening the axe.
My study plan was as below.
I studied Rita Mulcahy’s book, twice (ad).
Let me caution you about something. The first time when you study every concept will appear difficult and you will feel that you forget whatever you just studied.
Don’t worry, this happens to most of us and this happened with me. When I studied the second time around I was pleasantly surprised to see that things are falling in place.
What is crucial is to not lose focus, and to keep the study efforts going no matter what.
My second reading helped in getting good grip on concepts, where in I studied few concepts such as Risk management from PMBOK guide.
I studied every day.
I would read daily for 3-4 hrs on weekdays and about 8 hours a day on weekends.
There was not even a single day I didn’t study and this streak continued for two months.
I took mock tests.
I took 3-4 mock tests. This was a huge help.
The key is to complete the mock test, and the spend couple of hours analyzing the results, and create/refine the plan to improve your performance.
PMP® exam is a difficult exam, make no mistake about it. All the 4 options to the questions seem similar, and more than one of the options may look to be the answer. This is where all these mock tests and subsequent analyses comes in handy.
I made my own notes.
Considering that I used 2 rather lengthy books (Rita and PMBOK) making notes was essential. It is also something I like because you can make notes only when you understand the concepts.
This meant that I put additional effort to make sure I understood the concept as soon as I learned something new. And of course these notes would help me for revision.
My mantra of success was “discipline and determination”. Every day matters and is important.
Can you talk about the challenges you faced?
I faced many challenges. The primary one was long hours of continuous study combined with office work.
This was both physically and mentally exhausting. But I pushed my limits and focused only on my end goal of ‘being PMP® certified by this date’.
Trust me, this works and gives you instant energy.
How did you prepare in the week prior to the exam?
During my studies I made notes of important points. This helped as a good revision guide for me. Moreover, it also helped me identify tricky concepts that needed more attention as the exam drew closer.
I studied the tricky concepts such as Risk management strategies, individual risky areas such as Closing process group (this has just one process and is a assessment domain in itself on the exam!), and all the Tools & Techniques.
My goal for the last week was to solve 40-50 sample PMP® questions everyday.
The night before the exam I did not study at all. I watched a movie instead, ‘In Pursuit of Happyness’!
This helped me relax and get up fresh the on the day of the exam.
What was your exam experience like?
Exam venue was good, well equipped with essential resources, and the staff was helpful.
Here are few points I have learned during my preparation that I would like to share –
- I found that writing down all processes on paper during the exam helped. I was given blank sheets in the exam hall, but am told that in few exam centers they give erasable laminated sheet and marker pen. So ask ahead!
- I found that writing down all the formulas and short cuts at the beginning of the exam was helpful. I could readily access any of these during the exam without requiring to think in the heat of the moment.
- After the 100th question, I took a bio break. I ate a bar, washed my eyes, and returned to my seat. Keep in mind that during the break the clock keeps ticking. And there is a security check when you reenter. So if you spend 10 minutes for a break you lose 10 minutes from the 4 hours. So plan accordingly!
- I did NOT mark any question for later review. Every answer had to be my final answer. The reason being, at the end of 4 hours mind gets tired of thinking so you can’t focus on the questions marked for review.
- Some of us can’t help but be nervous. Know that it is okay to feel a bit of butterflies in stomach, but tell yourself that you have given your best shot during studies, and you will do the same during the exam. And that staying calm is going to help you do just that.
PMP exam need not be hard, all that it takes is some thoughtful planning. Failing to plan is like planning to fail, so take your time to come up with your study resources, strategy, and a plan – and then jump into action!
Best wishes for your PMP® exam,
Neha Jain, PMP