It is not every day that you come across someone from a non-traditional project management background to have passed the PMP exam.
Considering how hard it can be for a traditional project manager to pass this exam,
someone from the healthcare profession, NOT using PMBOK 6th edition,
in fact, not using ANY traditional study resources, and
passing the PMP exam is nothing short of,
I wouldn’t call it a miracle,
but it sure is unusual!
I would let you discover her unique approach to the PMP exam. Neither she nor I would recommend you take that approach.
She began serious preparation just 3 weeks prior to the exam.
And, she got an Above-Target score in all the 3 domains!
Yes, this is that kind of story and the protagonist is Premila Balasubramaniyan.
Pull that jaw up, and let us hear from her. 😀
Premila did have some earlier project management studies under her belt. Even then it takes some special skill, commitment, and mindset to do what she did.
In this interview, I have tried to get as much out of her as possible, so you can get a sense of what may work for your own exam. I hope you will find this helpful.
If you do, please consider sharing this with someone that is preparing for the PMP exam.
Do you want my PMP launch course ($27 value, free today)?
Premila, thank you for this conversation today. Can you tell our readers about your work?
I am a licensed Physiotherapist based in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.
I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Physiotherapy and a Master’s degree in Human Rights. I also completed the Project management program a year ago from eCornell university.
I am currently employed as a full-time Physiotherapist in a long-term care facility, primarily serving as a consultant Physiotherapist.
As a passionate lifelong learner, I am keen on continuously acquiring new knowledge and skill sets to make me a better person.
I would love to work on projects related to Public health.
Obtaining PMP certification was my personal goal for 2022 as I aimed to broaden my career opportunities and possibilities.
In my free time, I enjoy reading books, spending time in nature, spending time with my family, doing Yoga and meditation etc. despite time constraints affecting my preparation.
I am proud to accomplish an Above-Target level performance in all three domains of the PMP exam.
And I am ready and open to taking interesting and challenging positions anywhere in the world to work remotely at this point on projects related to public health, poverty alleviation, global research and policy matters/vaccine research projects/ future pandemic preparation projects. I think these have a larger impact on humanity.
What made you take up PMP?
Taking up the PMP exam was my first step to preparing myself for a bigger and more positive change.
I thought with a better work-life balance I can contribute better to society on a bigger level.
I do love my profession as a licensed Physiotherapist working in a long-term care home in Canada helping hundreds of seniors living here.
I’ve come to the decision that it’s time to switch careers and look into other opportunities which challenge me and allow me more time to do things in a better way. I think the recent pandemic has changed my way of thinking about life.
My interest in PMP was sparked by its adaptability, versatility, and a wide variety of areas where project managers work. Also, many PM positions allow flexibility to work as per your area of interest also in remote, onsite, and hybrid models.
Definitely, I am curious to learn and enhance my knowledge in the field of project management by pursuing specialized certifications in addition to the PMP, if I foresee it would bring value and expertise to my existing knowledge and profession in the future.
Now that you are certified, how do you see PMP helping you?
I understand that PMP certification is a globally recognized certification offered by Project Management Institute. The core benefits I expected from earning PMP certification are :
- Better ability to lead and direct complex projects as a Project Manager
- Increased credibility, value, and recognition as a project manager
- Improved project management skills and knowledge
- Improved career opportunities with better financial benefits
Above all, to test where I stand with my skill and knowledge level in project management.
After completing the Project Management Professional certification exam, I feel my mindset and the way I deal with my day-to-day life and work changed.
PMP certification helped me in validating the information, abilities, and experience I have accumulated thus far in my life with regard to project leadership and management. Also, I feel I’ll be able to keep up with the most recent industry standards and best practices as a member of PMI.
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According to you, what is the one thing a PMP aspirant should have/do/use, to prepare well and pass the exam?
Any exam requires thoughtful study and planning, and I think the PMP exam is not an easy one to crack.
Goal-setting and strong commitment are crucial in order to pass the PMP exam on the first try.
Some exam tips which I think may be useful are:
- Try and understand the PMP exam content outline and study materials provided by PMI
- Create a study schedule and stick to it consistently
- Having a study mate or study group for more accountability and support will help to review and discuss materials read, and stays in your memory for a longer period of time
- Utilize PMP exam prep help available online, YouTube videos of Shiv Shenoy on key concepts, PMBOK 7 scenario-based questions and answers with explanations by David Mclachlan, Books suggested by PMI, and practice exams available online as many as you can prior to the exam
- Stay organized and track your progress throughout the study process.
- Practice exams in a realistic environment (attempt a full exam, at the same time and the same number of hours as the real exam)
Additionally, for me, having a good understanding of the PMBOK 7th edition guide and having strong problem-solving skills combined with critical thinking of real-life scenarios (at work and in life) was beneficial in passing the PMP exam.
Which study resources did you use for your exam preparation, and how did they help?
Though I did not have time to refresh all the topics in the books suggested by PMI during my exam prep, they were used for reference only.
Some of the books and resources I used are:
- PMBOK Guide 7th edition, (you can download pdf as a PMI member)
- PMP practice exams available online and from the PMI study hall,
- Agile practice guide,
- PMP launchpad covering Day 1 to Day 10 by Shiv Shenoy (with well-organized mind maps)
I kind of used an unconventional way of attending a lot of Practice exams and went back to referring to books for challenging questions.
These study resources can help PMP aspirants by providing a structured and comprehensive approach to studying, helping them understand the PMP exam content, and allowing them to test their knowledge and identify areas for improvement.
What was your approach and study plan?
As I said before, I had to adopt an unconventional method of preparing for the PMP exam because of a time crunch, caused by my mother’s illness and my need to rush to India and back, which left me with just three weeks to study.
I began by taking practice exams and turned to the book when I encountered challenges.
Though I will not recommend this approach to any PMP aspirants.
My recommendation for an ideal preparation would be consistency in study habits and choosing the right study resources which suit your style of learning at least 3 months prior to the exam if you are not a risk taker.
I have a passion for lifelong learning and I make sure I learn at least something new every day even after the exam.
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Can you share any issues/blockers you might have faced along the way and how you overcame them?
1. Lack of time combined with family responsibilities was the number one blocker for me
PMP aspirants often may have full-time jobs, families, and other responsibilities that will lead to finding consistent study time difficult.
Because of my time crunch (3 weeks), I prioritized exam preparation and studied 3-4 hrs every day, and made sacrifices for other roles wherever possible with the support of my family.
2. I did have difficulty understanding some key PMP concepts
I had to rely on google, YouTube videos and PMP Launchpad. Mind map and frame method of memorizing the processes, domains, and ITTOs by Shiv Shenoy was a huge resource.
Utilizing multiple study resources and seeking help from others, such as a study partner, mentor, or online forums was beneficial.
3. Lack of motivation and boredom
Studying for the PMP exam can be a long and arduous process, and it can be easy to lose motivation and lose track/momentum.
I did set realistic goals (small ones) by tracking progress throughout the study process.
Rewarding yourself with small treats (whatever you enjoy) along the way when you finish a goal can also help keep morale high.
I would say my PMP exam prep journey was relatively shorter for me than many of my friends who prepared for more than 6 months.
I did start seriously 3 weeks prior to the exam, which was not my choice.
Prior to that a year ago I did read my books for my project management program which provided good foundational knowledge.
The week before the exam is crucial. How did you prepare during this week?
The week before the PMP exam is a crucial time and it is important to plan and prioritize things with a structured approach.
Here are some my suggestions for preparing during this week:
- Focus on reviewing the key concepts and processes covered in the PMBOK Guide and other study materials.
- Attempt several full-length practice exams to simulate the actual PMP exam experience and identify areas for improvement.
- Review the incorrect answers from practice exams and make sure to understand why they are incorrect., understand the rationale
- Review and memorize important terms, definitions, and formulas using flashcards, mnemonics using memory tricks that work for you
- Relax and get enough rest, eat healthily, sleep well, and engage in light exercise.
- Stay positive and confident, and remind yourself of your abilities and accomplishments
By following these tips, PMP aspirants can effectively prepare for the PMP exam during the week leading up to it, increase their chances of success,
How was your exam experience?
One interesting thing I remember was that my exam date was just a few days before Christmas. Christmas time is a special celebration time for all Canadians and I chose to study and appear for the PMP exam.
I chose to sit for the PMP exam in a testing center nearby rather than a proctored exam at home to avoid any technical glitches / disturbances. This was one of the best pieces of advice I got from my friends.
The funny thing was I was the only candidate who wrote the exam in that center on that day which was a bit scary to know! 😀
The examiner mentioned at the end of the exam that she was curious to know who I was due to the reason I appeared for such a serious exam during the Christmas holidays. But at the completion of the exam, I was extremely happy to see the result and felt a sense of accomplishment.
PMI officially has begun introducing questions from the PMBOK 7th version. Did you come across those questions?
PMBOK Guide 7th version is one of the official reference books for the PMP exam, and it is the most important resource for exam preparation.
Make sure to study and understand it thoroughly.
Yes, I came across several questions from this book.
All the best to all PMP aspirants!
Premila Balasubramaniyan, PMP
When you are ready, here are a few ways I can help you enjoy your PMP prep and pass the exam with ease:
- My brain-friendly hybrid course: PMP Last Mile Prep Program
- My Amazon book series: Master PMP concepts
- My PMP simulator: Get it on Udemy