She’s an entrepreneur. She wanted to be able to manage her projects better.
PMP was her goal.
She faltered the first time.
She got up and went ahead all cylinders firing.
She drew courage from a much stronger reason than the logical one that triggered her PMP dream.
One of the success principles we teach in our free PMP Study Blueprint course is to tie your PMP goal with an emotional event or need. You’ll see its power in a bit now.
In this interview Carole Swift shares every strategy, technique, and approach she used to realize her PMP dream. For instance, using PMP exam prep simulator as a learning tool.
By the time you reach the end of this post, my hope is that you would have picked up a gem or two to use in your own prep.
If you needed any help with your prep, get in touch with me right away.
What event triggered your desire to take up PMP exam?
I actually had not thought of taking the PMP until visiting my friend and her husband one summer.
Her husband Eric and I were talking about how important it is to continually better ourselves and grow. We were discussing my career, what I liked about it and what my frustrations were.
After listening to me and asking questions, he announced that I should become a PMP.
We spoke briefly about the structure it could add to my project management methods, and said I would do it; I would get my PMP.
He was battling stage 4 cancer and had many other issues to be concerned with, but looked me straight in the eye and said “You will?”. I said “Yes I will”, knowing he knew what he was talking about.
What I did not know is what it really meant or how challenging it would be.
That was the last time I saw Eric as he passed a few months after I had gone back home.
The PMP exam application alone was a challenge but I got through it as I had many projects I had managed. I studied so hard for the PMP and failed the first time to my shock. I felt I let everyone down, myself, my family who put up with me and Eric.
Many times I thought why am I doing this again?
Oh yes, because Eric told me I should.
I changed my strategy and dug in deeper and Friday, February 4th I took the PMP exam and was staring at the screen that said I passed.
I stared at it for 5 minutes before I got up to leave.
Also read: How a US Army veteran cracked PMP exam.
Now that you are PMP, what changes would you foresee in near future? In other words, how would PMP impact your work?
I already see that I handle my projects differently in a more organized way. I think of the processes, knowledge areas and all I have learned during my studying and apply it to my projects and how I manage my team.
I want to continue to grow and improve myself and my career. I feel getting my PMP will give me more opportunities than if I did not have it, in case I should ever want to do something else.
I also feel that it helped me to see that if I want to accomplish something bad enough I can.
It has made me want to continue to learn more.
I would now like to look more into Agile and Scrum and of course work on my PDU’s. I would also like to help anyone else accomplish their goal of passing their PMP. I have had so much support along my journey I would love to give back.
What study resources did you consider, and used for the exam preparation?
I studied the PMBOK twice through; Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep was extremely helpful and a bit easier to read.
I went through Rita’s book a few times. I went through a weekend boot camp with Dan Ryan (he has a great ITTO study tool). I took practice exams with the PM exam Simulator and other study materials from Cornelius Fichtner. I watched many YouTube videos. Phill Akinwale has some very helpful ones.
PMP exam prep simulator can be used as a good learning tool.
The questions on the exam can sound very difficult because of how they are worded. The practice exams from PMP simulator help you to get used to how the questions are worded and what information to concentrate on.
It was helpful for me to read the last sentence of the question first to get an idea of exactly what they are asking and then read the entire question.
With each exam question think of what process the situation is in, what is extra information not needed, what the Project Manager’s role is, as well as what ITTO’s are appropriate for that process and knowledge area and what should be done next.
I am seeing even more resources now I wish I had known about, that I feel would have helped me even more.
How did you approach the exam and what was your study plan?
Once I set my site on my objective of passing the PMP, I made studying for it a part of my everyday life, no matter what my schedule was.
- I made sure when I studied I was in an area with the least distractions possible (not always easy with working full time and my home can get a bit hectic).
- Every day I began with creating a chart of the processes and knowledge areas before I opened any book.
- I only studied for a few hours each day to truly comprehend what I was studying.
- I broke my studying up into one process area at a time and always took a quiz or mock exam on that subject matter.
- After taking the quizzes and mock exams, I made sure to review each answer I got wrong, or was unsure of, to explore the question deeper and understand what made the question difficult for me. This helped me to understand my weak areas.
- I made sure to mark the area of my books that covered these areas with tabs to review again later.
- Going back through the tabbed areas of my books helped days before the exam to quickly review the areas I had problems with.
That’s awesome. Can you tell us about some of the issues you faced during your PMP journey, and how did you overcome them.
One of the biggest issues during my PMP journey was that I failed the exam on my first attempt. I took it on the last day of the Fifth edition and the next day they were changing to the Sixth edition. I was crushed.
I basically felt I needed to start all over, which I did.
I changed my thought process and strategy I had to think of bigger projects with a more formal approach than I actually worked with on smaller projects and in a smaller company.
I had previously relied on my own project management experiences which did help in some instances and hurt in others.
This is when I changed my way of thinking to how the PMBOK would want me to handle Project Management and how the PMBOK would expect situations to be handled in a more formal and structured way.
How did you prepare in the week prior to the exam?
My second attempt taking the exam I had the flu for the three weeks before so all I did was study.
I took more mock exams, notating what continued to be my weaker areas.
I was having a big issue keeping all the ITTO’s straight in my head. I came up with a handmade study tool in the middle of my last minute craziness with no time left to be ordering something else online.
Two days before my exam at about 11:00 pm, I finally decided to make myself write each process name separately on a piece of paper with the definition.
On the other side of the paper I put a box in the middle with the process name again. To the left I added boxes with the name of the inputs to that process. Above the process box, I added a box with the tools and techniques used for that process and to the right of the process box I added boxes with the names of the outputs of the process.
This had the arrows that pointed to the outputs. I did this for every process. Then I laid them all out on my pool table (which is large and usually used as a laundry folding table) in the same manner as the process and knowledge chart, with the name and description side up.
I made myself go through this chart saying each process name out loud as well as the description, then turned over the page and read out loud the ITTO’s as they flowed in and out to each process.
Odd as it was this helped me; by writing each process and ITTO down and visually seeing how each flowed and describing it out loud.
By this time my family was sure I was crazy but were smart enough to tip toe around me and leave me to myself. I wasn’t the calm collected person who took the days off before the exam as I have read of many who have. I did feel a calm come about me after I went through the process many times out loud.
That’s a unique approach, and I’m sure PMP students will want to try it now. What was your exam experience like?
The first exam experience was a nightmare. The questions were very long, complex and tricky. Many questions were two or even three paragraphs long.
I had to read and re-read the questions which took a lot of time and I was running behind on the timer.
The second exam experience I felt I was more calm and prepared.
I had taken many mock exams and was used to how the questions were worded.
I made sure I read the last sentence first and then read the entire question. This helped me know what the question was asking and what information to look for as well as what information was not needed.
I was able to move through each question and mark any I was unsure of.
I ended up with enough time to go back through the questions I marked, though I only changed two. I then had about one minute left and I decided not to try to change any other answers.
Then a short survey came up before I could see my results (like I really wanted to answer more questions).
I got up and was surprised the room was completely empty. I checked out without any big emotional CONGRATULATIONS as these very nice moderators were used to people passing the exams they give.
Then I literally cried in relief when I walked out. I called my husband and had to assure him I was not crying because I failed but just the opposite. I had felt like I had been through a battle and had survived, which I guess is about right.
What are some of the specific study tips, advice, techniques, or strategies you’d like to share with PMP students?
The important tip I can share is that as you are studying make notes of areas that are not as clear to you.
Take mock exams after studying each process and continue to notate your weak areas. Learn why you did not pick the correct answer. This will get you accustomed to how the questions are asked on the exam as well as what you need to go back and study.
Take advantage of the support offered from the many groups on LinkedIn, Facebook and online. There are so many people willing to help and so many resources available.
I was a trainer in a different industry many years ago and I learned that everyone learns differently. Find out what learning techniques work best for you. Memorization and word association works well for some of the material but won’t work for all because there is just such a massive amount of material to know.
Basically not just knowing the material, but understanding the material is so important; such as how each process, knowledge area and ITTO’s flow within each other.
When you have an exam question you must dissect it and truly understand what the situation is and what is to be done.
I wish you best of luck!
About Carole Swift
My name is Carole Swift and I am a PMP, finally! I am the owner and project manager for my marketing company, High Performance Creatives, which is celebrating our 10 year anniversary!
I started out as a web designer and developer 15 years ago with a web development company. I eventually found myself as the liaison between the clients and the project team and became the Project Manager. I love working with people and decided I wanted to improve the level of customer service and team work ethics so decided to go out on my own.
I have a background as a customer service specialist and a platform artist / trainer from years ago for a large salon chain. I taught the newest trends as well as helped to coach a boot camp on client retention and customer service.
I have always loved to learn and if I could be paid to be a student, I would be a professional student!