“Don’t let question pattern mislead you on the exam” – this is one of the points I would like to highlight even before sharing my prep journey. This is so crucial, as it almost tripped me on my exam. I will explain what happened in a bit.
The seeds of PMP dream
When I had around 3-4yrs experience, I saw my manger getting his PMP certification. I was managing quality function for my project and in one of the team meetings my manager told us that she is going to be the next Project Management Professional… that was when the first seed was sown in me.
Later when I was working as a Team Lead, I felt I should take up the PMP certification to add value to my role. I identified a PMP training institute and took up the training, after which I realized that its an ocean difficult to cross, and its not as simple as some of the other certification exams.
My first son was around 2yrs old when I took up the PMP training and I was not able to spare much time for study between tight work schedule and kid. One thing I had in my mind was that I had committed myself to PMP this and so was determined on taking up the certification and exam. I did not want to give up.
Also Read: Keith Demers shares his simple 4-step process to fail-proof PMP prep
I went about scouting for PMP study material
One mistake I did is that I collected all the materials I heard off. You name a book, an exam simulator or a material and I would have it. I had invested lot of money in purchasing books, browsing and taking printouts, assuming that I should pass PMP whatever it costs me. Request you all not to do the same.
All the books are good, you need to choose the right material based on your comfort and your way of studying.
I used the following –
- PMBOK. You can read this book if you do not get sleep and I’m sure it will help you … Yes, its so dry to read. I made it a point to read PMBOK page to page.
- Rita’s book – I would say that it’s the best reference book. The explainations of terminologies, concepts, examples, Q&A are the best in its form.
- Prepared my own notes – a summarized version of PMBOK
- ITTO chart – I prepared my own ITTO chart for all the processes as one pager(A1 size). I tried to create a linkage between the output of process to the input of another process. Basically you need to understand the relation between processes and the Tool used, you need to analyse and understand as Why is this an input, why are these tools used and the purpose of each of them, etc
- For mock exams I used PMPrepCast. I attended questions Knowledge area wise and this helped me a lot. Then took up 4-5 full mock exams. Initially I was able to score only 60% to 65%, but later was able to reach 70% (I found this tough though).
And then a couple more.
- Andy Crowe’s book –Very nice book written in simple English and its easy to understand. Anyone feeling tough to read PMBOK can read Andy Crowe’s book and then go to PMBOK.
- Head First PMP – I used it for understanding Procurement Management and other topics where I needed so more information.
The next crucial step – coming up with study plan
I had been studying for PMP without any target, I hope this was my biggest drawback. I ended up studying and studying but without much solemnity.
Finally, I decided to fix my exam date and prepared a plan. I booked my exam first and created a study plan working backwards to current day. As I had to manage between my job and studies, I started studying from 9 pm after dinner to about 2 to 3 in the morning.
I ensured to study as per my plan. My plan was to take up 2 mock exams a week. I took off from work for 2 weeks before the exam and studied rigorously.
Also Read: Pratiksha shares an accidentally discovered technique to fast track PMP prep
I thought it would be smooth, but it wasn’t
Murphy’s law, right?
Managing PMP studies between work and kids wasn’t easy, so had to ensure to dedicate some time everyday without fail. This meant missing lot of functions, festivals, chance to spend time with kids, enjoying my holidays or weekends as I was very much committed in achieving PMP.
I booked my exams during mid of August and unfortunately my dad passed away just 2 weeks before it. I was much disturbed and was not able to take up the exam. Then I called up PMP support team and they agreed to reschedule my exam to a later date without any fine or losing the fee I had paid.
I used to read the posts of Shiv’s PMESN blog, which was kind of an activator for me. The reviews and PMP prep experience of others motivated me to keep going for my goal.
The week before the exam
I sort of followed a daily ritual. Everyday first thing I would do is write the cheat sheet, i.e, the process chart and all formulas.
A week before the exam, I skimmed PMBOK and Rita, Studied the notes I had prepared for each process.
I used the ITTO’s chart I prepared for reviewing the input and outputs everyday for revision.
2 days to do. I did not do intensive study, rather revised Rita’s book and my notes.
Also Read: Robyn Weible explains what NOT to do while you prepare for PMP exam
I had booked the afternoon slot so as to revise in the morning and also because I needed some commuting time. Just before going for the exam I went through my cheat sheet.
Before the start of the exam, I was told not to write anything on the rough sheets during the initial few mins of testing time and should wait until the exam begin. I jotted the process chart and the formulas as fast as possible and then started with the exam.
Suddenly I noticed that same option was given as an option for multiple questions. This was a bit strange question pattern. For instance, if the answer to one question is Fast tracking, for the next question one the options would be Fast Tracking. And for the next one. And we would assume Fast tracking is ruled out and so Crashing or Resource leveling would be the answer. Unfortunately this was not working for me. For almost 2-3 questions, the answer seemed the same.
I was wondering if I was going wrong with this. It was playing on my mind. But then I decided to trust my guts and went ahead as per my decision of choosing what option seemed the right choice for me – and ignoring the question pattern. And this really worked for me.
After 100 questions I felt the exam was becoming easy but did not want to be over confident. So I concentrated on the other questions as well very well. Each and every question was very different and was kind of scenario based. Only few numeric questions were on EVM and Critical Path/Critical Chain methods. None of the questions were repeated from any of the 2000 mock test questions I had attempted prior to the exam.
So, based on my experience here are few tips I’d like to share
For anyone planning to take up PMP, I would suggest to start with Andy Crowe’s Book. This would be easy to start with and will keep you focused. Next go through PMBOK and then Rita – in that order. Of course, prepare your notes in your own words, which will help you understand the content better.
Tips and Techniques –
- Understand the process chart well – focus on the logical relationship between processes
- Understand what each knowledge area is for
- Be clear on concepts and terminologies
- Work on the numerical questions
- Take up chapter wise Q&A’s and then go with full mock exams
I hope my ideas, experience and exam tips help you in your own PMP exam preparation.
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