PMP Exam Tips, Tricks & Lessons Learned by Ramya Manickam, PMP


I have this mantra, “If I can do you it, you can do it; If you can do it, I can do it.”

And the same held me in good stead when it came to preparing probably one of the toughest exams of one’s professional career – PMP.

In this article I’d like to share my PMP exam tips, tricks & lessons learned.

pmp exam tips tricks & lessons learned by ramya

The seed

I was keen on earning this most coveted credential in the Project Management world. It all started around June 2016 when I started researching ways to kick start my PMP studies. Soon I learned that it demands lot of commitment, concentration, dedication and hard work.

Actively, I spent 4 months with 2 to 4 hours of preparation everyday. Here is my study plan, resources I pmp ramyaused, tips & tricks I learned in during the course of my PMP study.

Study Material and Study Plan

  • Head First PMP – I spent about 3 weeks to finish this book. This book explains PMP concepts in a pictorial and a fun way, using many memory aids. If you need a light reading of PMP and a fun start, I would recommend you begin with this book.
  • PMBOK – This is THE book to consider for your PMP study. Majority of questions appear from this book so as much as possible try not to ignore this. It took me 1 month for first reading; took less than a month for 2nd reading; and took about a week to skim through the book for the 3rd time.
  • Rita MulcahyI’d suggest reading this book after reading PMBOK for the second time. This book is gold for Quality Management, Procurement Management and Human Resource Mangement. Actually, I started reading only the pointers for tips and ended up reading the whole book. It is so interactive that you feel this book talks to you in person.
  • Saket Bansel’s Videos – I watched his free videos for the concepts I felt I need more explanation. His white board sessions are awesome.

Also Read: How Shalima Jain prepared for and passed her PMP exam in 12 weeks

Resources used for Mock exams

Mock exams are a great way to prepare for the real exam. They not only helped me identify gaps in understanding concepts, but it also helped manage those 4 rigorous hours of the PMP test.

Here are my recommendations for mock tests –

  • Christopher Scordo (1000 Questions) – This book is a savior for PMP aspirants. With clear explanations referring to PMBOK is one of the main highlights of this book. I highly recommend. This is the only paid resource I used.
  • Free Mocks –
    • SimpliLearn 20
    • Oliver’s 75 and 175
    • Head’s first 200
    • Izenbridge free 100
    • Whizlabs free 50 and
    • Rita’s chapter-end around 400 questions

(Shiv: This page lists free mock tests, many of which are listed above)

Also Read: Kasturi used this one simple technique to learn 40% of PMP content while saving a lot of time!

PMP Tips & Tricks I learned that worked for me

1) Never memorize ITTOs

When I was going through the 15 mins instructions in the test center, I felt as if I forgot all that I did in last 4 months!

But believe me, once I started reading the 1st question, everything simply flowed through and fell in place.

I believe this will happen only if one understands how all the inputs and outputs are connected.

I used to create mind maps for self-study, and explained process to myself by picking a process at random.

2) Be it right or wrong, check the explanation of all the answers when you practice

This is where I spent most of my time. I checked all the right answers to validate if my thought process when I answered the questions was correct. Did I select my option for the same reason as given in the explanation? – This approach will streamline and align your thought process with PMBOK.

3) Extra reading while checking the answers

If I got a question wrong, I checked PMBOK for the explanation and I end up reading the whole page.

For instance, I got Risk Acceptance question wrong, when I read through Risk acceptance, I ended up reading Risk Mitigation, Avoidance and transfer as well. I know this takes lot of time but it will stand in mind forever.

4) Practice managing those 4 hours

I’m a slow test taker. During mock exams, I ended up reading the question more than 4 times. So I always took few extra minutes and in the end ran out of time.

After few mocks, I practiced reading the question only once and infer the information the very first time. Instead of rushing, I took extra 30 secs in reading the question slowly, but only once. This helped me a lot in the real PMP exam.

I took 3hr and 50 mins to finish all the 200 questions. But I had the confidence that I will pass the exam, because I knew I had read the question carefully and selected the best answer.

5) I actively participated in PMP forums

Every day I woke up to see a question in Facebook forum- PMP Exam notes, Tips and Resources. Thanks for inculcating the PMP’ ism right from the morning. Also, I enjoyed posting a question/doubt on forums and discussing with other PMs. By this means I have learned a lot about project management.

6) Stay Positive

Give positive energy to your thoughts. It is like nurturing a plant. I even thought of preparing a write-up about my PMP journey to post in this very blog.

Also Read: Murali’s Myth-busting PMP experience.

Last week of my preparation

I made a detailed study Plan for last 10 days.

Being a busy mom of a 4 year old and 2 year old, I was able achieve only 75% of my plan. But I felt confident on my preparedness to take the exam.

I regulated my sleep during the last week of my preparation because I scored well in all the mocks I took during the day time than during nights. Dressed up comfortably, I had a good brunch reached exam hall around 11 am, finished all the formalities and started my PMP exam at around 11.45 am.

As I planned and practiced, I read every questions only once slowly and steadily, and at the end of the 4th hour I was confident that I have correctly answered more than enough to the pass the exam.

Also Read: 9 things you can do on PMP exam day to increase the odds of passing it.

Give back to the community

I feel this more important – To give back to PMP community. If any part of this post helps you in your own PMP preparation, it would be of immense satisfaction for me. I have earned more well wishers and friends after I started my PMP journey. Sharing is caring- for yourself and for others. Many Thanks.

Good luck,

Ramya Manickam, PMP

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