A great way to de-risk your exam is by leveraging PMP experience of successful PMPs. Avoid their mistakes, take their wins. Considering the not-so-great PMP experience of online exam, this article should really help you navigate the rough waters.
For a detailed coverage of all aspects of the online exam check out this webinar where I shared 21-point 3-part checklist to download.
Marcin Stanczak has an an Engineering degree in the Environmental Protection, Masters degree in Biotechnology and Masters degree in Process Engineering. Since 2014 he has been working for one of the world leading companies in the waste water treatment sector. Marcin lives in Germany and in his free time he likes hiking and spending time in European Alps.
Let us learn about his ‘interesting’ online PMP experience.
What made you take up PMP?
I am constantly looking for continuous development both in my personal and professional life. I simply enjoy learning new things. At a certain point in my career I was looking at what I can achieve, how I can develop my project management skills, what can make me a better manager.
While doing some research I read about a few certificates like PRINCE2, IPM, and PMP. However I still had the impression that none of them is worth doing and spending my hard earned money, to tell you honestly.
Then I experienced that one of my colleagues owns PMP-title. And I decided to talk to him whether it is worth doing, how does it fit to our business and to what our company is doing. He recommended me to pursue PMP.
I also had a discussion with a person who is a speaker and trainer for a project and risk management and who is also provider of a PMP preparation course. He explained me very well what the difference between PRINCE2, IPM and PMP is. And it just confirmed my choice that PMP may be the most suitable for me and my career.
The upcoming changes in the PMP exam expedited a bit my decision to apply for the PMP exam.
Which study resources did you consider?
First and foremost I had to complete 35 learning hours in order to apply for PMP. There is a plenty of courses, but thanks to my LinkedIn premium account I could obtain a free preparation course from Ms. Sandra (Sandy) Mitchell.
With that the first milestone had been reached.
Thanks to my PMI membership I received the access to Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide i.e. PMBOK. However it was written in a very difficult language for me so that I could not continue reading it.
At that point I got Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep book (ad). It was the right choice and this book made my PMP preparation a nice journey.
How did you approach the exam and what was your study plan?
Well, I have a 2 hour drive every day and I did not want to spend all my free time for PMP preparation. That’s the reason I gave myself 5 months for it and I studied mostly during the weekends.
My plan was just to read the entire Rita’s book, finish all the exercises without skipping anything, then to read again the second time and to start with the mock exams two weeks before the exam.
How was overall PMP experience?
Not without some hiccups. My exam was initially planned for 16 Mar , however it was cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic and I had to re-schedule it.
20th of April was supposed to be the new date, however the situation with COVID was still unclear. Then in mid-April PMI announced that they will introduce the online proctored exam and this was exactly what I needed. I decided to re-schedule the exam again.
Most difficult was the entire learning after all busy weeks and working 10 hours a day when you just wanted to rest and relax at home with a drink.
With help of my wife I was able to overcome all organizational issues related to home-oriented tasks. That helped me a lot. Day before the exam, I ate a good dinner, went in bed at 10 PM, but I could not sleep (maybe the dinner was heavy 🙂 ). At night I woke up 5 times and I was really tired on the exam day.
I had an ‘interesting’ PMP experience while taking the online exam, I shall share more when we talk about exam experience.
How many mock tests did you take?
I took the following mock exams –
- 1x 200 questions mock exam at the end of the course from Ms. Mitchell after reaching my 35 learning hours and then within a two weeks before the exam:
- 2x 200 questions mock exam from PMI org
- 1x 100 questions mock exam from Oliver Lehman
- 1x 200 questions mock exam from Oliver Lehman
You may be interested in: My hand-picked study resource list for PMP exam preparation, including mock tests
What was your approach the week before exam?
Due to the fact that I finished learning in Feb 2020 and postponed exam 2 times, I did not really spend much time for preparation after that. I started learning again somehow 3 weeks before the exam.
Then I spent another 25-30 hours reviewing my notes and doing the mock exams. I took last two days before the exam off from work, in order to focus completely on the preparation. The funny thing about that was I went for hiking just one week before the exam and I felt bad about that (as de-risking the exam).
What was your exam experience like?
Online proctored exam was a pretty interesting experience.
I did not face any issues with my laptop, internet connection, or download process of the software from Pearsons VUE. Thanks to other colleagues from our LinkedIn I want to be PMP group I knew what I can expect during the exam.
I did the software check 1 day prior to the exam and on the next day I repeated the whole process 25 minutes in advance.
After I took the photos of my driving license and my working space and uploaded them, the examinator asked me whether I am ready to start. The main rules were –
- no one can enter the work area during the examination
- you cannot leave your working area for any reason
- nothing (including additional monitor etc.) beside you laptop and mouse can be on your desk
- you are not allowed to eat, drink or smoke during the exam (I asked examinator if a glass of water is ok, he allowed for it. However I did not feel the need to drink).
Here is something specific I want to share about the ’10-minute break’ topic, since this seems to be a constant source of questions with PMP aspirants.
- I opted for the 10 minutes break. During this break I drank espresso and quickly ate good 80-100g of raisin and dates to get some extra kick.
- First I had my time to review it. I could even take remaining 3 hours to do this (there is no time limit). Once I was ready to move forward I had to click the button to indicate that I finished. Then I got a warning pop out saying I won’t be allowed to return to those 90 questions once I have submitted them. I did it and then the break window popped out, which I accepted.
- As far as I know it is probably not possible to access another 90 questions even if you did not opt for the break. But I am not certain on this.
Interesting experience as a non-Native English speaker
Because I am not a native English speaker, I booked the exam with the language aid. This way I just wanted to minimize the risk of misunderstanding some of the questions and to have the option of opening the translation window, if needed.
When the exam started I noticed that the full exam was in Polish and that was a nightmare!
You can imagine, you work in English, you study in English and then you get all the questions and vocabulary in other language. Sounds difficult?
Believe me, it is.
This however turned out to be positive, since the questions in your main language are spread out through the entire width of the screen, what makes them difficult to read. In my case I clicked on the English translation window for each single question and got a small window, that I could resize. After a few questions it made it easier to read the questions.
For the first 90 questions I needed about 2 hours and for remaining 110 questions less than 2 hours.
In my opinion 4 hours are completely enough and you have time to review the answers once you finished. Be Careful, once you went for a break after 90 questions, you are not allowed to return to those questions.
That’s truly an experience! Any advice for PMP students?
While preparing for the exam, making notes and paraphrasing was extremely useful.
Secondly, trying to implement some new techniques or tools for my current projects helped me – for instance, the risk register. This way of study was enjoyable, and I learned the risk management processes quite easily.
Lastly, it is important to understand the questions properly and ask yourself, what is really the first thing you can do if the question specifically asks for that.
I wish good luck for all exam aspirants.