I have been managing projects for over 6 years now, following the project management practices from my organization. These were good, they did the job required but I used to feel that I did not have a well rounded insight about the project, including various areas that I need to be proactive about. When I relocated in Malaysia last year, I witnessed the systematic project management and also understood the importance of having a globally recognized certification. I realized how it can help me become a better project manager.
Thus began my PMP journey.
In this article I will share few PMP insider tips that I have gained along the way, hopefully you will be able to make use of some of this.
Overall time taken
Overall, it took me about a month of initial preparation time and a month of revision efforts.
I didn’t have a firm study plan to start with, but then things slowly began to take shape. By having a well thought-out plan you can save lot of time and get better clarity about how you are going to achieve your PMP certification.
With a good plan, and the commitment to stick to it, it is possible to get your PMP in even lesser time than what I spent.
That takes me to…
Tip#1: A study plan, first.
I recommend coming up with a plan upfront. It need not be a perfect one, but good enough to start with. I mean, as a project manager we know that no plan is perfect, right? 🙂
The whole idea of planning is that it helps us focus and gives us a direction to move towards the goal. Then of course things change, and we respond to it by refining our plan.
Here is the study approach I took.
I would choose a knowledge area and read through both books just focusing on this KA.
This approach seemed less cumbersome than choosing too many study resources and stumbling all over. This gave me just two resources to work with, which was peaceful. 🙂
It need not be PMBOK and Rita for you. Do your own research on the Internet and choose a couple that fits your bill.
Tip #2: Make study notes.
This probably is the most important aspect of study, if I may say so.
The benefit of making study notes, as I see, is that it speeds up the whole learning process. I mean, in order to be able to write notes from memory, we first need to understand the subject. This gives us better focus during the study, because now the study has an immediate purpose to it – to reproduce the gist of the subject in our own words. Thus I find this approach very successful in speeding up PMP learning and reducing overall study time and effort.
I made extensive notes, and also created mind maps.
Be open to surf, when needed.
After the first round I chose to read PMBOK guide again in detail.
You may not get answers to all your questions in the study resources you have chosen. I didn’t.
I referred to videos, websites whenever I was unclear about any concepts. Just a word of caution though – when you google for something you will get a gazillion results, and you need guard yourself getting sucked into web surfing and losing a lot of time. Your study time is valuable – it is something you carved out from your daily, otherwise busy, schedule. Make sure you make good use of it.
Tip #3: Never skip any topic.
Unlike some of the other certifications or earlier exams one might have taken, there is no option to ‘leave out’ some portion of PMP so one can score on easier part of the PMP syllabus. Every knowledge area, every process, every ITTO is important.
Moreover, you would have seen the percent questions that appear from each process group (if not, refer to this). If one happened skipped a Not a good idea to skip anything. One month for question answer, mock test, and studying weak areas.
Most likely, it won’t be easy.
Murphy’s law, right?
Here are few issues I faced –
- I don’t have reading habit, so it was difficult for me to read 1000 page document (yes, PMBOK)
- Feeling confident about my preparedness. Chances are this is hard. I took as many mock exams as possible. I sent an email to Shiv about my result trend, his advice was very helpful. As my results improved, so did my confidence about my ability to take the exam.
The next one is by far most useful of my PMP insider tips. You’re going to love this!
Tip #4: Get a study buddy
As a project manager you get pulled into multiple issues on a daily basis, requiring your attention on multiple issues at a time. Moreover, you’ll also need to juggle family, social and personal time.
With all this, it can be difficult to retain study focus for so long.
One technique to ease this is to get a study buddy.
Someone that is preparing for the common goal with you – PMP certification.
Having a study buddy, apart from helping to make progress and keep focus, has many benefits.
- Learn from each other’s study insights – when you discuss a particular topic or process you’ll share/learn critical insights gained from own study
- Teach-Learn – teaching is a way of learning too. If you both are short of time, choose a process to study each, and teach that to the other.
- Motivation – no matter how upbeat one is at the beginning, there will be times when you don’t feel like studying. Or feel like your efforts are not bearing fruit. You’ll need motivation to continue. Study buddies motivate each other to chug along.
- Accountability – each will hold the other for accountability on the study plan
- Make it fun – come up with cross-words, quizzes, test papers – make learning a fun exercise.
Tip #5: Plan for the week prior.
The week before exam is crucial. It can make or break it for you. Here is what I did.
- I took 3 full-length 4hr mock tests
- Made a a list of topics (grey areas) that I needed to focus more on. I understood them thoroughly.
- An unexpected event reduced my study time drastically just before 3 days of my exam. Although, I was not happy about it that time, it turned out the best thing as it shifted my focus from exam-anxiety. There was no time to be anxious, I had to dedicate the time for revision. 🙂
- I had prepared quick, short notes for last day revision. On the previous day I had to travel 400 kilometer to the exam center. As I love travel, I relaxed, enjoy the journey, and read only the short notes.
My exam day experience.
Everyone has certain expectations from the exam. In my experience the exam was not easy but not as difficult as I had thought.
- Almost all questions were situational.
- I had very few math questions and network diagram questions. The questions on the exam are taken randomly so you may get a different mix of questions. In short, do prepare for math, and ITTO questions.
- Time turned out to be the main factor for me. I planned to take a break in every 1 hour, but I ended up taking none. In short, don’t drink or eat too much before exam and avoid any situation of needing a bio-break during the exam. The clock does not stop when you take a break.
- Some questions were about process, tools, input and output (ITTOs). However, those were not straight forward. You have to know what each process does.
- I had plenty of questions about change management combined with other processes.
- Risk and Quality management processes are also very important.
Few more PMP insider tips –
- While reading processes, try to understand what you already do and what you don’t. Spend some time to understand why you don’t do it, how can you do this. It will help you to answer questions spontaneously based on insight. In the real exam, you will just over a minute per question. It is difficult to cover up time if you lose time answering questions one after the other.
- Don’t try to memorize ITTO. Try to understand the flow of major output from each process. Major tools used and how they fit with overall process objective.
- Create flowchart, mind map, play Q&A with your study buddy whenever you get time. This helped me a lot.
- Practice sitting for 4 hours at a stretch in case you need it. Ideally, do it for the same time slot that you have scheduled your exam for.
- Join facebook and LinkedIn group. Try to answer each question and understand the reason behind the answer when it is posted.
Finally, be relaxed during your exam. If you can’t, then remember the following line that my study buddy told me when I was anxious about exam…
“PMP is not your whole life, it is just a part of your life for your better future”.
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