Muralikrishnan Srinivasan passed PMP® exam recently. Having worked with him for the PMP preparation, I could see how thin he was stretched between work, family, and new arrival in the family. The PMP® exam success, that too with a perfect all 3 Above-Target score, was extra special.
Murali lives in Arkansas, USA. He’s been practicing project management for the past few years with a heavy focus on Agile.
Murali has had an interesting PMP preparation experience, which I believe will help anyone that is preparing for the new PMP® exam. Even if you have just a couple of minutes to spare, make sure you go over the last section where Murali shares his valuable exam insights.
What made you take up PMP®?
Every project manager out there would want to have PMI-PMP under their achievement list at some point in time, given the benefits of it. I am no different. PMP is a dream-come-true achievement and I always believed that certification takes your learning one step ahead in your career.
As I progressed professionally, I realized the need to take my project management skills to the next level and PMP was the way forward.
Having done a couple of industry-recognized Agile certifications in the past made a big difference in exam preparation.
Now that I am PMP certified, I would say self-satisfaction and the learning experience have been phenomenal.
PMP certification brings one more responsibility and motivates one to do more, also to give back to the community.
Which study resources did you consider, and eventually used for your exam preparation?
My study resources included,
- PM Exam Last-Mile prep program by Shiv Shenoy
- PMP Exam Content Outline (every PMP aspirant should understand how the exam is structured based on the new Exam Content Outline).
- PMI Agile Practice Guide (deep-dive learning)
- PMBOK (reference only)
- PM Prepcast Exam Simulator
I basically covered a video course, PMI’s official syllabus, official reference books, and a simulator. I believe these are the bare minimum required for optimal preparation.
You have been a member of the PM Exam Last Mile prep program. Can you please share how it helped?
The last Mile prep program really helped me to set the foundation things right. The true benefit that comes out of the program was mentoring. Talking to Shiv was truly a blessing in disguise.
He understood my challenges during our 1st touch base call and helped me curate a study plan to make it work according to my schedule. His priceless support, motivation, knowledge sharing, and exam tips during weekly touch base calls really helped me to stay focus and get certified.
Would highly recommend other PMP aspirants to get benefited from the Last-mile prep program.
Also read: Free downloadable guide for a research-based simple 3-step formula to choose your PMP study resource. Cut down overall prep time as much as 50%.
How did you approach the exam, and what was your study plan?
Truth be told, I had to carve out time on a daily basis with an effort to study for the exam. But no complaints, that’s something you’d expect as a project manager – constraints. And to figure out a way to manage them.
During the exam, I had one thing in mind, “As a PMP aspirant, I would pass the exam by wearing “PMI hat” and would answer based on what PMI expects. Read the last sentence, identify keywords in question, identify Agile/Waterfall and look for positive things in the response and answer appropriately”.
The first sentence here might have felt a bit silly, but it has been my (and others that I read about) experience that our actual experiences are influenced by many variables, but PMI expects the project managers to behave in a certain way given a situation. Thus, it is better to think from PMI’s perspective than trying to answer a question on the basis of our own experience.
My study plan started with a time period of 11-weeks, then tailored to a 7-week period, and finally replanned again to a 3-week plan. In the interim, I took study notes, followed lessons learned posted by other PMPs, took mini-quizzes to boost my exam readiness.
What is important in my view, is that plans will change for sure but having a plan helps us make progress. This, in my view, is the most important factor in PMP preparation.
Can you please share some of the issues you faced during your PMP journey, and how did you overcome them.
Like others, the biggest challenge for me was losing momentum. You aggressively start your journey and have a pause for few days, and the momentum goes away.
Constant motivation from family members really helped me to gain momentum. Listening to success stories from other members made me stay on track somehow to crack this exam.
Also read: PMBOK-7 is released! Download the primer guide here (and find the answer: “how does PMBOK-7 impacts the exam?”)
The week before the exam is crucial. What was your approach to study during this week?
I made sure to not learn anything new. Kept revising my study notes and practice questions from the simulator.
I had made up my mind to answer questions that I know better correctly in the exam, and not ‘mark them for review’. And for the questions that are not clear, I’d look for positive responses and choose the best option in the exam.
Can you share your exam experience?
I took the exam from the PearsonVUE exam center. The exam center was well organized and followed strict safety measures due to covid. The staff was extremely helpful from start to end.
The only reason I opted for the exam center was due to internet challenges that I might encounter taking it online.
- Opted for breaks – No
- The complexity of questions – Medium to Hard
- Exam questions focused on – 80% Agile (at least that’s what I felt)
- Many situational questions were of type “What should PM do next?”
- Lots of drag and drop questions
- Many questions were aligned towards project initiation, risk, scope, communication, and stakeholders
- Heavy focus on SCRUM
It was an unforgettable moment when I learned that I passed with all 3 ‘Above Target’ scores!
As you prepared for the earlier version of the exam (2020) and then took the new version (2021), how did you study for the extra syllabus?
I pushed hard to clear the exam before Jan 2, 2021, but hard to drop the plan at the last minute due to family commitments.
With the new exam version went live, PMI extended my eligibility, which gave me extra time to prepare the new syllabus. PMI gave me access to learning Agile concepts to help prepare for the new exam which came as a booster.
I strongly relied on the new ECO document to understand 3 Domains and 35 Tasks along with PMBOK sixth edition.
Please note that the way things worked for me may not work for others. So you are the best judge in terms of exam preparation and readiness.
Would you like to share any specific study tips, advice, techniques, or strategies for those preparing for their PMP® exam?
I’ve had few insights during the period of preparation, some of which are –
- No matter what (things always don’t go as per plan) do not panic. If I can do it, you can too!
- PMP is not rocket science. Understand how the exam is organized and prepare accordingly especially situational-based questions.
- You are the best judge when it comes to exam readiness. Believe in yourself!
- Do not use too many study resources, it might overwhelm you.
- Have an Agile Mindset (be flexible, open, and in Bruce Lee’s words “be like water“).
- Wear the “PMI hat” while answering questions (in other words, do not base your answers on your work experience, think how would PMI want you to answer)
- Read the last sentence, identify keywords in question, identify Agile/Waterfall/Hybrid and look for positive things in the response and answer appropriately.
- Revise concepts that you know well and do not introduce anything new at the last minute for reading.
- Understand the SCRUM framework – this would help to answer many situational questions.
- Understand PM responsibilities which would help to answer “What should PM do?” type of questions.
- Understand all the processes but it is important to memorize “activities/remember the order” within each KA/PG. For example, remember the order – Resource management KA under Executing PG has “Acquire Resources => Develop Team => Manage Team”. Such ordering would help to answer some of the situational questions.
- Take as many practice questions as possible from authorized/reputed sources (recommendations here).
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