My first lesson is to keep it cool. I took PMP just like any other exam, not paranoid about what would happen if I didn’t pass. I noticed few people approaching PMP exam as if everything depended on it, and this approach, I felt was adding unnecessary pressure. Keeping cool and having the right perspective helps a lot, in my experience.
Everyone has a different way of preparing. We are all built differently. Some like to study late nights and some like to study early mornings. And some are quick to grasp the concept and some need to go over few times, some have fantastic memorization skill and some understand good and able to express it in their own words.
I took a hard look at myself to figure what works for me, and included that in my study schedule.
What started it
I began my career in Information Technology field soon after completing my Masters of Computer Science from Osmania University. I began working in the USA for various sectors such as Manufacturing to Automobile to Financials etc., in various roles from Development to Leading/Analyst.
For some reason, I felt my career was becoming stagnant and my mind was saturated because I was not finding the work challenging enough. I was looking for a way to gain complementing skills that help me grow in career.
This was what triggered my quest for PMP.
My study approach
I decided not to rush and joined a study group of PMP aspirants. I found a WhatsApp group with high success rate and this helped me keep the motivation levels high. We also shared our findings on this group and helped each other. Sort of a Progressive Elaboration approach, to quote in terms of PMIsm!
We shared which books to read, where to take contact hours, and such information with each other. I would gather everything and dump it into a folder on a shared drive so I could access on the go from any system.
Even before taking the contact hours training, I tried to read once entire book even I didn’t understand it very well. I recommend Head First or Andy Crowe.
This approach helped me gather some concepts here and there. This acted like an anchor during my second round of study, and actually help understand the concepts faster.
Next, I took the contact hours project management education – which is a mandatory requirement for appearing for PMP exam.
I recommend PMPrepCast by Cornelius. Here are few more you can use off Internet – izenbridge is good, Praizion might be good, because I saw his videos and they were really helpful.
By now I had some idea of what’s in the PMP content, at least high level.
I began my Application Process with PMI. It took 3 to 5 days to complete and about same time for PMI to validate and process the application.
This is when I got serious about the study. Once you pay the fee and your application is accepted, things automatically move to a higher gear!
Here’s what I did next.
I had completed one round of Head First. I had also completed the training for contact hrs. And completed the Application Process.
I didn’t want to book my exam slot with Prometric center yet. And I highly recommend this approach to de-risk your exam.
I decided to make a study plan first.
On the week day, I tried to dedicate at least 2 to 3hrs for study. If you have some spare time at work you can make use of it with a video-based resource such as PMPrepCast.
On weekends I doubled up my study hours.
My study resources
2. In the previous section I also mentioned about a video course such as PMPrepCast. This is helpful to study on the go and keep your study momentum whenever you get some time to spare.
3. PMBOK – the official PMI recommended book. In the exam you will see the PMBOK language.
During the first iteration, I encountered few side effects 🙂 – such as feeling sleepy (a book can be dry!), concepts are not easy to understand. But I stuck to it with persistence. I decided to simply read and complete it.
You may want to re-read PMBOK because u felt everything bounced off during the first iteration of PMBOK.
I cannot stress the importance of this step enough.
Make your own notes.
This may feel like work, but the return on your time investment is humongous.
It need not be very detailed – note of important points, lists, names, concepts, mind maps – however you feel comfortable jotting down the notes. Don’t be too fussy about the format, it is for your own consumption. Focus on tools and techniques.
Your notes will come handy on the day before or on the day of the exam.
Couple of other resources
Other Books you may need to refer simultaneously or sequentially are Aileen Ellis’s PMP Certification Simplified, and if time permits Rita’s PMP book.
Also Read: Robyn Weible explains what you should NOT do during your PMP prep. Don’t miss this article.
My study tips
1. Do not try to memorize the processes, try to understand it and visualize it. Visualize yourself using the process in your own project as you study – see yourself making use of at least some of the ITTOs.
2. We need to know what process falls in which Knowledge Area/Process Group and the sequence of process in its KA as well as PG. This is given in table 1-4 in page 25 of PMBOK 6th edition.
3. Memorize the formulas given in PMBOK guide.
At this stage I felt fairly confident of my preparation, I went ahead and booked the slot.
In my experience 2-4 weeks of lead time is a good time window to give yourself. This time gap is ideal from the perspective of keeping the study momentum going. Give yourself too much of a time and you may become complacent. If the study gets side tracked once it becomes quite hard to get back on track. Plus, you’ll have to deal with the guilt too. 🙂
PMP mock tests
During this period you can do another round of study and focus on PMP mock tests.
I decided to buy a good mock test, instead of using free ones online or app. I suggest Prepcast once again.
My plan was to do one mock tests every day.
It takes 4 hours for the test and then 1-2 hours to go over the answers. Therefore, if home is convenient for exam go to Library and take the mock tests.
After you take the mock tests try to revise both the correct ones and incorrect ones and fill the gaps. Do not worry about the scores you get on mock tests, it’s only to get a feel of the exam and filling the knowledge gaps.
Once I began getting 70 to 75+% on mock tests I felt confident about taking the exam.
During this time, I also read the summary notes sent by Shiv on each KA every day for two weeks, it was helpful to get a revision covering important points.
I also shared them to fellow PMP Aspirants in our study WhatsApp group. If you want to be part of the group, please email me!
Also Read: 10 Awesome study tips from a PMP pro!
The week before exam
Get your brain into the exam mode, take a break from work, get into your own space and just revise.
Don’t stress your brain too much, relax between study sessions. I listened to music and meditated. Do anything that frees up your mind.
On the day before exam, I tried to keep my mind calm and revised lightly. I used my study notes for revision. It helped me a lot – the notes I prepared was with sub-headings & important definitions.
I had included processes definitions, key benefit, process flow charts, change control flow chart, motivational theories, formulas and so on. Sort of a braindump.
If you decide to take a mock exam at this point, keep yourself from getting too much bothered by the result.
My PMP exam day
I woke up early, freshened up and said my prayers. Wore something comfortable.
I tried being as relaxed as I could. I headed to Prometric and reached 40mins earlier. The people at Pro-metric were very nice and guide me from there.
While taking the exam, I went over the tutorial that guided how to navigate, then began my exam.
I was not allowed to write brain dump during the 15 min tutorial time, but if you need to write you can do it first thing as the exam time starts.
I kept a watch on the time.
For the questions I wasn’t confident of the answer, I simply guessed the answer and marked it for review.
Anytime I felt restless or strained, I took a deep breath. You can take breaks too, provided you have enough time left (I did not take any breaks).
I was super happy to end the exam and see the Congratulations message on the computer screen!
I was a proud PMP!
I thank everyone who helped me in this success.
Good Luck. If you need any help or have any questions feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Radha Krishna (Raaju), PMP
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