Shiv, I am glad to inform that I passed my PMP exam! It certainly was not easy but the journey was quite enjoyable. In this article I would like to reveal by PMP prep plan – basically the resources, strategies, tips, and techniques that helped me pass the exam. PMP exam experience is different for everyone and I hope that at least some of what I share here will help PMP aspirants looking for tips.
Resources I Used For PMP Prep
There are quite a few out there (do a Google and you’ll be overwhelmed). Therefore, I recommend doing a bit of research and pick few that fits your bill. Here are few that I chose –
- PMBOK – this is one book that I feel is a must-have for every PMP aspirant
- Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep book
- Aileen Ellis: PMP® Success, very good supplement book to PMBOK with process group wise
- Vijay K. Verma book on Organizing Projects for Success & Human Resource Skills for the Project Manager (Part 1, 2, 3). This is a very good read for Knowledge & Skills of exam content outline
- I downloaded Safari Queue app & read lot of other resources on Project management books
Full Mock Tests Are Crucial For PMP Success
Another important study resource I recommend is a good mock test Simulator.
Attempting full mock exams of 4 hours is a tremendous help in understanding how real exam feels like. It is also helpful practice to plan how to pace your exam and try and answer more questions in a confident manner.
Here are few mock tests that I used for my preparation.
- PM FastTrack PMP v8 (Rita) – I scored 77% to 83% in 7 Tests
- PM Prep Simulator (9 full-length 4hr mocks) – Average of 86% & ITTO 95% (Review Here)
- Free Mocks – Simplilearn : 79% (Course Review Here), PMZest : 66%, Head First PMP : 88%
I took more than 1500 questions with different chapter end questions and question bank.
Here are few more resources I used for my study –
- Video: Joseph Phillips – PMP Exam Prep: Earn Your PMP Certification
- YouTube: Engineer4Free, iZenBridge short videos
- Blogs: PM Prep cast (very useful PMP exam guides), Shiv Shenoy’s PMExamSmartNotes (free ebooks, Study Blueprint, study notes), pmzila
- Forums: I want to be a PMP®, Aileen’s Facebook group
My PMP Prep Plan
I started with PMBOK and began reading Rita Mulcahy’s book side by side for each chapter. This approach of studying same chapter (or KA) across two books one after the other helped me clear my concepts. I studied both of them number of times.
Then I started reading with Aileen Ellis book. My approach was to go Process Groups wise. I also took the chapter- end quizzes to test my knowlege of that chapter. For whichever concepts I could not answer, I went back and studied them.
I also glanced over the practice standards for Risk ,WBS, EMV, Portfolio mgmt, Business analysis and others. I found that ‘Needs assessment’ section is a very good read for studying Benefits realization.
At the same time I came across a book, ‘Project Manager’s Book of Forms – A Companion to the PMBOK Guide’ by Cynthia Stackpole Snyder. This was very helpful for Project template and elements of each of project plan and project documents.
I printed Table 3-1 (page 61 & 53 in the PMBOK) and all data flow diagrams to understand interaction of processes along the logical process-chain.
Every day, I practiced 47 processes with their key ITTOs. I strongly feel that understanding the Inputs, Tools & Techniques, and Outputs based on their concepts helps a lot during the exam.
How Was The Exam For Me?
What I found is that the questions on the exam were VERY situation-based. This means that only studying PMP concepts is NOT enough to pass the exam. We need to be able to apply these concepts to a real-time project situation and choose answers as a way to address that situation.
This comes from practicing mock tests. Hence I highly recommend you invest in a mix of study books (or video courses) AND PMP mock test simulators.
Hence, understanding the ITTOs and how they are related to each other not just in a particular process, but across multiple processes – is a better approach to prepare for the exma instead of memorization.
Some of the questions were framed as “What will the PM do next…….”, “ What would have been done to prevent this situation….” ,“ What will you do now”,” What process might the PM have skipped?” and so on.
In such a scenario, remembering 47 processes will not help you , you have to understand what happens in each process, what tools are to be used and what is use of the outputs. This will help you answer what action to be taken as per the scenario given in the question.
Another point you need to consider is that a question may sometimes look ambiguous about what it tries to convey. In such a case look for the keywords in the question which hints you about what it is trying to find out from you.
Don’t’ get carried away by long, verbose questions. I found that all questions were written in a way to confuse with lot distracting, unnecessary information.
Few Specific PMP Prep Plan Tips
While there can be many, I think the few given below will help you.
- Create an ITTO table (like an Excel sheet) and review the ITTOs every day. As I did this, initially I didn’t get any understanding. Eventually, I started to know them by heart just by reading them each day without trying to memorize.
- Take as many full-length (4hr-200Q) mock exams as you can before exam. This will help you evaluate your progress as well, apart from the advantages I have listed in a previous section. I completed 15 full mock exam before my final exam from Rita PMpastTrack and PM Prep cast.
- Based on which simulator you choose, you may find that mock exam questions are nowhere comparable to actual exam. Be prepared for this on the exam, and if it does happen for you, don’t lose heart – give it your best shot.
- Practice completing full-length mock tests under 3 hours. My time to complete the simulations and real exam were very similar. I completed under 3 hour and then took time to review the marked questions. This approach gives you cushion on the exam if something goes wrong, and gives time to answer marked questions, or if you generally decide to review your answers.
- I found the test questions a little harder than a lot of practice exams questions. Not the questions themselves but the answers. Most of the practice exam questions you could easily strikeout 2 of the answer but in real PMI exam you couldn’t normally do that! Keep in mind that the process of elimination of incorrect answers may be difficult.
- PMI gives you 200 questions from a large repository. Therefore, every exam is different – so even if someone tells you they didn’t have many formulas or network diagrams or ITTO’s it doesn’t mean that you won’t have questions on these. I got couple of complex couple network diagram with Logical relationships; also the answers aren’t as straight forward as in exam simulators. You really need to know how the processes interact to figure out the right answer.
- Please go through each task & cross-cutting skills mentioned in the PMP Exam Content Outline pdf. This is published by PMI. This may help you answer few questions on the exam. PMP tests your application of project management skills, not your ability to remember information from PMBOK guide.
- I did not use any brain dump for my exam. It is your personal choice to create a brain dump, if you feel a need to make note of important points before you start answering. I’d like you to remember that you have to do it in the allocated 4 hour exam time; you are not allowed to write down the brain dump during 15 mins tutorial time before the exam.
On the day before the exam I started feeling little nervous. But I told myself that ‘I should control the exam, exam should not control me!’. With this mindset I was able to keep my nerves and face the exam with confidence.
That’s my journey, folks. I am now a PMP! I’m sure yours will be enjoyable if you can come up with a plan and try to stick to it as much as possible. The foundation however is to have the right set of resources that you will enjoy studying from. I sincerely hope that you will find something useful from this PMP prep plan.
Sanjeet Patra, PMP