Brescan Constantin is an engineer with 15 years of experience in Quality Assurance (automotive, agricultural equipment, large-volume components for nuclear fusion). “Simulation PMP exam used as a study strategy is often overlooked, unfortunately”, he said when asked to suggest a single best study technique.
In this week’s PMP® Lessons Learned article, Brescan gives a brief account of how he passed the exam. Brescan works for Fusion for Energy (F4E) in Barcelona, Spain. Has been one of the top contributors of our Facebook community.
Apart from the online research of various PMP certification options, I chose PMP because I work in an organization where project management is effectively used by many colleagues.
Although I work as Quality Assurance Officer, I wanted to get how to manage things professionally, how to act in difficult situations, what tools and vocabulary to use for evaluating the performance of the project I lead or I’m involved in.
How did you prepare for the exam?
I took a 5-day classroom training to prepare for the exam, which also gave me the 35 contact hour certificate that is one of the mandatory eligibility requirements of the PMP exam.
Next, I studied Rita Mulcahy’s book for in-depth study. The exercises given at the end of each chapter were very helpful in validating my understanding of what I learned in the chapter.
Then in order to get real exam experience, I took many simulated exams, online as well as using mobile apps (recommended resources and free resources here).
How did using simulators help?
Simulation PMP exam used as a study strategy is often overlooked, unfortunately. Like I mentioned simulators helped me get the 4-hour exam experience. Sitting for 4 hours, although there are 2 optional breaks in between, can be a challenge – especially if the questions are turning out to be challenging.
The second benefit is that simulated exams helped me discover my weak areas, and I simply plugged those gaps.
I went over my wrong answers and followed up on those topics with micro-study and filled those knowledge gaps. Also, I repeated the tests that I failed, re-checking carefully the wrong answers until I got good scores. With this approach some of the questions felt repeated but the value of actually sitting through the test and passing it was incredible.
One of the biggest benefits I noticed is that as you use simulators your fear of the exam slowly melts away.
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Overall how long did you take for the preparation?
It took me 3 months from the point of deciding to take up PMP to take the exam and pass it.
One of the approaches I used was to take the benefit of short breaks during the day. Be it the time during a flight, waiting at airports, or train stations, I studied on my laptop or smartphone going through my notes.
Reading through other successful PMPs’ experiences also helped.
Did you face any challenges?
As I said, finding time to study was a challenge and I used the free time here and there to keep making progress with my study.
Math formulas and new topics were a challenge too. The only way was to really go over them again and again till they made sense to me.
I wanted to avoid the possibility of postponing the exam due to lack of preparation, so I paced my study to make sure that the week before the exam I have only the weak points /process areas /phases to revise.
Can you share your exam experience?
I made sure that I rested enough on the previous night. I also did not study at the last minute. Thus I was physically and mentally fresh during those 4 hours of the exam.
Managing time pressure was essential, and I had practiced this during mock tests.
I set a goal of answering 22-25 questions every 30-minute slot, which allowed me to adjust the pace and avoid panic at the end. Not wasting time in deciding the option when in doubt and marking it for later helped. In most cases, I ended up choosing to stay on the initial answer.
Any advice for PMP® aspirants?
I found that most of the time there are two wrong answers that are easy to detect, leaving me to choose the right answers from the remaining 2 options. Thinking about how PMI would want the PM to act as a guideline (some call this as PMIsm) will help choose the best of these 2 options.
If possible, plan to end the exam 15 minutes ahead of time so you will have enough time to go over flagged answers/unanswered questions.
And again, plan to include the simulation PMP exam as a study strategy for the best return on investment of your study time.