Finally passed on third attempt March 2013
What a relief, finally passed on my third attempt with two days, yes two days, of my eligibility period left and my manager waiting for me to obtain this certification ......no pressure :o)
I've seen some great articles here on preparation and how to pass and some have really helped me. So thank you to all who contribute.
For anyone who has failed I simply say it is possible to pass even if you have had your confidence knocked by failing once or twice. My problem was how I was preparing or not preparing to be more precise.
Before I say how it went for me here are just my thoughts.
The PMP is a tough exam. Ignore articles where you see people stating they have studied for two or three weeks. Certainly if they had nothing else to do for three weeks and locked themselves in a room, then maybe but even then I am not convinced by such stories. My guess is they had already studied prior to this. For most of us trying to do our normal work and balance family life and cram all the PMBOK knowledge into our heads, it is a serious challenge. Of course everybody is different and I'm sure there are many who can learn this stuff quicker than others.
For those who are studying and maybe failed already, I know what you're going through and I feel your pain but all I can say is stick with it you will pass.
To anyone who is not a native English speaker I take my hat off to you for passing this exam. Even though English is my first language I found this tough. For those people who struggle a little with English I can only recommend to you to do lots of questions and you will find a pattern that repeats and will help you identify what is being asked.
Ok so here's how it went for me:
First attempt late 2012 - I did very little preparation and to be honest don't really count this as a proper attempt. I stupidly forgot to reschedule my exam and due to work pressures just let it slide so in the end I just sat the exam for experience. Needless to say I failed miserably.
Second attempt early 2013 - I had read the PMBOK and Kim Heldman Review Guide 2nd edition but not cover to cover. Did this for about 1 month and did about 1000 practice questions. Did not have a good grasp of the calculations but did know the formulae. Failed again although I did a lot better than the first attempt.
Now the pressure was on my manager kept asking when I was going to get this PMP cert. I knew I only had till the end of March 2013. So I set the exam for a couple of days before.
Which books to use is difficult to suggest because different formats work for different people however based on my experience of the exam I would recommend Kim Heldman’s books. Rita’s book is good and so is Andy Crowe however the main challenge with the PMP is understanding how all the processes interrelate and I think Kim's books explain this better than others. Her Study Guide is probably better than the Review Guide.
Ok enough free advertising for the books.
So here is my recommendation how to pass the PMP for normal non genius types like myself.
If you have read the PMBOK for a while or some of the books I mentioned you'll likely be familiar with the concept that the majority of the processes are not just one time sequential tasks but rather feed into one another on a continuous, iterative basis from the start of the project to the end of the project. If you are only starting to study for PMP and have never looked at this before this is a very important concept to keep in mind.
If you are starting from the beginning this is what I suggest:
Give yourself 90 days.
0 to 30 days - read PMBOK at least twice cover to cover until you have a good grasp of the information. Do not try to remember all the Inputs Tools and Techniques and Outputs at this point but instead understand their purpose. Do learn what makes up important documents like the Scope Statement, what is a Control Chart used for etc.. As tempting as it might be I would say don’t waste much time with practice questions at this point, as you are not ready and it will just make you feel like you know very little. If you do try some practice questions don’t be hard on yourself if you get a bad score, this is normal at this point.
30 to 60 days – Read Kim Heldman PMP Study Guide, twice and refer to the PMBOK as you do. This will begin to show you how the processes interrelate and are iterative. Also the exercises and questions in her books are very good. The CD that comes with her books i.e. the Sybex practice exams are harder than the actual exam but these are excellent to get you thinking about the exam and questions the right way.
60 to 90 days - Do at least 3000 practice questions, I am serious 3000 to 4000 practice questions will be the polish on your knowledge and you are almost guaranteed to pass. As you do these you should refer to your books and keep your knowledge fresh in your mind. If you are able to, take a week off before the exam, think of it as an investment in your future, and use this time to do lots and lots of questions.
My number one tip - The next step will take you about a week or two depending on how much time you can devote to it. This can be done once you have all the other knowledge in your head and you can incorporate this into the last few weeks of your preparation. I highly recommend printing out page 43 of the PMBOK Guide 4th edition; this is the table of the processes and knowledge areas. Pin this up on the wall. Do not write anything on it. Instead, you will look at it for reference and try to step through the whole process start to finish in your mind. In fact as a general rule, don't waste time taking notes, use your time instead to read and re-read the PMBOK. As you step through the table you should picture what goes into each process, what Tools and Techniques are used and what the outputs are. Where those outputs go as inputs in the next process and so on. Ask yourself questions as you think about the Tools and Techniques e.g. why this tool?, what is the prupose of using this and how will it help? etc. Have the PMBOK in your hands and refer to it when you get stuck, a bit like an actor learning his lines. This method really worked for me. At the exam I wrote out the table on the scrap paper and was able to mentally step through the process. This is in fact what I think PMI see as the whole purpose of studying this material i.e. to be able to understand the principles and how they interrelate to provide a framework for your project. By this I don’t mean to sit and learn off the inputs tools and techniques and outputs like some robot, that would help a little but will not be as effective as the method I mentioned. About 5 days out from the exam you should be devoting most of your time to doing questions, getting about 75% to 80% on the mock exams. Do your mental walk through of the process and knowledge areas table at least a few times a day, as I have described. If nobody else is in the house, say it out loudly as if you were teaching it to somebody else. Sounds strange but it works.
Do learn the main formulae and more importantly know when to use the right ones, especially for Earned value i.e. EV,PC,CV,AC, EAC, ETC etc.
Do learn Critical Path and the main concepts, forward and backward pass, calculate float etc.
Don’t waste time learning unnecessary concepts like depreciation formulae etc. So what if you get one question on this and don’t know the answer, it is extremely unlikely you will be asked more than one question on this stuff.
As many others have reported, Risk, Quality and particularly Integrated Change Control and Monitoring and Controlling areas come up a lot. Know these well and the tools and techniques and when they are used and you’ll do well.
One of the best links I found for practicing calculation and critical path types of questions is the following:
If you do these and understand the concepts you will have no problem with calculations on the exam. I bought the Vidya Subramanian PMP Certification Mathematics book and it helped a little but not worth the money to be honest there is just as good if not better free examples\tutorials on the web, keep your money.
Use YouTube - There are lots of really good tutorials and examples on YouTube, almost like a free class room training. Videos such as those posted by 'SirGantalot' are excellent: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUUhrT5vIwg&list=UUTW9DUbk_kA2HwR3szrcr6A...
Apart from all the other stuff you read about getting there early etc. etc., which is all good advice I will only add the things I think are most important:
Practice sitting for a few hours doing questions. The exam is 4 hours long.
Try to do 60 questions per hour. This will leave you time for review.
If at all possible have a short break after the first 100 questions, 5 minutes, for bathroom, water and a sugary snack for energy.
Don’t waste time on long Critical Path questions and calculation questions, park them and come back to them later.
Don’t cram the night before, practice writing out your formulae and process and knowledge area table for use in the exam and get a good night’s sleep if you can.
For those like me who like a glass of wine or beer, refrain from this if you can for the week before the exam or limit it to one glass, if it helps you sleep. Otherwise too much will dull your mind, seriously it does.
Keep calm on the day. You’ve done the hard work and it will pay off.
Ok that’s about it, longer than I planned to write but just felt I needed to pass on my experience. I wish you success and you will do it don’t worry.
To quote an old saying -
"A good exercise for the heart is bending down and helping someone to get up"
slán mo chairde