Lessons Learnt --PMP (first attempt on July 10, 2009, Passed)

I took my PMP exam on July 10, 2009. It was my first attempt and I passed it with very decent scores. I was a little anxious as I was taking the new format exam (the exam aligned to the PMBOK 4ed  as on June 31, 2009) and there was not enough test prep materials in the market aligned to the new test. But in the end, it turned out okay. I have compiled this set of lessons learnt for the benefit of a future test taker.

Applying for the exam: I felt that that applying for the PMP examination was a very tough task in itself--esp documenting the work experience. There are several free templates available on the internet, and one should use it. I had also used SkillSoft Corporation (SkillPort) online courses for my 35 hours of contact education--as company partners with SkillSoft for online learning. However, I had completed the application at least 5 months prior to taking the course--so I did not really use SkillSoft for exam preparation.

Books used for the PMP exam. I had only about 20 days to prepare for the exam. I extensively used the following resources, and I feel they are more than enough if followed throughly. One does not need a lot of resources if one does not have time. Following are the books I used: (A) PMBOK 4th edition from PMI (B) PMI  Candidate handbook for the PMP examination (will mention later why this is important) (C)  PMP Exam Prep by Rita Mulcahy (RMC). I also used the  t75 sample questions from Oliver Lehmann available for free on his website (www.oliverlehmann.com). I took that in a timed test format 3 days prior to my test date.

On Test Date: I had reached the Prometric Center 45 minutes prior to the test. The lady at the front desk checked me in , and gave me a locker to keep my stuff. You are  not allowed to carry anything inside except your  ID and that locker key. The test center gives you a scrap paper (a booklet 8 blank A4 sheets) and two pencils  for the test. I was asked if I wanted to take the test early --I did not, I rather used that time to practice some deep breathing with shut eyes, so that I could calm my nerves. It is very important to keep your cool in the exam, be extremely attentive to the question (so as to not miss the trick), so such meditation and relaxing techniques help before and during the exam. I also made sure that I had slept a full 8 hours on the previous night. Also during the 4 hour test, I took a break after every 50 questions (3 breaks of 5 minutes each). I used those breaks to use the restroom or just to relax in the lobby.

In the test center:  Prior to the actual test there’s a tutorial of 15 minutes. The test starts immediately once you end the test. It just shows you how to navigate through the screen with the Previous, Next, Mark and Review Buttons and how to use the calculator on the screen (similar to the calculator in MS Windows). I completed the tutorial in about 5 minutes, but did not end it. I used the remaining 10 minutes to do a brain dump of the following 2 pages on the scrap paper -- (a) Table 3-1 Project Management Process Groups and Knowledge Areas Mapping (Pg 43) of PMBOK and (b) Formulas to Know for the Exam (Pg 437, Appendix) from RMC. I found these extremely useful and would highly recommend memorizing these two pages.
PMP Candidate Handbook. It is important to remember Page 8 from the PMP Candidate Handbook i.e. the PMP Examination Information & BluePrint--esp. the Examination Blueprint section (Domain and % of Questions). “Know Thy Exam” is a very important strategy prior to taking the test. I found out that almost 15 questions from Professional and Social Responsibility  section (18 questions in total) could be answered if one had studied throughly the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (Pg 29-33) of the handbook.  The remaining 3 questions could have been answered if you studied the chapter on this topic and took the chapter test from RMC.
E  PMBOK 4 edition: I made PMBOK my primary source for preparation. I would not remember how many times I read it (may be at least 5-8 times) but more importantly, I made handwritten notes from the PMBOK and it paid off, while revising. While studying and making notes from the PMBOK I made sure that I studied the stuff analytically--example, what is the difference b/w Critical Chain Method and Critical Path Method. In my notes I tried to note down a term, it’s reference on the PMBOK (Page #, Section #) and also tried to answer the why, how, when, where questions (which are not explicitly mentioned in the PMBOK). I would also highly recommend knowing all the figures and tables on the PMBOK--there are at least 15-20 direct questions on ITTOs (Input, Tools & techniques and Outputs), so memorizing them is very helpful. I would confess I did not, but studied them well, so that I could try the elimination strategy in the exam. It worked, but usually , 2 answer choices are pretty close, so memorizing ITTOs would be a better strategy, esp if one has time. There were 4-5 questions which were also direct from other figures on the PMBOK

Rita Mulcahy (RMC). I used RMC as my second book. I paid more attention on the section on PMIisms, Common Errors and Pitfalls, Tricks of the Trade and Exercises in each chapter. I ignored Rita’s Process chart completely and followed the chart on Pg 43 of PMBOK instead, as these two charts can confuse you and adhering to one is better. I also used RMC for the chapter end Practice Tests. I took the tests in a time bound way --say 25 minutes for 25 questions and then compared my answers. I made sure I studied the answers and explanations thoroughly--for all answers --whether I got it correct or wrong. This helped a lot in the exam. Also, I made a seperate note of answers I got wrong --so that I could revise them later.
The test from www.oliverlehmann.com  : I was told by my friends to practice as many questions as possible. Unfortunately, I did not have much time to do that, so I practiced questions from Rita and  75 questions from Oliver Lehmann (which is free).  I scored 55 out of 75 when I took this test 3 days prior to the exam. This test is much tougher than that actual PMP, so if you can do this--you would know that it can’t get any worse than that. I followed the same strategy for this tests, and although this gives you the answers but not the explanations--but points you to the PMI chapters and sections. Also it mentions some other books sometimes--I did not look them up, but for those explanations, I just “googled” it. This strategy was also very helpful. So in total I had done all the chapter tests from Rita (with 1 revision), and this one--and that was all about it. I did not do any more tests--and I confess, not a single full length (200 q) test. That’s the reason I took a break after every 50 question in the actual test--to keep my attention span going. I think it is better to do quality questions and follow the explanations throughly than to follow every Tom, Dick, Harry’s sample question on the internet--esp ones which are poorly written. RMC and Oliver shows how questions are intelligently written, and many questions in these tests have to answered using the elimination technique--which is the most important technique during the exam. For every trick question I encountered in the actual PMP, I immediately used elimination technique to narrow down to 2 answer choices, and then I made a note of the question #, the 2 choices, and my preferred choice in the scrap. Then I clicked my preferred choice and marked the question for review. So, I had made 2 passes-- the first pass I had answered all questions an marked around 50 of them, and in the second pass I just revisited the marked question and compared my answer chosen answer to the alternative I had noted in the scrap paper. Then I made took my best shot and unmarked the question.

Hope this Lessons Learnt helps you, ye prospective PMP. Prepare well and keep the faith--confidence is very important for this test. All the very best. If this Lessons Learnt helped you in your preparation, do drop in a line.

Very comprehensive lessons learned. And your effort is really commendable, specially when you didnt give any 200 question mock test before the actual PMP exam. I salute you.

Puneet, PMP 


Remarkable effort

And great explanation. One very good pt about Credential Handbook, I am going to read that one for sure.



Congratulations on passing the PMP exam on latest edition. Way to go....

The lessons learned are very helpful. By the way, i am curious to know what was your response to th reward question causing conflict in team. Revise the system of Clarify the system??


Congratulations on passing the PMP exam on latest edition. Way to go....

The lessons learned are very helpful. By the way, i am curious to know what was your response to th reward question causing conflict in team. Revise the system or Clarify the system??


Niloy.... CONGRATULATIONS for passing the PMP 4th Edn and LL were inspiration to all of us. You have done a great job. Keep it up!!!!

Hi All, One small correct to Niloy's LL... Pls refer Pg 34-38 for PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct from the handbook (Not Pg 29-33).

All the best...




Hi All, I agree with Niloy.... We need to remember all the ITTO's and 15-20 marks are assured :-)....  If you know any easy techniques pls let me know so that i will try to start remembering.  My email id is ramur616@gmail.com

Do i need to memorize all the pages of PMBOK 4th Edn... i.e., Page# 73, 104, 131, 167, 191, 217, 244, 274 & 314 (excluding some common items like ExpJudge, Env, Organization, PM Plan & PM doc etc.,

Appreciate all your support...Thanks for all your help.



Ramu, what I did was, take print outs and read/glance them for 20-25 mintues everyday morning without fail and after 7-8 days, you will see the result. But the trick, DAILY without fail.

I chose revising the system. This was my reasonining. The question stated that the PM  started the reward system--so it was not from Customer/ Project Sponsor-and would not have been a part of charter or Project Scope Statement, but a part of HR Plan. So while anything on the Charter or Scope is sacrosanct, the HR plan is not.The PM can always revise small stuff in  it without going to the CCB. Further the question never mentioned that the PM had a bad communicattion plan. So I assumed that all communication was ok--but the reward system /policy was faulty. So I chose that it should be revised to promote win-win behavior.

Thanks for the great LL.  I took the test last week and failed.  I tried to cram and just do practice test and the result was what I should have expected.  Your LL is on point and if I had followed your advice I would have passed the 1st time.  That was my lesson learned.  will redo in 3 weeks and will be better prepared this time instead of trying to slide by

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Looking at the comments its very clear how good your LL is. Fantastic effort and I am sure it will inspire many ppl to go with 4th Edition now.

I am sure this writeup will help many people taking the exam in coming months. Congratulations and all the best in your PM Career.


Good sound logic indeed. I am impressed. Just one last bit help...Where did u get RMC PMBOK on latest edition? I believe its not freely avaialable anywhere or did u purchase the latest one? Also pl. advise whether RMC PMBOK on 3rd edition will be helpful in understanding tricks and trades,Common Errors and Pitfalls or not?


I would like to know, if anybody knows where can I get free RMC new edition based on PMBOK 4th edition

Please share with me at morning12345@gmail.com

Thanks a lot in advance


Swati... contact me on ramur616@gmail.com

I just finished a boot camp class and I so need help passing this exam.

Hi Swati,

Pls can u share the RMC with me too, 




could you share with me also


swati can you please share the RMC pmbok with me. tHANKS

Congragulations, very good work done by you.Really its very tuff to get throught his exam. I think your sharing experience will help me to take steps to PMP exam. I plan to follow the steps you did to pass the exam.

PMP Certification,
PMP Exam Preparation, PMP Courses, PMP Exam Simulation

Hi, Am Venkat from Hyderabad, India. Firstly I congratulate you on your first step of success in Project Management. Congratulations !!

Also, am filling in the application form for PMP, could you help me with few sites, where in I can find the templates for the application? Since its a very tideous process, I think few templates would give me a better picture.

Kindly Help :)

All The Best !!!

Regards, Venkat (venkat.srikanth@hotmail.com


Thanks for posting a very comprehensive lessons learned text.  I'm sure it will be useful in my studies.


Congratulations and wish you all the best... :)

~Priya, PMP

Giving away what is on the exam on such specificity is actually bordering on violating the PMI's code of ethics.  Even on the exam, you'll find several questions regarding the sharing such information is truly a violation of PMI's code of ethics!  This is very, very disconcerting since certified PMP's, I would think, should know better. I think this definitely needs some follow up with PMI.


Congratulations !

Thanks for sharing those lessons learnt.  I just started my prep and targeting for 2nd week of Oct.  I am sure your lessons learnt would be very helpful to me in my prep.  Thanks again and all the very best ! Smile




I want to thank your for your suggestions.  I tooked the test on Thursday and passed.  The eliminate 2 question strategy help on several questions.  I would tell anyone who is studying to concentrate on the PMBOK.  That should be your study bible.  Know it from beginning to end and the pmi code of ethics.  I really dont think you would need to purchase any other material for the test.  Just focus on the PMBOK.  I would take sample tests to get a feel for taking them and pacing yourself. I finished in 2 hours but took an hour rechecking my answers.  There are plenty of free questions on the web that are helpful.

My 2 cents

Can actually put PMP after my name now -   :-).