Passed PMP – Lessons Learned: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Passed PMP last month.  Sharing my lessons learned – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly



The Good: I PPPPPassed PMP and survived; the Bad: I wrote the exam 18 months after I started preparing for PMP on the last available date before my registration expiry-date (which itself was more than 14 months from registration including the time it took for my application audit); the Ugly: Eight years back, I decided to write PMP and I spent my own money for the 35 PDU training (as I was not eligible for that training in my company at that time) but then suddenly decided to not write PMP as I realized if I do(?) get a PMP I might start wanting a change in my career direction and I was not sure I was ready for it ( I still don’t know)

  • Be clear on why you want to write PMP and prepare well (with sufficient margin of safety) to pass the exam (don’t take the exam until you are confident that you will pass)



The Good: Integrated Scope, Cost and Quality well; the Bad: Never estimated time; the Ugly: Didn’t identify risks to my plans.

  • Scope and Quality is key.  Time might be if you care about how bad you want the certification (remember it is better to pass it in the first try than to pass it in 2 months)


Scope (of my preparation for PMP):

The Good: The only PMP Prep book I read fully is the Head First PMP [HFP], 3rd Edition by Jennifer Greene and Andrew Stellman; the Bad: I started with PMBOK 5th Edition (since Head First 3rd Edition wasn’t released until December 2013) and read it once initially but nothing from it stuck to my mind.  PMBOK helped only in the last week after two reviews of HFP and other content; the Ugly: I had access to more than two dozen! PMP preparation books through Books24x7 (corporate license), SafariOnline (library card), Kindle Unlimited (started a free KU trial the last month).  Selecting the best book from many decent books would have been a difficult choice if I hadn’t decided to stick with HFP and used only some content from a few other books and test simulator software. There were a few good self-published short-reads in KU and some YouTube videos that helped in getting different perspective on PMBOK content.

  • Decide on the PMP Prep book you are going to use and read it thoroughly (at least twice).  PMBOK is helpful to pick-up the definitions / exact phrases after you ‘know’ the content well (from whichever PMP Prep book you selected).  Refer other books / content to get different perspective in specific areas where are you not very sure (track weak areas from your tests)



The Good: Finished (SPI=1); the Bad: 18 months; the Ugly: 8 years.

  • Very tough to estimate the time required to write PMP from start to finish – depends purely on preparation effort (300 hours?) combined with PM experience, retention, etc., (don’t just schedule exam based on estimates; wait until you are close to ready before scheduling unless you are facing months of backlog at Prometric)



The Good: < $50 over PMI costs (HFP, KU and one not-so-useful ‘PMP Exam Notes’; didn’t have to buy the overpriced condescending tome, yay!); the Bad: opportunity cost of not having PMP for 18 months; the Ugly: opportunity cost of not having PMP for 8 years.

  • Decide if you require a classroom prep course (which might be the costliest expense), online prep or if can manage with just Books.  I strongly feel that books are sufficient unless you not a book-person (can’t talk to books)



The Good: Tracked scores of all my tests and noted down failed questions and gap areas.  Took tests adding up to over 1,600 questions including full paper and simulator tests; the Bad: Didn’t initially trust the gap areas – thought them to be random outliers and hence didn’t address them early enough; the Ugly: Will never know (PMI won’t release).

  • Track all test questions (not just failed but all those that are marked after deliberation) and identify gap areas and refer other books / content to get perspective.  After taking mock tests, review the incorrect answers question by question very carefully and ask yourself why the answer given by the site is correct and what made you select the incorrect answer. This will have a very long lasting effect of the subject and you would not tend to forget



The Good: No in-person guide (except book and the training I attended 8-years ago).  A study buddy helped somewhat; the Bad: If there was a good study group, it might have helped to crystalize the concepts faster; the Ugly: You are all alone in this journey.

  • If possible, work with a buddy to prepare with you and discuss the content



The Good: Communicated with all stakeholders in your life about the test for the support required during the last three weeks; the Bad: Should have done it earlier and dedicated time for preparation way before; the Ugly: Should have written a note to myself on why I am writing PMP.

  • Communicate with all stakeholders in your life throughout your preparation phase



The Good: Survived; the Bad: Life happens. Couldn’t escape unscathed given the commitment required during the final weeks; the Ugly: Took up some additional personal responsibilities in 2014 which played a role in the 18 month prep duration.  Shouldn’t have (couldn’t do the other one that well too).  Saps energy and concentration.

  • Do not take up any other significant responsibilities (learn to say NO)



The Good: Used only ebooks (buy or borrow); the Bad: Trying to use somebody else’s notes; the Ugly: Reviewing and selecting interesting content from the so many the different KU short-reads.

  • I don’t believe a trainer can be any more helpful than a book (unless you want to write in a very short duration)



The Good: Identified stakeholders (Family, Manager/Team, Friends). Family was away last two weeks. Got support at work.  Life happens with two young kids; the Bad: Time that couldn’t be spent with family.  Didn’t clarify the commitment required from family on this major endeavor; the Ugly: Took this too lightly without realizing PMP prep is a major endeavor.

  • Family support isn’t one part of deciding to write PMP – it is a critical success factor.  Support at work is also necessary during the last weeks


Other items

  1. Read PMI PMP Examination Content Outline (a different book in ECO order was somewhat helpful)
  2. Read Code/Ethics (didn’t get Code/Ethics questions though)
  3. Many questions on change (when CR, when approval, who approves, what to do first, what to do next, etc.,).  Need to understand this area as best as possible (don’t rely on PM experience, need to get PMIsms)
  4. Understand control charts and other quality techniques sufficiently well
  5. When you start reading, create pneumonics to remember and recollect stuff.  Once you get it, lose the crutch
  6. Study key ITTOs (don’t think all ~610 combinations are necessary to be memorized).  Confidence level on overall content can be judged based on the confidence level on key ITTOs.  Very few direct ITTO questions but questions link key IOs with what comes next and hence knowing them is essential
  7. Braindump didn’t help much as there wasn’t many calculation problems (had prepared so much for them).  Writing it down correctly at the beginning did build confidence


Put in the hard work and reap the rewards.  Best of luck.

(Processes Pneumonics and Notes, ITTOs Notes and Key ITTOs document attached)

Don’t forget to download the PMBOK 5e ITTO List File from PM Lessons Learned Yahoo Group Files section.

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Thanks, after long time some material has been shared on PMZilla. Thanks for the same, I am sure it will help the PMP aspirants

Very good detailed LL