Passed PMP - 1st attempt - lessons learned
Like many others before, I trawled
quite a number of PMP-sites to get advice on exam prep. Reading the
lessons learned posts from others got to be really helpful during my
three-month prep period, particularly since I wasn't taking any formal classes
or had anything in the way of a study group and hence no way to ascertain if I
was on the right track or not. Anyway, I thought I'd post a few post-exam
thoughts here so that others out there might benefit.
- Andy Crowe's
- Head First
- PMBOK 4th ed.
- pmstudy.com (I signed up for the 3 month pkge with the
4 sample tests; primarily to get the PDUs, but also the sample tests came
in really handy at the end)
- Cornelius Fichtner's PMP formula study guide
- Signed up on pmstudy.com to get required PDUs.
This turned out to be a great motivator since you have to read/understand
each chapter and answer 12 questions related to it in order to get x
number of PDUs. Took me about 2 weeks to muck through all the
chapters, do the sample questions (these are pretty decent at testing your
understanding), and pass the 12-question test (not so useful since these
12 questions are usually the first ones you encounter if you do the sample
questions for each section. But there's usually about ~60-100 sample
qs for each chapter so skip around if possible.)
- For each chapter, I read Andy Crowe 1st, then the
PMBOK. Andy's is good because he tells you to expect a certain level
of difficulty for each section so you know to adjust your attention
accordingly. Also highlights the areas to look out for so that I was
able to hone in on the relevant bits when I reviewed the PMBOK. Did
not take notes since I was more focused on getting a general idea of the
content and a basic understanding during the 1st pass. Skipped all
the pmstudy guides -- did not find them particularly useful. Did at
least 50 sample qs for each chapter on pmstudy.com, and breezed through
the 12 questions after each chapter.
- The minute I got my required PDUs I sent off my
application via the PMI website. Waited about 5 business days
and got an electronic notification that I should go ahead and proceed to
schedule the test. Did that right away as well. Figured I
ought to draw a line in sand somewhere to keep motivated. I was
super aggressive and gave myself 4 weeks to bone up on the
materials. The nice part is you get to reschedule the test up to 48
hrs in advance.
- Took two weeks off to do a kitchen remodel. Note to
self -- this is the surest way to derail your prep/momentum. After
two weeks of no-to-minimal study, you really feel like you're starting at
ground zero again, particularly as the concepts that you learn are SO
specific to the PMBOK -- there's no other way to put it. The
material really calls for close attention -- I would suspect that if the
content was a bit more generic in nature, more mathematical instead of
situational perhaps, a 2-week break might not have been so bad. I
rescheduled the test another 4 weeks out to give myself more time.
- I did a second pass through of all the chapters.
I used Freemind (a free mind
mapping software) to map out the concepts and ITTOs for each KA while
doing a close read of the PMBOK.
For the more difficult chapters (Integration, Time, Cost, Risk,
Procurement), I referenced Head
First as well as Andy’s text. I
found Head First to be absolutely crucial in helping me understand the
mathematical and logical reasoning behind the formulas.
- About a week before the test, I began to put together
my brain dump sheet. Practically
every lessons learned post I read advised doing a brain dump during the
first 15 minutes while you go through the computer tutorial. And from my experience, I will agree
that that is pretty darn important.
Practice writing this brain dump sheet a few times EVERYDAY for a week before the
test. Among the things I memorized:
- All the formulas (see Cornelius Fichtner’s formula
list – well worth the 25 bucks to purchase)
- All 42 processes (if there’s one area you should
memorize, it’s Planning’s 20 processes since the order of what happens
when is pretty important)
- Differences between concepts like “Quality Assurance
vs Quality Control”, “Qualitative Risk Analysis vs Quantitative Risk
Analysis” – or whatever concepts that you think might be tricky or hard
- Types of procurement contracts
- Whatever else you think might be tough to remember
during the test
- All the formulas (see Cornelius Fichtner’s formula
- Did pretty well on the Head First and Andy Crowe sample
tests, but as most everyone will attest, these are pretty easy and don’t
represent true difficulty. The next
test I did was the 1st pmstudy sample test – scored 75%, which
was rather disappointing, but the neat thing about pmstudy is that it
tells you which areas you need to improve on. I soon realized that the mathematical
questions were going to be the easiest to put away, so I made sure to
review all of the formulas and practiced with Cornelius Fichtner’s 105
questions that came with his formula study guide. In addition to that, reviewed all the
weak areas and did pmstudy’s sample tests 2 and 3 about a couple of days before
the exam. I raised my score up to
84% on the last sample test and decided that that was alright. Night before the test I sped-read
through my weak areas in all three texts and practiced my brain dump sheet
a few more times.
- Took the test on 10/31.
Marked about 30-40% of the questions for review (even the
mathematical qs that I was absolutely certain of). Finished the test in 3 hours total. Passed (thankfully!) with a mix of
proficient and moderately proficient in all areas.
Quite a few tricky situational (what’s
the best thing to do next) questions especially in the realm of professional
You’ve got to know your ITTOs – no need
to memorize, but questions on using the right tool/technique in situation x are
common. There were like 5 questions on
Pareto diagrams alone. Take special note
of the tools and techniques that are used across different processes because
they can be tricky to recall during the exam.
Math questions were simple and
straightforward. Knowing earned value
measurement techniques inside and out is absolutely crucial.
About 2-3 questions on float –
again, pretty simple and straightforward.
Low hanging fruit.
Choose the right type of contract
for this situation – only about 2-3 questions here but definitely the hardest I’d
Level of difficulty – you can expect
the questions to be more nuanced.
Wordiness was comparable to the ones you see on pmstudy.com. A lot of the questions can be dealt with
using a process of elimination.