Passed PMP:Lessons learned from the horrible test taker

These tips are geared towards people who struggle with tests or have failed the test.

I kept repeating what my PMP professor Carl Pritchard taught, “I will never skip a process, I will never deviate from the plan, and I am the most ethical person on the planet”. I probably got at least 15-20 question right because of this statement. Granted I knew the Change management process to follow. Here was my mnemonic EPiC CRI (1Eval change, impact with team and prevent gold plating/scope creep;2 be Proactive, crashing fast tracking, etc 3 Communicate status to proj spon and customer, 4 full Change management process and don’t skip steps i.e. update the plans; 5 Resources to implement changes; 6 Implement the change)

I figured out in the end and after failing the test in the past that I am a good at memorizing data. Most people will tell you that you don’t need to memorize a ton of stuff for the PMP. Well if you are a great test taker than you probably don’t need to memorize much. If you’re like me EXPLOIT your strengths and MITIGATE your weaknesses. I memorized a crazy chart full of mnemonics on all of the tools and techniques of the pmbok (attached below). I used scrabble word finders to help learn the tools; i.e. Per Qual risk is CUPPED; define act is RED etc. I memorized all tools and the sub tools. The scrabble word finders are your friend.

If you live in Washington DC consider taking Carl's class for $400. Carl was the lead author of the Risk Management section in PMBOK 4. You can search his name in PMBOK5. He also offers books, audio cd's, and a windows 8 application for testing called PMP4U.

I followed Carl’s plan for 8 months; 10-20 questions per day, 6 days a week; never more than 45mins in a day. If you take more than 20 questions it should only be for a 200 question sitting.

However, I had to learn my own learning style. I finally figured out that if I am not writing things down repeatedly I won’t retain anything. Rita’s book is great for this style. Force yourself to do her charts and exercises. If you don’t know your learning style there are sites to test you on how you best retain information. I took 5000+ practice questions but was never able to score over 80% on a full 200 question test. I had to change my strategy and figure out what worked for me to give me the best chance of passing.

For example; I was repeatedly scoring 50-60% in risk management on all practice tests. I found the chart in Rita’s 8th version (page 441), xeroxed it, and practiced filling it in on a daily basis for 5 days. My next full PMSTudy test I scored an 85% in risk :). I WILL PASS!

This test is a hard puzzle that needs to be solved…don’t worry if you fail the first time. If you do fail separate the emotion and create a lessons learned on how you will pass the next time.

Test ( 3P= I, P, M&C, 2MP= Ex,and C)

10+ EVM questions (mostly easy calcs) one TCPI know the formulas and when to use the flavors of EAC and TCPI

Lots of Tool & Tech questions, couple of input/output

 of Tuckman

At at least 4 on Cost of Quality (memorize the chart in the pmbok) below is my mnemonic:

·         CPA & NIcE; Conform; Prevent=ToTED (training, time to do right, edu, doc); Appra=TDI, testing, destruct testing, inspection; Non-conform,Intern= SiR, scrap, rework; Ext= WiLL, warranty, liability, lost business

diagrams (1 elaborate complicated chart that you didn’t have to calc if you read the question at the bottom, it was easy)

 on which contract type to use CPPC-CPFF-CPIF-CPAF-T&M-FPEPA-FPAF-FPIF-FP (tip from carl…if it is a research and dev contract pick the cost plus type)

 conflict tech questions

 interpreting a control chart (rule of seven) know when a process is in control or out.

Ton’s of change management questions

Ton’s of questions with fast tracking and crashing


Testing Tips: Take new questions from different sources as often as you can. That way you don’t memorize answers. The PMP questions will be different than any you have seen before so get used to taking fresh questions.


Paid Tests I liked:


Carl Pritchard PMP4U (only avail on windows 8/8+) $20 - only test bank that gives you an audio explanation along with a written answer. It will reinforce your learning. His questions are as hard or slightly harder than PMP.


Leroy Ward’s PMP Exam practice test and study guide 9th ed ESI (book of pmp DEATH) $60. This is a good learning book but much harder than the PMP…it will prepare you for the trick questions on the pmp and fill your gaps. Do not get down on yourself for not doing well. It is brutal, but it will help you. Seriously his questions are evil. I took every single question in his book and then I threw up…j/k scored 68 on his final test (that is the score I am most proud of)…do all of his practice questions before taking the 200 question test


All 4 PMStudy tests (first is free) $60 for 60 days. I recommend staying away from these tests until you are close to taking the pmp. They are pretty similar to the pmp and a good barometer for the test. I Scored 1= 73, 2= 77%, 3= 73, 4=72. They will give you scores broken down by knowledge area. My last test I completely missed the conflict tech concept and got all 9 questions wrong on that topic. I know I got all conflict tech questions right on the pmp since I addressed this gap. see my excel spreadsheet to eval your week area's for the pmstudy tests...just import your data (attached below).


Rita’s fast Track program $300. My company paid for this which was nice but if they hadn’t paid I wouldn’t have bought it. Still it’s a good resource if you’ve got the cash.


The Brainbok formula 75 question test $15; These are like Leroy for calculations…great resource and they will send you an 8 page pdf on all formulas used on the test. Buy this test if you can afford it.


The Project Management Drill Book by Carl Pritchard $60 avail on amazon; this is a great resource that will fill your gaps. It is worth buying and covers a range of topics. Even though it was published in 2003 all the concepts are still relevent.


Free questions:

Your PMI membership gives you access to a free online knowledge base. Login to PMI and search “Scordo” his tests are great and free to pmi members. There are 500+ free questions 30 tough questions (this site has great resources and links to tons of free question banks)


Oliver Lehmann 175 and 75 questions

Head start pmp (google it) plenty of free questions



Rita’s 8th version $60; lots of great techniques to practice. Google rita’s process chart game 8th version to play her game online…good stuff. Memorize pages 442-443 to ace Risk questions.


The Portable PMP® Exam Prep: Conversations on Passing the PMP® Exam, Fourth Edition Audio CD Carl Pritchard. Go ahead and ruin your daily commute by listening to these cd’s from Carl and Leroy “Darth Vader” Ward. These are great and further reinforce the concepts…and guess what?? Carl uses the same mnemonics here as he does in the PMP4U app.


PMBOK 5- so dry…review this when you get questions wrong. If you’re having trouble falling asleep read this book. If you want to punish your kids have them read this book.


Cram Sheets:

Plenty avail on pmzilla. Search on for two of my favorites “Binas Mohamed Notes” and “00_PMP_Formulae_CheatSheet_Anil_Tanguturi” these two are great reference materials…I recommend creating your own sheet based on your weaknesses.


My pmp day dump consisted of 47 processes with all tools and tech (I’ll post to in next few days) “pmp-itto-mnemonics-PMBOK5v4” it’s brutal and if you’re a good test taker you probably don’t need to go to the lengths I went to pass.


Rita’s risk chart on page 441


Mnemonics for tuckman, change process, cost of quality, sources of conflict, and the formulas. Basically gear your dump sheet based on your weaknesses. If you never get a coq or tuckman wrong don’t put them down. Exploit your strengths and Mitigate your weaknesses. Practice writing these sheets down before the take each pmstudy 200 question test. Scrabble word finders are your friend.


If you Fail:

I failed this test multiple times before…treat it like a practice test and that it is a puzzle to solve. What works for me may not work for you. It’s just a test that you can take again…so don’t sweat it. Hard work and dedication will be the keys to your success. Figure out what you are good at and what you are bad at. You can do it!

Office spreadsheet icon t&t sheet with processes45 KB
Office spreadsheet icon pmstudy evaluator41.5 KB
admin's picture

Very good LL after long time and excellent tips , thanks for sharing your xls on neumonics for remembering ITTO, I am sure it will be helpful

Congratulations and also glad to know PMZilla was of help. Thanks for contributing to PMZilla.

Congratulations! Different type of Lessons learned post.

Many Congratulations !! Really liked your LL

Thank you so much for sharing this. It is so helpful. I will use all of your tips.


Thank you so much for the detailed LL. It helped me a lot. I cleared mine on 4th of Dec. 

Excellent article and this made me pass the exam. You’re comments and the explanation is what I love internet for. I passed today and I thought if I did not say a big thank you for your time and effort in giving back to the community I will be doing a big injustice. If anyone is come to this please do read and you will get through the exam. I will be putting out how I was able to cross the hurdle.