Documenting Lesson's Learnt; "Closing Phase" for Successful Completion of PMP Exam :-)
I have recently appeared in PMP examination and have successfully completed it on my first attempt (1st Jun'15). After months of preparation, I feel absolutely thrilled and relieved (phew!) clearing the exam.
Going by the book, the most important process is listed 46th on the PMBOK matrix relates to "Closing the Project" and here I am documenting my 'project lessons learnt' (:p) with you all and wish this is helpful in your preparations and more importantly helps in easing the examination preparation pressure.
I have been in global project in management for over 10 years and the first thing I had to do was "unlearn" good and bad habits , have an open mind in learning and responding to situations and questions mentioned in the PMBOK! Play by the book!
*8 Weeks before the Exam-
Read the PMBOK (cursory reading should be good enough) along with detailed reading of Rita Mulcahy's Book would hold you in good stead for the initial preparation. Once you get your basics clear around all subjects (Knowledge Areas, Process Groups , Definitions etc) during this period, the next logical step is to get into the specifics of each subject. Remember at this point - You would know "something of everything" and not reached a point where you can be an "expert in every single area". That is the stage you need to get to after finishing your review of topics in 3 weeks. You would have completed one round of all the questions provided at the end of each chapter and gauged where you are going wrong for each chapter.
I also completed a quick read of Head First PMP during this initial period to get a different perspective of the same subjects.
**5 Weeks Before the exam- Business End of the preparations;
Prepare a detailed calendar of every single topic during Week-5 & 6 and carry out another round of detailed reading of each topic; this time spend atleast 1 day for each topic and master the subject. I downloaded quite of few applications my android phone and used them during my office breaks ,travel time etc - PMP Exam, PMP Guide, CertChamp PMP 200 and PMP Exam Prep are some of the applications I had installed on my phone. One of the good applications (Purchase) was PMP Exam ITTO by Praizion Media. This helped me in getting my basics on ITTO correct using a simple quiz game.
I remember playing the ITTO game for each chapter with my office colleague and perfecting during this stage and also reasoning every correct and wrong option!
The other tip was to download offline You Tube files presented by Tutor Ali (Ahmed Ali)- Highly recommended. I used to listen to these videos during my daily commute, waiting for my flight and every possible situation :-)
- Subscribe to Richard Kraneis (You Tube- 47 Process Trick)
This is a "must do" from a preparation strategy point of view as you need to know the 47 processes at the back of your hand and put them all on paper in 7 minutes (@Richard- I managed to complete my cheat sheet in 6 mins ;-)) and used another 4 mins to note the maths formulas.
Remember the testing center will give you 15 mins for the exam tutorial which would generally finish in 5 mins and you have the most important "10 minutes" before the exam to get all your information on paper before starting the exam. I used the tips and tricks shared by Richard. Highly recommend it from side as it really help to put all the data on paper and just use the exam time only for "referring" to the cheat sheet you have created and not spend the time in "recollecting or remembering" things!
Practice, practice and practice as majority of the questions on the PMP exam are around the 47 processes and you need know what "comes before and after" and the inputs and outputs for each. It can only be possible to get them all on paper just before the exam.
I can't remember the number of times, I had practiced writing them and in the end it was all worth the effort!
***4 Weeks before the exam
By this stage, you should have completed at least 2 rounds of reading of Rita's book (highly recommended) as you would know every single subject and are able to reason the list of wrong options provided at the end of each chapter and are not "merely" guessing the questions. You need to read this stage with 3 weeks to go before the exam.
Quick assessment for your preparation to reach this stage can be the following;
Q. As soon as a question is shown to you, you should be able to do the following;
- Know the process group, Knowledge Area?
- Is it an ITTO, Which one of them?
- Choose the correct option
- More importantly, Reason where the 3 wrong options fall under and why they are not the correct answers
If you are able to do it for every question presented to you, then you are good to move the final stage for the exam with 3 weeks remaining.
****3 Weeks before the Exam
Business end of things- Nervous energy and 24 hours seems very less! :-)
Be Positive- You now need to only concentrate on your weaknesses and not re-do the same set of questions provided on PMBOK or Rita's chapters. You now need to start appearing in multiple tests, some of them are - www.pmtraining.com , simplilearn.com, pmstudy.com, exam.pm-exam-simulator.com
The tip would be to first assess yourself chapter by chapter (10 Process areas) and take up questions for each chapter first; review all topics which are still unclear first!
Once this is complete, the next logical step is to take up tests based on "5 Knowledge areas" and get the processes mixed up and check your preparation status.
Remember to concentrate more on the Executing and Monitoring and Controlling Knowledge areas during this stage.
Exam Tip- RMC Preparation CD- This is a really good question across all areas!
*****2 Weeks before the Exam
Close your books! Start taking up questions 200 (all processes and knowledge areas) and carry out an assessment. I was appearing in multiple simulation tests during this stage and getting used to move from answering 50 questions per subject to answering 200 questions at one go. Believe me, This is the toughest part! ;-) Sitting at one place with full concentration for 4 hours is not the easiest things to achieve!
Once you are done with simulation test where you can check the answers for each question; the next step is to block the "time" in your busy schedule to appear in one full exam. My PMP exam was scheduled at 8 AM - 12 PM and I made it a point to conduct my first full test at 8 AM-12 PM, at my house. This would be a really good test to see where I was from a preparation perspective and more importantly simulate the exam condition & time.
Don't overdo this, Appear in one exam- check where you stand and only work on areas which are your weakness. Remember to carry out a quick check of the following;
- Time taken to prepare your cheat sheet before starting the exam (remember you will have 10 mins before your actual exam!)
-Remember to mark questions where you are not clear on a sheet of paper, when you start your review- make sure you review these 'marked' questions first!
- Number of breaks you are taking and also time your breaks (strategise)
- How many silly mistakes are you making; Example- Check your results for questions 150- 200; if you have wrongly answered more than 50% in this section, then "concentration" is your issue and not your preparation!
- Review every single question after the exam
Tests, test and more Tests! As you most of you would be engaged in your daily work schedule, It is most important to only concentrate on areas where you are weak (based on your last full test!) Do not spend time in reading every chapter as this is the time to check your weak areas only.
Tip- Concentrate on Risk and Quality Management chapters more than others
Weekend before the Exam
Appear in one final full test and then spend the rest of the time only to "skim" through the chapters one last time!
Time to appear in one final full exam- switch off your cell phones, emails and every single distraction!
Remember to ready the last few pages from Rita's book, some useful tips are shared there.
I had my exam on a Monday and I made sure I close my books on Sunday afternoon and get out for a long walk. During this one hour I only spent time in "creating my own mind map"; like think of a topic and start creating an "affinity diagram" and a mind map starting from where you ready this "topic" in the book; what comes before it, after it....impact of using it and impact of not using it in the overall Project Management exercise. This was very important as I completely shut myself off and start recollecting every single topic.
Remember to sleep really well night before the exam!
Day of the Exam
- Reach early to your exam center, this really helps in soothing your nerves!
- Tell yourself to read every question twice, no matter what!
- Use your strategy to take your break (50th or 100th question...) Remember that there would be a security check when you get in....so it might take about 5-7 mins in total before you get back into your seat.
- Have a clear and open mind....forget all your past exam results and only concentrate on the important 4 hours in front of you!
- Carry some energy bars with you to the exam center, you would surely need this during the break.
- You would be provided with a calculator for the exam, so it is going to be slightly easy
- Don't get overexcited or anxious if some questions are easy or vague....remember you will always get easy questions along with some mind-numbing questions which might take 3-4 minutes.
- Finally, Remember every single topic is important!
Important Topics for final review based on my exam experience;
- Risk Management
- Quality Management
- Stakeholder Management
BE POSITIVE & BELIEVE YOU CAN DO IT!
Feel free to reach out to me incase you need any further inputs, tips or suggestions! All the best!!!