Passed PMP Exam 1st attempt in August End after change of grading scale - Lessons learnt and Tips


First of all, kudos to everyone who is writing the exam soon or plans to write it soon as you have shown the will to write one of the toughest rates exams.
In almost all websites I searched I found it was the either the toughest or the 2nd most. That was my way of pepping myself to prepare for it. “When the going gets Tough the Tough get going !!”

I passed the exam with an overall “Above Target” rating & “Above Target” in 4 out of 5 domains and I want to share the lessons learnt so that everyone who is reading this can benefit from it by using any tips they like towards their preparation.

Timeline for preparation:
- Though, ideally I wanted to study consistently 2 hours for 3 months, but with the work schedule – it came down to only 3 intense weeks in the end. It was taxing but anyone who is less than a month away from the exam – please don’t panic, ”You can still do it !”.
- Anyone who has time at hand, I would recommend that he/she should pace the preparation in a more consistent manner though in the end it will still need an intense effort of doing multiple mock exams over the last 2 weeks.
- Don’t do a lot of multiple exams till you are through with the entire content of preparation, it will help you to get better score which will boost your confidence and writing more mock exam close to the exam will peak your ability to solve question close to your exam day. I bet you need to be on your peak to do well on the exam day !

Course Content and Material Used:

- PMBOK is the official guide and one should read it as the first book/ course content any one reads to get an Idea of all the processes / documents / terminology that an exam author expects you to know and would grade you on.
- PMBOK guide is written with a perspective that every reader has a project experience of working in projectized or a strong matrix environment where all or most processes are used for delivering projects and every reader can relate to the processes to their physical world. It may not be true for people working in functional organization where high project management expertise may not be available to give you that kind of exposure to all process / documents etc.
- For me Rita Mulcayh’s book became the missing link between the PMIsm and the real world, where ever I didn’t have the requisite exposure to the processes, documents etc. I read the PMBOK to start with and made notes of all gaps in my understanding. Then read Rita’s book cover to cover to bridge all gaps and made study notes based on that. Remember Rita’s book is not structured in the ITTO format and that is why PMBOK should be the first read.
- I also searched the net and read articles to clarify a few terms and interactions.
- I took a big white chart paper and drew the flow of ITTOs from once process to the other. I hung this on the wall and looked at it every day while reading articles or solving questions and in the end I did not have memorize the ITTOs coz I knew the flow. Also, if you read that there will be no direct questions on ITTO’s – that’s not the a complete truth, the questions can be less direct than asking for ITTOs but you will be judged on your knowledge – so please make an attempt to know each of them in detail.

Mock Exams:
- I purchased the subscription of PMTraining question (Scrodo) , the initial exams were easy but after 12 or 13, the level was good. I scored more than 80% on all the exams barring a couple which was a good confidence booster.
- I bought the PM Zilla tough 200 questions, which I think was a bit of an overkill and they have a few editorial mistakes. But, the positive of doing those questions was that they compel you to think and make inferences as they are not direct questions, which will ultimately help you on the exam day (I will detail this below)
- I did multiple free exams like Simplilearn, Oliver Leahman’s 175 & 75 (I would highly recommend those amongst all free options) and a myriad of other websites where I did few random quizzes, tests etc. The idea was to solve new questions and gauge my ability to understand and solve them.

Exam Day Tips:
- Everyone will tell you to be cool and relaxed on the exam day but that can’t always be true as it is your months’ of study (for me it was 3 intense weeks) and years of project experience being put to test to prove to yourself and the world that you are “Gold Standard” when it comes to managing projects. Being nervous is good, just channelize that nervous energy into positive energy and you will be good. I did it by giving myself some extra time in the initial few questions trying to hit the right answers. After 8-10 question my energy levels had settled down to the requisite level.
- I had an afternoon exam and made the mistake of not eating well before the exam, eat light but eat well – remember you need to gear up for a 4 hour strenuous exercise. If possible, try to limit your water intake to avoid multiple breaks in the exam – each break would cost you about 3-5 minute which is easily 3-5 questions.
- What makes the exam tough is not the question but your ability to comprehend them and understanding which phase or process is the question referring too, here is where your ability to think beyond what you see or read comes in, try to put all the situation asked in the questions to the phase or the process where they belong before you pick the right option. An example discovering a new risk in planning or controlling will need the risk register to be updated but in execution when you are observing the same risk in where it has already occurred, it is an issue and will call for the issue log to be updated. You may find both the documents in the options but your comprehension of the situation will make you select the right options.
- Pace yourself well, try to complete the exam in 3:30 mins to 3:40 mins so that you have time to review.

Please feel free to leave a comment or a query in case you need any help.

Best Wishes,

admin's picture

Congratulations AV. Thanks for wonderful post and also thanks for endorsing PMZilla 200 questions.

vasukeerti12's picture

I just saw in PMI site that PMP exam is changing from september onwards? they are coming with with 6th edition? Can you please anyone help me on this? is it exam approach will changed or changed already?

That's very good. Congrats!

Those who want to read the experiences of recent PMPs can look at the following link.

PMP Experience

Good luck.