I have always learnt something from reading the Lessons learned section from other’s experiences so here is my personal experience (sorry for the long post).
Prep time: about 3 months with about 4hrs on weekdays and weekdays. Though 2 weeks before the exam I lost a whole week of prep since I had to travel international for work and could not invest any time in studying and was experiencing jet lag on return so not ideal last week prep.
Materials used: PMBOK 4th edition, Rita Mulcahy PMP Exam prep, Andy Crowe “How to pass the PMP exam on your first try”.
Strategy to prepare: I started with the PMBOK and I agree that it is dry. However, I followed the method to write down on notes on each process which reinforces your understanding of what the PMBOK is about. I would then read the same chapter in Andy Crowe’s book to get a more simplistic understanding of the process. I highly recommend his book because things are laid out in a much easier to read format. After each chapter, I would take the tests at the end of Andy crowe and was generally scoring in the 90% range (note: the questions however are easy too keeping with the theme of easy reading).
I heard a lot about Rita’s book so finally bought it about 1.5months into my prep. I have mixed reviews like quite a few other folks. Rita does not exactly follow the ITTO method for a process but goes into detail which can help you understand what a process is about. Great in helping know the concept instead of just memorizing which is not advisable. But (how can there not be a but after all this great intro) someone has to remind her about the concept of positive reinforcement because the tone of the book is very patronizing and she does come off as the know-all be-all. There are quips in the book spread around on why you may be a bad PM for not following a particular process or why you may fail the exam. I do not agree with that language and my advice is to just skip it when she starts talking about it. But I highly recommend doing the questions on the end of each chapter since it is a little more difficult (in my experience) than what I got on the PMP exam so it helps you prepare better. I was averaging about 80-85% on those tests.
Practice Tests: I was under the firm belief that more tests the better I might get used to sitting for 4hrs (I am a very restless individual) and also learn from the mistakes I make. So I took about 9 practice tests. HeadFirst Free test, PM Study (4 tests), Tutorial point free test (Didnt like this because of errors and typos), Andy Crowe test, Oliver Lehmann 75 Q and 175Q. Used to practice mini tests from other free tests so all-in-all I did about 3000 questions. In all these tests I was averaging between 73%-84%. PMStudy tests came closest to what I saw in the exam so I highly recommend them. Oliver Lehmann was tough (score 73%) and he didnt have good explanation on why a particular answer was wrong. But I still recommend taking them since it will help you prepare for a tougher exam.
ITTO: I personally did not memorize each and every ITTO (except risk mgmt, more below). However, I read the PMBOK about 3-4 times and had pasted 9 pages (1 page with the table of each Knowledge areas processes with their tools and techniques) in front of me so that I could look at them often. So I had a pretty good knowledge of which ITTO was in which process and could guess well when in doubt.
Day before exam: I did not study at all. I went to a football game (Go Chargers!) and in fact had a few drinks and a tequila shot (in hindsight, bad decision).
Day of exam: Had a good night sleep but woke up with a slight buzziness (see exhibit above for reason ). Exam wasnt until 12:30pm so I hoped that it would wear off. I had to move this weekend too so I got ready with some of my stuff and then moving a few items into my new apartment.
Exam: Left home around 11:30 and reached exam site with about 40 mins to spare. Put all my items in the locker, signed in and they gave me the option to take the test. I went for it and started at 12. One thing to remember which I didnt know is that when you sit on your computer, the very first screen is to start the process. So I clicked that and started jotting down the brain dump sheet. But be careful because the next screen is that you have to click Start to start the tutorial within 1 min or the exam will end. Luckily i looked up while writing the dumpsheet and immediately clicked start which started the 15 min tutorial.
I personally did not find many questions that was outside the material I had used to prepare. There were definitely questions that could have the 2 right answers and you had to select the best one. But if you are prepared well enough, then it makes it easier. Focus on Risk Management. Learn it inside out. Memorize the ITTOs if you can. But there was lot of focus on risk so make sure its a key area of focus. Earned value calculations were pretty easy. Read the PMI professional code of ethics since there may be questions that you dont realize but are referencing the code of ethics. Did i mention know Risk Management? Yes. It was that important and I am glad I read someone else’s LL since they had mentioned the same.
My plan was to do the 50q and then take break. But I was doing good time so decided to not take any breaks. I finished the 200q in about 2hrs but the side effect was my back was aching, legs were twitching and I was hungry and thirsty. I took a 5min break and came back and reviewed every question again for about 1hr 15 mins and marked about 15 questions. Took a 5 min break and then spent 20 more mins on those 15q but i felt that I could not reach a conclusive answer so decided to end the exam.
Waited for the survey after clicking end exam. Then after survey about 25 seconds of hard drive going nuts and then the sweetest word of the day “Congratulations on passing the PMP examination”. Got moderately proficient in 3 domains and proficient in the other 3.
My overall thought that the exam is what you make it out to be. If you prepare well enough and take a lot of practice tests, you will be able to tackle the tough questions either by knowing the answer or by very educated guesses. Ok i have to say it again, read Risk mgmt.
Good luck to everyone else who is taking the PMP exam and thanks to all who have contributed to PMHub since it has been of great help.