I am happy to report that I took the PMP exam on September 18th, 2009 and passed on my first try! I found the lessons learned on PMHUB Blog to be extremely useful during my test preparation, so I wanted to do my part and share my experience.
I decided to take the PMP in early 2009, went through the application process, but didn’t end up scheduling my exam until July for a September 18th exam date. Below is an outline of how I prepared for and took the exam, which I hope will be beneficial for future PMPs!
3 Months Away:
- Read the PMBOK Guide 4th Edition. This was the first thing I did, even before I scheduled my exam. I only read the PMBOK once, however, mostly because I found that I retained little of the information I read. A lot of the information is repeated, not to mention I’m a hands-on learner, so reading 500 pages probably wasn’t the best strategy to begin with. For me, applying the knowledge I learned via practice questions was by far more beneficial than reading the guide two or three times.
2 Months Away:
- Purchased Rita Mulcahy’s Fast Track exam simulation software. I decided to purchase the Fast Track software ($299) right after I scheduled my exam, based on a good recommendation from another PMP. I didn’t purchase the accompanying book, but I could see how it would provide additional value and background. The Fast Track software is great because it has roughly 1400 questions that you can mix and match, all with clear explanations as to why the right answers are right and why the wrong answers are wrong. I spent this entire second month before the exam going through practice questions grouped by knowledge and process area, but no full practice tests.
3 Weeks Away:
- Purchased Andy Crowe’s The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try. I found out about Andy Crowe’s book from one of the lessons learned I read on PMHUB. Unfortunately, I discovered it about 3 weeks prior to my exam, which I thought might be a disadvantage for me. I immediately purchased the book on Half.com from eBay for about $50. As it turned out, ordering the book was the best last minute decision I could have made. While I waited on the book to arrive, I continued using the Fast Track for practice questions.
2 Weeks Away:
- Received Andy Crowe’s The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try. I received Crowe’s book two weeks before the exam and was particularly happy I bought it. This book was by far one of the best tools I could have used! Crowe does a great job of elaborating what the PMBOK is really trying to say as well as outlining key inputs, outputs, formulas, etc. The first thing I did was read the book in its entirety, making sure to go through the practice quizzes at the end of each chapter. These practice questions were very helpful in understanding the concepts covered in each chapter, and I highly recommend these not be ignored.
1 Week Away:
- Practice tests and more practice tests. I spent the entire week before the exam taking practice tests. I started with the full exam provided at the end of Crowe’s book, and got a 79%. I felt a somewhat overconfident after taking this first practice test, which was immediately leveled by the 66% I received on my first practice test with the Fast Track software. I proceeded to take 3 more practice exams on the Fast Track, thankfully scoring above 70% every time thereafter. Also, it is a must to review each exam after completion for an explanation of what you missed and why.
The Day Before:
- Unlike other lessons learned I read, I decided to spend the day before the exam as I had any other day – studying as much as possible. I skimmed through Crowe’s book one more time and retook the practice test in the back of the book. This time I got an 89% which really boosted my confidence for the exam the nest morning.
- I arrived at the exam location 30 minutes early to get checked in and I was happy I did because there was a line of people outside. I had to wait for a little while to get checked in, but all I needed was one valid form of identification. Also, the test center provided me with scratch paper and pencils; I was not allowed to bring in my calculator. Instead, a calculator was built in to the exam. Keep in mind too that you are only allowed to take the provided scratch paper, pencils, your ID and a locker key into the exam, everything else has to be put in a locker. Less is more in this situation.
Taking the Exam:
- As suggested by others, I took the time during the 15-minute tutorial, not only to read and make sure I understood it, but also to write down various equations I thought would be important (EV, PV, CPI, SPI – Crowe provides a list of suggestions). Writing the equations down saved me time in the long run when I hit a question that required a calculation. As for the exam itself, I spent just over two hours answering all questions in one sitting. I then took a 15 minute break to grab snack and get some fresh air. When I returned, I spent the next hour or so reviewing my marked answers. Keep in mind there are typically other people taking other exams around you, so using the headphones was a plus for me to drown out other noise in the room. I finished about 20-30 minutes early and decided to go ahead and submit m y exam. And as you can tell, a wonderful “Congratulations on passing!” popped up on the screen!
- Don’t stare at a question for too long! If you need to, make an educated guess, mark it for review and come back later. Sometimes, a question later in the exam might trigger a thought on the answer for a previous question.
- Rule out the wrong answers first! In general, you can easily find one wrong answer immediately, two if you have done your studying. Ruling these out first will increase your chances of picking the right answer, as with any multiple choice test.
- Know the difference between Quality Assurance/Quality Control and Conduct Procurements/Administer Procurements – there is big difference! J
- Finally, I would suggest trying to relax as much as possible. 61% is definitely attainable with the proper studying!
Good luck to everyone taking the PMP exam in the future! Just remember – practice tests, practice tests and more practice tests!
Ashley Larson, PMP