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Steve Watson, PMP: Lessons Learned from my PMP exam experience

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I took the PMP certification exam recently and am happy to report that I passed.  In my preparations for the test, I read a few Tips and Tricks from others.  They helped me out quite a bit so I thought I would share some of these along with my own lessons in order to do a little “Pay It Forward”.

How I prepared for the test:

Following the advice of several peers, I took one of the many PMP Prep courses available on the web.  I won’t name which one here.  If you would like to know, please feel free to send an email and Iwill respond directly.  These courses can range from $40-$2000 with many of the ones above $200 offering the required PDU credits for exam eligibility.  Without listing or rating a bunch of them, I would advise to make sure to take one which offers an exam simulator of some sort.  This will be the biggest help since most of the difficulty of the exam involves its length and the style of the questions.  You want a course that will prepare you for both.

Besides the course, some other quick prep tips are provided below.

1.  Read the PMBOK Guide, 4th Ed. from front to back.  Some say 2x.  I only read thoroughly once, but did skim important sections additional times.

2.  Take plenty of practice tests.  The more the better.  If provided, be sure to examine reasons behind each correct answer.  Also, its best to take a 4 hour simulated exam to prepare for the length of the real one.  Good test sims provide these.

3.  Study the process diagrams, but don’t get hung up on memorizing the specific inputs and outputs.  Look for patterns and memorize those.

4.  Target most of your study on the “Direct and Manage Project Execution” and “Monitor and Control Project Work”  process groups.  A majority of the questions relate to these process groups.

5.  Ensure you are ready before taking the exam.  The exam passing score is 61%, but try to achieve 80% on practice tests before you take the real thing.

6. Get a good nights rest the night before the exam.

How the taking the exam works:

I read some tips about what to bring to the exam that may have been appropriate for people taking it overseas.  As a result, I brought a backpack loaded with various supplies.  The truth is, here in the US you should only bring the bare minimum to the Prometric exam centers where the computer-based testing is conducted.

1.  Be sure to bring two forms of legal ID for verification.  You will only be allowed to bring this ID and a locker key into the exam room.  The testing center should provide anything else you need (i.e. scratch paper, pencils, etc.).

2.  Dress comfortably.  You will be stuck there for a while, so be sure to where clothing comfortable for office air-conditioning and sitting for a long time.

3.  Ask the exam monitor for ear plugs.  I found these helpful for keeping down the distractions like the excessively loud air handler ad other exam takers coughs.  You may also request tissues.  These are a good idea, just in case.

4.  Be sure to take care of any bodily needs before the exam.  Eat, drink (not too much), use the restroom facilities, take medications and smoke (if those apply) before you start.  You can leave the room for restroom breaks, but the clock runs while you do.

5.  Finally, relax.  Don’t stress out too much beforehand.  If you did your prep right, you should pass without issue.  In any case once you walk into the exam room, your course is set.

Tips on the test:

1.  Don’t dwell on any question too long.  Take advantage of the “Mark for Review” feature and skip to the next question if one poses too much trouble.  Most students finish the test in 2.5 hours and use the rest of the time for this review.

2.  Be sure to read every question carefully.  Wording is very important and can imply more to the situation beyond the obviously stated question.

3.  Be sure to study and memorize  the HR concepts and their founders (e.g. Herzberg, Maslow, McGregor, Alderfer).

4.  Be sure to study Quality concepts and tools.  There are bound to be several questions specifically related to the various tools (e.g. Pareto charts, control charts, statistical sampling techniques, etc.).

5.  Be sure to understand the acronyms for contract types and their pros and cons.

6.  Be sure to be familiar with the communications model and the terms “tight matrix” and “loose matrix” (not to be confused with “Strong Matrix” and “Weak Matrix” PM organizational terms).

7.  Have the EVM equations and analysis of results down pat .  Know how to use the indexes to calculate EAC.  Particularly useful tips: Always start equations with EV.   Variances greater than 0 are good; indexes greater than 1 are good.

8.  Trust your experience.  If you get a question relating to process inputs or outputs, ask yourself “what would I need first?” or “what would I do to produce X?”.

9.  In general, most of the exam questions will have at least 2 answers that seem to be “correct”.  Eliminate those that are definitely wrong and concentrate on determining which of the remaining ones are correct.  Turn the question around, “Jeopardy-style” or try to look at it in another light.  Sometimes this helps the correct response jump out.

Well, those are the big lessons and tips I followed going into the test.  I hope they help you with your exam.  At the same time, don’t let these be the only ones you follow.  There are many good resources which provide free tips.  If you know some additional ones, please feel free to add them in your comments below.

Steve Watson, PMP

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15 comments to Steve Watson, PMP: Lessons Learned from my PMP exam experience

  • centrino123

    Congrats Steve !

    I would like to know which PMP Prep course you took; so could you send me a private message ?

    P.S. : about “Direct and Manage Project Execution” and “Monitor and Control Project Work”, I think you meant ‘Executing’ Process Group and ‘Monitoring and Controlling’ Process Groups (which are Process Groups)

    Thanks

  • MDS

    I have to reiterate eliminating the 2 questions strategy. It helped me a lot when i took and passed the exam a couple of weeks ago. and I cannot emphasize enough – PMBOK, PMBOK, PMBOK
    congrats Steve and good luck to all of those looking to sit the exam soon.

    MDS

  • Centrino is correct, the actual process group names are “Executing” and “Monitoring and Controlling”. The names I gave were for the chapters of the PMBOK where they are discussed in detail. In order to focus study on those groups, those chapters are the important ones to focus on for study.
    Steve

  • prosperity

    Steve congrats on your accomplishment of the PMP cert. I would like to receive the additional information on the prep course.

  • shajehan

    Please me the online course details.

    Thank you.
    Shaj

  • Jamal

    please send me the courses

    if there is any simult. exam with use the same termoligy as the exam?? please provid
    thanks

  • XS

    Hi Steve,

    if possible please let me know which course you have taken for youe exam.

  • KarenS

    Hi Steve -

    I would love to know which PMP Prep course you took.

    Thanks and congrats on your certification,
    Karen

  • Comments from PMHUB: this is a good Lessons Learnt from Steve’s Lessons Learned:

  • Kara

    Nice one…STEVE- Read following message:

    First: Never ever write: “write to me if you …” when you do not even mention what your e-mail address is

    Second: why not wite that in your LL openly rather than asking reader to privately write to you – the objective of an LL is to share. If due to legal reason, you do not dare to mention the name, then do not ask reader to write to you

  • Steve, can you share the study resources you used for PMP exam prep?

    Thanks,
    Brad

  • ManM

    Hi Steve
    Can you please explain meaning of “Turn the question around, “Jeopardy-style”
    My apologies for ignorance, in all honesty, I havent watched Jeopardy much to understand this.

    Regards,
    ManM

  • I guess is that you look at the answer and then try to find out what is the question…

  • Tammy

    Does anyone have info on where I can find loose and tight matrix information?

  • Aalok Chandra

    Hi,
    I am an Architect and from the construction Industry in India, there is now a need for trained or qualified Project mangers. Most of the present ones are like me , we rely on experience for managing construction projects. There is no specific direction to control, and often projects go out of hand. There is too much uncertainty about all deliverables.
    I have decided to write the PMP exam. I have booked myself for a boot camp.
    Perhaps you can tell me the books and web-sources to see me through the knowledge needed to understand the concepts and pass PMP. I feel only the boot camp may not help. I can take a leave from my work to prepare, maximum for a month after the boot camp.I see that lot of memorizing is involved , more so if we are not aware of the Processes.If it is not inconvenient to you please let me know.
    Regards,
    Aalok Chandra

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