I registered for the PMP exam early this January with the intention of clearing it by end of March. Procrastination set in and March-end became December. There..you have the first lesson learnt – the longer you wait to write the exam, the harder it gets.
In Jan, I was on course to appear for the exam based on the 3rd edition of PMBOK. I read Rita Mulcahy (5th Edition) chapter by chapter and did all the end-of-chapter questions. Just when I was starting to feel in shape to write the exam, a distraction came up and I had to reschedule. When I realized that I would have to go after the exam based on the 4th Edition of PMBOK, I dumped the Rita Mulcahy and picked up the PMBOK ( probably for the first time!). The reasoning was that I would not be able to afford the next edition of Rita without burning a hole in my pocket.
Sometime towards the end of October, I realized that the exam would expire in a couple of months and I had no more room for postponement. I started reading each chapter of the PMBOK, one chapter a day, inside out. I would go through each chapter and when I was done with all the chapters, I would start all over again with the first chapter. I didn’t count, but I must have done 2-3 rounds of this. I regularly checked out PMHub Forums for questions and other Lessons Learned. I did practice questions (not entire mock tests) from HeadFirst, PMP Google question bank (pmpbank.googlepages.com), Oliver Lehmann’s 75 questions and those he suggests on his website. Though I did a considerable number of practice questions, I never did a full length mock test. This really made me nervous as the exam approached.
Just 3 weeks before the exam, I decided to purchase HeadFirst PMP and I am glad I did. It was great fun reading it especially since I was already familiar with the PMBOK and the exam material.I would read each chapter just like I did with the PMBOK (though I skipped the end-of-chapter questions in the interest of time). I must have read each chapter of the HeadFirst book atleast twice.I also read the Rajesh Rani notes from time to time. I did more practice questions, though still no full-length mock exam.
I was planning to do a couple of the full-length mocks during the last weekend before the exam. That never happened. As the D-date approached, I twisted and turned in my sleep.I felt comfortable with the material, but the lack of match-practice was killing me with worry.
Two days before the test, I checked out the test center. I also figured out what I needed to bring to the test and what I wouldn’t need there.
On the day before the test, I skimmed aimlessly through the HeadFirst book not looking for anything in particular. I went to bed early.D-day morning, I was up bright and early. I reached the center atleast an hour before time. Since this was morning, the center only opened half an hour after I was there. There was some last minute tension as the Prometric staff were not happy with how my name appeared on the ID that I had provided vis-a-vis the name on the test. After atleast 20 mins of tense negotiations, I was in front of the computer with the test about to start…it was time !
The tension about the ID must have distracted me from the test and I was not really feeling nervous.I got out of the tutorial in 3mins. I decided against the brain dump. I just wanted to get the thing over with. Some people on this forum have talked about the first few questions just flying past them in a daze while they tried to settle down. Funnily, nothing of that sort happened for me. I just kept going. I am not sure if it was because I had prepared well or because I was exceptionally lucky with the difficulty level of questions, but there was never high and low in the difficulty level of the questions. I tried to keep a steady pace, neither dismissing any question without a second look, nor spending too much time on any one question.I must have marked around 40 questions for review. I was done with the first pass through the questions in 2:15 hours.I opted against the break and went back to the marked questions. By the time I had worked through the questions, I had another 1:10 hrs left. Again, decided against the break and went back to 3-4 questions that I still couldn’t get my arms around.
Finally, I spent the last 45 mins going through each question, starting from no.1 I knew I wouldn’t have enough time to go through each of the 200 questions, but I wanted to make sure I had not misread or misinterpreted any question.I stuck to it till the computer flashed the message that I had run out of time. The screen went blank, but I was prepared for this (since I read this in almost every LL here !). The survey was out of the way in 2-3 mins and the “Congratulations” message was on the screen.
More good news, I had scored “Proficient” in all the six areas! I had been sitting at the desk for a little over 4 hours without so much as standing up (perhaps my boring day job, and my even more boring life was good practice !). This good news was well worth it. I checked out and rushed to the restroom…just in time !
About the questions: It all happened so fast, I donot remember seeing too many questions focusing on any one particular area. One thing that struck me was that there weren’t too many questions needing me to do EV calculations. There were a bunch of questions where I was asked to assess the health of the project based on CPI, SPI etc.There were a lot of “what would be the BEST thing to do next” questions from almost all areas.The HeadFirst 200 questions seemed closest to the actual exam questions. The Oliver Lehmann questions are probably a little too much, though…do them only if you really dont mind losing confidence before the exam!
A few points in conclusion:
Each person has their own style of learning and taking the exam. I was lucky that not doing the mock tests did not hurt me, but that’s just me. If I had to do it all over again (which I wouldn’t), I would probably do at least 3-4 mock tests. But I would most certainly read the PMBOK. No point in memorizing the ITTOs but it would be great if you are in a position to tell a TT from an input and output ! Reading the PMBOK over and over means that you are able to appreciate the subtleties of such things as the difference between Qualitative and Quantitative Risk Analysis and the fact that decision tree analysis can also be used for selecting which projects to bid for given the right circumstances.Of course, PM experience in real life helps too.
Prepare as much as you can, know the material inside out, and do a lot of practice. I would recommend doing atleast 500 distinct questions (either as part of a mock test or just as practice questions).
Good luck !
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