PMP Exam Lessons Learned by Jonathan Dacosta

PMP Exam Experience Sharing

The new PMP Exam commences from 12 Jan 2016 well into 2017. Many Aspirants would worry about the “big changes” that are happening to the exam questions and would wonder if the prep resources (i.e. mock questions and exam prep books) are still relevant for the new PMP Exam in 2017. Some of them are hesitate to take the new exam for the time being. Here is a piece of good news for them.

Fortunately, there are quite a few people who are brave enough to take the new exam and generous enough to share their lessons learned from preparing for the new exam on 20 Jan 2016. Jonathan Dacosta is one of them. Jonathan: thanks a lot for your invaluable contribution!

As you can read from this and other lessons learned from the new PMP Exam, the changes are just not major ones. The good news is Aspirants can still rely on current books and mock exams to ace the new exam! It’s great to know that all the exam prep materials for the PMBOK® Guide 5th edition are still very relevant for your exam preparation.

Just note that there are more questions on Stakeholder Management, Communication Management and about the Project Charter.

Jonathan Dacosta Aced the PMP Exam

Below is the sharing by Jonathan Dacosta who have recently passed the new exam:

I just passed the  exam with 4 Proficient and 1 Moderately Proficient (Monitoring & Controlling) and it’s time for me to share my exam preparation, lessons learned and comments on the new exam to give back to the community that helped me for the past 3 months.

First thing first, English is not my mother language so that was an added difficulty for the exam because there were some unfamiliar terms to catch people that only memorize stuff. It should not be an issue if English is your first language. I would say there were 5-10 questions I had to “guess” the meaning of a word.

It all started in October when I subscribed to a 35 contact hour class with my local PMI chapter, they referenced a lot of stuff from PMBOK® Guide in their slides and all teachers had great credentials, it was not cheap but my job paid for it and it was well worth it.

For my personal preparation, I used:

  • Headfirst PMP book
  • Rita’s PMP book
  • Rita’s FASTrack
  • PDF version of the PMBOK® Guide (given free with PMI membership)

Mid-October to End-November

I read Headfirst in a 3 week span every week nights and completed all exercises, it’s a very good book to get started and understand the concepts, well worth the purchase. Once completed, I tried Headfirst mock exam without any studying or cheatsheet and finished with 76%.

Early December to Christmas break

I read Rita’s book from page to page without doing any exercises, taking time to really understand the concepts, the book is very well explained.

January 4th to January 11th

I went through Rita for a 2nd time, about 1-2 chapter/day and also doing the exercises at the end of each chapter. This is where it really began to click. I was getting between 70-80s on the exercises.

January 11th to January 19th

Final rush, I did a lot of mock exams. I pretty much went full time studying other than my actual job Mon/Fri 9-5.

Here are my scores if you want to compare:

  • Headfirst: 76%, 1h40m (200 Q) – easier than exam
  • Exam Central #1: 84%, 1h26m (200 Q) – easier than exam
  • Exam Central #2: 89%, 1h10m (200 Q) – easier than exam
  • FASTrack #1: 78%, 2h17m (200 Q) – somewhat easier than exam
  • Super PMP: 62%, 3h10m (200 Q) – a lot harder than exam (lenghty questions, my weakness)
  • PM Exam simulator: 67%, 2h05m (170 Q) – about same level as exam
  • Oliver Lehmann 75: 68%, 1h15m (75 Q) – harder than exam
  • Edwel: 91%, 40m (75 Q) – a lot easier than exam
  • Oliver Lehmann 175: 81%, 2h05m (175 Q) – somewhat harder than exam

[Further reading: A list of quality free mock exams]

Super PMP and PM Exam Simulator shot my confidence down, Rita helped a lot understanding the process and “what to do next” or “typical PM behavior” but it felt like I had major gaps with basic knowledge questions. You can see the big step in my performance between these and Oliver Lehmann, I spent a lot of time filling gaps and understanding why I had something wrong. I also skimmed through the PMBOK® Guide and glossary quickly.

The final results I had on Oliver Lehmann tests gave me my confidence back and I was ready for the exam.


I personally had a LOT more questions than I expected on stakeholder and communication. It didn’t feel like anything was new or unknown, just more questions. I also had a lot of questions on the before/during/after project charter. It makes sense considering the new tasks added. You guys should definitely spend more time on Stakeholder Management and Communication Management chapters and business case/project charter prior taking the exam.

Other than that, nothing special, I could not tell what were the extra 25 questions and the hardest questions for me were the “what would the PM do next” with 2-3 good answers, there were a couple of these!!

Fun story: I got a question I was not sure of the answer and the question right after had the answer word for word in the first sentence 🙂

I finished in approx. 3h20m and marked approx. 40 questions.

I also suggest using Edward’s website for the notes, they helped me a lot filling the knowledge gaps.

Good luck to all of you !!

As shared by Jonathan, there is actually little or no “new” knowledge required for the new PMP Exam. The new exam has just shifted a bit of focus to Stakeholder Management, Communication Management and Project Charter, which are top three most important tasks project managers need to know more as found out from PMI’s Role Delineation Study (RDS) in 2015.

Thanks again Jonathan.

[Newly added: another Lessons Learned for the New PMP Exam states that some updated exam prep book is almost identical to the original edition which indicates that the new exam is very much like the original one based on PMBOK® Guide 5th edition.]

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Edward Chung

Edward Chung aspires to become a full-stack web developer and project manager. In the quest to become a more competent professional, Edward studied for and passed the PMP Certification, ITIL v3 Foundation Certification, PMI-ACP Certification and Zend PHP Certification. Edward shares his certification experience and resources here in the hope of helping others who are pursuing these certification exams to achieve exam success.

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16 Responses

  1. sulu says:

    Hello Edward,

    I failed the exam twice. wondering hot to tackle it further. The second try I got 2 targets and 3 below targets ( M&C / Inititating/ Closing ). At home when I tries the Rita’s fast track .. focused study on the 3 topics I am getting 80%. The mocks were 75%. I didn’t give too many full ones. (may be that was the bad thing).

    I felt the second exam was easier than first , because I had few situational questions , and most questions where which plan to use. I think the topics Quality / Risk / Communications / Resource were heavy hitters.

    how shld I approach my third try. I think i want to give it sooner than later .. so i dont forget what i already studied.
    Which mocks shld i use now ? How many to give? I have purchased the Ritas fast track .. which helped me improve drastically from the first try.


  2. Mike says:


    I just passed my PMP exam on second attempt yesterday and would like to share my experience made:
    Why did I fail the first time? Well, I scored around 62-71 % on two different 200 questions mock exams. I expected the real exam to have more “numerical” and clear questions and I figured I would be able eliminate 2-3 answers easily, leaving me with at least a 50/50 chance, which would have been fine considering my level of knowledge… I thought.
    Well, I was not prepared for so my situational questions and the four possible answers made most of the time sense so I was not able to eliminate any with high confidence. Briefly: I had not studied enough.
    Before attempting the second round, I read PMBOK again, studied with for different mock test apps and did a lot of stuff that probably was rather a waste of time. For instance, I summarized the complete PMBOK! 😉
    In the end, the mixture of taking tests and reading about the stuff you got wrong is the way to go. I took about 4 x 200 questions and completed the 75 and 175 questions from Oliver Lehmann.
    With respect to my actual exam, I must say that Oliver’s test questions were very close.
    Interestingly, I got a lot of questions to which the answer was “Pareto Diagram” and quite a few numerical questions as well. Also, I had to differentiate between Change Log, Issue Log, Risk Register, etc. in regards to where to look for certain information and what to update. And (also quite frequently), I had questions regarding what to do with a CR: Give it to the CCB or do other stuff first (inform customer, analyze risk, etc.).
    Overall, I passed with “Above Target” and achieved “Above Target” in all Process Areas except “Closing”.
    Finally, it is over and got my life back!

  3. Ryan says:

    Hi Edward,

    Thanks for sharing! I found this web site is very useful for me. I am going to take PMP exam next Tue and I am very stressed about it.
    I tried to take some paid/free mock exams and I just want to sure if the scores mean something.

    Oliver PDF: 68%
    Oliver Online:66%
    PMP Exam Simulator 2.0 1st: 76.5%
    PMP Exam Simulator 2.0 2nd: 82.5%
    PMP Exam Simulator 2.0 3rd: 82.5%
    PMP Exam Simulator 2.0 4th: 80.5%
    PMP Exam Simulator 2.0 5th: 81%
    Edwel: 81%
    Simplelearn: 77%


    • Edward Chung says:

      Hi Ryan,

      Your results from the PMP mock exams are quite good indeed. Normally, a consistent score of 75% or above in mock exams would mean that it is highly possible you can pass the PMP Exam in first try. Just have faith in yourself and stay calm during the exam session. Can’t wait to hear your good news!

      Wish you PMP success!

      • Ryan says:

        Hi Edward,

        Thanks you very very much! I passed PMP exam finally (3Ps and 2MP).
        This website and PM Exam Simulator 2.0 helped me so much.
        Without this website advising using the simulator, I think I am not able to pass the exam.

        Thanks again.

    • Edward Chung says:

      You seems to be doing okay as you scored around 80% in the PM Exam Simulator 2.0 which would indicate that you stand a high chance to pass the PMP Exam in first try.

      Have faith in yourself and relax! Can’t wait to hear your good news!

  4. Williams says:

    Thanks for sharing!! 🙂

  5. Abhishek Raj says:

    Hi Edward,

    I passed my PMP exam with 4 Proficient and 1 Moderately Proficient on 30th May. I did used your website from time to time in order to go through the chapter notes. I used variety of sources/books like Rita Mulcahy, Richard Perrin, Aileen Ellis and few simulator tests for my preparation. I scored 74% in both 75 questions and 175 questions by Olivier Lehmann….I finished my actual PMP exam 20 minutes before because I utilized all the free exam resources that you have mentioned on your website…I thank you for helping me pass the exam with flying colors.

    • Edward Chung says:

      Congratulations on passing the PMP Exam with great results, Abhishek. Your diligence paid off! Thanks a lot for letting me know my sharing does offer some assistance to your PMP preparation!

  6. Daniel Lee Cruz says:

    Extremely helpful information…Thank you!

  7. Jesus says:

    thanks a lot for the tips

  8. Dharmesh Joshi says:

    And special thanks to Jonathan Dacosta for sharing his experience. Very useful.

  9. Dharmesh Joshi says:

    Dear Edward,

    Many thanks for making this available. You are doing a super job. Well done!

  10. Jonathan Dacosta says:

    Thanks for the feature and especially thanks again for the various articles that prepared me well