PMP Lessons Learned: Understand Project Management Role Better by Studying for PMP Exam


PMP Exam Experience Sharing

Is it worthwhile for practising project managers to study for the PMP® Exam? Christina Reinhard is certain that preparation for the PMP® Exam is beneficial for practising project managers as the study “really helped her to understand her role and tasks better”.

Christina Thought It is Worthwhile to Prepare for PMP® Exam

Below is the detailed PMP® Exam lessons learned by Christina Reinhard who have recently passed the PMP® Certification Exam in the first attempt:

I have been working as a Project Manager a couple of years now. Although we did touch the topic PM at university I never had formal education in Project Management.
For about one year I thought about getting the PMP® certification but i was reluctant due to the high cost (if you do a course with a certified provider) and time needed.
I discussed with my boss and he agreed that the company will pay for the certification (including a 5 day course) but other than the 5 day course I would have to study on my own time.

Preparation

Part 1 – PM PrepCast™

I read that one should take 2 weeks of to really study for the exam. Well… As we had all our vacation for 2016 / 2017 planned already there was no way to take 2 weeks off in the near future.

So my plan was to study a couple of hours each week during a couple of month.

August 2016 I bought a book (Achieve PMP® Exam Success, 5th edition) and started reading. I read the chapters but wasn’t able to memorize anything. So i realized that learning from books is not my thing.

I like the university type of learning where you can sit and listen while a professor stands in front and elaborates.

I found the perfect solution: The Project Management PrepCast (PM PrepCast™) by Cornelius Fichtner. The podcast is great! Easy to listen to, good examples, enough repetition so that you memorize the important concepts.

I set the goal to cover one chapter (which equals one knowledge area) per week. This doesnt sound like a lot. But each chapter is devided in different sessions (one or sometimes 2 per process) it takes 4-8 hours to cover a chapter.

Part 2 – PMP® Bootcamp Course

Early December I attended a 5 days preparation course with a certified provider. The course was interesting and gave some additional input. But I felt that it did not provide much more than the Project Management Podcast that I had completed at the time.

Part 3 – PMP® Exam Prep Book and Mock Exams

Right after the course I sent in all the documentation to sign up for the exam and set an exam date: January 11th. This gave me 4 more weeks to prepare. I would have preferred another 2 month, but as in Project Management sometimes there are constraints that you cannot influence. In my case the constraint was the fact that I was pregnant and doing the exam less than 2 month from my due date did not seem to be a good idea (especially as I had to travel to the exam location)

During Christmas Break I read the PMP® Exam Prep book by Rita – 2 chapters a day.I did the end of chapter exams but skipped all the exercises she had within the chapters.

I also started doing mock exams. Through the course we also got access to an online exam simluator.

I did the simulations as follows:

  • do a whole 200 question simulation
  • during the simulation note concepts / terms I am unsure about
  • review the questions I answered wrong
  • use the results / statistics to determine my weak points

After the simulation I did

  • review the concepts / terms I was unsure about. I mainly googled them and found some good explanations in blogs / forums that really helped me to understand.
  • do some repetition on my weak points by either re-reading the chapter in Rita or re-watching a related PM Podcast chapter.

I did 5 simulations on the online exam simulator I had access to and to get variety of questions I also did some free simulations that I found online and used 2 apps (PM Test Prep / PMP® Exam).

I usually managed to achieve somewhere between 75 and 85% in the simulations (first attempt) which I felt was not great (I read you need consistently 80% to be ready for the real exam) but I hoped it would be good enough

What I did learn by heart – and what I did not

Through the course / podcast / book I did understand the overall concepts. I did learn the important formulas by heart. And one thing I realized during the exam simulations was that I also need to memorize the order of processes in the planning process group to be able to answer the various “what should the PM do next” questions.

I refused to learn ITTO by heart. I was aware that this might cost me some points on the exam because there are some questions that simply ask “what is an input to X”, but I decided to take this risk.

Day before the exam

There is no exam center in the town I live so I had to travel. About 30 minutes before I boarded the plane I thought „it would be awesome to have a summary to read during the flight“. Ok, probably it would have been a good idea to create a summary of each chapter myself. But as I did not do so I quickly searched online and found the study notes from https://edward-designer.com/web/pmp/

Just what I was looking for. High quality notes for each chapter, covering all the important terms and concepts while being short enough to go through in 2 hours. This really helped me do a last minute revision.

Day of the exam

My exam was scheduled at 9. There would have been a 1PM one but as usually in the afternoon I get tired I opted for the morning one. Actually the test center called me 3 days before the exam and asked if we could re-schedule to 11AM but I refused as doing the exam during my usual lunch time did not seem a good idea.

Check-in was simple and fast. Had to put my bag into a locker and my food onto a chair outside the room. My passport was checked and I had to show them that nothing hidden in my sleeves / pockets / socks. Usually there would also be a metal detector check but as I was pregnant this part was skipped.

I was the only student in the examination room so it was nice and quiet.

My plan was to do 75 questions / break / 75 questions / break / 50 questions + review and I sticked to that plan.
Because I heard so much that the type of questions had changed early 2016 to more situational questions I was a bit worried, but overall the questions where similar that what I had seen in the simulations.

Overall I thought I was doing ok, but there were some (maybe 20-30) questions where 2 of the answers seemed right and I felt I was missing some information to determine which of the 2 is the best one.

It took me 3.5 hours to answer all the questions and review the ones I marked. That was a bit of a surprise to me because when I did the full exam simulations I always finished within about 2.5 hours (also including breaks).

When I pressed the “done” button I expected to see “YOU PASSED” but instead I got another page asking me whether I would be willing to answer some questions about my exam experience. What??? Does this mean I failed???

I answered 2 of the questions but then decided I did not want to continue answering whether the exam location was convenient and whether I was seated immediately so I hit the “end” button. Only then the much wanted “Congratulations, you passed” text was showing.

PMP® Exam Result

1 Proficient (Execute) and 4 moderately proficient

Lessons learned

  • The PM PrepCast™ was a great way to get all the topics covered.
  • The course with the certified provider was nice, but considering the cost probaby not worth it
  • The Rita PMP® Exam Prep book was a good way to review, but as a stand-alone (without the podcast or course) it would not have been sufficient for me
  • Edward’s study notes are a good way to do a last minute revision. They would also have been helpful earlier. I think if you can explain all the terms / concepts he has on the study notes you are in a good position to do the exam.
  • Learning the order of processes in the planning process area was worth it – I could use this knowledge for a number of questions.
  • In retrospect I should have spent a bit more time on memorizing ITTO, there were some questions that would have been easy to answer if you knew them by heart.
  • My learning schedule (a little bit every day during about 4-5 month) worked for me. It would probably have been beneficial to have 1-2 weeks before the exam where I could focus more (study 4-8 hours each day) but that just wasn’t possible.

Was it worth it? Yes! Altough I did not learn anything totally new spending so much time on the fundamental concents of project management really helped me understand my role and tasks better. I believe this will have a positive impact on future projects.

Thanks again Christina for showing PMP® Certification Aspirants it is possible to study a little bit every day for the PMP® Exam and can still pass the exam in first try. The sharing of PMP® Exam lessons learned in much details let us “feel” the PMP® Exam preparation and exam taking well in advance so that PMP® Certification Aspirants can have better psychological preparation.

Wish all PMP® Certification Aspirants PMP® success!

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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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