PMP Lessons Learned: Understand Project Management Role Better by Studying for the Exam
Is it worthwhile for practising project managers to study for the PMP® Exam? Christina Reinhard is certain that preparation for the 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 Tackle the Exam
Below is the detailed lessons learned by Christina Reinhard who have recently passed the 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.
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 doesn’t sound like a lot. But each chapter is divided in different sessions (one or sometimes 2 per process) it takes 4-8 hours to cover a chapter.
Part 2 – 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 PrepCast that I had completed at the time.
Part 3 – 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 simulator.
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.
1 Proficient (Execute) and 4 moderately proficient
- 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 probably 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! Although I did not learn anything totally new spending so much time on the fundamental concepts 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 Aspirants it is possible to study a little bit every day for the exam and can still pass it in first try. The lessons learned are shared in much details which help us “feel” the exam preparation and taking well in advance so that Aspirants can have better psychological preparation.
Wish you PMP® success!