My PMP Journey

My entry into the world of project management happened sometime in 2008/2009. Prior to this, I was a Technical Lead/Subject Matter Expert and I dived into the role of Project Lead. Since then, there has been no turning back and over a decade and half later, I’ve managed several successful projects and programs. World of project management is fascinating, simply because it is time bound. Take any project for example, you are almost always assured of an end/outcome. There is no such thing as a never ending project. It is therefore not a surprise in the exponential rise of project management professionals.

We have also entered into an era in professional/corporate world where meritocracy is paramount, as such, there is also a demand for certified professionals. The leader in the market for this is Project Management Institute (aka PMI). They offer a professional certification called Project Management Professional (aka PMP®). I will not go into the details of the requirements to obtain PMP or the process of application itself, however, I will talk about my preparation method and how I successfully cleared the gruelling exam.

Some prerequisites for preparation: 

  1. Gain support of your immediate family. This is very important. As much as you know how important this preparation is, you will need to make sure your family understands the commitment you need to put in and support and encourage you to do so.
  2. Research on study materials and figure out which one works for you.
  3. Figure out your approach for your preparation.
  4. Stay calm. Make every effort to stay calm. It is absolutely ok to panic, freak out, get mad, get frustrated, lose interest. I have gone through each of these to varying levels. But the important thing that I realized is to figure out a way to stay calm and then be calm.  

When it is about achievements, it is recommended that we always start with an end in mind. So I began my journey by first booking the exam slot for which I intentionally chose a Tuesday morning slot, with roughly three weeks to go for the exam.

After a lot of research on which kind of study materials I’m comfortable with, I zeroed in on the below, which I recommend :

  1. Udemy course by Joseph Philips, Cram course by him and two courses including four 50q, n 200q exams by him
  2. PMP Exam Prep Simplified: Based on PMBOK Sixth Edition by Andrew Ramdayal
  3. PMP Exam Prep Ninth Edition by Rita Mulcahy
  4. PMTraining for mock exams
  5. Ricardo Vargas video of Process Flow
  6. PMI’s Ethics Handook
  7. PMP Exam Prep Over 600 Practice Questions: Based on PMBOK Guide 6th Edition by Andrew Ramdayal
  8. Last but the most important one: PMBOK Guide Mobile apps: Udemy, PMP@ Exam Mentor
Week 1
  • I began my preparations by studying a chapter from Andrew Ramdayal’s book.
  • I followed this by watching the same section related videos on Joseph’s Udemy course at 1.25x speed.
  • I went back to the book and took the quiz at the end of the chapter. After this, I went back to the Udemy course and did the section quiz.
  • During this whole exercise, I made all my notes in the book, on the page where the topics were.
  • At night before going to sleep, I glanced through PMBOK for the section I had studied earlier during the day. Although I had a hard copy of PMBOK, I preferred to read on my iPad instead. The grey background in hard copy makes it difficult to read/study hence my preference for the use of soft copy. Definitely recommended.
Week 2
  • Second week was dedicated to taking as many mock tests as possible, trying to get acclimatized for the actual exam environment. I took as many tests, quizzes and mock exams as I possibly could.
  • I bought two more courses from Joseph on Udemy wherein each has four exams, with 50 questions for 1 hour duration and one exam consisting of 200 questions.
  • On my first attempt, my test score was around 80. To gain more confidence, I retook the tests till my test score increased to the range between 85 to 90.
  • For every question that I answered incorrectly, I reviewed them and understood the reasoning behind the correct answer. This is very important when you take the mock tests. This helps you understand the concepts better. Keep in mind, PMI tests your knowledge of PMBOK and not your real life experience.
  • After completing both the mock exam courses on Udemy, I subscribed for PMTraining. Their tests are as realistic as they can get to simulate the actual PMP exam. I chose this over PrepCast. I would suggest you to research which works for you and stick to it.
  • My scores in PMTraining mock exams were in the range of 65-75. I knew it was time to go back and study and get my basics right. This time, I did a thorough study of Rita Mulcahy’s book. I must admit, this gave me a fresh perspective.
  • I went back and retook as many mock exams on PMTraining. I did this on my laptop. Every time I had a break, I randomly took tests on the PMP@ Exam Mentor app on my mobile devices. Key message being – take as many mock tests as possible. 
Week 3
  • I glanced through my written notes in Andrew Ramdayal’s book as well as Rita Mulcahy’s book.
  • Three days before the exam, I came across Ricardo Vargas’s video explaining the knowledge areas and processes. This was a revelation. I remember how euphoric I was when I was able to draw the whole diagram without looking for any help. I rewatched the video over 10 times until the processes were literally stuck in my mind like the lyrics of a favorite song. Definitely recommended.
  • In this week, I glanced through PMBOK, Andrew Ramdayal’s book and Rita Mulcahy’s book three times each. Rita mentions something called Power of Three. If you read something thrice, chances are you won’t forget it.
Exam
  • Brain dump – I wrote knowledge areas in sequence, number of processes in each, all the formulas that were on one page in Andrew’s book. I would say do what is right for you and make your own brain dump format. Objective here is to have some reference content during the exam, in a format that you can understand.
  • My approach to take the exam was to not attempt any questions about calculations or network diagram in the first pass – I chose to flag them and move on. As I began to gain my momentum, I did not want these questions to interrupt my pace.
  • When I got back to review the marked questions, I did the same. I marked calculation/network questions and finished the rest. I made sure these were kept to the end.
  • After my second pass, when only the calculations/network questions remained, I had about an hour now to complete these.
  • As for the breaks, I recommend you continue with the test if you are in your zone and in a momentum and not take a break just because you had planned to. I was around Question #80 when I realized it was time to take the first break. However, I continued with the exam and in no time, I was at Question #130. This is when I took my first break. This made a huge difference as I had only 70q when I returned. Due to this, I manage to take longer break as well. This depends solely on your time management during the exam.
  • Once back, I relaxed and approached the remaining questions with calm and comfort. By the time exam done, I still had around 80 mins to go! So my recommendation is to figure out what works for you and best way to understand this is by taking as many quiz/exams as you possibly can.

I’m not sure if this is intentional but there is a moment of wait between clicking submit and you getting to your result page. It builds up that dramatic aura when you are quite anxious. Understandably so, the whole experience of attempting 200 questions in four hours is physically tiring but more importantly, it is mentally exhausting. So when my results were displayed, I was elated with joy. It read something on the lines of “You have cleared the exam”. I do not recall the exact verbiage but that was the gist of it.

As I collected my exam result from the prometric centre’s staff, this is what it showed:

Initiation: AT
Planning: AT
Executing: AT
Monitoring and Controlling: T
Closing: AT

That was a big sigh of relief! I’m a proud PMP® certified professional. 

It took a lot of effort and commitment to achieve this milestone, something that every PMP® certified professional will resonate with. 

If you are considering getting yourself certified, or are looking for help with your preparation, get in touch with me by dropping a note

Are you already a PMP® certified professional? How was your experience? Take a moment and share your journey in the comments below.

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