How To Study for the PMI Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam
If you decide to start, you will definitely make your way to PMP
For most of us who are procrastinating, believe me that you will pass your PMP exam the day you decide to start. There are many reasons to believe:
1) PMP exam is not a tough battle, it only requires a structured approach as you manage your projects
2) It is really not hard to study, you only have to understand the concepts
3) There is always a second chance, at the worst in case you fail, so do not worry
I was fumbling upon many a times whether I would be able to invest a justifiable time required to prepare for the exam. There is a job pressure, there is work load, personal things to settle down lot of hurdles on your way to actually decide when to take the exam. This is why you are procrastinating and you didn’t make up your mind to actually take up the exam. Many thought it is again the college days, I need to study hard, well it is not you just have to read through and understand the concepts.
However, the good news is at the first point, the PMP exam is not a tough exam, secondly it does not require much time to study and many have cracked the exam by only preparing for a month, believe me. The ideal time required to prepare for the exam is only two months, a structured two months 2-4 hours a day and you will be able to pass the exam.
So much is going in your mind, what is a PMP exam, whether I am eligible for the exam, how does it help me, how does it influence my career, how much do I need to invest, whether it is profitable to me in the long run. Of course, get your questions answered, do your complete research online, talk to your friends or colleagues and when you make up your mind that it is one accreditation that you must have.
I researched a lot about the PMP exam before I made up my mind that it is necessary for me to excel in my profession. Moreover as I read through it helps you in your personal life as well, because you learn a style of life, plan your things, execute and check till you till you achieve it. So there it is, you know it is going to benefit you and you decided to head on with it.
Know that you are eligible and clear the formalities for the exam
At the first point, I checked the eligibility requirements on the PMI handbook for PMP. I needed to calculate 4500 hours in project management in three calendar years since I had the master degree else I would have needed 7500 hours. I prepared a format in excel sheet and listed down all my experiences and I did fairly had sufficient hours to show.
I also checked I needed to pay credential fees of $405 if I am a PMI member and $555 if I am non-member. Membership was only $129 and I joined the chapter for $10 so I get to meet with other fellow project management practitioners in the area. I started attending the weekly sessions that helped catching up the pace with what is there in project management best practices. I preferred choosing membership and then paying the credential fees as it was still a cheaper option I still saved my $10.
The next thing on the agenda for me was to submit the PMP application form. I filled up all details including contacts, educational background taking sufficient time. The next major challenge was to fill up the Project Management Experience verification form as I knew this was the part that has to be filled in very carefully. You could be the next to get audited and being ethical is the first requisite for a project management professional. I did the exercise well to document all my valid experiences in project management in an excel sheet.
This was a time consuming exercise as I had to look back at all projects and activities I did in my past three year career. I calculated number of hours I spent on each phase of project management right from initiation, planning, execution and delivery. I summarized all project management experiences including project names, companies, number of hours spent on each phase. Finally after a thorough review I submitted my application and got a confirmation in a week’s time my application was approved and that I am now ready to take the exam.
Spend a few weeks in PMI local chapter and schedule the exam after formal training
After my application was approved, I spent nearly four months in PMI membership attending sessions on and off. I researched through articles, study guides, templates, and guidelines on project management with my PMI membership online at www.pmi.org
I knew the next thing I needed was to have 35 contact hours of formal training in project management. I spoke to one of my colleague who had taken the training and he referred me to an institute where he got the training. I got a discount as well by his reference. It takes nearly $200 to take up the training but the investment is worth it. There were cheaper options available for online training but I always preferred live interactive sessions. I took up the 2 days session and got my hand-outs post training for practice and learning.
Once I was done with my formal training, I spent a couple of weeks learning through the material and it was time for me to now schedule the exam. I scheduled in the available slots exactly 2&1/2 months later and never liked to reschedule. It always leaves in a jeopardy situation whether the dates will be available or if something might come up in between that drives you off the road again.
I paid my credential fees of $405 and scheduled the exam with a bold mind. The pressure was now on and a thorough preparation plan was highly needed. I researched through various lessons learnt and Google through various articles how I must direct my preparation.
Make a plan, stay focused and understand the concepts
I found a preparation plan online and bought it at a nominal cost. I researched through the PMBOK and planned number of hours I would need to spend each day per chapter. I also researched at various study aids that I would need to prepare for the exam. I bought the Rita Mulcahy book for PMP exam preparation. I also bought the PM-prepcast audio video aid by Cornelius Fichtner. I also bought the Andy Crowe book on PMP exam preparation, as having two reference books was good enough.
I started reading each chapter in PMBOK which was the top reference like a bible. I would read Rita Mulcahy same chapter next which I found very explanatory with tips and tricks, learning aids after each topic, practice exercises were a great help. I would also listen to audio sessions whenever I would find time. Rita Mulcahy had practice tests at the end of each chapter which was very close to the chapter and makes your understanding better. You would always tend to review your chapters back to understand the concepts. This was my first feel of the exam by taking practice tests at the end of each chapter. I suggest you record your scores in excel after each chapter tests
You will also find lot of tests online by each knowledge area and process groups that you may plan to take periodically. Take chapter end tests after each lesson from your training material also.
The key thing here is focus on understanding the concepts; refer back to PMBOK frequently that aids as your bible and Rita's book will help you to grasp the concepts. Re-take the chapter end tests if necessary and evaluate your score but stick to maximum 2-3 rounds that will avoid murmuring the questions. Keep focused to your plan and record your progress in your excel plan you made.
Practice enough to get a feel of the 4 hour real exam
After I reached nearly the end of PMBOK, I took Headfirst 200 questions that you can register online, one of the best to guide you through concepts with its explanatory answers after completion of test. Take these tests very honestly and focused as you will have a feel of the real exam, you may need to practice for a 4 hour seating continuously.
The next best aid questions similar to the real exam by nearly 50% was Oliver Lehmann 175 questions available online. You must take this exam at least once and assess your preparation. You should now be getting a score not less than 75-80% correct which means you are well on track. However, if you see you are scoring anything less you need to revise your concepts, keep the option last to reschedule your exam. If your preparation is good and you are on track, you may not need to reschedule by any time.
Now comes the real sprint session, take the 400Q questions as the real exam. You must have a minimum of two to three real time experiences of the exam and you must score a 75-80% in these exams. My suggestion here is take the PMStudy 400Q which is very close to the real exam. You may also practice with Rita’s 2000Q practice test series which has two 400Q tests. You should be finishing these a week prior to your exam date.
Plan your day for the real exam
A week before the exam, take a round of your exam centre that you have chosen so that it does not give you a surprise at the last minute. I drove to the exam centre a week before to check how much distance it was from my residence. I went inside the Prometric exam centre and enquired about the facilities.
I saw the other aspirants putting their stuff inside the shelf before they enter into the exam centre. You cannot carry any belongings inside. You can take breaks during the exam but you have to sign in and out. Remember it is time consuming and you will lose up to 10 minutes in a break. You should plan for a maximum of 1-2 breaks.
I took just one break after one and half hour when I was half way through the exam. 400 multiple choice questions in exactly 4 hours equals to 240 minutes. How many questions you can finish in each 60 minutes? How much time you should give to each question? 400/240 = 1.67 minutes you have for each question. That means, you should be able to complete 50 questions in every 30 minutes and 100 questions in every 1 hour. Make your calculations in mind prior to taking the exam.
You don’t need to worry as you will end up finishing these questions much before time. I observed most people leaving the exam room by 2&1/2 to 3 hours. Mark your questions for review if you are stuck at it. Revisit marked questions when you have time after finishing the remaining questions.
Sure you will get through!