Practicing Example Questions is a Key to Success
Not only have I gone through the process of successfully passing the PMI PMP Certification Exam on my first attempt, I now teach exam preparation courses to help others gain the valuable credential. There is no better way of learning than by doing, and taking lots of sample tests, quizzes, and practice exams is a key to passing the PMP Certification Exam.
I've answered several of the same questions frequently for my students, and am providing that information here for you. There are also tips, tricks, and techniques in the course of studying and taking the exam that you should know, and I'm sharing them as well. If you follow the step-by-step process I outline, practice lots of example questions, and take a study course, you will be as prepared as possible to pass the exam!
To start, you must make a plan for bridging the gap between where you currently are and where you want to be. Since you are specializing in the Project Management profession, this hopefully is a logical first step. Without a plan, you may find yourself searching for what to do next. With a plan in hand, you can gain confidence that you've covered all the necessities to succeed.
In your plan, there should be ten basic steps. Customize and elaborate on them to suit your unique situation, but be sure to include them all as high-level topics. Make an initial time line on your plan, be sure to elaborate on it, and commit to executing it.
1. Read the PMI PMP Credential Handbook at http://www.pmi.org/en/Certification/Project-Management-Professional-PMP/~/media/PDF/Certifications/pdc_pmphandbook. ashx
* You will find the answers to most of your questions in this official document from PMI. It will tell you the path and time line to apply for the PMP credential, how much practical experience you need, how many educational units you need, exam policies and procedures, costs, and how to maintain your credential. This is all information that will help you customize your plan to gain the PMP credential.
* Experience Hours - You need at least 4500 hours of professional service in the last 8 years to be eligible for the PMP credential, any potentially more if you aren't a four-year degree holder. All of this time does not need to be as a Project Manager, but does need to be from participation on a project team. If you don't have the experience yet, you need to plan a method of obtaining it in the time frame defined by PMI and your desired exam date.
* Educational Credits - You need 35 contact hours of formal Project Management education. These need to be documented and certifiable by the education provider. They also do not carry over after you are credentialed, so don't over-invest in classes.
2. List out Your Qualifications for Eligibility
* Since you need to document your experience and educational details on the application form, you should begin the process early by outlining your information now. This will help you identify which qualifications you already have and those you need to gain. You can download an application form from PMI at http://www.pmi.org/Certification/~/media/PDF/Certifications/PMP% 20Application% 20Form.ashx
* You will likely need some further educational credits, so identify how many you already have and how many you still need. Write that number down, and make sure any educational material you pay for minimally matches it.
3. Join PMI at www.PMI.org
* You may just want the PMP credential as a standalone item, or even just for a short-term goal. However, if you're like the vast majority of credential holders, you are seeking professional growth and long-term benefits from all the hard work you're putting in. PMI is a great organization, global in reach and rich in resources, with which you will want to build an ongoing relationship. You should also register for a local chapter, which gives you physical access to the PMI organization in your area.
* If nothing else, it simply makes financial sense to join. First, you will get a discount on the PMP exam itself (and re-examination if you don't follow my recommendations) that makes membership very cost effective. Second, the amount of free and discounted continuing education offerings more than pays for the dues each year. Remember, you need 60 PDUs over each three year renewal period to maintain your credential. Third, there's a free download of the PMBOK for members!
4. Read the PMBOK Guide - Skim it the First Time!
* The PMBOK Guide is the industry leading reference for the PMP, and a large set of questions on the exam will directly reference materials in the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge.)
* You should read the PMBOK Guide multiple times (at least twice) in your studies, but the first time through should be at a high level. The goal at this point is to become familiar with the structure and terminology, NOT to memorize all of the details. You will be reviewing the details in the rest of the study plan, so there's no need to spend extra time at this point. You may want to bookmark pages, as it can be useful to refer back to the guide in the course of your studies.
5. Elaborate on Your Study Plan
* You know what qualifications you have and what you still need. Now, it's time to detail out what you need to complete. If you still need working experience, define how many hours and what knowledge areas need to be covered. With that information, map it to your work plan - and include your managers on your goal planning.
* If you need educational study hours, you have a variety of options that include physical classroom, webinar, virtual classroom, self-study, podcasts, and more. I highly recommend a classroom course, regardless of your other study methods, but you should determine what best suits you. You can read more about the options on the resource reviews area to find out what others think.
* Read PMI's PMP Exam Content Outline to find out what's on the exam, and balance your study plan accordingly. http://www.pmi.org/en/Certification/Project-Management-Professional-PMP/~/media/PDF/Certifications/PMP% 20Examination% 20Content% 20Outline_2010.ashx
* Revisit and update the study plan as your situation changes. Track your progress, be honest with yourself, and make adjustments to match your current reality.
* There is no way around the fact that you must study the material. Break it up into small increments, revisit materials frequently, and work with other people (study groups) to discuss the topics.
* Alternate your reading with practice exams and other study aids. Steps 6 & 7 are iterative. Study, test, study more - This will reinforce what you have learned and make obvious what you still need to study.
* There are a lot of knowledge resources online. Try several different types and sources, find what best matches your style, and push yourself. You can find some great ones on the resource reviews area of this site and a recommended set at www.beyerconsultinggroup.com/pmp-exam-prep-resources
* Learn the PMI-isms to approach questions in the right frame of mind. The exam assumes by default you are a project manager on a large project in a matrixed organization. If that doesn't match your experience, think about topics and questions from that perspective.
* Read the PMBOK again in-depth. After getting used to the PMI style of communicating, becoming familiar with all the terms, and no longer being overwhelmed with the sheer volume of information, the PMBOK will make more sense and will help you clarify the material.
* Try to match your experiences with the materials you've learned. The exam is testing you on real-world situations in many situational questions, and reading will not help you as much as applying your personal experience.
* You shouldn't be focused on memorization. You'll need to know formulas, but understanding the concepts behind them is far more important.
7. Take Sample Tests
* I can't say enough about how important it is to practice. Take as many practice exams, test simulators, and quizzes as you can stomach - then do more.
* Don't just take the tests, review and track what you got right and what you need to work on. You'll get more learning out of reviewing your mistakes than anything. Be honest with yourself about where you need work, then focus on that until you get it right.
8. Commit to a Timeline
* Update your study plan with a timeline, and commit yourself to achieving the goals. Like any good plan, you should identify the major milestones and work toward delivery at each.
* Schedule the exam. If you don't target an end date for all of this work you've been doing, you may find yourself meandering, procrastinating, or talking your way out of finishing. You've studied all the material at this point, have taken practice exams to demonstrate you can pass, and have the practical experience necessary to succeed.
9. Take an exam preparation course
* Commonly referred to as a "boot camp" or "exam prep workshop," there is no substitute for a structured, focused review of the materials.
* I highly recommend doing the bulk of your study prior to taking a class. Some people prefer to take the class first, then study for a period of time prior to the exam. While this may eliminate some costs, it is not the best use of your investment. These classes are meant to be a refresher, and you should plan on taking your exam within a few days of completing the course to get maximum benefit.
10. Pass the Test!
* Make a test-taking strategy. Plan to take breaks at certain intervals. Plan to skip questions if they take too long. Plan to review your questions. You may not pull off every detail of your plan perfectly, but reminding yourself that you prepared for the test in specific ways will help you relax and focus.
* Take a break from studying. Don't cram the day before the test - that only builds up stress and can lead to mistakes instead of being helpful. Remember, you made and followed a study plan to get here!
* Get rid of your stress and anxiety. Do something you enjoy the day before the test. Spend time with your family, exercise, anything except studying!
* Bring your authorization letter, your 2 IDs, and confidence to the exam! You can't get in without the first items, and may not succeed without the last.
* Bring food & water. You'll have breaks planned, and plenty of time to answer questions. Don't get unfocused by hunger pangs in the middle of the exam.
* Smile! Putting yourself in a relaxed frame of mind may be difficult, but smiling can help you unconsciously.
* Remember it's only a test, and you're an experienced project manager that has prepared!
Take action, and best wishes!