9 Tips For PMP Exam Prep, From 9 Yrs of PMP Coaching, Based On Thousands Of PMP Student Experiences.

9 tips for pmp exam prep9 Tips For PMP Exam Prep, Based On Thousands Of PMP Exam Takers.

I have worked with PMP exam aspirants since 2013.

And interviewed 400+ after they passed their PMP.

My students have been as young as 25, to as old as 67.

In this article today, I share 9 important observations and 9 PMP prep tips from my 9 years of PMP coaching experience.

Some of these observations may shock you.

If you find any of these observations apply to you, know that it’s not your fault. Some of our ways of studying (from school/college days) have set our habits.

But no worries, I’ve also shared the PMP exam prep tips as a way to address these observations. These will help you prepare for your exam with confidence.

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1/ Taking the week off before exam increased the odds of passing

The week before exam is called the golden week, for a good reason.

In this week, every single day matters.

A project fire, production issue, server crash, or a customer complaint may engage you for days. This may derail your exam as some of my students have experienced, unfortunately.

You must plan to avoid any and all distractions and manage risks, like a true blue project manager.

Plan to take the whole week off from work as soon as you book your exam slot.

Tell your manager, colleagues, team members, customer(s), and vendors about your unavailability.

Get a team member to cover for you during this week, so they don’t call you in case of an emergency.

What do you do during this week?

Great question. Here are 3 things I suggest –

1. Revise.

Ideally your own notes, flash cards, mind maps.

If you have a video course, watch videos at 1.5X or 2X speed.

2. Take mock tests.

More on this in a bit.

3. Relax and stay calm.

PMP has a LOT of content to study.

All the knowledge areas, processes, ITTOs, Agile, Hybrid and the whole nine yards.

The more calm you feel, better will you be able to recall on the exam all that you’ve studied.

Make sure you get a good night’s sleep the night before.

I’ve covered some more things you can do during this week here.

2/ Younger aspirants were more likely to get False-starts

Let me first define what is a false-start for you.

After a colleague was promoted as soon as she got PMP certified, James decided to take up PMP for himself. He began studying for the exam with all the enthusiasm he could muster.

First week went well.

Second week was okay.

The third week, his boss assigned a new project to him.

James decided to go easy on PMP prep, thinking he will continue ‘once the new project settles in’. 5 weeks later, the project was yet to settle down, and James wasn’t able to continue PMP study.

Another 3 months, James could somehow manage to get things back on track. Now he decides to get back to PMP study.

The very first page of the first chapter he reads, James is not able to recall anything.

He feels like being back to square one.

Sounds familiar?

That’s a false-start.

Young people tend to get more of these, and the reason could be found when you read the next observation.

The secret to avoid false-start?

Study every day. Even if it is 30 minutes. This will ensure you’ll never have a false-start.

3/ Older aspirants showed stronger determination

Maybe they already know what happens if you take your foot off the pedal.

Maybe they’ve realized the power of focus.

Maybe they are more methodical with their approach to any goal.

Maybe they have developed resilience, grit, and determination with age.

Maybe they have taken a few certification exams, and they know how to keep going.

Maybe they have understood themselves better and know how to manage their priorities, and time.

Also read:

4/ Study buddies made it easier for each other

Two heads are better than one.

Familiar with eXtreme Programming practices?

Finding a study buddy has tremendous benefits.

It’s like going on a strenuous trek with a buddy.

You help each other, motivate each other, quiz each other.

You also act as an accountability buddy for each other.

It is interesting to know that despite the benefits, not many even took the pains of looking for one.

Don’t make that mistake.

Find a study buddy today.

I invite you to join (free access) these daily PMP support communities I run and ask for a study buddy there.

I share a sample PMP question and a flashcard every day, and other helpful material occasionally.

5/ Those failed likely ignored mock tests

Studying for PMP exam and not taking mock test is like reading up about swimming and not jumping into the pool till the day of the race.

Okay, that was a bit of an extreme example, but I’m sure you got the gist.

Mock tests help you,

  • get a real sense of 4hrs of the exam
  • identify study gaps and quickly fill them
  • practice to manage time on the exam (@76 sec/question)

Simulator can be a lifesaver.

Invest in a good PMP exam simulator.

I recommend the following –

6/ About 30% gave up on their goal

This was very sad for me to see personally.

Having taken close to 3 years for my own PMP exam, going from false-starts to motivation dips, I know how hard it is to continue working towards your dream. But it still means that they have a chance.

But once they quit, there is zero chance of hitting the goal.

For those feeling like giving up, here’s a process I recommend –

  1. Take a break for a week. Don’t touch the books. Don’t even think about PMP. Get over the overwhelm.
  2. On the Sunday, take an hour for yourself to think about this. Take a paper & pen, sit in a park or coffee shop.
  3. Write down the reason for your PMP. Your WHY. You won’t get this at the first go, and here is how you find it.
  4. Write down the reason for your PMP. Then write “so that” and write the benefit that comes to your mind. Write another “so that“… and keep doing this till you feel emotionally connected to the reason. THAT is your WHY.
  5. Write down this WHY at your study desk, so you can see it every day.
  6. Now make a simple study plan in a simple spreadsheet. Your course/book outline will be your tasks (with chapters/modules as milestones).
  7. Treat this study plan as your project plan, and manage PMP prep as a project.
  8. Your trump card: Your commitment to study every single day. The only time you are allowed to break this rule is if the world ends, and you’re the last person standing. Or the day of your exam. 🙂

Reach out to me if you need help with your PMP prep.

7/ Less than 1% did it with just PMBOK

There is NO doubt that it is possible to pass PMP with just the PMBOK (and Agile Practice Guide now) and nothing else.

But that would be like taking the hike up the mountain for food when you are hungry, rejecting the chopper that’s standing by to take you to the top.

Unless hiking for a day without food is your thing.

Some tell me that they want to keep the PMP costs low and use the free soft-copy of PMBOK as a PMI member.

And my response is, “Fine. But don’t force it upon you if you find it hard to study from PMBOK”.

PMBOK is not one of the juiciest books to read.

But having said this, I have come across a couple of people that say they absolutely loved PMBOK.

If that’s you, then skip the next point. You are good!

If that’s not you, then don’t miss the next point.

8/ Two PMP study resources are optimal

I highly recommend working out a study budget for your PMP goal.

Considering PMP gives you (or you can demand) 20-25% increased compensation in the market, what would your educational budget be?

5-8% of your annual salary?

How would that be?

Do a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation.

I bet your actual spending on PMP study materials will be MUCH less than that.

Now that we’ve established that, let me tell you how to do it without overspending.

I’m not kidding here, but I’ve seen few people (considerable, actually) that have invested in 4-5 different study resources. Few even more.

As if investing in more will get them closer to their PMP goal!

It doesn’t, it actually takes them farther away.

Just adding one more study resources to the mix will increase your overall study time by 25% to 30%.

Here’s what I recommend –

  1. Find out your learning style – book based, visual, need someone to guide, or a combination.
  2. Choose a study book/course/program/coach based on #1 – you will immensely enjoy your PMP study.
  3. Keep PMBOK (and APG) as your secondary resource (most questions on the exam can be traced back to these books!)
  4. Invest in a good simulator. Use them at the end of each chapter, end of first round of study, and during the revision week.

This should be all that you need to pass the exam without overwhelming and without overspending.

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9/ Doing PMP alone is harder

Like many other goals in life, doing PMP is harder.

Here are 3 ways you can make it easier for yourself, and for others.

  • Join 1-2 PMP study groups – ensure you get daily support. (check this one and this one)
  • Get a study buddy – share study plan, approach, quiz each other, discuss topics.
  • Teach someone! – teaching is a form of learning. If you get none at all, teach your pet. Seriously. She won’t mind.

In summary,

PMP is a complex (and weird) exam.

But you don’t have to make it hard for yourself. With a bit of smart planning, you can actually make it a memorable experience (apart from acing it)!

Use these to PMP exam prep tips to increase the odds of success of your exam –

  1. Use 2 study resources, and choose the first one based on your learning style.
  2. Keep PMBOK & APG as the second study resource.
  3. Invest in a good simulator. Use it strategically.
  4. Discover your WHY for PMP goal and let it fuel your determination.
  5. Find a study buddy. It’s fun hitting the goal together.
  6. Join 1-2 study group(s) – feed off the power of group.
  7. Avoid false-starts by making daily study a new routine till you are certified.
  8. To uncover implicit assumptions, teach someone what you learn.
  9. Take the week off before exam. Revise, attempt mock tests, relax.

Here are a few ways I can help make PMP easier for you.

All it takes is simple, small, consistent effort, on a daily basis, to pass your PMP exam.

Good luck!


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