Second Attempt: Above Target! How I Aced PMP – Kalpana Pandiya, PMP

Kalpana shares PMP above target scoring strategy she used on the second attemptIt is not unusual for people from non-traditional project management backgrounds to take up PMP. In fact, it can be quite a joyful experience, in addition to becoming a tool for greater recognition and better opportunities.

Kalpana Pandiya is a Tax Senior with over 16+ years of industry experience and got PMP certified last week.

Kalpana had been working towards her PMP goal since 2014 when she failed the attempt. Gathering her lessons from the experience she kept the dream alive and achieved the goal with some meticulous planning and smart strategies. In this article, she shares them all.

When did you begin your PMP preparation?

PMP KalpanaPandiyaMy PMP Journey started in 2014. 😀 Yes, it has been that long since I began but then I’m glad I stuck with my goal and reached it last week!

In 2014, I started preparing for PMP with the thought that I’ll be a PMP certified in the same year but unfortunately, I failed in my first attempt. And that loss (both in terms of financial, time, and motivation) taught me few things.

Lessons Learned from failure:

  • Don’t overprepare
  • Don’t use too many books/materials/notes
  • If you are sure your answer is correct don’t flag them for review (I did this mistake and took a bad hit on time management)

In hindsight, I wish someone had told me these before I took that attempt. 🙂 I hope this article might do that for some of you preparing for your PMP exam.

I understand it can be hard from there. How did you continue?

After the first attempt, I had to take a break from PMP preparation due to personal reasons. However, getting PMP certification was always on my mind, and I never thought to drop this plan out of my to-do list.

In 2019, I attended a training session of Mohit Mathur. The way he explains each concept with different examples was easy to remember.

Again, few things came on my way and I couldn’t spend much time for exam preparation, and achieving the PMP certificate was again put on the backburner. Then it was the end of 2020 and PMP rolled over with the new exam content.

At the beginning of 2021, I decided that whatever comes on my way, I will at least take the exam this year. So, my preparation began with full-time job and taking care of my three and a half years old son during this pandemic situation.

Also read,

Can you share your study approach and plan?

I dedicated 1 hour a day on a consistent basis so I can study with complete concentration. In addition, I continued watching/listening to YouTube videos while doing my household work.

My preparation continued for 6 months and when I felt confident that I am prepared to give the exam, I booked the slot.

I got a chance to do the virtual combined study with a friend. This was a revelation of sorts and made the exam preparation all the more fun.

Which study resources did you use?

One top takeaway from my research is this:

There are so many resources out there (a google search on PMP can drive you mad!). It is easy to get confused or overwhelmed. But if you can take some time and choose the top 2-3 that you want to include in your preparation, from there you will pretty much ensure that you won’t get overwhelmed with too much information.

Knocking off the study resources as the first step would be a good start to your PMP preparation.

1. Primary: PMBOK was my main study book

I know that some, if not most, people will find this book hard to read. The nature of this subject is like that, and it does take some effort to get into a study rhythm with this book. If you cannot absolutely read this, my recommendation is to use this at least as a reference book. You will be happy with that decision.

2. Supplement: Udemy course

I chose a Udemy course as a supplement to Rita’s book-based learning. If you are a visual learner, you may have the other way around: use the video-based resource as your primary one and some other as your supplement resource.

3. On the sides: Youtube PMP videos

There are many YouTube videos, like I mentioned earlier I used these to study while I was doing household work or had some free time to put to use.

4. Practice #1: The simulator is an essential part of PMP learning

I used Rita’s FasTrack simulator.

There are many good ones available out there, and I have found that paid ones are much better (and guaranteed to follow the new syllabus) than the free ones. Take your pick.

Realized that the mock tests help me most when I take time to understand the explanations of questions I got wrong. This is an education in itself. This not only helped me find and fill the gaps in my understanding, but I also grew in confidence to answer similar questions on the exam because I knew the reasoning behind the scenario from the question.

This approach is most helpful for answering scenario-based questions.

5. Practice #2: Shiv Shenoy’s PMP Quizzes

PMPcert KalpanaPandiyaThis was a neat learning tool for me, gave me more confidence about facing the PMP exam.

How did you prepare the week before the exam?

A week before the exam my preparation completely relied on the highlighted points and my notes that I had prepared in the last 6 months.

Trust me, if you can make your own notes you will find those notes very helpful when it is time for revision.

A day before the exam I didn’t want to exhaust my brain – so I decided to revise only for few hours and then spent some time with my son and went to sleep. Good sleep is really important to stay focused for those 4 hours on the exam.

Ad: Realistic PMP simulator tests created based on PMI’s recommended reference material, % question distribution, and new question types.

PMP simulator for the new PMP exam 2021 @Udemy (discount price)

Can you share your exam experience?

My exam was scheduled for the second half of the day. This time getting into the exam I felt that I was all set to pass the exam with full confidence.

When I submitted the final button and saw “Congratulation, you have passed…!”, it was the most memorable moment in a long time.

I was on top of the world! I passed with the cool “Above Target” score which was the cherry on top.

Any specific study tips you would like to share?

I am an example that if you decide to do something, and put your mind to it, you can do it. Perseverance and self-motivation are very important here as PMP is a bit medium-term plan (in my case it was a bit long term 🙂 )

  • Write down pointers as you study each topic – a great tool for revision before the exam.
  • If you are using a book, highlight the main points and focus on them a week before the exam. If you use a video course, go through them at a faster speed for revision.
  • Take plenty of mock tests (follow the strategy I mentioned earlier) to boost your confidence. Don’t worry if your answers are wrong, read those questions & answer explanations in detail to know & fill the knowledge gap.
  • Time management is important during the PMP exam so don’t waste time. During mock tests develop a strategy to answer questions quickly.
  • Have faith in your preparation and keep telling yourself that “I can pass”.

That is all I had to share. Hope you will find some of my experience useful.

All the best,

Kalpana Pandiya, PMP


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