An Agile Approach to PMP® Exam Preparation – by Abdul Saleem, PMP

agile approach pmp prep abdulMy PMP journey began in 2006!

I attended a training, but never did any preparation for the exam. While I can put the blame on factors like lack of time due to job priorities, the real reason was that I could not get to bury my head in the dry PMP study books. The moment I open a study book, I would feel sleepy 🙂

PMP Abdul SaleemSo I decided to go take the Agile approach to my PMP study. Take only what is absolutely necessary to study, study in smaller chunks, and improve based on feedback loop. Take a test based approach to improve my understanding of PMP content.

Then I started searching for training videos and found PM PrepCast. I bought these videos and began watching them with great interest. These videos are lengthy, but covers the topics very well. I must say Mr. Cornelius Fichtner has done a fantastic job in explaining the concepts clearly.

I used to play these videos (as audios) while driving to office and this continued for a month. No other preparations. But these videos were also asking me to read at least one other study material to prepare for the exam. Again, I lost my interest in preparing for PMP exam.

I then downloaded Shiv Shenoy’s Smart Notes, but did not read it first. Also subscribed to his daily PMP questions on facebook (LI group here).

It was fun answering these daily questions. I got them right most of the time, which again developed an interest to take up the PMP exam in me.

So I started reading Shiv’s Smart Notes. But along with that I wanted some audios or videos which should be short, crisp and to the point. Having worked in project and product management for almost 15 years, I was able to easily relate all theories to practical scenarios.

Then I found PMP Training videos by Joseph Phillips. Bought these videos for and started listening to those. I completed this in 2 weeks as the videos were very short, but crisp and clear.

Next challenge was to understand some critical concepts like Network diagram, EVA formulas, Estimate At Completion etc. So I started searching videos for these specific topics. Found many free videos on YouTube. After watching many videos, found the below ones were really good and explaining the concept clearly.

Once I watched all the above videos, I decided to take PMP mock tests.

Also Read: 10 Awesome PMP Study Tips From a Topper! by Heather Lyons, PMP

I found some free sample tests and timed mock tests in the net. Though initially I was scoring like 50-60%, after doing three to four tests, I was able to score 70-80%.

I must say, I learned at least 30% of PMP from mock tests.

Then I was confident of appearing for the final exam. I then booked my exam date with just 1 week left (That was the only slot available before 28th March). Just a suggestion here – please book your exam when you are 50% ready! I booked the exam date once I was 100% ready and confident of passing exam which I think should have been done earlier.

Free Sample questions and mock tests

Last minute preparations

In the last week, I tried to write down the formulas and the process areas in a paper – two to three times in a day. This really worked.

Though brain dump is not allowed in the PMP exam, I practiced this to memorize the formulas and processes (refer the YouTube video above for a unique way to learn the processes).

I also used a Mnemonics to memorize the process groups – I Saw Two Cops Quietly Having Coffee and Reading Paper in Station (Integration, Scope, Time, Cost, Quality, HR, Communications, Risk, Procurement and Stakeholder).

In the last week, I also read the notes which was available along with Joseph Phillips’s videos and Shiv’s Smart Notes. Those notes covers PMP terms like different charts, quality rules etc. Very few pages. That’s enough for you to pass the exam!

Also Read: “I Used This PMP Fast Track Program And Got Above-Target Score”, by Naudia Harty, PMP

What did I NOT do

  1. I did not read any book, but referred PMBOK whenever some area was not clear or marked wrong answers in mock tests
  2. I did not memorize anything other than the processes and formulas
  3. I did not memorize Input, Output or Tool & Techniques, but I could answer all T&T questions during final exam
  4. I did not buy any mock test software. It might have helped, but I did not buy

How was my Exam

Reached exam center 3 hours before, just relaxed for 2 hours in the car and they allowed me to write the exam 1 hour before the scheduled time.

Initial few questions were very easy, but after around 5-6 questions scenario based questions started.

Mock tests helped me to do time management and to see different wordings and twists in the questions. But I did not find a single question from the mock test getting repeated in real exam.

I was able to cover first 100 questions in 1 hr 40 min. (that’s like 1 minute per question).

Next 50 questions took almost 1 hr. 10 min.

I understood that I was losing concentration and that was why I took more time for the third set of 50 questions. I then took a washroom break. Remember, the timer doesn’t stop when you take a break. I did not know that.

I went bit faster for the final 50 questions.

Was able to complete my exam with 20-25 minutes ahead of time! I then filled a short survey about Prometric experience and there I got my final result.

Passed with Above Target Score!!!

Also Read: “I Had Just 2 Weeks to Prepare for PMP Exam and I did it!” – by Suguna Rajoo, PMP

Study Materials

Just 3!


If you are doing project management and can spend 1 to 2 hour per day excluding your week-ends (you spend week-ends with your family) for a month, you can crack PMP. It’s not tough. It just need your commitment.

Use audios and videos and understand the concept clearly and refer PMBOK wherever required. Even to learn formulas, you just need to understand the concepts thoroughly. Do lot of mock tests and write the exam.

All the best!

Thanks & Regards
Abdul Saleem, PMP

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