CAPM Exam Lessons Learned – Elizabeth Coleman, CAPM

CAPM students usually find it difficult to get training material specific to CAPM. The reason is that PMI defines CAPM syllabus to be same as PMP. Hence, there are very few prep courses that aim for CAPM. A reasonable differentiation can be found in Simulator (here’s a free CAPM simulator for you). Also, very few test prep experience are written online by people that passed their CAPM exam.

When I came to know that Elizabeth passed her CAPM exam, I asked her if she could share her preparation experience and lessons learned. I’m thankful she obliged. Here it is, hope you will find it useful.


capm lessons learned elizabeth coleman

The beginning

My journey for the CAPM certification started about 7 months ago.

I started with the Essential of Project Management course from, while reading the PMBOK 5th edition. IIt was at this time, that I discovered SHIV’s blog and downloaded his high-level material.

Since the Project Integration Management knowledge area interacted with all the other knowledge area, I spent about 2 weeks alone just going over this material until the light bulb finally came on.

Also read: CAPM Prep: Focusing on Concepts Helped Answer 30-35 ITTO Questions – Srikant Deverajan, CAPM

Scheduling the exam

I finished “reading” all of the other 9 knowledge areas in the PMBOK in about two months. Since I had not scheduled a date for the exam, it seemed like 3 months passed by. Once I finally scheduled a date, I started taking some “mock” exams, it was then I realized that I only read the material and never really studied it.

I also discovered that it’s a good idea to read the entire PMBOK from cover to cover.

My CAPM Prep ‘Core’ Lessons

1st lesson learnedOnce you decide to take the CAPM exam schedule a test date and then set a study plan.
2nd lesson learnedDon’t just read the material, really seek to understand each knowledge area and their purpose.

(one more in a sec..)

As I began to prepare for the exam, I discovered They offered a CAPM exam course. Joseph Phillips takes a different approach in explaining Project Management. Although I don’t believe these courses will truly prepare you to take the exam, it does help you to fully comprehend the information.

Also read (& download): A Short Guide To CAPM® Certification

Remembering ITTOs?

I saw several blogs that recommended memorizing the ITTOS (Inputs, Tools & Techniques and Outputs) for each knowledge area.

I disagree.

There are a few questions that test your ability to retain this knowledge but not enough to justify memorization. I’d recommend understanding the purpose of each knowledge area and how they interact with one another. Then you’ll start to see a pattern in a lot of the knowledge area that will broaden your understanding.

For the knowledge areas that do not make any sense and does not follow the set pattern, these are the ones where you want to focus and the cause and impact and why they are different. Once you have this concept down, you are definitely ready for the exam.

My CAPM study plan

In a nutshell, this is my CAPM study plan –

  • read a chapter,
  • take a mock chapter test,
  • review any material you may have missed
  • and don’t go to the on to the next chapter until you’ve mastered the current chapter
  • once you move on to the next chapter, go back and review the chapter(s) you mastered, understand how each chapter relate to one another

If you find yourself struggling to understand the concepts, I do recommend taking the CAPM exam prep provided by Udemy, although I personally do not feel like this is a true CAPM preparation course. Joseph Phillips’ course did provide a realistic understanding to the concepts in the PMBOK.

For example, I thought to myself, there’s no way I’m going to memorize all 15 formulas on the Earned Value Calculations summary table (page 224 of PMBOK 5th edition). However, Joseph Phillips explained the concept so well on how to calculate the earned value, that I did not have to memorized the formulas – they just came natural. Also the explanation of Rolling Wave…awesome.

So after taking several extremely difficult CAPM/PMP “mock” exams and consistently scoring about a 75% on all exams, I felt I was ready to take the exam. Then I found a CAPM PMBOK – practice questions by iZenBridge online. The questions were significantly easier and not scenario based, more conceptually and a lot more definitions. The practice exam provided by iZenBridge is probably the closest to the actual CAPM exam out there. One of the questions probed about the technique of systematically gathering and analyzing quantitative and qualitative information to determine whose interest should be taken into account throughout the project.

Also read: Best Resources for CAPM/PMP prep

3rd lesson learnedMake sure you read the entire question and don’t’ rush even if you feel like its an easy question.

I was rushing and just saw the “quantitative and qualitative” and selected Risk analysis, because I know that quantitative and qualitative are associated with risk. I didn’t even read the entire question. So of course I was shocked when I saw it was incorrect. Then when I read the entire question….I saw key words “technique”, which the risk register is not a technique, it is an input and output, so that rules that out. Then I saw “determine whose interest”. Stakeholder analysis is a “techniques that analyses the interest of the stakeholders”, so this is the answer.

The other approach is to memorize all the definitions in the back of the PMBOX (good luck there). So this learning method shows you once you truly understand each knowledge area, how you can discover the without memorizing all the ITTOs, every definition.

Good luck with your exam!

Elizabeth Coleman, CAPM

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