Failed The PMP Exam? Here’s The Triumph Guide by Gregory Brooks, PMP

failed the pmp exam? read this pmp triump guide by gregory brooks pmpFailed the PMP exam? It can be a traumatic experience. If you ever wanted to know how to get up after setback, collect the nerves, refelct and respond to the situation, correct study strategies, and come out with flying colors – you must read this extraordinary ‘PMP triumph guide’ by Gregory Brooks.

Every insight Greg shares in this article could be a lifeline for someone. Do not miss his two pieces of critical advice, and the study tips he shares at the end of this article.

Gregory Brooks works for higher education IT services provider Ellucian and serves as Manager, Learning Technology Services at Genesee Community College in Batavia, NY. With 25 years of rock solid experience under his belt, Greg oversees the upgrading of formal and informal learning spaces on campus as well as other practical IT initiatives such as digital signage and online event ticketing sales and management.

What made you consider PMP?

Over the four years with my current employer, I have been assigned to oversee many educational IT projects and was recently promoted to a management position.

I thoroughly enjoy the challenges and the satisfaction of leading efforts that result in tangible benefits for our clients. These enable people to have better teaching and learning experiences, as I work for the K-12 and higher education communities.

Beyond practical experience, I have further developed and honed my project management skills and knowledge through courses here and there, but I was ready to take the next big step to earn my PMP certification.

While there were few other certification exams available, I only considered the PMP given its global reputation as the gold standard in Project Management.

What was the core benefit you expected from PMP certification?

Passing the PMP exam and earning the title, of course, officially acknowledged that I had a attained a substantial level of PM knowledge, and I expected that this certification would provide further evidence to my current employer of my value as a project manager and leader.

Beyond this practical recognition, I also expected my journey to becoming a PMP would provide me with many opportunities to become a more effective and valuable educational IT leader.

What changes have you observed now?

I have been a certified PMP for less than a month now, so this news is still radiating within my head as well as my organization.

However, I have been utilizing PMI/PMP knowledge, skills, and tools for the past few months in my job, such as formalizing project teams comprised of people who bring the needed knowledge, skills, and influence, and implementing PM processes in Scope Management, Collecting Requirements, Defining Scope and so on.

I have used these and other processes informally, incompletely, and inconsistently in my organization and, consequently, projects sometimes have not run as effectively and efficiently as they could. Beyond my earning the PMP credential and applying some tools and strategies, that are leading to, among other things, better Cost, Scope, and Schedule management.

Which study resources did you consider for the exam preparation?

I began my journey by joining PMI, getting my PMBOK copy, joining the study group on LinkedIn, and delving into intense self-study.

I read the PMBOK at least two hours each day, six days a week.

As others have reported, the PMBOK is a reference guide to the “knowledge,” but it does not contain all the important knowledge needed in the PM world nor to pass the PMP, plus is was very dry reading. Very dry.

Several people in the LinkedIn PMP group recommended Andy Crowe’s The PMP exam (#ad), and I read book reviews online.

I purchased the book, read every page, took every exam, and then re-read and re-took the exams multiple times.

I felt this book, and the accompanying online videos and other resources, helped build and broaden my Project Management knowledge. The information is presented in a straight-forward manner, in the style, not surprisingly, of an exam preparation guide.

Also, I memorized the process table (table 1.4) in the PMBOK guide. I was able to create all knowledge areas, process groups, and processes, along with formulas and other information that was deemed as crucial to know for the exam.

I also heard from many that Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep book (#ad) was worth buying and studying, as she approached preparation from a different perspective than Andy. So I bought and read every page and answered every question. I tried memorizing information from her book too.

Despite all this preparation and memorizing, I failed the PMP exam in late spring 2019 – presumably not by much given the location of my performance along the continuum (the results report follows a different format now).

Also read: If not for this approach, Marie could have failed the PMP exam.

Get. Up. Get. Going.

Discouraged but not defeated, I figured I just needed to memorize even more information. So I doubled my studying efforts and registered to take the exam again with two weeks. While a “strike while the iron is hot” approach seemed like a good idea at the time, it did not pan out as planned.

I failed the PMP exam, again, even worse than the first. Discouraged and close to defeat, I decided I needed to try a different approach.

Then I found and enrolled in a live online PMP exam preparation course. Coaching and studying collectively would work this time. We met twice a week for two hours, with assignments and study materials to review and complete for each session.

The instructor, methods, and materials were excellent, but what I learned outside of class from conversations and emails with the instructor was nearly as important as the course.

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Greg, this is an amazing story of grit and determination. What was your study plan this time?

I followed this 2-point advice from my course instructor –

  1. Exam questions requiring you to apply knowledge in situation tend to appear more frequently on the exam. So it is not enough to just “know” the information, you must know how to apply it in a real life situation.
  2. Do not over analyze the exam questions. Eliminate the answer choice that is clearly wrong. Look for the next choice that is very likely wrong. Often you are faced with two possible answers, one of which has some truth to it along with at least one falsity inserted to try to trip you up. Your goal is to examine the two likely right answers and pick the one that addresses the question in the most straight forward and correct manner.

These two pieces of advice, along with the course study materials, and my own determination to study how to apply PM knowledge and information, not just memorize it by rote, resulted in passing my third attempt at the exam in early December.

I will add that I focused almost exclusively on taking online mini mock exams (50 questions each) through the organization where I took the online course.

These questions were mostly situational, and closely matched the format of most questions I had encountered on my first two attempts at the actual PMP exam.

I referred to the PMBOK guide to clarify information, but I did not focus on memorizing content.

The week before the exam is crucial. What was your approach to study during this week?

Perhaps ironically, against the advice of some, and certainly against the approach I followed for my first two attempts at the exam, I actually took a couple steps back in the week leading up to my third attempt at the exam.

That is, I continued to take one or two mock exams each day and carefully reviewed my correct and incorrect responses.

I did not focus on memorizing content as I did for the first two attempts at the full exam.

In short, I gave my brain more time to process and consider the exam questions I did answer and the rightness or wrongness of my responses, but without intensity.

What was your exam experience like?

I was nervous during my first attempt at PMP exam, and followed the advice from many to create a “dump sheet” of key information I had memorized. At the end, I felt like I had done a good job with the questions.

During the second attempt, I felt more at ease, having been through the process a mere two weeks earlier, and again created a dump sheet. I felt even more confident about how I answered the questions.

The third attempt was held at a new testing facility (PMI switched testing companies), and I felt relaxed and confident going into the exam.

I believe these 2 strategies and a focus on choosing the best answer were key to passing the exam.

I did not create a dump sheet but instead dove right into the exam.

I applied the two strategies I mentioned earlier – apply information and do not over-analyze the question. Choose the response that best answers the question, no more no less.

In all three attempts, the majority of the questions followed a situational format. The difference was how I approached the exam the third time.

What are some of the specific study tips, advice, techniques, or strategies you’d like to share with PMP aspirants?

Failing the PMP exam has taught me few invaluable lessons. I hope my insights will help you avoid making mistakes that can be costly.

  • My best advice is to focus on thinking and acting like a PM through a PMI lens. That is, to follow how PMI directs project managers to address a problem, task, question, or situation like the one you are reading on the exam.
  • Next, while there is a natural tendency to seek “the best” test preparation materials, company, methods, mock exams, etc., there is no magic bullet to conquering the PMP exam. It is a combination of things that you do. Not taking right set of actions could be sure fire way to have failed the PMP exam.

Certainly there are differences in quality of study material, which is a factor. However, no product, organization, or individual can guarantee that they will make you successful.

  • This being said, do take as many of mock exam questions as you can, particularly those that are situational in nature, and analyze your correct and incorrect answers.
  • Do give your brain time to process what you read and experience before trying to cram in more information. Memorizing certain information may be helpful, but it will not be enough to pass the exam.

Think and act like a PMP when answering mock exam questions and when you go in to take the actual exam, and this will serve you well.

Good luck!

Gregory Brooks, PMP

PMP and PMBOK are registered trademark by Project Management Institute, PMI.

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