How To Pass PMP Exam On First Try: A Talk With Wawan Ridwan, PMP

How to pass PMP exam on first try, reveals Wawan with more PMP secrets he unearthed during his prep journey, that gave him Above Target PMP score.“How to pass PMP exam on first try” is probably the most googled term.

What better way than to learn from someone that got PMP with Above Target score!

Wawan Ridwan has deep project management experience, with a decade spent in the Airline Industry.

He manages projects in business solutions, digital product development, and technology enhancement in large-scale projects to support sustainable business.

Wawan works out of Indonesia, and manages projects across the globe.

When he told me that he actually crushed his PMP exam, I *had* to get his secrets out of him. 🙂

Here they are for you!

PMP above target WawanDuring our conversation, I found Wawan to be quite frank and open, and it was obvious in his helpful answers to the questions I asked.

As I discovered, PMP wasn’t easy for him. Even laziness and self-doubts troubled a lot. And he somehow figured his way around them, and more.

This talk covers resources, study techniques, and mindset hacks.

Wawan also shares his actual exam experience.

Make sure to take notes of his insightful study tips towards the end of the interview. They resonated with me quite a bit.

After all, following these he passed his PMP with Above Target in all 3 domains, and with 37 minutes remaining on the clock!

Before we jump in… if you think this information can help a friend or colleague, consider sharing this page socially!

What made you take up PMP?

My present position is a project manager for the business solutions department in the Airline Industry.

Being a constant learner, I was looking for opportunities to upgrade my knowledge, so I can develop the necessary abilities to do my job better and open myself up for new opportunities in the future.

After some research, I came across PMP as a comprehensive certification opportunity.

The major draw is that PMP certification is universally recognized.

PMP certificate pass on first attempt WawanMany certification programs focus only on a specific domain or geography. PMP, on the other hand, is global and works with any industry and in any location. So, regardless of the professional background and industry.

PMP has consistently been the highest-paid IT certification. Also, the trends indicated that PMP salaries have been growing and will continue to grow in the future.

Apart from higher-income, PMP certification improves job security.

Some companies were found to value the core competencies learned through certification during downtime. Hence, a PMP credential helps fight a potential layoff better than not having one.

Also read:

If you are just thinking of taking up PMP..

There are certain conditions which are needed to be met before getting PMP certified.

If we are an associate, we require 60 months of experience to be eligible. On the other hand, a person with a bachelor’s degree requires 36 months of work experience (by the way, as a PMI member you can save $150 on the exam fee).

PMP certification has high standards. A potential employer understands that clearing the exam takes dedication to the job. It indicates that we are serious about making project management as the long-term career path. This is a huge plus.

What was the core benefit you expected from PMP certification?

For me it is the high standards that PMP demands from a project manager.

As such, it is not easy to clear this exam without extensive preparation. But I figured the benefits outweigh the short-term ‘pains’ of the hard work required to study.

I discovered that the easy way to study for PMP is to master the practical application of the material.

Then I began thinking how to go about doing this.

Trying to apply each process I was studying to my project seemed easier.

I contemplated on how I am executing the process currently (or not!) and how better I can do it with the knowledge I am gaining now.

PMP builds the knowledge of fundamental project management processes, tools & techniques, and methodologies – which is a major win for any project manager.

Now that I am PMP certified, some of the benefits I expect from PMP certification are –

  • Added value to my career path
  • Industry recognition
  • I feel better equipped to carry out my duties as a PM now
  • Contributes to higher income and open new opportunities
  • As a PMI member, better networking opportunities
  • Validation of my commitment to my profession

PMI currently has over 1,135,460 active PMP certification holders across the world.

When we sign up as a PMI members, we become part of that club.

This association helps build our network, learn about current trends and topics of project management, and even earn the PDUs needed for maintaining PMP certification (we need 60PDUs per 3yr slot with only 8 to be attributed as a practitioner).

My next goal is to prepare for other certifications offered by the PMI such as the PMI-ACP.

Need a simulator to practice for your PMP exam? Grab this FREE PMP simulator now.

According to you, what is the one thing a PMP aspirant should have, to prepare well and pass the exam?

Maintaining Focus, and Consistency of study are two essential pillars, as I have found.

Make the journey of PMP more fun, for example, by celebrating the smallest of the wins: for instance, give yourself a small reward when the mock-test results are better than before, or when you complete a chapter.

These rewards could be simple ones – a cup of coffee, an episode of your favorite show, and a phone conversation with your best friend, etc.

Which study resources did you use for your exam preparation?

My learning resources were primarily PMBOK version 6, including the Agile Practice Guide.

I topped the study with mock exams.

For clear understanding of PMP concepts, I also went through the tons of PMP study material organized knowledge-area-wise on from blog.


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I’m sure you’re asked this now a million times: “How to pass PMP exam on first try”. What was your approach and study plan?

Ha ha. Yes.

I realized early that rote learning wasn’t going to cut it. Thus, like I said earlier, I took a  more practical approach.

As I studied a process or any Agile or Hybrid project management concept I would see if and how I am using this process in my work (current or previous projects).

Then I would think how differently, if at all, I would use the process/concept in the light of what I just learned.

When I think from this perspective, sometimes additional questions pop up. Almost all the times these are from the execution perspective.

Finding answers to these questions will cement my understanding further.

This was the best way to retain the concepts as I studied them.

Since the exam is all about execution, in hindsight, this approach helped me tremendously on the exam.

My study plan was made in a simple Excel sheet.

It was a daily study activity table with milestones that were charted until the exam day.

I must point out that there were times when I could not go as per this plan. And as project managers, we understand that things do not go as per plan always.

And it is okay.

Whenever that happened, I made it a point to refine the plan and get back on track.

Any barriers to progress?

Of course.

Laziness and self-doubt. 😀

It sounds silly now, but these really troubled me a lot at times.

As it happens, studying for this important exam takes a lot from you and there will be times when you start wondering if you are doing it right.

Such doubtful moments can hit self-confidence.

I kept telling me about the reason I began my quest for PMP certification, and that helped to some extent to force myself to study.

To overcome self-doubt, I kept assuring myself that as long I am making progress, I will be okay. Trying to be cheerful during the study period had a positive impact on my mindset.

Also, Shiv’s guidance in discussions helped a lot in my journey from zero to PMP Certified.

The week before the exam is crucial. How did you spend this week?

Frankly, at this stage I was still struggling with practice questions and mocks, even though I had finished my studies to increase my confidence.

In spite of this, I did not touch the material and practice at all the day before the exam.

I spent a lot of time relaxing and playing with my family. Just trusted my preparation thus far to carry me over on the exam.


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Can you share your experience of the exam?

I chose to take the exam in the test center because I think it is more convenient, and reduces the risk of things beyond my ability, such as internet connection, electricity, ambiance noise.

The questions were more direct than my mock exams, which was great!

The mock tests made the ‘feel’ of the real exam much easier and that added to my confidence instantly.

Because I am not native English, I still had to read some statements over and over to understand them thoroughly, and to understand what was being asked in the options. 

For questions that you find difficult, I highly recommend eliminating incorrect options and let the remaining options guide you to the right one.

I opted for both the breaks.

During these breaks I stretched myself, took a bio break, and sipped some water.

I think these breaks helped me pick up speed when I returned to the test to continue.

Even though the 1st session took me more time than I’d imagined, I realized that this was expected because of the additional time it takes to focus and get into the flow.

I was able to focus better in the 2nd and 3rd sessions.

Overall, I had plenty of scenario based questions – on the hindsight, I was able to answer these quickly due to the ‘application-based’ study approach I had taken.

I submitted the exam with 37 minutes on the clock!

And I passed with Above Target results in all the 3 domains. Yay!!

Would you have any specific study tips for PMP aspirants?

Yes, suggestion for those preparing for the PMP exam, is to

  • continue to study every single day,
  • practice applying what you study to your present or past project, to understand concepts better,
  • go through the study content with a happy frame of mind so that you don’t feel tired

Make learning and practicing PMP a temporary hobby until the exam day.

In my opinion, studying and taking up mock exams are essential.

But be open to expect the unexpected on the exam.

The realistic question banks may not be the same as the Real Exam.

Thus, only the robust understanding of concepts and practicing the mock questions will keep us be focused during the exam. We can achieve the best results out of this.

Many have asked me as to how to pass PMP exam on first try, and now you know that it is easy, but it takes lot of hard as well smart work.

I hope that what I have shared in this conversation will help avoid few mistakes, reduce the overall preparation time, and you will be able to enjoy the whole process.

My best wishes to PMP students,
Wawan Ridwan, PMP



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