My PMP® Exam Lessons Learned – Mariia Aleksieieva, PMP

Many years ago when I was preparing for the PMP® exam my kids were 3 and 5 yr old. I had 3-4 hrs of daily commute to office and back. I was managing 3-4 clients across 3 time zones, working for a start up. And then I had to make time for PMP® study.  And I thought, rather naively, that its the most challenging situation a PMP aspirant can have (not to mention I started off with PMBOK alone 🙂 )

pmp-lessons-learned-mariia-aleksieieva-pmpOver the years as I began working with PMP® aspirants across the globe I have seen other, more intense, challenges that some of them had to go through. I’m sure Mariia Aleksieieva has had a different type of, and a more troublesome challenge, on her way to PMP® certification.

Mariia is from Ukraine and was taking exam in Russian. There are not many study resources in Russian, and I believe even PMI’s 200 question mock test available for members is not available in Russian as well. Mariia had to translate a lot of English notes into Russian to understand it thoroughly.

Imagine studying entire PMP® content in English by translating into Russian. That too with a limited time. It needs enormous self-belief and doggedness to march ahead studying every day.

And I was so happy to hear Mariia last week that she passed her exam (all her calls begin with a cheerful “Namaskara Shiv!”). It was one of my proudest moments when a PM Exam Last Mile prep program student passed the PMP exam, for the sheer amount of hard work she had put in and the hurdles she had to get past.

Mariia is an experienced manager with a demonstrated history of working in the management consulting industry. She has a Master’s Degree Diploma in Sociology of Management and PR from Inter-regional Academy of Personnel Management. 15+ years’ experience in operational improvement and top management. 7+ years as Project Manager in IT, retail and hospitality domains. 7+ years as Independent Business Consultant & Trainer for local small and medium sized enterprises (Ukraine, Russia, Nepal). 3 years as Hotel Manager.

A sports buff she like mountain trekking, kayak, dance and a bit paint, and believes that a successful manager should be versatile and draw his knowledge not only from books, but also from other life areas.

In this article Mariia explains how exactly she went about to prepare for PMP® exam and passed it.

What made you take up PMP®?

mariia-pmpI have been working in project management for over 7 years. I really like the management and I cannot imagine my life without constant development and learning.

In addition to PMP®, I also considered certification from IPMA. But in the end, I decided on PMP because I have noted that PMP is one of the often expected credential to have in job descriptions – indicating how critical this is for a project manager to have.

How do you expect your PMP certification to help you?

I have a Masters degree with excellence from Ukrainian universities and work experience mainly in local companies. International companies have higher requirements and work standards.

To develop my a career and for receiving a job offer of a project manager position in an international company, it is necessary to have an internationally recognized certification. I believe my PMP® certification will help me land better positions to handle more challenging projects.

Also read: How Rachel aced her PMP® Exam with smart preparation to a plan.

Which study resources did you use?

I tried many different ones, but what really met my requirements and expectations was PM Exam Last Mile prep program of Shiv Shenoy. Also I used PMBOK and a few free mock test simulators.

How did you approach the exam and what was your study plan?

mariia-pmp-studyI used the 7-week study plan from Shiv’s ‘Last Mile’ program. I also had to rely on translation from English to Russian as my exam was to be in Russian. In between I decided to take a break for few days to re-energize and get back to study.

I felt powerless when I read that many students prepare for the exam for 3 years or more. And many did not pass the exam successfully on the first attempt. I didn’t want to have this hard and long way.

Initially, when I estimated the capacity and complexity of information for exam, and also after reading the book by Scott Young  “Ultralearning”, I was looking for a training course using brain-friendly techniques, because I didn’t want to study for long with huge efforts. I’m glad to have come across ‘Last Mile’ program.

Also read: Liliya’s 45-day plan & strategies that gave her PMP certified

You have been part of PM Exam Last Mile prep program (thank you!). Could you please share how it helped you?

The most liked aspect of the program were mind map based videos of Shiv, crosswords, mnemonics, and knowledge capsules. Apart from these his one-on-one calls every week helped me course-correct myself and fast track my progress. He motivated me to make progress every time.

For my style of learning the mind-map method suited me very well. And I am very grateful that Shiv in his course has already created them with all the necessary information.

So after going over the mind maps reading PMBOK was to me not so boring and understandable, but fascinating.

I was very pleased with the crosswords as well as knowledge capsules that supplemented information from the PMBOK, since the exam is not a test for the PMBOK.

The exam includes much more information from different knowledge areas. All video lectures are no more than 30 minutes, which corresponds to the Pomodoro method and research that the brain is not able to concentrate for more than 23 minutes, it needs a

So I believe that the ‘Last Mile’ program was created very smartly and including a lot of progressive modern study methods that helped me study easy, fun and result-oriented. I celebrated each of my study milestones, that helped me enjoy my study process.

Did you face any challenges long the way?

The amount of information that needs to be studied for PMP® exam. 🙂

Reading all which for me was hard labor and boring. It was a main reason that when I found PM Exam Last Mile prep program I was so overjoyed.

Also read: Hand-curated PMP® study resources for your study

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

mariia-pmp-smindmapsI took a few days off from work, doing 50 test questions every day.

I did not take 200 questions before the exam as I felt it was tiring me up. In my opinion, this is not necessary. I walked to the sea and in the park, relaxed, enjoyed the things that I love (Fall and Yellow trees, Coffee with croissants and etc) and reviewed the mind maps for each Knowledge Area.

Studying mind-maps was spectacular for me and did not require extra efforts.

I also placed all mind-maps on the walls and doors of my study room, which helped me easily find and update the information I needed.

What was your exam experience?

I took the exam online.

Passing the exam successfully turned out to be much easier than I expected. The interface of the online eхam is very user-friendly.

Also, before the start of the exam, PearsonVUE offers a training video on using the interface (7 mins). I skipped it in order to get started quickly.

I went through the first 90 questions very quickly and didn’t want to take a break. So I continued without interruption.

I finished the exam early around 30 mins and passed with 2 Above Target score.

On the exam the time passed quickly. I felt the inner excitement, interest/curious and enthusiasm for each next exam question. It gave me strength to keep going.

After the 3rd hour my body felt tensed from sitting for long and therefore I actively moved my shoulders, making circular movements with my shoulders to relieve tension.

I answered the questions from the position of a Leader, and also represented myself as an American manager, so that my personal experience in managing projects in Ukraine and the Russian Federation did not prevent me from choosing the answers expected by the PMI.

When the questions were about Inputs / Outputs or Process Groups, I always asked myself in what phase or Process Group I was in currently, and it helped me choose the right answers.

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How about formula based questions?

I never crammed exam formulas. Since, based on the data of the question, it is always clear what to take away or add, for making calculations, if you have experience in project management.

Overall, I came across about 5 questions for applying formulas. 2 of them were very simple. I did not have to perform any calculations using the calculator. The 3 remaining questions, I marked to consider at the end of the exam.

Despite the fact that I had a lot of time left for calculations, I felt confident that I had typed the required number of correct answers and did not waste time and effort on solving questions with formulas and chose the answers intuitively, which, in my experience, should correspond to calculated indicators.

Also, solving the questions for the exam on the number of communication channels using the weighted average formula (beta, or PERT), I found that the correct answer is equal (for a small number of channel quality) to the Most Likely estimate, and slightly more Most Likely for a large number of participants. Therefore, I easily found the correct answer to the number of communication channels, without calculations.

Any specific study tips for PMP® students?

The most likely cause of success for PMP® exam depends on the study resources you choose, and the study process you follow. Of course, you need a study plan to stick to, just like how a good project manager knows the importance of a good plan. Find someone to support you throughout, to help you when you feel stuck, to help you move past any hurdles. This is the fastest way to get PMP® certified.

I wish you all success.

Mariia Aleksieieva, PMP


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