For A Serious PMP Aspirant: Here’s The Only Thing You Need To Succeed – Joseph John, PMP

PMP aspirants should know this one secrets, says Joseph John“What’s the secret of PMP success that you’d like to share with every PMP aspirant?”, I asked Joseph as we sat down for the interview.

Joseph took 9 months to go from ‘planning to PMP’.

Somewhere in between, he gave up on it.

Then he noticed that others in his group were getting certified.

That motivated him. He wanted to do it this time, for sure. No matter what.

But he didn’t give himself a short timeline, so he is forced to slog through to get there. 

He did something smarter.

You will love his ingenuity, how he used human psychology to achieve his goal without burdening himself of the enormity of the goal, like make of us do.

If nothing else, I would hope that you will take his mindset and approach from this interview.

Joseph John is an Engineer, MBA, and an International Diploma holder in Occupational Health and Safety.

He has a rich Operational, Project Management, and leadership experience of over 25 years in Petroleum, Retail, Logistics Safety, and Sustainability. 

He scored a perfect Above Target in all the 3 domains on his PMP exam, and I HAD to pick his brains.

So you can use some of his secrets for your upcoming PMP exam.

Joseph shared everything – from his choice of study resources, study approach to avoid stress, 2 blockers (lack of confidence and timing exam date), exact process of tackling the final exam, and finally a few insightful study tips.

Here’s what I found out.

What made you take up PMP?

PMP Joseph JohnI have been managing projects of various size and complexity for many years now. And getting PMP certified was a desire that emanated from the need to learn the right project management methodology, so I can improve my skills.

Also, every year, I plan for certification/study to upskill and PMP was one of the goals in that routine.

Now that I am PMP certified, I can confidently say this –

PMP has really helped me to speak with more confidence with other PMs or Program managers.

Also, I studied a lot about Agile and Servant leadership, and now I have a changed perspective about leading people in my every day work.

PMP has been a game changer for me.

According to you, what is that one thing every PMP aspirant must have/use?

First and foremost, we need to understand that PMP is a marathon race and not a short sprint.

There will be times when we feel stressed about lack of progress, and we must understand that it’s a part of any race.

I discovered that studying the basic concepts first and then digging deeper is the best approach to avoid stress.

Do not refer to too many resources, it is an easy way to get overwhelmed and confused. Pick up one resource that resonates with your style of learning (book, video course, coaching etc). And then only move to other 1-2 resource to understand in entirety.

Keep in mind that for PMP, there is no well-set and prescribed resource that you can study and be done with. That is the reason I selected 3 resources – in order to prepare myself in the best possible way.

Now let me answer the question you raised.

If there is ONE single factor for success of PMP exam, it is: BE CONSISTENT.

You cannot have a burst of study of a few days and then leave it for weeks on end. Even studying only on the weekends does not help recall earlier content, as I discovered.

I studied for 3 months for 2-3 hours every single day, spending a bit more time on the weekends.

I have heard people clearing PMP with 1 day preparation and some even with 2-3 hours, but we need to remember that such exceptions are extremely rare!

Also read:

Which resources did you use for your preparation?

Like I said earlier, I used one resource for casual study of basics, and one for deep-dive.

I highly recommend every PMP aspirant that you do some research and choose the resources that are easy for you to use. It could be a book, video course, or working with a coach.

How did you approach your study?

My approach was initially to study at a causal pace of 1-2 hours a day (4-5 hours per week).

This helped me develop the daily study habit without rocking the boat.

Once I made the daily study as a routine, I increased the study duration to 2-3 hours per day.

This is the time I also estimated a rough timeline to complete my study and revision, and selected a date for taking the PMP exam.

In the last 2 weeks, I took mocks and reviewed all my answers – especially the ones where I had a dilemma between 2 options in the answers.

I personally felt that the following concepts are important from the exam perspective, and focused more on them –

  • Servant leadership,
  • Agile,
  • Risk management,
  • Issue and Change management

With 1 month to go to the exam date, I increased my study time and began taking mock exams.

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Any blockers along the way?

The main blocker was lack of confidence at times and then timing the exam date.

One needs to understand that there could be times when energy might drop and one needs to stick to the correct basics and self-motivate.

That was the only way I could keep moving.

I must highlight that my daily study habit paid huge dividends. Even when I felt I was not making enough progress or I wasn’t feeling great, I never stopped studying.

The sense of daily progress kept me going.

My overall journey was almost 9 months – with few starts-and-stops.

After my initial training under a local provider, I was not interested in the exam and decided to drop it!

Then being a part of a study group, often I would see that some of my friends were clearing the exam. And this motivated me to start my preparation again. Finally, I decided to take it up seriously.

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

I took more mock tests and reviewed my answers thoroughly.

I took tests from various style of authors and web etc., fully knowing that in the real exam the pattern could be anything.

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How was your exam experience?

I have heard that proctor online can be a strict affair, adding anxiety in addition to possible issues with internet, computer, or ambiance sounds/noise etc. This can be an additional stress factor for any PMP aspirant. 🙂

This was enough of a reason for me to choose to take the exam at a test center.

My exam experience was a smooth one for me.

Yes, I took both my optional breaks (at the end of 60th question and 120th question).

During the breaks, I drank a glass of water and took 25-30 deep breaths with my eyes closed.

The questions were easier compared to my mock tests!

I did the first 60 questions and as planned. I did not opt for any for review, and did the same for the next 60 questions as well. I finished the first 60 in around 74 mins, the second 60 also in similar time.

For the last 60, I did review a few questions and finished with 15 mins to spare.

During the review of questions, I realized that I was not changing any answers and closed it with 5 mins to spare and pressed the submit button.

Thanks to the lord, I was very delighted to see that I had passed!

Awesome! Any specific study tips for a PMP aspirant?

From my experience, I can say that PMP preparation is easy to give up, when things become tough at work.

Please don’t do this mistake. Every hour studied is an investment towards this marathon goal, and the only way to make sure of success is to make progress.

You may not be able to complete the study in the planned time, and you may even have to postpone the exam. And that is okay!

Just don’t give up.

Have good study resources, if possible find a good mentor, come up with a daily study plan, and keep at it.

Start casually and once basic material is covered, go into faster study mode and with 2-3 months to exam, go into exam mode.

Good luck!

Joseph John, PMP


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