PMP Certification Tips & Prep Advice by Lawrence Li, PMP

pmp certification tips lawrenceI would like to share few PMP certification tips, with the hope that this will help few PMP aspirants.


I had failed CISSP exam many years ago, because of which I had a negative feeling about taking certification exams. I had studied for PMBOK-4 many years ago but did not take the exam.

Last year I decide to take the exam again and read 3 books – PMBOK, Head First, and Rita.

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I read PMBOK in last July and Head First PMP last Nov, Rita’s in December 2016.

I found PMBOK to be boring.

Although many people like Head First, I personally think that it is not the best way for me to learn (pictorial explanations are good but I don’t enjoy the graphical style of learning). Having said this, it still benefited me by having some important concept learned and clarified.

Many people said Rita is not easy to study, but I found it to be great and down to the point (I’m not native English reader). The book gives many exam tricks and key points directly.

I made my study notes based on HeadFirst and Rita. I read the 3 books only once. Actually, I should have studied them once but I didn’t have much time left for the second round of study.

Also Read – PMP Exam Tips: How I Cleared PMP on Second Attempt, by Mario Büttner, PMP

PMP Simulator to the rescue!

Based on my CISSP exam experience, I had realized that practicing exam tests was the only way for me to pass PMP exam.

I had around 1500+ PMP sample questions from my course. But they were not as difficult as you would get on the exam. In fact, I had some of the PMBOK-4 based questions (example, Administering Procurement process) which can confuse you and create havoc – so I suggest stay away from any PMBOK-4 based questions. Usually the free dumps you get on the internet are not updated for PMBOK-5.

For that reason, I decided to invest in Cornelius’s (PMPrepCast) Simulator for the 1800+ questions (review here, free version here). I knew I got the money’s worth as IT HELPED ME A LOT, and I can say that PMPrepCast simulator was the critical factor for my PMP success!

As I started using mock tests I became more familiar with the topics, keywords, exam pattern and types of questions. I got 72-78% at the first four simulation tests and 100% for remaining exams.

I read on the forums that some people just answered 3 -4 mock exams out of 9 that you can get in this Simulator and I think they will not get their money’s worth. Practicing using this simulator improved my confidence a lot. I would wake up at 6 and take a 4-hour mock test. I normally used to complete the test in 3.5 hrs. For ITTOs I used about 2 hours for 200 questions.

In Headfirst I got 85%, and in Rita 70%+ and in Lehman, just 67%.

Also Read – PMP Preparation: Begin by Scheduling Your Exam Date, by Jim Bongiovanni, PMP

My PMP Exam Result

Here’s my PMP result –

  • Initiating: Moderate Proficient
  • Planning: Moderate Proficient
  • Executing: Moderate Proficient
  • Monitoring & Controlling: Proficient
  • Closing: Moderate Proficient

Exam Experience

At the exam center, my scheduled exam slot was 9:00 am but they spent a lot of time for checking all applicants, and I started at around 9:18 am.

I could have taken few minutes at the beginning of my exam to write down my brain dump, but I didn’t feel a need for it. I could have written down ITTOs etc but I choose to start answering questions asap.

Difficulty of the exam

The difficulty of questions was OK – I couldn’t be sure that I answered some of the questions correctly, but there were not many questions that I found to be unanswerable. The ability to highlight and marking questions were good for me.

The not-so-good thing about the exam was that I nearly used up all of my time. I had just a few minutes to review. My strategy was to keep moving through questions answering to the best of my abilities, without second guessing my answers. Then later I will have enough time to take a relook at some of the difficult questions before 4hrs of exam time ran out. But since I took more time per question I had to run through last 8 questions.

Also Read – PMP Prep Plan: Pick the Practical Path, by Plato Pathrose, PMP

Few PMP Certification Tips

I think for overall the real exam is similar to Cornelius’ simulator I used. Below are some points I observed –

  1. I didn’t get any ITTO question in the exam, some of that were embedded in the question
  2. The exam had all situational questions
  3. I didn’t get any ethical question at all, I’d loved to see this kind of questions
  4. For few questions, I had to choose the best answer among 2 sometimes even 3 options that all looked right
  5. All EVM calculation were too simple in the exam. I had spent a lot of time and efforts on EVM questions.
  6. In the exam, 2 questions were similar to each other but asking different things.
  7. Mark down question which you are unsure, you may further get a question that may help you answer the marked question!

Before I end,

My suggestion is to take some time off work before the exam, wake up early and take a 4-hr exam. Check EVERY answer’s explanation to tune your mindset for the right way of thinking – this turned out to be very good practice for me.

When you look at a question you should try and figure which process the question is referring to. You got to notice some keywords which give some hints to get to the right answer.

Try your best to score 80%+ in mock tests and leave the final 2 days to review your notes and formulas.

I hope these PMP certification tips will help you.

Good luck!

Lawrence Li, PMP

Also Read – How I Passed CAPM Exam: Mandalee Daria Mason, CAPM

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