Just 2 Resources + Study Plan + Support = PMP® – by Rachel De La Cruz, PMP

In this article Rachel explains the exact steps and strategies she used to pass PMP exam.When Rachel wanted to get PMP® certified and we had a discussion about how to go about it, and subsequently she joined the PM Exam Last Mile prep program. After few weeks of working together Rachel passed the PMP® exam recently. In this interview Rachel shares the exact steps she has taken to reach her PMP® goal.

Rachel De La Cruz-Foster lives Greater Los Angeles, California. Has worked on various HRIS system implementations as part of various consulting firms over the past 20 years.

Rachel’s roles over the years have included systems analyst, independent consultant, project lead and account manager. In her free time Rachel teaches Hula dance.

This is a story of turning adversity (layoff to landing a job before even the certification!) into opportunity. And I am proud of Rachel’s hard work and tenacity to achieve her dream.

Please do not miss reading the ‘exam experience’ section – I have personally seen that this particular mistake has cost the exam for at least 2 exam aspirants.

What made you take up PMP®?

rachel-pmp-LMI had been considering applying for the PMP® certification for a couple of years, but never seemed to find the time to get started because of work and family obligations. Then my job was recently eliminated as part of a company restructuring and soon after that the pandemic hit the US.

On the first day that the state of California went on lock-down in mid March, I decided that I had no more excuses and I would have more time on my hands to study and prepare, so I spent a few hours filling out my PMP® application.

I also considered the CSM certification, but I felt that the PMP® certification would be more beneficial for me and more recognizable. I am now planning to study for my CSM certification next!

The main benefit I expect from my PMP® certification was to help my resume stand out more and to broaden the types of job opportunities and pay-ranges that I could be considered for, from consultant to project manager.

Also read: With RIGHT resources it’s easy to pass PMP exam, says Prem after acing it.

What are the study resources you used?

I used just two – the PM Exam Last Mile prep program and the PMBOK guide.

The former helped me prepare well in the shortest time, and the latter ensured I cover the ground as per PMI’s expectations.

Since you only get an electronic version of the PMBOK guide as part of your PMI membership, I opted to purchase the paperback (it’s a big paperback!) so that I could highlight it as I studied and take it with me wherever I went).

I also purchased a couple of PMP® test simulator courses that I found on Udemy for practice tests.

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

RAchel's PMP certification exam resultI developed a 12-week study plan with Shiv using the sample plan that was included in the PM Exam Last Mile program.

Next, I scheduled weekly check-ins with Shiv to keep me accountable and to make sure that I was making good progress each week.

He also suggested how to progress further at each of the stages of the PMP® journey, which helped optimize my study time.

During first round of study, I went through all the course content by Knowledge Areas, and then for the second round of studying based on Process Groups.

This approach gave me a good hold on the content, and helped me develop better insights.

I also used old-fashioned index cards as flashcards and practiced my brain dump of concepts, theories, and formulas as I got into the last 2 weeks of my study.

During this time, I also started a new job, so there were a couple of starts and stops with my studying and a couple of reschedules of my exam date.

However, knowing that the new exam was coming in January 2021 incentivized me to finish my study and to make sure that I took the exam quickly.

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

I really appreciated the different modes of learning that Shiv incorporated into the ‘Last Mile’ prep course.

He was able to mix up 35 hours of material through the use of mind-map based study videos, crossword puzzles, chapter quizzes, mind-maps, simulation tests, and formula and concept cheat sheets that I practiced, recalling in my brain dumps during the last couple of weeks.

Also read: Layoff to PMP® certified – prep journey of Janice Bryant, PMP

Did you face any challenges along the way?

One of my major challenges was keeping the momentum and sticking with my study plan.

However, I truly believe having Shiv available for check-ins each week forced me to be accountable and commit myself to reviewing the next module.

I was very thankful that he included this coaching as part of his PMP® preparation program for no additional charge.

What was your approach to study during the week before exam?

I took 2 days off from work prior to my exam date to get that last round of studying in.

I spent most of my time taking mock exams so that I could track my progress and identify any areas that I needed to spend more time reviewing.

By taking mock tests I was able to track how long it took for me to answer the questions. This gave me a sense of whether I would be able to get through all 200 questions in the 240 minutes allocated.

From there I only had to use a mock test review strategy from the PM Exam Last Mile program to continuously improve my test score to go past 80% (which is a thumb rule to validate if you are ready to take the exam).

This approach vastly helped me to pace myself during the actual exam.

Also read: How Liliya Stoyanova passed her PMP® exam with a structured plan.

Can you share your real exam experience?

I’ve had an interesting experience, and I hope people will learn from this.

I had originally scheduled my online exam in July then decided to take in test center. Due to the pandemic, there weren’t many testing centers that were open near me except for a small handful, and I could get an appointment at a testing center 45 miles from my house.

The day before the exam I made sure I had a good night’s sleep. I showed up at the testing center early, I felt I was ready to go.

When I started the exam, I remember Shiv telling me about a Security acknowledgement that I would need to agree to in the beginning and that another one of his students hadn’t acknowledged it in the first 5 minutes because she was busy doing her brain dump on the piece of paper she was allowed.

So, I saw the Security acknowledgement appear on the screen and I made sure that I clicked on the button in the lower right hand of the screen thinking that was the acknowledgment.

Once I saw the next screen appear with what looked like the start of the test questions, I then pulled out the sheet of paper I was given and started on my brain dump right away.

However, what I didn’t realize at the time was that the screen I thought were test questions were actually a series of security acknowledgement questions, each with a Yes/No multiple choice.

So, the exact thing I tried to avoid actually happened to me!

The test automatically ended after 5 minutes because I failed to agree to the security questions!

The testing center couldn’t restart the exam so they had to open a case for me. And then I had to go home empty handed and call PMI to reschedule my exam.

So make sure you answer all of those security acknowledgement questions in the first 5 minutes!

The next exam I took went pretty smooth and I answered most of the questions, marking few for review. I had just enough time to answer the review questions, and then it was there – Congratulations! message.

I became a PMP®! 🙂

Join PM Exam Last Mile Prep Program today and get certified in the current version of the exam!

Pass PMP exam before the new & harder exam rolls in..

Work one-on-one with Shiv every week, fast track your study progress, and pass PMP® exam with confidence. With prohibitive cost of the new exam along with 50% additional content and additional new types of questions, it is absolute no-brainer to go for PMP® exam in the current version.

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Any specific study tips for PMP® aspirants?

  • I would highly recommend scheduling those weekly or biweekly check-ins with Shiv so that he can act as your accountability partner.
  • I liked creating old fashioned flashcards on index cards. And I studied all the various mnemonics that Shiv provided to help me remember concepts, and lots and lots of mock exams.
  • During the actual exam itself, I only had a handful of formula questions (far less than I was expecting), but it was still good for me to study all the main formulas, especially Earned Value Management.
  • Most of the questions seemed to be scenario based, and asked the question “As the project manager, what should you do next?“. So make sure you feel comfortable knowing the processes in each knowledge area and what order the processes flow.

Good luck for your exam!

Rachel De La Cruz, PMP


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