10-Week PMP Exam Preparation Strategy For Above Target Score – Arnab Bhattacharjee, PMP

PMP exam preparation strategy for above target score - Arnab Bhattacharjee

Arnab Bhattacharjee works as a Transformation Manager at Concentrix, a global customer experience services and technologies company.

He has been aiming for PMP certification for some time now and finally earlier this year he decided to give it a go with all seriousness. “With a student mindset”, as he says. 🙂

I caught up with him on a chat and asked Arnab about his approaches, strategies, and challenges, so you can take some of those and incorporate in your own PMP exam preparation.

Are you preparing for the PMP exam?

With multiple projects to manage across 2 timezone, 3-yr old kid at home, falling sick the week before the exam, to completing it with 30 minutes to go, and getting Above Target in all 3 domains – this is ONE interview you don’t want to miss! 🙂

If you are in a hurry, please go ahead and watch this video interview.

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Congratulations once again on your PMP, Arnab. That’s an awesome achievement, knowing how hard it can be, right?

In today’s short discussion, we’ll talk about your approach, strategies, and insights into preparing for this exam so that people who are in the process of preparing for the PMP exam can try out some of your advice.

So, the first question I have is when it comes to project management certification exams, there are so many, right? So…

What made you go for PMP in particular?

Well yeah. So before I started with PMP preparation, it was to enhance my project management skills and to gain recognition as a certified professional in this field.

I did consider PRINCE and some other certifications. But overall, when I consider PMP, being a globally recognized certification it was definitely the one matching with my industry requirement. So that’s the reason I went after PMP.

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Can you tell us a little bit about what you work on?

I mostly handle projects in the US healthcare industry.

Where there are complex projects in terms of requirements, in terms of timelines, and most essentially communication. So when you are exploring something unknown and trying to deliver benefits to the client or the end customer. So that’s the kind of projects I mostly do.

And PMP was helping in terms of knowing the right tools, which one to use when, to communicate better, and about the artifacts.

You used a pretty good phrase there, “working with the unknowns”. That’s probably the best summary of the role of a project manager, right?

So many unknowns and trying to wear multiple hats. And trying to balance the resources and needs, while still trying to achieve project objectives. Correct.

So before taking up PMP, did you have any specific expectations, and after you passed it, how have those expectations turned out?

Before taking the exam, it was just like it was an approach to gaining knowledge and knowing the process, tools, and the right methods.

Now after knowing those, and clearing the exam, I do feel that PMP is helping me. Giving a structured approach to managing the projects. It’s giving me a ton of confidence and the credibility to manage complex projects now.

So those are coming into my kit. So no more simple ones. I’ve begun to take up complex ones, challenging ones.

I mean, at least knowing the structure of, you know, what are the things, what are the checks and balances to be in place when you know, taking up a project. Sometimes you’re also thrown into a project which is underway for whatever reasons, you know, the project manager left or whatever.

And then at that point of being able to know where things are in terms of gauging the health of the projects, that kind of knowledge is very valuable, isn’t it?

Arnab passed PMP with Above Target score in all 3 domains with mere 10 weeks of preparation.

Arnab passed PMP with Above Target score in all 3 domains with mere 10 weeks of preparation.

And that comes only when you do some kind of comprehensive certification exam like PMP.

And look at each of the 10 knowledge areas that we talk about. Okay, how are we doing on the resources part? How are we doing on the schedule part? How are we doing on the risk part? I mean, being able to know which top, which sort of project artifacts to look for is a quick way of figuring out how the project is doing.

And putting them in place when you take up a new project. So from that perspective, PMP is a wonderful thing, right? Being able to approach projects in a very systematic, strategic way.

Correct. You start from the scope management and from that topic you expand, what are the different knowledge areas and those link up, how those tools are being used. So I tried using it that helps the other person to understand well, how those connect.

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For someone that is taking up PMP if you have to tell them about one thing they need for PMP, what would that be?

I would say that one thing should be is a positive mindset.

That is essential because there were many changes during my journey. I started with PMBOK 6 and then PMBOK 7th edition came along.

And also during that time, I had to balance my work and PMP study. So all these changes, all this additional preparation time wasn’t helping me.

I had this positive mindset that I will be learning something new.

And I was willing to put in all the effort that was required to clear this exam.

So anyone who is preparing for this exam definitely should have a positive mindset. And then followed by that willingness to learn and determination.

So those and the discipline that is required to make it work for you.

PMP is, it is more like a marathon, isn’t it? It’s not like CSM or any other agile certifications that you can do in a week’s time. This takes a very strategic approach. A very project management approach.

What kind of study resources did you use for preparing for this exam?

I did completely use the PMBOK 6 and 7, well, not much in-depth of PMBOK 7, but PMBOK 6 I completely focused on it. After I completed that I topped it up with books and online resources.

I also used your PMP books for learning about the knowledge areas and the rest of the exam content. So I had some complex areas during those studies that I was unable to understand.

So, going through the PM Smartnotes blog, your books, and then going through the PMBOK guide, really helped me in terms of clearing the concepts in depth.

And your books also gave me practical examples.

And your LinkedIn group! I used to wait every day for the quiz questions.

And would try to answer it first and also wait like whether it’s right or wrong. So sometimes even if I go wrong. The clarification and those links that is given, as in the comments definitely helped me.

PMP one of the things with this exam is momentum, isn’t it? Because, it’s a little bit of a long-term game, like in terms of months. So being able to be in that mind space of studying every day and building that study momentum is essential. So of course, everyone has those days when the whole day is like taken up by the, by the work.

And then being able to spend at the end of the day, at least 5 to 10 minutes on looking at a question, just giving it a thought, giving it a, you know, guess even if, if that’s not an area you have yet studied.

And then looking at a flashcard. These are this kind, like, these are like micro-study moments, right?

It helps maintain that study momentum.

Did you have any specific study approach or, or study plan?

So if I talk about the duration, my duration was kind of long because I started off last year and kind of had multiple false-starts and also had a big challenge in terms of time management.

So I sometimes could not balance it. Sometimes it’s like I could not like target it. I will clear it by this month, but I was not able to do it. Some urgent work would come in, and something of priority would come in. So that’s a reason that my duration was kind of stretched because there were multiple false starts this year.

Once I began serious preparation, I scheduled the exam. So what I was missing all this duration was a student mindset.

So, I did not schedule my exam and was preparing. So that’s the reason it was a bit stretched. So after I scheduled the exam and then made a target that I will be covering it.

So that helped me in probably clearing the exam this year.

And my approach was thoroughly read the PMBOK guide and then supplement it with online resources because there are many online resources.

My study plan during this period was like at least an hour every day of diligent study. And I used to review the notes from the previous day and definitely I was taking breaths and breaks because I had to balance between work and this study.

And I am a father of a kid of three, so definitely I used to take breaks to avoid any burnout.

Overall it took me I would say two and a half months from the time I began serious preparation.

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Along the way did you face any challenges, any issues apart from, you know, the fact that your work kept you busy?

Yeah, the amount of content to learn. That’s SO much!

So that was sometimes I would feel overwhelmed initially. But I made sure not to memorize it.

I took the approach of practicing it and understanding the concepts.

So the strategy of breaking that down into daily or weekly goals and then studying it every day worked well for me.

And how was the week before the exam?

Right. Because there is certainly this realization that, oh, the exam is just a week away. 🙂

Definitely the week before the exam was important and unfortunately I felt sick during the week before the exam.

However, I thought at times to reschedule it because I was not in the best of shape. But I was determined into clearing the exam on that day.

And during this time what I did is I focused on reading the notes and taking more mock exams ensuring that I have a clear understanding of all the concepts because most of the questions are scenario based.

And during this period also I ensured that I got plenty of rest and hydration. So that I remain in the best possible condition for the exam.

Not being in the best of health just before the exam isn’t definitely a good thing. Yeah. But the resilience that you have shown says so much about your mindset. How was the actual exam day itself?

I took the exam from the test center. And it went smoothly. The staff was very much supportive and they ensured that everything was in order before the exam started.

I did opt for all the breaks.

That helped me refresh my mind and stay focused.

And the questions were complex. But with the proper preparation that I had, I was able to manage my time and I rather completed the exam 30 minutes before the time.

With 2 breaks, it’s essentially 3 quick exams in succession.

Yeah, so I decided not to cross 80 minutes in each of these slots.

So my first slot during the mock exam too was crossing the 80 minutes mark.

I kept my confidence in and the first slot I completed like in close to 75 to 80 minutes. Then I opted for the break.

In fact, my second slot went very well and I was able to do it within an hour and the third slot went even better.

Most of the questions were scenario based.

What happens is you clear one, question after the another, and you get into a mindset. So sometimes you have a kind of the best mindset that comes in. So that’s the reason I use I knew that that works for me.

For the questions I was not sure of the answer, I would mark the one I felt right and mark it to come back to.

I used to use the elimination technique.

And I scored Above Target and all the 3 domains on the exam.

What was the division of questions between Predictive and Agile?

Yeah. I could fill in terms like this questions were more than half, so like, it seemed to me like 60%+ were from Agile.

No formula-based questions either. I did some across some of the PMBOK 7 questions also.

Okay the last question before, before we conclude this fantastic discussion. Any specific tips or study advice you want to give to those preparing for the exam?

I would say like stay focused, remain positive and be consistent in your preparation.

And practice your mock exams in real exam conditions. So that it helps you in improving your time management skills.

And learn by understanding concepts instead of memorizing them. That doesn’t help.

And use the available resources to make the study sessions more interactive and engaging by using various resources like online simulators. Study groups, YouTube & LinkedIn.

All the best!

Arnab Bhattacharjee, PMP

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