PMP Exam Preparation Tips: My 4-Fold Strategy For Sure Results – Deepak Singh, PMP

PMP-Exam-Preparation-Tips-Deepak“Can you share your PMP exam preparation tips?”, I asked Deepak Singh when he told me he passed his exam. Deepak has been an active member of PMExamSmartNotes community, and passed his PMP® exam recently. Deepak has over 13 years of experience in Project Management, Consulting, Agile Transformation, Strategic Planning, IT Infrastructure Management, and Service Delivery.

In this article Deepak has been kind enough to reveal every aspect of this preparation – mindset, study plan, resources, and strategies. He wraps the article with few invaluable tips about the exam day itself.

Deepak, what made you take up PMP®?

PMP® has been on my wish-list for a very long time but I only attempted it now. While I was exploring & practicing other methodologies such as Agile & Scrum, my affection towards PMP reminded me of my unfulfilled goal.

Now that you are PMP® certified, what benefits do you expect?

Being a PMP® certified is a benefit in itself, it allows you to interact with and be a part of the larger PM community globally.

It has given me knowledge and confidence to manage projects better. Moreover, I think that seeing “PMP” in front of your name gives confidence to your hiring manager even before talking to you.

I have accomplished the first step of being certified, and now I look forward towards contributing to the larger PM community.

Can you talk about your PMP exam preparation tips?

Of course, first I must tell you about the 4-fold strategy I used. People used to tell me that PMP is hard to pass, even before I began my preparation. So early on I was looking for a way of guaranteeing success. This of course didn’t come to me overnight but slowly took shape based on my discussion with colleagues, other students and as I went over the exam experience of people that passed the exam.

It goes like this –

1. Envision the big picture and understand how everything converges

  • I attended the 4-day classroom PMP® workshop that helped clarify the concepts – which was first step towards knowing big picture.
  • Being inquisitive towards all the discussed concepts trying to answer questions such as, ‘why only this and not anything else?’, ‘what are the alternatives?’, ‘what is needed to do it?’ and ‘what is the output generated?’

2. Understand the exam content thoroughly

  • I went through the first read of PMP® Exam Prep by Rita Mulcahy (#ad) without solving the questions listed at the end of each chapter. It was a bit hard as I felt like I did not understand everything the first time, but I continued to read end to end.
  • I purchased a e-learning course on Udemy by Joseph Phillip (#ad) and went through the course. This helped me recollect everything that I had read or discovered during extended discussions of 4-day training.
  • As next step, I started going through the PMBOK guide for the first time. This was the time I connected all the dots and could understand the content & context better.
  • In the end, I went through Rita Exam Prep for the second time and by this time all the concepts were crystal clear to me.
  • During this time, I made my own study notes that I intended to go-through prior to the exam. Not extensive description but just the pointers in brief that I wanted to remember.

3. Interact with the PM community/channels

  • Once I gained the clarity on the concepts, the next aspect was application of them. I knew that this is something that I will be tested on in the exam.
  • I started solving the questions stated in the Rita chapters.
  • During this time I identified the platforms that I was most associated with – ‘PMP Exam Notes, Tips and Resources’ by Shiv (LinkedIn community here, and Facebook community here) and
  • The interactions, tips and questions in Shiv’s ‘PMP Exam Notes, Tips and Resources’ communities helped me gain a lot of insights on different perspectives within the community and compare your responses with others thinking from their perspective. This is of immense help!

4. Apply & clarify

  • As I learn a knowledge area or a concept I would apply on an imaginary project. Then it would either make sense to me or not. If it didn’t I would study it again till applying it on a project makes me understand the concept better.
  • Though I was only able to apply a small portion of what I learnt at my job, the process of applying to my imaginary project helped me a lot.

Also read: Could you like to binge watch like Netflix and prepare for PMP exam?

How did you approach the exam itself?

My focus was to make sure I don’t procrastinate but initially I did lose focus. Then I took the 4-day program and got a hang of important concepts.

I registered for the exam date first, so that I can work on my study plan backwards. If you follow this approach, be mindful about considering any important events in near future before finalizing on your date of exam.

In terms of study schedule, I made it a point to study EVERY single day. Dedicated 2 hours on weekdays and 4-5 hours on weekends; made it a practice to spend first 15 mins to recollect what I had read the previous day.

I would also make it a point to go through PMP Exam Notes, Tips and Resources daily questions (Facebook page here, and LinkedIn community here) every day for 15 mins for the questions and review responses by others. This practice helped me gain deeper perspectives into the concepts.

I completed all my study materials by in 2 months from the day I began. Then I only focused on going through situational questions in Rita and

In the last week before exam, I took 3 full-length 200 question simulation tests to get handy with the exam environment. In these I scored 74%, 77%, and 79%.

I made sure I did not study at all on the day prior to the exam and on the exam day, I just went through the notes that I created and the flash cards that I received during my training.

During the exam, I planned to solve as many questions as I can in the first 2 hours but somehow that did not work for me. I made a real-time change and calmed myself and took a break every hour realizing I would have to sit for 4 complete hours.

Did you face any issues and how did you overcome them?

  • There would be moments when I lose focus and get distracted. These moments validate why PMP is a priority for you.
  • I came across people that had failed the exam and told me the exam is hard and all. If that happens to you, do not let it shake your confidence, stand firm and continue to prepare yourself.
  • I made a study plan and followed it by reworking when I strayed (chances are you will too 🙂 ). It was important that I don’t abandon the plan, as it would be like charting the terrain without the compass.
  • I used to miss a day or 2 of study because of long days of work. I told myself that  it’s okay to give myself a break and marched on.

Also read: Are you worried about your PMP prep? Talk to me and get the best strategy and study plan that suits your needs.

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

My plan was to be familiar with all the content and context and I spent the time only on evaluating situational questions and referring the content only when I felt the need.

No study or practice on the day before the exam. I wanted to give my brain some rest.

I referred my notes and flashcards an hour before the exam so that I can be familiar with the terms and terminologies before getting into the exam room.

How was your exam experience?

I do believe that this experience of mine should be read by anyone looking for PMP exam preparation tips. My exam experience practically shook my confidence.

It wasn’t a dream start I was expecting. I couldn’t answer any of first 5 questions.

I could not answer the 1st question, then 2nd one too. 3rd question seemed alien as well. 4th one too. Even the 5th question I could not answer!

I had to flag them for a review, and this made me quite nervous. 🙂

I spent the next 5 mins doing nothing but closing my eyes and making sure I get my confidence back. Well, I didn’t want a less than ideal start to ruin my mindset and lose focus on the remaining 195 questions.

This incident changed my exam plan of solving all the questions in 2 hours and then spending remaining time for a final review. I ended up solving 60-65 questions per hour.  I marked unsure questions for review in the end which I did in the 25 minutes I had left with.

There were some questions on Adaptive life cycles, since I am practicing agile for a while, I had little difficulty answering them.

I also took 5 mins break every hour! Some deep breathing and stretching the legs did wonders.

Also read: Still need more PMP exam preparation tips? Deepshikha feels that if you mastered THIS one thing your PMP prep will become much easier.

Would you like to share any specific study tips or exam tips?

  • On the exam, I would say, do not overthink or second guess yourself. Some questions are meant to be simple!
  • Do not try for perfection, no matter how much you study you may feel that there is still something else to cover. Do your best and trust yourself to do well. Don’t beat yourself.
  • Keep in mind that PMP preparation has 2 phases, like 2 sides of a coin – both are crucial.
    • Understanding the concept
    • Knowing how to apply the concept to the scenario given in the question
  • On the day of exam – drink plenty of fluids, eat moderately, and don’t plan to take a break during the exam.
  • Get into the exam with an open mind. Of course go with a plan but be open to be flexible. Trust yourself to adapt to the difficulty level of the question paper.
  • Do not spend more than a minute for each question time, mark it for a review but do select the response that you feel is right
  • Finally, please create your study plan and study according to that. This ensures you make predictable progress towards completing all the syllabus without losing focus on any of the areas.

I hope these PMP exam preparation tips, strategies, and my own good and bad experience will help you have a good one.

Believe you can, and you will!

Deepak Singh, PMP

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