PMP Exam Tips: Strategies that Got Me Above-Target Score – by Nikhil Kalekar, PMP

pmp exam tips nikhil kalekar‘What? a perfect score!’, I remember almost shouting in my head as I started at the monitor. Last few moments seemed like eternity, till my PMP exam result was flashed on the screen. I had got Above Target in all domains. Since that day I have helped few fellow students with my PMP exam tips, and in this article I share all that I have.

My PMP journey started in 2015 when I first enrolled myself for the classroom training. I did it from a reputed management institute in Mumbai which fetched me the mandatory 35 PDUs. But after completing the training, actual preparation for PMP somehow got procrastinated till 2017.

pmp nikhil kalekarThis was my first attempt at PMP and wanted to be sure that I get through without a hitch.

It took me around three months to complete the study with the resources and methodology mentioned below.

My study resources

Once decided to be serious about studies, I realized that I hardly could remember the content that was taught in the classroom training.

Here are the study resources I used –

While I was searching for the study material, I came across Shiv’s PMExamSmartNotes and readily subscribed for his 11-day PMP Study Blueprint email course and regularly read his entire PMP study notes for free and PMP exam tips from other PMPs’ lessons learned articles.

These may seem like quite a lot of material, but believe me at the end it all helped me to pass the PMP exam in first attempt with ‘Above Target’ credentials in all five process groups.

above target score pmp

My PMP study approach and plan

I followed a particular sequence for studying and utilizing the material mentioned above.

I decided to go for one chapter at a time across all my study resources.

To illustrate an example, say for Integration Management knowledge area,

  1. I watched all the videos on Integration Management by Saket Bansal, then read the same chapter from PMBOK and Rita Mulcahy’s book and in the course of reading, I highlighted the important points from both the books.
  2. After reading, I would solve the exercises at the end of chapter in Rita’s book (approx. 25 questions) and iZenbridge’s course (approx. 10 questions); and noted down my score.
  3. After completing the exercises, I used to read Shiv’s notes/blogs to summarize the chapter.

I followed this sequence for all the chapters and then solved the chapter wise exercises of 50 questions each from iZenbridge’s course and noted down my score.

Also Read: PMP Certification Exam: All-5 ‘Above Target’ In First Attempt – Rajkumar S, PMP

Progress through the second round

My average score for each exercise during first round of study was 70-75%.

In the course of studying and solving the exercises, I noted the gaps in my knowledge/understanding. Whenever I was not studying, or sitting idle, I would to go through the flash cards.

After completing each chapter as mentioned above I again went for a second iteration to go through the material.

But this time I only read PMBOK and Rita’s book, and tried to focus on the points that were marked/highlighted in the book and tried to fill the gaps identified through the first iteration. And again, I solved the chapter end exercises in Rita’s book and the course (both chapter end exercises of 10 questions and chapter wise exercise of approx. 50 questions).

During second iteration I started solving the Questions from Christopher Scordo, its knowledge area wise exercises (10 questions) and PMP Lite Mock exams (50 questions). I also solved the process group wise exercises from the course.

During the second iteration my average score improved to be around 80-85%.

I gained reasonable confidence after my second iteration and thought that I was ready for the mock tests. Thus I started with iZenbridge’s 5 full length-mock tests. I attempted 2 full-length mock tests from & scored around 80-85%.

After that I thought that I was too much comfortable with the language of iZenbridge questions. So signed up for free PMP short tests offered by pmexamsimulator, where I again scored more than 80%. This gave me assurance that I was ready to go for final showdown at Prometric centre.

One week before exam

I tried to skim through the processes that comes under each process groups and continued with PMP lite exercises from Christopher Scordo.

I only took two full length PMP mock tests during the last week, and focused on filling the gaps identified during study.

I also went through PMI lexicons given at the end of PMBOK.

Also, I attempted a free full length mock test from one of the online course providers (purposely not disclosing the name as it will not be ethical) which was very tough and I could only manage to score 73%.

On hindsight I feel that trying to attempt that test was a mistake as it hampered my confidence a bit and that’s the reason I focused more on revising the content in last week rather than attempting remaining paid mock tests.

Also Read: Short, Sweet, & a Bit Unconventional PMP Approach – Kalaveer M, PMP

Real Exam Experience

After studying hard, I thought that I was well placed to attempt all the 200 questions well within time, as I used to time the practice tests and generally was able to complete minimum 60 questions in one hour.

I almost took four breaks of 2-5 mins during the exam.

The habit of exam stress during my Engineering panned out for me here too.

I tried to keep myself calm and utilized the first 15 mins of exam tutorial to settle down. After attempting around 15-20 questions I was very much at ease.

Completing all the questions within 3 hours and 25 minutes, I then utilized rest of the time to review the marked questions. I could not complete all of them though.

Anyway, I was very happy to see the end result with ‘Above Target’ in all the process groups.

Also Read: Never-Say-Die Attitude Got Me PMP Certification (plus a treasure-trove of resources)– Mike Onuorah, PMP

My PMP exam tips for you

  • Read the PMBOK at least twice as each and every line in the PMBOK is important.
  • Do not try to memorize ITTOs, instead try to understand each process and Data Flow Diagrams of each process given in PMBOK.
  • I did not prepare notes of topics, but I will recommend to go for the Mind Map Technique as explained by Shiv in one of his books. It will help to understand/remember the ITTOs.
  • Read Rita’s book carefully – specially for the Quality Management, Human Resource Management, Risk Management, & Procurement Management.
  • Try to attempt minimum 3 mock tests. Do not try to attempt all the free tests available online on various websites. Instead, spend time filling the gaps identified during full length exams and short tests.
  • I found that the questions from iZenbridge course, Christopher Scordo and PM exam simulator were in line with the real exam in terms of language and level of difficulty. In case you wish to purchase the exam simulator, I would recommend to go for PM Exam Simulator.

In the end the journey was rewarding and got my PMP certification in the first attempt. That’s it from my side.


– Nikhil Kalekar, PMP

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