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

pmp exam tips mario buttnerHere’s my journey from initial decision to passing PMP exam on second attempt successfully, and few PMP exam tips that I hope will help any PMP aspirant.

I’d like to say that I am one of those that have passed the exam on the second try. I will tell you what went wrong and why I have to sit for the 200Q/4-hr trip a second time. This may help you avoid some of the mistakes yourselves.

The beginning

I learned about PMP the very first time from many PMP credential holders in my company. In 2014 my company offered us an internal certification program which all employees with a specific job role needed to take up. As I had done few projects in the past already (e.g. retrofits, SW updates/upgrades) after passing this internal certification successfully I came in touch with the PMBOK the first time.

I recognized that some of the material of our internal certification was mapped to the structure the PMBOK has as well. I began to take interest in the PMBOK guide and decided to find out what it is all about. I began reading – but to be honest it also started to be a bit boring.

I talked to my colleagues who already had passed the PMP exam for PMP exam tips and also which material they used to prepare for the exam. They recommended that I check out Rita’s PMP book. I bought the Rita’s Course in a Book for Passing the PMP Exam and must confess that this book was much more interesting to read than PMBOK.

Also Read:  How I Got 5 Proficient in PMP Exam With 2-Month Study Plan – by Saravanan Baskaran, PMP

My first attempt at PMP exam

It was the end of 2014 when I decided to be PMP certified. I started with the 35 contact hours, which I got by using the Skillsoft/Skillport PMP course – a web-based PMP preparation course. This course was provided free of charge by my company.

It took me about two months to fulfill 35 contact hours project management education requirement for PMP exam put forth by PMI. After this, I filled my PMP exam application.

Our son was 2.5 years at this time. It was really hard for me to balance my day-job, PMP study and the need to give him my time as this boy was one of those who thought he can live without sleep :-). After my PMP exam registration was done and the application was accepted by PMI, I continued to study and set the exam date to 28th September 2015.

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

Exam Prep Strategies

I did an audio recording of Rita’s book topic by topic to be able to listen to the material when traveling. This is something I would not do again as this was waste of time – I learned that only reading and recording and afterward listening did not help me in understanding anything.

I also read the PMBOK and translated buzzwords that I didn’t know. In between I stopped completely when my wife told me that she is pregnant and we will have a second child soon – it was March 2015. After some months have passed and during summer vacation I started to work with the material again as I knew my eligibility will expire end of September.

This point was July. I started to hurry as I had only three weeks vacation and since we were expecting our second child, it was hard to study as it was my turn to care of our boy as well. I meant to hurry because I thought I need to read the books again. Both, PMBOK and Rita’s book.

When August passed, I was at work again, and I had read the books the second time. I was able to write down all the Process Groups, Knowledge Areas and Processes from the famous process chart in PMBOK. I was also able to write down all the important formulas as well within 10 Minutes.

Exam date was approaching fast. I did the KA tests in Rita’s book and some of the ‘lite mocks’ (50 questions) from Scordo. I scored about 60%-65% there. I was very nervous and felt unprepared. Even the knowledge that I could write down the page 61 and the formulas did not calm me down.

During the exam, I was completely overwhelmed by the questions and the choices given. After the 4 hours passed I saw the failed message on the screen and I was very sad and disappointed.

My eligibility period was over and my self-confidence was down, but I knew deep inside that I will not give up.

During reflection, I understood where I went wrong, and which areas I should have focused more during the 4h exams. I decided to use this knowledge in my mock tests. I started to write my application again but did not with the study.

Also Read: PMP Certification: How I Earned It Without PMBOK – by Jackie W. Gibbs

How I passed PMP on second attempt

After a while and after having charged my batteries and with fresh motivation I started with Rita’s book again (third time) and with much more on understanding the concepts (not just reading anymore). After finishing the study of the book I did the chapter tests again where my score was 75%-85%.

At that point, I knew that a change happened in my brain and there was so much more clear to me and the study began to make a lot of fun. After the chapter tests, I did all of the exercises in the book.

Later on, I began to read the PMBOK again and don’t wonder … PMBOK was NOT boring anymore! I continued with mock questions and chose the new version of Scordo’s book. I took all of the ~1000 questions and scored about 75% there as well.

Also Read: How 2 friends cracked PMP together

Other study resources

Then I took full exam prep and watched videos from Izenbridge, PM PrepCast (review here), PMAspire, PMTraining (paid version) and also FASTrack cloud (paid version) some other online exams as well.

My overall score from all of those questions (~4000) on an average was 75%.

The exam date came closer and I knew I will pass. I realized that I know now a lot more as compared to the first try. I didn’t write down anything from page 61 or the formulas. After the real exam time was over I saw the ‘Congratulation‘ message on the screen and felt so happy that I wished to run out of the hall with a loud scream 🙂

The exam questions were really hard, the main problem for me was the given options. There were about 80% of the questions which had more than 2 options looking like the correct answer.

Also Read: A Non-traditional Approach to PMP Exam – by Krzysztof “Kris” Filipiuk, PMP, Bulgaria

PMP exam tips in a nutshell

I hope this description motivates others in a similar situation as mine. I mean it is really hard if you are having a family of a child and a newborn and you are managing PMP study with a full-time job. Balancing the needs of your work, of your family and your personal needs (which in my case was the target to be a PMP) can be seen as an art.

If I have to put my experience of passing PMP exam on 2nd attempt in a nutshell –

Study the material
+ understand the concepts
+ take a lot of preparation questions
+ check the wrong answers and understand why you picked the wrong one
+ be confident in yourself that you will pass
+ know that memorization will not help at all!

I wish all of the upcoming aspirants good luck, much fun with the material and all the best.


Mario Büttner, PMP (Germany)

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