PMP Mindset & Strategy Key for Success: Kelly Heyrman, PMP

PMP mindset and strategy is key to pass PMP says kelly“To succeed, PMP mindset and Strategy are key”, said Kelly when I asked about how she did it.

Kelly Heyrman moved to Chicago about 7 years ago from Malaysia to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Health. She worked in Continuous Improvement area and managed projects for almost 3 years before she decided to take up PMP.

In her free time, Kelly enjoys baking and painting. She loves going on long walks and thinking about stuff. 

What made you take up PMP?

pmp kelly heyrmanI became CAPM certified 5 years ago and had worked in project management for almost 3 years.

Instead of renewing the CAPM certificate, which was of little importance compared to PMP, I decided to take a leap and pursue PMP. Also, the fact that with CAPM I didn’t need 35-hr contact education cert for PMP, helped.

Initially I thought I should take PMI-ACP because of its higher relevance and applicability. I even started reading some materials.

But eventually I changed my mind because PMP is more widely known, and it’s better to take a certificate that more people are familiar with.

Plus, the comprehensive knowledge it provides about all aspects of project management is unmatched.

Now that I am PMP certified, I feel great about the confidence I have gained to manage any project in any domain, of any complexity.

More importantly, with the addition of Agile elements in the PMP, I believe I gain more transferable knowledge than a very strict PM approach that’s more common in industries such as construction.

It’s a win-win.

Learn from other PMP toppers: 

According to you, what’s most critical for PMP success?

Mock tests. Definitely.

I have realized that taking a lot of practice test questions and,

  • spending time to really understand what the questions are asking for and
  • understanding clearly why a selected answer IS the answer key to succeed.

What is important to understand in approaching questions is that it’s a combination of PMP mindset and strategy.

What I mean by this is:

While reading the question, you put yourself in the shoes of a project manager. And while going through the answer options, think how would PMI expect you to answer.

Usually, any extremes are not likely to be the answer.

For example,

  • Options that contain words like ‘must’, ‘only’ are not likely the answer.
  • Options that suggest extremes such as closing the project, refusing something to the customer, going to sponsor with a problem – are not likely the answer.

At the same time, options that indicate inclusiveness, collaboration, decisiveness of the project manager are likely to be the answer.

Now, these are not written in stone, so use these as guidelines. The context of the question typically helps you zero in on the correct answer.

In short, think like a PM and think how PMI would like the answer to be.

Which study resources did you use, and how exactly PMP mindset helped?

Not sure if my advice here is going to be relevant to others, but I didn’t use as many study resources as many others out there.

What helped me, I believe, was that I was CAPM certified before, so I already understood the concepts of PM and ITTO in general.

I got the Head First PMP book (the only PM book available in the small public library near me) and just read it from front to back for refresher. After that, I began to take a lot of mock exams.

Also, I bought the PM Prepcast simulator, and made 100% use of over 2100 questions in there.

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I took every single test in this simulator. The scores were borderline passing rate, but I tried to keep a positive attitude. This probably made the actual exam feel simpler.

Next, I went on to Udemy and purchased mock exams by Andrew Ramdayal at and took all the questions there as well.

Every time after I finished the exam, I went back to review the answers within 24 hours.

I kept a mental note of the types of questions I typically got wrong and tried to identify a theme and a mindset on how to approach them next time.

Something like “if they ask for this, look for X, Y, Z in the situation. If info XYZ exists, consider A, if not look into B. Something for consideration include O, P, Q” and such.

I really believe that, like any situation in life or exam, mindset is key.

It’s hard to know or remember everything, learning how to troubleshoot or approach the problem is key.

Also read:

What was your approach and study plan?

I took the exam with a 2-week lead time. During that time, I studied every single night because I also had a full-time job. Some days I was up till midnight.

This is how I approached my study in this 2-week period:

  • I started with Head First PMP, reading from front to back and then took PMP PrepCast simulator exams.
  • I continued to focus on taking mock exams (PrepCast simulator and Udemy) on a daily basis.
  • Also, I kept going back to review all the questions and answers – especially the ones I got wrong.

On the days before the exam, I also watched a few PMP videos on YouTube.

In one of the videos, Andrew talked about PMP mindset, and I wanted to validate mine as well. Most of it aligned, so I found that helpful in boosting my morale and confidence.

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Can you talk about any issues you faced along the way?

Yes, the biggest one was definitely my own limiting belief.

Admittedly, I didn’t feel like I had the energy, patience, and time to drag it out.

The later I took the exam, the more I might end up procrastinating. In fact, I first decided that I should sign up for PMP months ago, but I got lazy and didn’t sign up until much later.

That’s why I decided to challenge myself and chose a timeline which was shorter than I actually felt ready for. Giving myself just 2 weeks was the healthy pressure I needed to go at it with all the seriousness and energy I could muster.

The night before my exam, I couldn’t sleep well because I was so worried that I might fail.

I had to constantly rewire my brain to make me have more faith in myself. Same for the exam day. Staying positive is key.

What did the real exam feel like?

I took the exam in a test center and tried to stay positive.

The morning of the exam, I took a walk to keep my mind fresh and positive. Also, just walked back and forth outside the exam building for 30 minutes.

When I went into the exam room, I felt calmer.

I utilized every tool available on the screen. I highlighted key concepts, scratched out the irrelevant answers, and really tried to decipher what the questions were getting at and focused.

As time went on, I felt calmer because I felt like the system worked pretty well.

Initially, I planned on taking a break at Question #60 and Question #120 (these are only 2 occasions where a break is offered), but I ended up skipping the first break and only took the second one.

I think to take any exam or do anything, it’s very important that we know ourselves. If we feel that we’re on a roll, just keep going, and it’s not necessary that we need to take a break.

How about Agile questions?

I think it’s important to add that there were a lot of agile questions in the actual exam.

I know that the PMI prescribed 50% agile and 50% predictive questions, but it felt like there were quite a bit agile.

For people who don’t have prior experience in agile, the book that I heard is really good is Agile Practice Exam.

This book is also part of the PMBOK soft copy that you get to download as PMI member.

Personally, I did not read it. As mentioned before, I thought I might go for PMI-ACP, so I started reading articles and watching videos about agile before to gain understanding. My previous work also followed a little bit of agile, so that helped.

Any specific tips?

Like I mentioned earlier:

  • work on developing PMP mindset,
  • take a lot of practice questions, and
  • really seek to understand the concepts, instead of trying to memorize and remember everything.

Hope that helps.

Good luck for PMP students,

Kelly Heyrman, PMP


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