Balachandhiran Sankaran considers himself to be an ‘eternal novice’ and avid learner of the ‘Art of the possible’.
I personally think he can write a book with that title!.
Also, that tells me his outlook toward learning. I don’t find it surprising that he’s constantly learning new things. That includes writing poems and blog posts to share his wisdom.
He has been on multiple certification sprees, and in between managed to ace his PMP exam too.
I interviewed Bala, as I used to call him on our weekly coaching calls, to get you his blueprint for PMP success.
One of his responses that stuck with me is how he got a PM lesson from a personal hardship during the PMP preparation.
Needless to say, he got all the 3 Above Target score.
Let’s hear from him.
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What made you take up PMP certification?
I am an Agility explorer.
I wanted to explore more about the Project Manager’s world to understand and serve them better.
What was the core benefit you expected from PMP certification?
My expectation was to understand the plan-driven approach to deepen my knowledge helpful for successful Agile Transformation.
Now, I am certified and it will definitely bring a systemic approach to building a learning organization.
According to you, what is the one thing a PMP aspirant should have, to prepare well and pass the exam?
PMP is nothing but “Practicing (PMI)Mindset Perfectly!”
Practice as many questions (using the right sources) from simulators based on ECO (Exam Content Outline) to cultivate that mindset.
Which study resources did you use for your exam preparation?
I chose 4 of the best.
- Shiv’s PM Exam LastMile program
- EduHubspot mentor program
- Andrew Ramdayal’s Udemy course and simulator
- Prepcast simulator (get 20% off with coupon SIM20OFF – Shiv)
Want Shiv to support your PMP preparation on a daily basis for FREE?
Join these 2 study groups I run for you. You get different content on both groups every day!
What was your approach and study plan?
One thing I was clear about is getting help from mentors. And I signed up with Shiv Shenoy (as part of the Last Mile program) and EduHubSpot.
One simple strategy I used is to study daily.
The daily study routine does not make you feel like PMP preparation is an add-on thing. In about a week or so, it feels like part of your daily routine.
Then it becomes easier to vary the daily study duration and still maintain study momentum.
Next, exam simulators were essential to get a dry run of the actual exam. And of course to identify where my weak areas are.
I would recommend selecting good ones though and staying away from free ones that may not be updated from PMBOK-5 days.
I solved about 10-15 mock exams.
Can you talk about any issues/blockers you faced?
Earlier, I had planned to appear for my exam with a 2-week lead time. But then I realized that was a stringent timeline.
Plan to have enough time for study, and then at least 2 weeks to practice mock tests.
The challenge is not writing the mock test but reflecting on the way how we understand and answer the questions. Thus you must be ready to dedicate about 6-7hrs for each 4-hr mock test.
During my preparation, my dad was hospitalized, and it was really a challenging time for me to manage my personal and professional commitments.
Then, I realized that the role of a great PM is how he manages the constraints effectively to realize his/her dreams!
Thank you for taking up PMP Last Mile program. Could you share how this helped?
Whenever I was hijacked by inner negative emotions, my conversation with Shiv was the savior!
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The week before the exam is crucial. How did you prepare during this week?
I was fully focused on practicing mock exams.
How was your exam experience?
It was a wonderful and thrilling experience.
All questions are situation-based and whatever PM terms we studied in the PMBOK guide or other references, were mentioned differently in the exam.
If we don’t have a thorough understanding of the concepts, we would be deluded by the wrong options.
Did you come across any questions from PMBOK 7th version?
I did not get any questions from the PMBOK 7th version.
Would you like to share any specific study advice for those preparing for their PMP exam?
1. Get the right mentors
Mentors can save you a lot of time and avoid frustration. They know the possible issues you can face and either help you avoid them, or help you get out of the situation if you encounter any.
For the mentorship, if you can set a cadence of talking at regular intervals (like once a week), then that arrangement will also act as an Accountability Partner, and help you pace your progress well.
2. Study consistently in a sustainable manner
PMP exam preparation usually takes several weeks (at the best), to several months. There is a lot of content to study as well.
It makes ample sense to study with a plan. This allows you to even have weekly study scope.
Such an approach helps you study consistently, almost making it a part of your daily routine.
In my view, that is the best way to approach the PMP exam, and not like a mood-based activity done in spurts.
3. Cultivate the PMI Mindset
Here is a secret you must know: PMI thinks in absolute terms. If there is a problem on a project, there is one way to get out of it. The ideal way.
Inculcate the ideal way of dealing with project problems. That is what helps you on the exam.
4. Practice as many questions as possible
This is a crucial aspect of the study.
Just learning the content is not enough (hint: work experience is one of the eligibility criteria for the PMP exam!). You should be able to apply the concepts.
This is why the exam is full of situational questions.
To get a good hold of this, you must practice with simulators.
Using the simulator will also help you pace your exam, to answer all 180 questions within the stipulated time of 230 minutes.
5. Learn Agile well
As I am from Agile background, it became very easy for me to answer Agile and Adaptive based questions.
If you are not from Agile background, please get the essence of the Scrum framework and other Agile principles.
I hope my experience helps someone.
All the best to all PMP aspirants,
Balachandhiran Sankaran, PMP