After 4 months of hard work, I reached my goal in achieving PMP® certification! It was my mission to fulfill my dream. Having achieved this, I am now putting the same zeal into finding a suitable job for myself to make a career as a Project Manager. Right off the bat, I must emphasize that PMP® mock tests were most crucial part of my PMP® prep.
In this article I am going to share everything that helped me achieve my PMP® credential. Hope this helps certification aspirants.
PMP success factor
In my view PMP® was not possible without certain support groups.
I am very grateful to God, my family, my mentor Vidyesh Alve, (PMP, PRINCE2), my association with PMESN platform, WinningPMPlan WhatsApp group, ‘I want to be a PMP’ LinkedIn group and friends for their blessings and continuous support during my 2nd attempt.
I didn’t have a PMP® friend circle with whom I could discuss my queries. This group was my study support circle, Here, each question and the discussions around it helped as knowledge enhancement and motivation factor for me. I was free to ask any type of silly questions too.
The globalization of PMP® certification and the availability of the specialized courses offered me a chance to enhance my knowledge.
PMP® Lessons Learned
Based on my analysis and exam prep experience, here is a 6-step PMP plan.
- Analyze yourself
- Freeze your top study resources
- Make-Own study strategy
- Fix your exam date
- Practice a boatload of mock tests
- Be calm on the D-day
Let me briefly explain how each of these steps work.
Step 1: Analyze yourself
The very first question to ask is, “What is my learning Style?”
People have different styles of learning when it comes to studying difficult concepts.
Some enjoy Visual Learning aids – videos, graphical pictures like Data Flow Diagram (you’ll find this after each process in PMBOK), Mind Maps etc.
Some enjoy auditory learning aids – Listening podcast or any audio recordings.
Few others are fond of immersive, read/write learning. Reading from books, preparing the notes etc. Few may even have a preference between printed books versus e-books.
Knowing which type of study style you enjoy will help you a great deal.
This was one of the major mistakes I committed during my first attempt. I started reading from a digital copy of books but later realized that I should have stuck to my old habit of reading from a physical book to speed up my study process.
Analyze yourself and stick to your learning style; after all every individual is different, so is their learning style.
How much time you can dedicate every day?
It is most important to study in a consistent manner. Analyze your daily routine and adapt.
You may not necessarily get 3-4 study hours at a stretch. If you are getting 15 min during your lunch time then also its acceptable. In those 15, you can listen to podcasts or see videos on a selected subject or topics or attend a small mock test.
I wanted to maintain study momentum, so I made it a point to spend at least an hour every day.
Quality time is important. I remember Julia Carney’s lines (from her poem, Little Things), “Little drops of water make the mighty ocean”.
Are you a late-night learner or an early morning person?
Everyone feels most productive during a certain time of the day. If you are not sure, study in the early morning for one week, and late night the next week – see which one feels easier and more productive. Then stick to that routine.
How badly do you need PMP Certification?
The more is your hunger, the more easy you will find overcoming obstacles. You will actually enjoy the study time. I had made up my mind to get PMP cert at any cost, there was no plan-B for me. This actually made me maintain focus on studies. I found it easier to ward off distractions by reminding myself how badly I wanted to pass PMP exam.
Step 2: Freeze your study resources
Simply do a Google search for ‘PMP study material’ and you’ll find a zillion. It is easy to get overwhelmed and not make any progress at all. Even if you started with the first resources you come across, soon you may hear about something else and pick that up.. – a classic recipe for disaster.
That’s why it’s better to freeze the resources first, then start the study. For this, you need to dedicate some time for research. Look at top study resources that successful PMP® students have used and choose the ones that you think are most useful based on your liking.
Sometimes we collect too many books, mock tests and notes but finally refer hardly to a few of them but get pressurized with the untouched lot.
I believe PMBOK is the skeleton and Rita Mulcahy’s Book worked as a filler to it, so both the books proved equally important to me.
Identify and then stick with limited but top-notch resources.
Step 3: Make-Own study strategy
I referred the following books to make my own study strategy because you are the better judge of yourself.
- “WINNNING PLAN FOR PMP® – A roadmap to pass the exam”, written by Vidhi Raj and Vidyesh Alve
- The Complete ‘Ace Your PMP® Exam’ Series Product Version 1.2 Shiv Shenoy, PMP
- Let me be your PMP guide Program by Markus Klein, projectmanagement.plus
- ‘PMP Lessons Learned’ articles published on PMESN site.
My study Strategy
I followed PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) principle in implementing my study plan.
The check part is most important. During the study, my situation kept changing, and study requirement changed as well. So I had to be flexible to change.
Revise your plan as per the situation.
This is how I went about my PMP study –
1: Study one Knowledge Area (KA) at a time
- Rita Mulcahy – Overview
- Rita Mulcahy – Thorough study by highlighting important points
I started taking knowledge area wise mock test a day after I completed each KA. This helped me make surea that I answered questions based on understanding and not my ability to remember.
This approach also helped me identify any gaps in my understanding.
2: PMBOK – Thorough study by highlighting important points
The Data Flow Diagram given in PMBOK is a great resource to understand the in & out of every process and to understand how each process integrates with others.
3: Revise Process-groups wise
I read Rita as well as PMBOK in parallel. In Rita’s book PMBOK reference page number is given for each heading making it easy to correlate.
I added a twist to help me remember the processes better – I correlated theories to my real-world project management experience to understand the project management processes and to make concept stronger.
Short term planning is required to achieve long term goal. Small achievements will keep you motivated.
Step 4: Schedule your exam date
By understanding your learning style and then deciding on how much time you can spend and have your study strategy, you will know how much time it will require to complete your preparations for the exam.
The fact is, you may never feel completely prepared. 🙂
An important thing is also knowing your reading pace. Analyze that part and based on your daily schedule keep 2-4 weeks for mock tests, final preparation – and fix your exam dates.
The day you fix your exam date, your preparation will automatically shift gears! There is always an option to postpone or cancel so don’t postpone this important step for any reason.
Step 5: Take boat-loads of PMP® mock tests
I cannot emphasize enough the fact that PMP® mock tests are crucial for exam success.
I practiced around 2500-3000 questions.
You may feel a different number of questions as sufficient. The number may not matter as much as the quality of questions you attempt.
A premium PMP® exam simulator is better because it is kept up-to-date for the latest variations of the ream exam.
I referred the following:
- Free PMP® simulator by Cornelius
- Paid simulator by PMTraining
- Free mock test from ExamCentral.com
- Rita’s chapter-end mock tests
- Free mock test from PMStudy.com
Practice more mock exams specially the 4 hours ones and do so preferably in the same time slot as your actual exam. That will simulate the environment to tune your body cycle to it.
Time management has a major role in getting the PMP® certification. Give at least 4-5 PMP® mock exams to boost your confidence.
Review the result of each test and see both the correct and incorrect answers to understand the approach of getting the answers by either elimination method or keyword finding. Also try to find the reason behind the answer selected by you.
Step 6: Last stage preparation & the D-day
I referred only to the mind maps and Data Flow Diagram for review before exam instead of going through the complete book.
The formula brain dump part that I had prepared came in handy as I practiced writing it down within 3 minutes for the exam.
I attempted 5 full length mock test in last week of exam and evaluated the result.
Being calm and composed on the actual exam day helped me to navigate the 4 hours in a confident manner. The “Pass” result was not just my efforts of the final 4 hours but 4 months of intense focus and perseverance that finally paid off.
I wish all aspirants best results for your efforts and hope my above experiences will help you in meeting your PMP® goal.
Here’s something that helped me throughout my PMP® prep journey –
When you try to achieve something big, there will be bigger challenges and hurdles. You need to focus on your goal, march ahead by crossing one by one hurdles. Dream big, act as if it is your necessity, your need, your life. Your dream will come true.
If you need any help, feel free to reach me on LinkedIn.
Smita Mishra, PMP
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