PMP Paper Based Test Experience: Shishir Sankeesa, PMP

paper based test pbt test shishirShiv, I took my PMP PBT (Paper Based Test) and passed!

Thanks for your informative blog posts on PMP and specially “The Complete ‘Ace Your PMP® Exam’ Series: Essential PMP® Concepts Simplified” books that I had bought on Amazon and went through as a final revision to everything that I had learned for my PMP exam. The material is very useful and covered the concepts in a precise way!

pbt test shishirI took my PBT test (Paper Based Test) in my home city Pune, and came out with flying colors. I scored “Proficient” in 3 and “Moderately proficient” in 2 domains.

Exam experiences and advice of others really helped me gain insights into preparation for the exam. More importantly they helped me gauge where I stand and gave me confidence to take the exam head on without procrastinating any further (I had been planning for it for about 2 years!)

My approach to the exam was a little (or should I say a completely!) different. I hardly went with any structured planning, and I took mock exam route to study the content more.

I was a bit skeptical initially to sit for the exam, as I wasn’t sure if I could take time out from my work and manage to give time to my 2 year old child at home, and prepare for the exam. But I am glad I’m done and dusted with the exam now!

Here are few points about my preparation –

Initial hesitation

I am not really a fan of structured method of learning or preparation, so I was wondering if this is really my cup of tea, specially, if it requires dedicated preparation with a specific plan. But I was confident of clearing the exam after the sample test I took even before beginning my preparation. I scored around 60% in it without preparation. My Project management experience really helped for the exam.

Too many study resources

I found that there is overwhelming amount of material available on the Internet and plenty of books to distract us. It leads us to think what to prepare and in what sequence. I planned to lock down only 1 or 2 books and one online video course and ignore everything else because of paucity of time.

Time constraint

I should confess that I hardly prepared for 30-35 days, that too in an unstructured way. Whenever I found time I picked up some material to read, listened to podcasts while traveling.

My first book was “Head First PMP” – I picked it up from one of my colleagues last year when he gave his PMP. It was an easy read I used to read it once in a while earlier as well, to understand the Project Management terminology and concepts. This book gives an overview of all topics and was good on eye with pictures to explain the concepts, ITTOs etc. It wasn’t very comprehensive though, it doesn’t give in-depth explanations.

Though I had this book with me for a year, I read it thoroughly for the first time in 7-8 days for the exam, at the rate of one or two Knowledge areas a day.

I skipped PMBOK

I had made up my mind that I will not read PMBOK as it was too wordy for me! So my next book was by Rita Mulcahy. I went through the book completely and tried to understand the topics rather than remembering the ITTOs on the first go. This really helped. As I was reading adhoc, I couldn’t even make notes of any important points or concepts!

Took as many mock tests as possible

The most important thing to do for me was to give as many mock tests as possible. I took about 14 tests (all of them were free tests available online) including Oliver Lehman’s, Edwel, Simplilearn, Headfirst, PM Primer, TechFaq, ESI International etc.

I also attempted the topic wise questions in Rita and Head First. This was the only instance I referred to PMBOK to understand a particular topic & find correct answer to questions that I had got wrong. Mock exams brought a lot more clarity to my understanding of topics. It was very important to analyze the results of the mock scores to improve.

Also read: Lessons from Paper Based Test, Nadia Habsy, PMP

Don’t fall for this trap!

I realized that a few mock tests still had some questions based on PMBOK-4 based terminology and topics. This leads to lot of confusion. If you are going for free online mock tests please make sure they are updated for PMBOK-5. This is crucial.

My online course

I had picked up the online training course from Simplilearn (Shiv’s review here) to procure my 35 contact hour education certificate. I completed those videos in 3-4 days flat and got the 35 hr certificate. I should say that the training gave me just about 20% of the knowledge for the exam the rest 80% was from own preparation.

Fix a target exam date!

The first thing I did after that was to register for the PMI membership and schedule a date for the exam. I realized that I was delaying the exam only because I did not have a target date. Not to be this time. I had to attempt the Paper Based Test, because in Pune there is no option for Computer based test (CBT). Moreover the PBT test is a bit cheaper than CBT.

Paper Based Test Experience

I had a first look of all the questions and for no reason; I picked up attempting the paper from last question backwards. I felt that the questions were easier at the end (don’t know if it true for CBT as well). The standard of the questions was medium. Most questions tested understanding of the concepts rather than being straight Q&A type.

Only difference with Paper Based Test  and CBT that I found was that we were not given any pre-exam time to jot down a few points that come to mind on the blank paper, so I could not try brain dump strategy. Also note that, in Paper Based Test darkening answers with pencil for 200 questions takes about 5-10 minutes of extra time unlike in that of a CBT. You need to actually plan to complete the test under 3hr 45 mins or so.

I was able to complete the test bang on time, not even 5 second in advance. I was surprised as I had about 10-15 minutes of spare time in my mock tests always. The results of the PBT were out in about 10 days after the exam.

Also read: PMP Exam From PBT vs CBT Perspectives, by Lazard Toe

Less calculation based questions

I was good with the calculation based questions and was confident of scoring well on them but to my surprise there were very few (may be about 10 questions) calculation based questions in my exam! After all my mocks I ensured my weak areas were honed and silly mistakes like the “Which of these are NOT xyz” kind of questions are carefully read before marking the answers.

In summary

All in all, I want to say that for all those people who are similar to me, who cannot find enough time to prepare in a structured way or those still contemplating on whether to take the test now or later, the exam is NOT very tough.

Just understanding the concepts clearly and giving good no of mock tests should sail you through. So just take it on! The other side has greener pastures. All the Best!

Shishir Sankeesa, PMP

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