Cut PMP Preparation Time By Half With Well-Planned Study – Madhusmita M, PMP

PMP preparation time can be reduced by 50% by being strategic, says Madhusmita after passing it with 3 Above Target“You can cut PMP preparation time by half, simply by being strategic about the preparation approach you take”, says Madhusmita Mohapatra. 

She should know because she passed it with Above Target score recently.

She had interesting experiences along the way. For instance,

What would you do if, during the online PMP exam, you lose internet connectivity?

It can get a bit crazy, the uncertainties of the exam. 🙂

Madhusmita Mohapatra works as a Capability manager in a Health Services and Innovation company. With over 13 years of IT leadership experience, she owns the strategic program management functions.

She loves cycling, reading novels, and writing articles.

In this no-holds-barred interview, Madhusmita shares the exact strategies and tactics she used to get all 3 Above Target score. 

Simply follow the ones that resonate with you, and fast-track your study.

Get a pen and paper, and a cup of hot freshly brewed coffee (or your fav bev), let’s get started.

What made you take up PMP?

pmp above target madhusmitaOver the years, I did certifications in Agile, design thinking, and Cloud technology.

A change in my role, from Engineering manager to Capability manager, added new business scenarios and challenges. I realized that PMP would outline all aspects of project management that are necessary to do a better job in my new role.

The rigorous PMP preparation phase itself is a transformational journey. This has brought loads of changes in my leadership style, strategical mindset, and stakeholder management outlook.

According to you, what is the one thing a PMP aspirant should have/do/use, to prepare well and pass the exam?

I would say, a strategic approach.

For instance, one of the strategies I followed is to treat PMP exam preparation itself as a project.

Accordingly, I developed my preparation roadmap and delivery milestones.

This approach certainly made me feel that PMP is an additional project I am handling, rather than something outside of my work responsibility for which I have to carve out time.

I realized that just by being mindful and strategic we can cut down PMP preparation time by as much as 50%. For each of the hurdles along the way, I applied certain strategies to get past them.PMP preparation time above target madhusmita

What is the core benefit did you get as PMP certified professional?

PMP certification establishes credibility about our project management skills. The core benefit I consider is the change in my perspective and skill set as a leader, in addition to being an effective project manager.

I notice myself being mindful of the must-have practices and principles while strategizing and planning for the projects.

I also have learned a better approach to monitoring and controlling the associated risks in my job.

With the newfound confidence, I look forward to taking up challenging leadership roles and opportunities.

Also read:

Which study resources did you use for your exam preparation?

Actually, even before I made serious efforts, and before taking the PMI membership itself, I did some casual preparation –

What was your approach and study plan?

pmp prep time 3 AT I prepared my own study notes by noting down key points and examples while going through the content.

I maintained consistency in creating and following a weekly study plan.

To make study personal to me, I prepared my own flashcards, formula sheets and slowly steadily I started covering more topics day by day.

I had a chart in front of me: showing the weightage of each domain and the expected number of questions from those domains. So, prioritized building the fundamental concept on each domain.

The weekly study target was equally divided covering each domain.

Taking mock tests helped me to clarify my doubts and boosted my time management skill and confidence.

Can you share any issues/blockers you faced along the way, and how did you overcome them?

1. It was difficult to recall what I studied.

Initially, I tried to remember everything and eventually landed up forgetting everything. It’s like an aimless start and found it more difficult.

“At this rate, the PMP preparation time would hit through the roof”, I thought.

Then I went through certain blogs and noted down the tips, suggestions. One of which was to take time to understand the subject rather than trying to remember.

This was like ‘slowing down to go fast’, if you know what I mean. Once you understand a concept, you don’t have to study it multiple times!

Lesson learned: Do not study to ‘remember’, study to ‘understand’.

2. It was hard to make consistent progress.

One week I would cover a lot, but the next week nothing.

So I came up with weekly study targets.

Also, I started fresh with PMBOK each chapter and prepared notes from “project manager’s perspective”.

What’s the role, what is suggested, what kind of obstacles you will face, what must be your approach, which tool/diagram must be used so on and so forth. I developed a deep understanding this way, and then it got easy to achieve the week-wise study targets.

Lesson learned: Keep weekly targets and hit them by learning.

3. Mock test scores were less.

I began taking mock tests after completing one round of study. Initial mock test scores were not so encouraging, which made me anxious.

Analyzing the answers to these questions helped me understand how to narrow down to the best two options and then map the right choice.

Then the scores started to improve and stayed consistent. This gave me the confidence to plan for a tentative exam date.

Lessons learned: Study the answers of questions you got wrong and plug the gaps.

The week before the exam is crucial. How did you spend this week?

I took the entire week off from work to avoid any work interference and to sharpen my focus.

First, I revisited the mistakes I did in the mock tests I took earlier. This helped me understand why did I choose the wrong answers, and how should I have deduced the correct answers.

Next, I took a couple of full-length mock tests.

During these, I focused on narrowing down to the best two options as quickly as possible.

Sitting for 4 hours straight helped me in time management, especially keeping certain time blocked for reviewing the answers in between.

Finally, I revised the content using my flashcards, formula sheets, key points, and notes. I had groomed these for the preparation day and I put more emphasis on them.

In addition, I covered the agile practice guide fully.

To top it, I made sure to get proper sleep every night, avoiding any late-night preparation this week.

Can you share your exam experience?

A week before the exam day, I downloaded the setup software i.e., OnVUE, installed, tested on my system, and check-in process. I referred to the exam guidelines as received through the email from PearsonVUE.

On the day of my exam, I was at my desk 30 minutes before the scheduled time.

The Invigilator/proctor joined and asked me to show around the room (front, back, sides) with the webcam of the laptop. I completed this, and finally, he asked me to keep my mobile and passport at a distance.

The exam began on time.

During the exam, I got disconnected once due to an internet glitch and I immediately informed the proctor. I got immediate support from them and then continued smoothly.

Though this made me a bit nervous, I tried to keep myself calm till I resumed the exam.

Whenever I was unclear about the answer, I flagged the questions. I ended reviewing the answers to 20 questions in a row.

Out of the 2 optional breaks, I opted for just one and resumed back in about 8 minutes.

I completed my exam 15 minutes ahead of time.

After the submission, it felt like an eternity till the result flashed on the exam. 🙂 I as soon as I saw the congratulations message I was elated with joy.

PMI has recently begun introducing questions from the PMBOK 7th version. Did you come across such questions?

I found a few questions from PMBOK 7th edition on the exam, but maximum coverage was from the PMBOK 6th edition only.


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Would you like to share any specific study tips, advice, techniques, or strategies for those preparing for their PMP exam?

Applying the agile mindset to PMP preparation makes it easy to deal with the uncertainties that crop up.

What do I mean by this?

To start with, you may choose to do studies a certain way, but along the way, if you come across a better method of study, be open to giving it a go. It might save a lot of time and effort.

Implementing the learning in our project is another way of reducing PMP preparation time.

Focus on PMP study guidelines and develop your understanding by implementing the lessons learned in different responsibilities like during strategizing, planning, negotiating, budgeting, etc.

Implementing guidelines will help you spontaneously answer the scenario-based questions and score Above Target results in all domains.

In a nutshell,

  • I suggest going through the introduction of each knowledge area from PMBOK and then using some mind mapping based training like PM Exam Last mile prep
  • Focus on the linkage of ITTOs – there is no need to memorize them.
  • Practice the chapter-wise mock questions.
  • Last 10 days, use summary sheets like the knowledge capsules and formula sheets & identify the areas where you are unable to recall and apply the concepts.
  • Practice as many full-length mock tests as you comfortably can. But never hurry through them. These help you manage time on the exam.
  • The day before the exam, sleep early and make yourself comfortable, calm, and be ready for the exam.

In Summary,

My PMP prep journey was long and rigorous, in the end, gave me the best results.

Looking back, I cherish funny moments like these.

I used to sleep on my flashcards and find them scattered all over the place in the morning.

I would count the pending days on the calendar at my desk.

I would literally keep my fingers crossed while having tea.

Practicing deep breathing yoga became a daily routine.

I would keep my status as “Do not disturb” whenever I found little break time during office hours, and study.

Finally, I’d like to suggest this: take time to plan for PMP preparation, upfront. This will definitely save to a lot of actual PMP preparation time.

I wish all the exam participants the best of luck!

Madhusmita Mohapatra, PMP

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