My Back-of-the-Napkin PMP Study Plan: by Naveen Ramya, PMP

pmp plan napkin naveen ramya

Shiv, I took and passed my PMP exam recently here in Abu Dhabi. Here are few points I would like to share with PMP aspirants, hoping that thy will be able to find something that works for them.

This is short but I try and cover every aspect of my PMP exam preparation.

I started with Rita’s prep book, which seemed to be too much of verbiage and not my style of study. Though I had an exam date on the calendar I was completely lost, not knowing where to start & what study materials to consider.

This is when I browsed to find blogs of people passing PMP within 2 weeks and 10 days in (the PeMmESoN blog), and subscribed for the Shiv Shenoy’s free course 11 day PMP Study Blueprint.

Soon I sent a mail to Shiv asking for some guidance. We had a friendly email exchanges back and forth on the best way to prepare for the exam. He sent me a plan short and to-the-point, this is what I followed religiously… except for the 4 hr mock test :-).

This worked for me, so feel free to use in your exam preparation.

My back-of-the-napkin PMP study plan

This is what I got –

Milestone based study plan –

  1. round-1 end-to-end study
  2. complete 4hr mock test #1
  3. round-2 end-to-end study
  4. complete 4hr mock test #2
  5. ethics and professional responsibility
  6. glossary
  7. complete 4hr mock test #3
  8. study revision notes
  9. take remaining mock tests

Last week before the exam take off from work and dedicate for –

  1. revision – self-notes, mindmaps, mnemonics, braindump
  2. mock tests, identify gaps and focus on them

Recommended end-to-end study strategy –

  • take one KA and go across your shortlisted study resources, studying just this KA
  • make notes as you study
  • take mock test specific to this KA
  • identify gap areas, study more of those

Also Read: Payel Basu’s insider tips to pass PMP exam

In order to make this work, I chose the following study resources

This is a mix of free and paid resources that I chose based in order to get the best return on investment.

  1. PMBOK guide (you get for free by being PMI member)
  2. Shiv Shenoy’s PM EXAM SMARTNOTES (has notes, study tips, resources, and an opportunity to learn from other PMPs’ exam experience)
  3. PMP ‘Last Mile’ Prep Pro course
  4. Dan Ryan’s PM exam course
  5. PM PrepCast Simulator – free trial for the free simulation tests
  6. PM Study Circle ‘PMP question Bank’ – 400 questions
  7. Oliver Lehmann’s online test [this and more on this page]

Challenge, there was just one

Lack of time.

I’m sure you identify with this. The need to balance PMP study with work, family, and social obligations.

Due to the tight work schedule &the household chores, I could manage to devote my fullest only during weekends.

I saw this as a risk that may materialize as the exam approached, hence I came up with a risk mitigation plan. 🙂

I took off from work during the last week and completely immersed into the preparation.

Also Read: Anthony Di Benedetto shows why this old school technique works for PMP prep

Here is what I did in that week

In my perspective, the last week is the most crucial time of the preparation. By this time I had already completed one round of study, as advised by Shiv, in all the study materials mentioned above.

Last week study plan followed;

  • First I ensured to learn the terms and explanations in the PMBOK glossary
  • Then I did my first mock test on Oliver Lehmann’s site (online) and scored 68%
  • After going through another round of study for the next 2 days, I started doing the 50 questions mock tests in PMP Exam Prep Pro: Ace the ‘Last Mile’. Was glad to see the improvement in the scores.
  • Next I spent one full day & focused on formulas, problems & key concepts; using one of the modules (Complete PMP Formula Guide) from Shiv’s PMP Last Mile course & then the PMP Cheat Sheet from it.
  • I then used Dan Ryan’s ITTO explorer to have a comprehensive view of the KAs in conjunction with the PGs.
  • During the last 3 days I took the above mentioned mock tests (max of 100 questions only); PM Prep Cast, PM study circle, where the scores on an average were above 80%. Unfortunately, I could never spare continuous of 4 hours for a simulation of the real exam.
  • The day before the exam, I spent completely memorizing of the mnemonics, formulas and the exam cheat sheet (all from Shiv’s ‘Last Mile’ course)

My exam day!

My exam was in the second half of the day and reached almost an hour earlier.

I followed the exact same ‘exam strategy’ from Shiv’s ‘Last Mile’ course. There were not many formula based questions (maybe 4 to 5) and in fact I completed all the questions almost 40 minutes earlier!

Then I took a break of 5 minutes and resumed. I reviewed my answers for about 20 minutes and submitted with almost 15+ minutes left.

There were the survey questions while answering which I was quite nervous.

And then came the much awaited word “Congratulations!”

Also Read: Radha Krishna shares the best time to book your exam slot with Prometric


I hope my PMP exam preparation will help you to whatever extent possible, to study for your own exam.

If I have to summarize the whole strategy, here it goes –

  • shortlist the study books/course/simulator you wish to use – this is important step to avoid feeling lost later
  • prepare yourself a study plan, but be open to refine it as per the situations faced at work or otherwise
  • never allow yourself to lose study momentum, spend whatever time possible on days you are super busy – even 15 minutes will help
  • have faith in yourself, even if things feel not going anywhere. You can do this.
  • last week before the exam is crucial – try to cut off distractions, and if possible take off from work like I did. What you do in week can have a large influence on the outcome of the exam

I wish you good luck,

Naveen Ramya, PMP

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