PMP Study Strategy: Test-First Approach For Faster Learning – Sebastian Lauhof, PMP

PMP studsy strategy I discovered after mock test shock is to take test first, and t hen fill the gaps, says Sebastian. It must help, because he scored Above Target score!“Test-first approach as a PMP study strategy, which I discovered after my first mock test shock, was key in accelerating my preparation”, says Sebastian, “and the other ingredient has to be ‘Mindset’ for me”.

We were chatting after Sebastian came off with flying colors, scoring a perfect all-3 Above-Target score on his PMP exam.

Sebastian Lauhof is from Hanover (Metropolitan Area Hanover-Braunschweig-Göttingen-Wolfsburg) and currently lives with his family near Oslo, Norway. He loves nature and when not tackling project management challenges, one can find him skiing, hiking, swimming, or cycling.

I asked if he can share how he did it.

When we concluded the interview, I had no doubts about how invaluable his insights are going to be for PMP aspirants.

Sebastian has overall 10 years of rich project management experience. A constant learner, he is passionate to establish and optimize new processes in project management and also helping others achieve PMP.

Here are the excerpts of the interview (don’t miss his 3 core strategies).

What made you take up PMP?

PMP - Sebastian LauhofMy main motivation is to constantly upgrade my skills as a project manager.

I see 2 ways of doing this.

One way is through my work as a project manager, which as I think may not expose one to all the aspects of project management, and the other way is to take up comprehensive certification exams.

When it comes to a thorough learning experience, none match PMP certification by PMI. While one of the hardest,  it is one of the most recognized project management certifications across industries.

I have discovered that just the preparation itself has been such a transformative experience for me. It not only gave me the confidence of facing the exam, but it also made me become a better project manager.

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How do you see PMP helping you henceforth, now that you are certified?

The greatest benefits of PMP certification through PMI are the career opportunities, and access to a worldwide community on the topic of project management.

In my experience, these result in countless opportunities to exchange ideas and constantly expand one’s knowledge.

Which study resources did you use for your exam preparation?

I began researching PMP about a year and a half earlier.

As a PMI member, I used the PMBOK guide as my primary study resource.

The problem with the PMBOK guide is that it is too theoretical and does not reflect the character of a real project. For the 35 contact hours, I chose the Udemy course by Joseph Phillips, which is directly oriented to the PMBOK and offers a great opportunity to deepen the knowledge.

In the course, there are also some practice questions that I enjoyed. For the final exam preparation, I got myself Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep as the exam simulator to use.

Can you share how did you approach the preparation?

I scored just 55% on my first exam simulation.

After some research, this led me to a different approach to the questions. This happened mainly through YouTube videos and the PMP Exam Master Prep book.

The approach to internalize the Earned Value formulas, re-approaching each question, understanding the situation, and really understanding the question gave me the confidence I needed.

I started with the Udemy course by Joseph Phillips. For the next 3 months, I did some intensive reading.

After a short break due to a move, I refined my PMP study strategy.

I took the test-first strategy and began answering 30 – 60 exam questions every day and based on what I could not answer, I would study for 1-2 hours.

In the final phase of the preparation, I took 3 simulations exams and studied the processes, and understood their ITTOs.

The week before the exam is crucial. What was your approach to study during this week?

I did not stress myself in the final week.

I ensured to get enough sleep, kept told myself that with the type of project management experience I have had and the preparation I can do this!

For those 7 days, I went through 100 exam questions a day and worked on my weaknesses.

What was your exam experience like?

I took my exam at a test center. Before entering the exam room, I had to register, get biometric identification, and turn in my personal belongings.

I found the exam to be on par with the exam simulations I took. However, in my opinion, the answer options are clearer, I don’t want to say easier, but clearer.

The first 10-20 questions took me some time to get into a rhythm. Give yourself time, once set you’ll be able to tread faster.

After the first 60 questions, the 10-minute break option was given. I took this break after I checked all my answers again.

Then I proceeded to answer the remaining 120 questions without a break because I was really in the flow. I had no problems with the time limit.

For me it was the right decision to take the exam in an exam center, the environment also helps you to focus on the exam.

You talked about PMP study strategy. What are the 3 most important tips to prepare well?

I think the main ingredient for succeeding with PMP is: Mindset.

The fact that we have had real project management experience and supplemented that with the deep and mindful study of exam content makes us well-prepared for the exam. We just need to believe that we can do it, and do not doubt our ability to clear the exam.

You may have to keep reminding yourself of this fact, which I found very useful.

Right mindset really matters.

The second aspect of the study is ‘to think like the project manager’.

As project managers, we come across many challenging situations, and how we respond there has an impact on the outcome. Similarly, on the exam, with the situational questions, we are put into situations that make us think like the project manager.

Thus, the best way to learn for the exam is to think like a project manager while studying every process.

In a way, you will enjoy the exam playing the role of a project manager.

The third aspect, I would say is, using simulators.

4 hours on the exam tests, not just your knowledge and thinking capability of a project manager, but also your ability to focus intently for 4 hours and answer questions at a rate of about a minute per question.

You will be answering questions in 10 knowledge areas, so you’ll be switching contexts constantly.

To be able to do this on the exam takes practice, and there is nothing better than a good exam simulator. Make sure you invest in good study material and a simulator.

Take the new PMP® exam mock tests created according to PMI’s recommended reference materials, % question distribution, and new question types. Get the best tool to implement test-first PMP study strategy for accelerated learning.

PMP simulator for the new PMP exam 2021 @Udemy (discount price)

These are SO helpful. Any tips for taking the exam itself?

In terms of few tactics for the exam, these are my suggestions –

  • As you take mock tests, work out your own approach to managing time on the actual exam
  • Initial few questions might feel like a drag – don’t stress yourself, that’s the time you need to get into a rhythm
  • Opt for the break only if you feel like you need it on the exam, if you are in the flow it might be useful to just continue
  • Although you can mark questions for review, mark those that you really need to review – else review time will eat away your exam time
  • When you have to mark a question for review, make sure to choose one of the options. This will help if you run out of time.
  • Do not leave ANY question unanswered, there are no negative marks.

I trust that you will find my experience useful for you. Using these, you can also create your own overall PMP study strategy.

Good luck!

Sebastian Lauhof, PMP


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