PMP Success Story: Incredible Achievement by Pitabas Sahoo, PMP
Today I’m super stoked to share an incredible PMP success story with you. Having achieved PMP at the young age of 64, Pitabas Sahoo has been one of the active students of our PM Exam Last Mile Prep program. Just goes on to prove that age is no bar for pursuing PMP!
Pitabas Sahoo holds a M.Tech. degree from IIT Kharagpur and has 33 years of rich experience in Project Management field in public and government sectors. Through 3 decades of his illustrious career Pitabas has left a legacy in Ship & Submarine Engineering industry.
His dedication to the project management discipline and PMP exam is unprecedented. In this interview Pitabas has laid down his approach, strategies and techniques in a detailed manner. This should guide anyone looking for a proven way to approach PMP exam towards their PMP goal quite easily.
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This is one of the thorough ones so take a pen and paper. With that, let us talk to Pitabas!
What made you take up PMP?
I have spent 33 years of my service career on various aspects of pre-project and Project management activities in the largest Ship & Submarine building company in India. During this time I used to interact directly with highly experienced & knowledgeable project management executives & many other key stakeholders of diverse fields.
Once during such interactions with some key stakeholders in 2014, I was enlightened about the importance & utility of PMP Certification.
Subsequently, after doing some research of my own I was convinced that PMP certification is globally recognized & highly valued in the industry.
Due work pressure and also my retirement being due, it was not possible for me to pursue the certification in the immediate future. Therefore, I planned to acquire this Certification post retirement. Based on my research into other PM certifications I did not consider any other certification exams.
What are some of the benefits you expect from PMP?
Having had project management experience in large, long-duration, high-value, and high-complexity projects all along my service period, I developed a natural passion for this profession. Therefore, the core benefit I expected from PMP Certification was that it would help me to gain recognition globally, supplement my experience & educational background qualitatively, enhance credibility, boost my confidence to take up more challenging assignments and to contribute effectively to the project management community.
Now that I have acquired the PMP Certification post my retirement, I see this helping me henceforth in the following areas during my current retired life:
- Adding to my ability, credibility & marketability to pursue suitable job opportunities.
- Progressive updation of knowledge-base on evolving project management profession.
- Being part of larger PM Community globally and networking.
- Learning, Contributing & Knowledge-sharing in various platforms.
Also read: How Niraj passed PMP on first try in just 4 weeks! This is another PMP success story you may find interesting.
Which study resources did you consider for the exam preparation?
I mainly used following study resources of latest edition for the exam preparation (apart from other references for some specific knowledge areas).
- PM Exam Last Mile Preparation Program by Shiv Shenoy via Simplified Education Systems
- PM Prep Cast Elite Video Lessons by Cornelius Fichtner via OSP International LLC
Practice Tests (Knowledge-Area wise)
- PMP Exam Preparation by Andrew Ramdayal
- PMP-Exam Prep book by Chistopher Scordo
- PMP Exam Prep. by Rita Mulcahy
Mock Tests (Syllabus as a whole)
- PM Exam Last Mile Prep Program Simulators by Shiv Shenoy (Simplified Education Systems)
- PM PrepCast Elite Simulators by Cornelius Fichtner (OSP International LLC)
- PMP Exam Prep. Book by Christopher Scordo
Also read: My hand-picked study resources suggestions (tons of free mock tests)
Yours is an amazing PMP success story. Can you share your approach to the exam along with your study plan?
I commenced my studies for PMP exam from August 2019 with full dedication & determination. I scheduled my exam in November 2019 for a test-slot in December 2019. My main study resource was PMBoK Guide. But before jumping into PMBoK Guide, I devoted some time to clear, fine-tune & strengthen my concepts and fundamentals by
- reading through above reference books
- next, going through the PM Exam Last Mile Prep Program & PM Prep Cast Elite
- and then referring to the blog PMExamSmartNotes.com by Shiv Shenoy.
I was able to devote 2 to 3 hrs daily during day time for study. Then every night I would spend 4 hrs (from 12.30 am to 4.30 am) when I would do Practice Tests and Mock Tests in a very silent environment without any disturbance.
It is crucial, in my view, that one develops daily study schedule. This also helps psychologically in making progress towards your PMP goal.
The steps of my study plan were as below –
- Going through the PMP Exam Syllabus thoroughly.
- Studying a particular Knowledge-area from reference books, referring to PMExamSmartNotes.com , listening to Video Lessons as said above and clearing concepts & strengthening fundamentals.
- Reading the same Knowledge-area from PMBoK Guide
- Analyzing the application aspects vis-à-vis my project management experience and identifying scope for improvement.
- Taking Practice Tests of the Knowledge area.
- After completion of practice tests of all the Knowledge areas, I practiced a number of 1-hour/2-hour/4-hour Mock Tests covering whole syllabus without any break. This helped to develop my endurance limit for the Real Test.
- I used to score between 85% to 95% in knowledge-area practice tests and between 75% to 85% full length 200-question four-hour mock tests. These scores were at first attempts only.
- I have solved around 3500 questions.
- On my own I did not create any notes nor any flash cards.
- I did not use any social platforms for learning.
That is simply incredible. Did you face any blockers?
The idea of acquiring PMP Certification germinated in me some time before my retirement. But time was the biggest constraint due to heavy pressure of my project work and long commute to office via crowded local trains in Mumbai.
Therefore I decided to pursue this certification post retirement.
Accordingly, during April 2016, I completed the 35 contact-hr project management training conducted by PMI-Mumbai Chapter on PMBoK (Fifth Edition) and continued my studies, but could not schedule my examination due to prioritization of family commitments.
Then PMBoK Fifth Edition became obsolete and Sixth Edition came into existence towards fourth quarter of 2017.
Since the fire of acquiring PMP Certification was burning in me due to my passion towards project management profession, I continued studying PMBoK Sixth Edition.
Once again I faced serious family problems to which I accorded priority and this was resolved in July 2019. But I used to keep in touch with PMBoK as & when time permitted during this period.
Then my study commenced with all seriousness, devotion, determination, commitment & motivation to the logical end result
by acquiring the PMP Certification as per my approach to the exam and study plan explained as above.
The week before the exam is crucial. What was your approach to study during this week?
My approach to study during the week before exam was as below.
I stopped studying anything new and in detail.
For the first 4 days, I took few 4-hour mock tests and SWOT analysis of self, identified areas for improvement, referred relevant chapters of study resources.
During 5th & 6th day, I revised ITTOs, mathematical Formulas, glossary.
I took complete rest on the day before the exam.
Can you share your exam experience?
- The test center was good, location was also okay.
- I entered the exam hall with full confidence & positivity without any fear or nervousness. Exam hall was quiet and without any disturbance. Staff support was good.
- The exam environment was very strict. I was told to deposit everything in the allotted locker including handkerchief & wristwatch. Even water bottle was not allowed.
- The exam coordinator guided my way to my test-seat & searched all my pockets inside out. Thereafter gave some tissue paper, calculator, erasable-ink pen & paper and told me to start the test.
- I took up the exam like any other without making a hype within me.
- Most of the exam questions were scenario-based and level of complexity was high. Calculation-based and direct questions were very few.
As far as answering the questions, I just followed a simple & tension-free strategy as below –
- Decided to answer all 200 questions starting from first till the last, without jumping any question and without bothering about the type of question & its complexity
- Set time limit of fifty minutes to answer fifty questions.
- Did not waste any time to go for brain-dump since the the contents were well retained in my memory.
- Maintained cool & calmness and did not allow anxiety to set in me.
- Did not take any break during the four-hour test. Sometimes only stretched my legs.
- Answered all 200 questions (including probably eight questions flagged for review) in 3 hour 40 minutes.
- Answered those eight flagged for review questions during remaining 20 minutes.
Then I waited for a few minutes for the result and saw the message on the screen, “Congratulations”!
Your dedication paid off! Any suggestions for test takers?
I’d like to suggest a few tips.
Follow a study methodology that best suits you.
Your study resources may be books, audio/video based learning or personalized coaching or any combination of these. PMBoK Guide is relevant to the exam and is a must-have resource. Do not go for too many books. Audio or Video based learning is good and more effective according to me.
Go through the PMP Exam syllabus thoroughly and plan your study accordingly.
Give equal importance to all five process groups since exam performance evaluation is done for each process group. Clear concepts & strengthen fundamentals from other reference PMP books/audio or video lessons before jumping into PMBoK Guide. Cramming does not help.
Devote time for regular & consistent study for reasonable number of hours daily.
During this study time make brief & easy-to-remember notes of your own, and also make use of social platforms for learning, if you can. Compare the best practices adopted in PMBoK to the practices followed by you in your organization in a particular knowledge-area & find out the variances and scope for improvement in your imagination while studying.
Attempt a lot of practice tests such as end-of-chapter tests after covering a particular chapter and mock tests after covering the whole syllabus.
Take at least five standard 4-hour full length 200-question mock tests out of which one should be based on only ITTOs questions. Post completion of test(s), do the SWOT analysis of your knowledge-base and improve upon weak areas. Answer scenario-based questions in the exam considering the relevant best practices adopted in PMBoK.
PMBoK always supersedes your experience-based knowledge if NOT based on such practice.
Do not spend more than one minute on an average to answer a question initially.
If you are not sure about the right response, then select the right one as per your intuition, flag the question for review and proceed to next. Do not flag too many questions for review since at the end, you may not get enough time left to attend.
Last but not the least, the title Project Management Professional (PMP) signifies professionalism to the core. Passing the exam and acquiring globally valued PMP certification is definitely the gateway to recognition by the project management community. But the real challenge lies ahead is how to enhance professional competence in the dynamic project management environment and to ensure that obsolescence does not lurk its ugly head.
This can be achieved only through continual updating & upgrading of knowledge, skills, tools & techniques and applying them to the project activities to meet project objectives. I wish to see your own PMP success story soon!
Best of Luck,
Pitabas Sahoo, PMP