PMP Without PMBOK: Simple Strategy I Used To Certify In Just 4 Weeks – Ryan Bird, PMP

5yr PMP planning realized in 4 weeks without PMBOK, says RyanPMP Without PMBOK: Simple Strategy I Used To Certify In Just 4 Weeks – Ryan Bird, PMP

“The first time I was going to take the exam, work was picking up in Europe for me.

I thought, ‘oh this will be great, I’ll just read on the flight.’

I took the PMBOK with me and started reading as we were taking off. Hours later I woke up in Amsterdam.

After the layover, I thought, ‘ok well, I’ll get an hour in before getting to Warsaw.’


On my return flights, it was the same story.

I read maybe 20 pages total on 2 transatlantic flights.

I did not have a coach for the exam and thought that reading the PMBOK would be the answer. After that trip, I set the PMP aside for 5 years and never took the exam. I was using the PMBOK and company-provided resources to prepare back then.

Looking back, a coach would have made a world of difference for me.

Fast forward 5 years to actually testing, I did not read a page of the PMBOK to prepare for the exam.

Coaching saved me a considerable amount of time and energy.”

Says Ryan Bird.

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And if you’re thinking that he did it without PMBOK and with the help of a coach, you should also know that it took him just 4 weeks.

Ryan is from Cincinnati, Ohio. He’s spent a decade and a half handling projects. He’s a Program Manager at a Fortune 100 Telecom company in the US, handling projects worth $60M a year.

When not working, Ryan is busy mentoring younger employees and coaching his kids’ sports teams.

What made you take up PMP?

PMP Above Target, Ryan BirdI was working for General Electric and PMP certification was being promoted within our PMO.

I had already been certified as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt several years prior.

Therefore, PMP certification seemed like the natural next step for me.

What’s the core benefit you expected from PMP certification?

My original expectation of the PMP certification was that I would have a slight edge for promotion over similar candidates that did not.

I think having the PMP certification serves as a credential booster.

What’s the single most important quality a PMP student should have?

The right Mindset.

I think a lot of people go into the exam with an incorrect mindset; the project management world promotes that the exam is the most difficult undertaking in the world. It’s not.

Consider this.

Those that are taking the test have been managing projects for years, with that being the case I guarantee you have had a project go sideways. An out-of-control project is much worse than taking the PMP exam.

You need to get your head straight if you are doubting yourself.

Write out your prior victories.

Focus on your prior successes; this is going to be another to add to the list.

Start speaking that you are passing the exam. If your mind is focused on the positive it works a lot better.

Before I would start studying every day, I would tell myself this: ‘I am going to pass this exam on the first try and I am putting in the work to make that happen now’.

Before going in to take the exam I spoke about my expectations as well.


Grab my free PMP course to supercharge your PMP study!

Which study resources did you use?

I used Aileen Ellis’s program.

She focuses on an overall strategy of coming to the correct answer along with the background knowledge required.

I used PMI’s Agile Practice Guide and Kenneth Rubin’s Essential Scrum.

I read the practice guide and used Essential Scrum to support areas I was struggling with around Aileen’s practice questions.

In my first attempt at preparing for PMP exam, I did not have a coach. And I thought that reading the PMBOK would be the answer.

After the struggle, I set the PMP aside for 5 years and never took the exam.

Looking back, a coach would have made a world of difference for me.

Fast forward 5 years to actually testing, I did not read a page of the PMBOK to prepare for the exam.

PMP without PMBOK, that’s a relief for many PMP students! What was your study approach?

About a year ago I got that nagging feeling of “I started this and I’m going to finish”.

I spoke to a few colleagues about what had worked for them in obtaining the PMP.

Then I made the decision to buy Aileen’s program.

She billed month to month so in my genius, I signed up to take the test a day before my next billing.

I then reverse-engineered a study plan on what needed to be done each night according to her modules.

My plan required about 3 hours of study each night and I did that for 4 weeks up until the exam.

My study hours were with absolutely no disturbance of any kind, including phone. This is important to get the most out of your study efforts.

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That’s brilliant! Did you face any blockers?

I am a dad with three young kids. So time is always in short supply, as you can imagine. 🙂

Studying when they were awake was simply not going to happen.

I had to focus my time after their bedtime on reading and taking practice exams.

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

The week before the exam I took multiple full-length practice exams. I think it really helped with my actual exam endurance.

After each mock test, I reviewed the answers to those questions I missed or answered incorrectly.

As I was studying, I kept a log of my scores for each chapter review.

I went back and retook any that had been less than a 70%.

The day before the exam I did not look at any materials, enjoyed time with my family, and went to bed early.

My time was better spent resting than trying to cram any more information in my head.

On test day, I reached the test center 30 minutes early and then checked in 15 minutes prior to starting the exam.

How was your exam experience?

I opted to take the exam at a testing center.

I recommend knowing the testing center requirements prior to test day; for me, I had to wear a mask on throughout.

During the exam, I didn’t panic although there were a few tougher questions.

If you don’t know an answer, take your best guess and move on. It’s one question it won’t make or break you. If you get anxious that can harm you on future questions.

Expect there to be a few questions that you don’t have any idea about.

You need a passing score, not a perfect score.

Mentally preparing ahead allows you to not get upset when you see them.

What about the breaks?

The breaks were vital to me as they allowed me to gauge my time and take my eyes away from the screen.

Another trick is to break up your time into 3 chunks and allow 10 or 15 minutes extra for the final section.

This will keep you moving at a solid pace to finish within time; you’ll probably be moving slower by the end of the test and the buffer will help.

Would you like to share any specific study tips, advice, or techniques?

I know many people don’t enjoy PMBOK and think that PMP without PMBOK is not possible.

That’s not true. If you know the best way for you to study (such as a video-based course or a coach) and do it that way, you do not need PMBOK.

  1. Make a study plan and then set a date you are going to take it.
  2. Commit to your date and pay for the test.
  3. You’ll work harder when there is a drop-dead date and something to lose.
  4. I recommend having a coach or instructor to bounce questions off of as you are studying and use up-to-date materials.

Good luck!

Ryan Bird, PMP

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