4-Step Strategy For PMP Exam Study That Got Me Above Target Score – Sonali Hinge, PMP

Strategy for PMP exam is the first step, says Sonali, in this interview.As we sat for a chat, I wanted to find out about her strategy for PMP exam.

I asked her is there a single thing that made her score Above Target in all 3 domains.

“Consistency”, pat came the reply.

I had to agree.

Considering that the new exam added more study content (for Agile and Hybrid) without taking anything out of the earlier syllabus, getting a perfect score sure takes a systematic and methodical approach.

As we went over the questions, she shared a 4-step study approach.

This seemed very practical and doable; no wonder she got all 3 perfect Above Target score.

Sonali Hinge works as a Project Manager of Information Technology projects. When not dealing with project constraints, Sonali can be found involved in social service activities. She loves traveling and singing.

If you are aiming for that perfect score in your PMP exam, here is one way to do it.  

This is a detailed and step-by-step approach, with specific techniques that worked for Sonali, so be sure to get a pen and paper to take notes. You may come across a few points that resonate with you. 

Don’t miss her technique to answer questions quickly on the exam if you are running short of time.

Then stick the note at your study desk for handy reference.

In fact, there are a few hundred such ‘PMP lessons learned’ interview of successful PMP candidates that you can leverage here, if you wanted to use and come up with your own strategy for PMP exam preparation.

Back to our chat.

First off, why PMP?

PMP Sonali HingeI am a project manager by profession and want to become a good leader in my career. Hence, to understand the right ways of managing project work, and to refine my thoughts towards leadership, I figured that PMP could be the best platform.

Recently, PMI changed the syllabus and considered Agile and Hybrid approaches, in addition to Predictive.

I thought this is a great opportunity for a comprehensive learning of project management – best of both worlds.

Hence, instead of checking out any other certification exams, I chose PMP.

Now that you are PMP certified, what benefits do you expect?

When I had applied for PMP, the only expectation was to obtain the most trending certification in the market.

I was expecting that I may get valued more in market with these 3 letters in front of my name.

But, When I started my study, it forced me to change my all-materialistic expectations.

PMP taught me my most important lesson yet, that of the Servant Leadership.

I thought if I wanted to be a good leader, I must consider this perspective while managing work every day. I have learned a lot with every aspect of project life cycle management, and its value addition to organize overall project life cycle management process.

And after certification, I would like to say, I am working on becoming a better servant leader for my team and organization.

According to you, what is that one thing a PMP aspirant should possess to ace this exam?


Although it might take months (thanks to our tendency to procrastinate), if not years, to actually begin the preparation in all honesty, many such attempts tend to fizzle out.

There can be many reasons – a sudden new project, an unexpected production issue, unreasonable customer demands, or even personal reasons – that take higher priority over the PMP preparation.Shows the PMP certificate sonali achieved with 3 Above-Target score!

And we often lose track of the study.

The only solution that I found to get past this impediment is to be consistent in my study.

I studied every single day.

Even when all I could manage was just 15 minutes.

It all counts.

And this approach has helped me make consistent progress, till a point I remember, from where studies seemed to get easier by each passing day.

Also read:

Which study resources did you use for your preparation, and how did they help?

I have used a few (not too many!) for my preparation –

1. Rita Mulcahy’s PMP prep book, the 10th edition.

I thoroughly read this book.

It probably covers about 80% of the PMP syllabus.

It also helps to clearly understand the concepts and to analyze knowledge through the vast questionnaire at the end of each chapter.

I believe that if you could read each line of this book and then have at least one revision at the end of your study, you can surely achieve 60% in the exam (of course passing take more than this, but you get the idea).

I highlighted the key concepts and important definitions while you read this book, it helped me at the time of revision of this book.

Furthermore, I made sure to understand all the processes and sequence involved in 49 processes and knowledge areas.

2. Agile Practice Guide & PMBOK 6th edition.

You get both these in one single PDF file, for free, as a PMI member.

The exam covers 50% Predictive and 50% Agile and Hybrid approach, and these two books helped me cover 3rd Domain, that is, Business environment as well.

I recommend reading all the terms captured in these books (including the appendix) to understand agile terminology.

Because this will help you to better understand the concepts, and you can easily correlate the solution with the scenario mentioned in the question.

3. Other online platforms.

There are plenty of channels available on social media, which teach you various tips and tricks to solve the questions, to pass the exam in minimum duration.

I tried to follow a few that felt relevant and easily understandable.

I had enrolled for the Joseph Philips Udemy course for better understanding of concepts because it is easy to understand the things through videos rather than reading the book.

What was your study strategy for PMP exam?

>> Click the image to find how.

I followed a 4-step strategy for my PMP exam.

Step 1. Understand the scope of the exam.

I went over the PMP Exam Content Outline (ECO) from PMI official website and used the 3 domains as my study milestones. This way, I wanted to cover all the tasks mentioned in the ECO document.

Step 2. Collected the resources that covered this scope.

As I mentioned earlier, the 3 resources pretty much covered it.

Step 3. Prepare a daily study timetable and strictly followed the same.

Realizing that continuity is the key for preparation (as it kept me motivated during the preparation journey) I tried to make small improvement every single daily.

For this, I prepared a schedule for 1 hour of uninterrupted study on weekdays and 4 hours on Saturday and Sunday each.

Step 4. Practice mock tests.

This was essential to ensure I became familiar with the real exam experience.

With this I could train myself to manage time on the exam.

In addition, I prepared a proper error log after every practice test. This was useful to understand knowledge-gaps and sharpen my concepts.

In short, your strategy for PMP exam should be comprehensive and something that you are comfortable following. Once you understand the scope of the exam, choose study resources, create a study plan, and top it with mock tests to prepare for the real test.

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Any trouble along the way?

The main issue for working professionals is finding time for preparation every single day.

That’s a challenge.

The alternate I considered was to study over the whole of the weekend. Quickly I realized that I lost interest as it became difficult to recall what I studied a week ago, and this impacted the continuity also.

So, I was back to studying every single day.

To make this simpler, I prepared 2 different timetables: one for the study on weekdays and one for the weekend study.

For weekdays, I planned small chapters and concepts, for example, Earned Value Management, Communication Management, Critical Path Method etc.

These could be learned in one-hour slots, and it gave me the feeling of covering many thing on weekdays – 5 concepts in 5 working days done.

One more challenge was sustaining interest for study at the end of a long day.

Hence, I chose to study by watching videos during weekdays (which is easy on brain), and used books to study during the weekends.

Basically, we can find our own way to overcome the challenges occurred in preparation, but at the end our goal should be to maintain continuity and dedication to the study.

That’s smart! How did you study in the week before your exam?

Ah, the golden week.

My exam was scheduled on a Saturday and I took the week off from work. So I got 7 days of absolute study time before the exam.

I made it a point to not take any mock tests during this time.

The focus was on the error log that I had prepared after every mock exam, to concentrate on my knowledge-gaps and fill them with some focused study.

I also revised Rita’s book for one entire day to brush up most important terms that I had highlighted during my first round of reading.

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What was your exam experience?

I feel nervous before every exam. ?

With PMP, there was the pressure of sitting for 4 long hours in front of the camera, with someone monitoring from close distance. I thought this would be a hard experience.

But surprisingly, once the exam began, my mind was occupied with nothing apart from the questions and available options. ?

The exam has 3 sections of 60 questions each, with an optional break in between.

My approach was to give myself 80-80-70 mins for each section.

I took both the breaks.

And I suggest everyone the same.

It gives us a chance to take a deep breath, stretch, eat/drink moderately and make yourself comfortable and ready for the next section.

My exam questions were lengthy, so the highlighter option available in the tool was handy.

Whenever I could not recall the concept in the question clearly, I tried the elimination technique to arrive at the answer.

Unanswered questions are marked as incorrect, so I made sure to not leave any of the questions unanswered.

You can mark the question for review and move to the next question if you feel it is taking too much time. And you can revisit that question. And before marking it for review, I made sure to choose the most likely option.

It will save your time at the end during the review.

I had prepared myself for a situation in case I was running out of time: choose the best possible options using few key terms instead of reading all question and complete sentences of all 4 options.

Let me explain with an example.

Look through the last part of the question, many times the question has the actual question there.

What do you do as a servant leader?” sorts.

The options started with few standards terms like Escalate, Handover, Coordinate, Meet etc. I had already studied that Servant leader never escalate first, instead coordinate and discuss the points o resolve the issue. That way, it is easy to choose the correct option instead of reading through the whole question.

Again, I’d recommend using this approach only if there is lack of time.

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Would you have any study tips for those preparing for their PMP exam?

A few, based on my experience.

  • Try to understand the concepts instead of memorizing it. It will help you to solve scenario-based questions almost intuitively.
  • Do the exam preparation thinking like a project manager. Think like a project manager, plan your study schedule, prepare error logs (to identify knowledge-gaps), fill up the gaps and increase the quality of understanding every day.
  • Prepare sheets of ITTOs, formulas, and concepts such as characteristics of Servant Leadership, and paste where you sit daily. So that you can see these sheets daily, and it will fix in your mind perfectly.
  • It is very useful to understand the sequence of activities in Knowledge areas. This knowledge along might help you solve few questions easily.
  • Finally, make sure you understand the entire scope and come up with a study strategy for PMP exam. It could be something I shared, or what other people used, or your own.

I must say this. More than just aiming to pass this exam, every aspirant should earn PMP by immersing themselves in the preparation.

That means to say that we must utilize this study opportunity to truly internalize the concepts. So we are automatically a better equipped project managers when we pass the exam.

That is time well spent, with long-term returns.

My best wishes to PMP aspirants,

Sonali Hinge, PMP


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