Tips for PMP Exam from a Globetrotting Project Manager – Kristie Marcelle, PMP

tips-for-pmp-exam-kristie-marcelleGetting tips for PMP exam from experienced PMPs is one of the best ways of preparing for the exam. In this post Kristie Marcelle shares the exact steps she took to pass the PMP exam after failing on her first attempt. You don’t want to miss her insights and some cool study tips.

Kristie lives in Chicago, Illinois and serves as a Project Manager for a large national Healthcare company, managing pediatric quality improvement projects across the United States. In her free time she loves to travel abroad, and she describes herself as an amateur photographer with an etsy shop on the side showcasing photographs from her travel around the globe.

How did you decide on PMP exam?

Kristie Marcelle-pmpIt was rather a slow process of thinking about pursuing my PMP.

It was more of a long-term strategy as I plan to move in the next 3 years to an area where job opportunities are more limited, so I thought having a PMP would give me an advantage at that point.

Which study resources did you use?

My primary study materials included Joseph Phillips Udemy full course, along with Udemy mock exams.

I watched some of Ricardo Vargas YouTube videos, and used Shiv’s facebook study group to answer questions/review answers.

I did a daily brain dump writing out the knowledge/process map. In addition, I reviewed ITTOs and tasks in each process.

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How did you approach the exam and what was your study plan?

Overall, my study plan was 6 weeks of intensive studying with 3 hours daily during the week and 6-8 hours over the weekend.

Note – I studied much more during my first test attempt (which I failed). I took the “Work Smarter, Not Harder” mentality to heart.

I studied fewer hours, but made sure they were quality hours.

  • First, I did SWOT analysis to identify my areas of weakness and spent more time on those identified areas. I spent equal time developing strategies to address my test stamina and overall test stress since that really seemed to be a barrier during my first exam.
  • Also, I completed Joseph Phillips “homework assignments” which I found really helpful with the harder concepts (and all of the quizzes).
  • Plus, I created a 17-page study guide as I went through the course and studied it daily

Can you please tell our readers about some of the issues you faced during your PMP journey, and how did you overcome them.


It’s not fun, but it gets better after that test day I promise!

In fact, I was even more determined to try and pass and it made the celebration even more joyful knowing just how much you have worked and earned it.

When I failed my first test, I took a month off (went to Paris for vacation) and then got back into it and developed a new study approach (with new materials).

In hindsight, I realized I tried to study everything without fully grasping all the concepts/terms.

I also let my test stress take over during the exam and that contributed to me not passing. I “marked” lots of questions to review but then ran out of time.

When I took the test the second time, I did a relaxing activity the night before.

I had an 8am test time at a testing center about 40 mins away and I live in a major city (Chicago), so I stayed at a hotel near the test site so I only had to drive 10 minutes.

After a good night’s sleep I eat a good breakfast during which I reviewed my study guide one last time.

I had asked for a quiet room away from the elevator and mentioned I had a big test the next morning. When I woke up I had a “Good Luck On Your Test” card slipped under my door from hotel staff . I took that as a good sign!

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How did you prepare in the week prior to the exam?

I ramped up the number of hours I studied the week prior to the exam. And I did a study blitz the weekend before the exam where I studied 30 hours.

Then I re-watched Joseph Phillips course topics that I struggled with the most, reviewed the Q&A section from other students, and did his “Blitz Review” 2 days before the exam.

Also, I re-listened to the lectures in the car during my work commute (2 hours a day) the week prior, during my lunch break, or in the evening listening to it in the background at home.

Yes, people insist on mock tests, and I only did one full mock exam a week before the exam. The following six days I did a daily 100 question exam and reviewed the answers that same day.

I focused more on understanding the concepts and terms relating to EAC and network diagramming and less time memorizing formulas/forward backward pass and that definitely paid off for me. I felt confident answering all the network schedule questions.

As far as formula questions are concerned, I only had one question requiring me to compute a formula and it needed a standard formula.

What was your exam experience like?

PMI recently moved from Prometric to Pearson testing sites so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Overall, it was a more positive experience – the staff were so nice!

I was able to get a hand calculator, ear plugs, and they gave me a laminated set of sheets (plenty of paper) with a marker.

One important change: During my first exam at Prometric I was able to highlight key words in the question and strike out answers. Pearson did not have this feature and it stressed me out at first, so I wish I had known that change in advance.

The test was just as hard as the second time around, no repeat questions.

Yoga breathing really helped me stay calm.

I took a minute break every 50 questions and stretched in my seat.

Halfway through I took a quick bathroom and water break. I

suggest doing your best on confidently answering each question as you go through the exam, and only “marking” questions that are really stumping you.

On both exams, I had less than 10 minutes left after I answered all the questions, so keep in mind you won’t have a lot of time to “review” even though many of the prep classes suggest this strategy. I “marked” about 15 questions and when I went back I only changed one answer.

Go into the exam knowing there will be two answer options that make sense and then dissect the two options to find the “best” answer.

Also read: How PMP helped me excel as a tech project manager – find loads of tips for PMP exam!

Any tips for PMP exam you’d like to share?

Everyone’s PMP journey is different but I would suggest making sure you understand the concepts and terms.

  • Don’t memorize ITTO’s.
  • I drew a process map at the beginning of the exam and I visualized where I was in the process during each question.
  • Manage your test taking strategy as much as you study the test materials.
  • If possible, use more than one source of mock exams. I found one company had very easy questions and the other company were often more difficult than actual exam questions.
  • Lastly, don’t be discouraged if your mock exams aren’t over 80% (my mock exam average was around 76% but I still managed to be “above target” in two domains and “at target” with the rest).

One of the crucial tips for PMP exam I can give is to be confident and believe that you can do this!

Good Luck!

Kristie Marcelle, PMP

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