My Top Tips To Pass PMP® Exam – Sandra Jones, PMP

Top tips to pass PMP exam - by Sandra Jones, PMP“Gimme some tips to pass PMP® exam”, is the most often asked question of me. With over 250 successful PMPs sharing their experience on this blog, the common thread behind the PMP® exam is clearly – the steely determination to get it done. No matter what.

In this week’s ‘PMP® Lessons Learned’ article Sandra Jones shares her PMP® journey. Sandra is from Grenada in the Caribbean. She has served within the Ministry of Finance as a Project Officer before moving to St. Lucia for a work assignment at the OECS Commission. Presently she works for the local Telecommunication Regulatory Commission managing Internet and Broadband related projects.

Sandra is a student of my PMP® program and in this interview she shares the exact steps she took to prepare well, along with top tips to pass PMP exam.

Why PMP®?

I started off as a Project Officer in 2006, I pursued and attained a Master’s Degree in Project Management 2 years later. As I held more demanding positions throughout the years, I knew I had to get certified as market demand kept changing.

After an exam failure, cold feet and life getting in the way, a few years later I took up my studies again with the goal of passing the PMP® before the exam changed for good.

Now that I am PMP® certified, I expect that this will help me stand out as a professional in the industry having other qualifications and experience. I believe with the qualification I will be able to take up more opportunities and gain improvement throughout my career.

Which study resources did you use for the exam preparation?

I used the PMBOK Guide, Rita’s Book, attended face to face classes, but eventually along with the books I went totally online using Dan Ryan’s live classes and Shiv Shenoy’s PM Exam Last Mile Prep Program.

I also utilized a PMP EXAM: Quick Reference Guide for ‘on the go’ study.

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

In hindsight, on my first attempt I started off directionless. 🙂

My studies were sporadic and clearly I didn’t understand the number of hours of work needed to pursue this certification.

In my final attempt I signed up with at least 2 PMP® groups where invaluable insights have been shared.

Just prior to the exam and right after application and payment I tried to do at least one knowledge area per week, using Rita’s book & Shiv Shenoy’s Last Mile Prep – paying close attention to the chapters, Knowledge Capsules, videos and end of section questions/quizzes.

I also used PMBOK Guide mainly as a reference for glossary of terms etc.

In the last few weeks before exam I also started using the exam simulator and practice exams within the Last Mile prep course.

You may be interested in: Insightful tips to pass PMP® exam shared by a former Air Force Sergeant

You have been part of PM Exam ‘Last Mile‘ prep program (thank you!). Could you please share how it helped you?

The PM Exam Last Mile prep program’s greatest feature is its personal interaction with students.

I enjoyed the videos and played them over and over at different speeds to thoroughly grasp the concepts.

The opportunity to have consultation calls with Shiv along with his helpful materials online gave me the confidence to push on. I also felt like Shiv was my accountability buddy and I couldn’t let him down and needed to pass!

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

I had numerous ‘starts and stops’ study attempts, the thing I learnt about the PMP® preparation is that once you start studying you must continue to push on! Otherwise, the material becomes stale in mind.

As the popular saying goes, Life Happens! Well, this was the main reason for most of my false starts. Throughout the years apart from cold feet, I experienced personal issues including financial and medical and death in my family.

I am also a single mom, with a ten-year-old boy and also a demanding job. This meant my time had to be juggled between, my son, work and house matters. My best time for study was from 2 am every day.

I overcame all these huddles with the determination to get certified.

Also read: Peter’s complete detailed analysis and strategy to take up and ace PMP exam!

That is very inspiring Sandra, thank you for sharing. Can you please tell us about your preparation in the week before the exam?

The week before the exam I devoted many more hours of preparation on a daily basis. I attempted the exam on December 21st 2020 and failed.

Desperate and confused I contacted Shiv Shenoy, my mentor, with a cry for help having only a few more days to attempt the exam.

Shiv advised that I do have time to attempt again and that this time I should look at the gap areas especially for the 3 domains where I ranked Target, Below Target and Needs Improvement. He also advised on getting the Cornelius Fichtner’s PMP® exam simulator.

I had been doubtful till then as to whether I should attempt the exam again, I then started trying to reapply with PMI from December 24th and was not successful with the transaction. In a couple of days I got an email from PMI giving the option to retake the exam.

I quickly paid the exam fee and scheduled it in the same test center to be taken on December 30th. By this time, I only had 3 days!!

I buried myself in study literally, made arrangement for everything else. I used PMBOK for quick review of gap areas and did about two full mock exams with the simulator, making sure to go through the explanation of every wrong answer.

Also, I also did focus mock exams based on Process Groups.

I then went on to give me exam and passed! ?

What was your exam experience like?

The test center was quite comfortable and I also made sure to visit the center days before the exam. The staff was kind.

The questions were mainly situational, with only about two math related questions, surprisingly a few Agile related ones but didn’t find them too complex.

However, I somehow found the clock moving faster after the 10-minute break. This could have just been my imagination! I failed then.

I stared at the congratulatory message on the screen for about 2 minutes wondering if I got pranked!!

On my second attempt I knew exactly what to expect, I felt more prepared and slept more hours the night before the exam day.

I stepped into the exam with an almost killer instinct, I realized the 10 min break starts at 89 mins into the exam so by then I completed about 100 questions.

In the second half I breezed through the questions and had about 30 mins to recheck. Overall I only had about 5 questions marked for review.

I also noticed that the questions were very similar to the ones on Cornelius’ Simulator!

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Would you have any study tips to pass PMP® Exam to help the aspirants?

As I say my case is so out of the ordinary, its almost like a ‘please don’t try at home’ scenario. Anyway, here are few I’d like to share

  • I would advise any student to please align themselves with a good mentor and coach like Shiv.
  • Ask questions and seek advice as you go along. The PMBOK is boring and difficult but it’s a must read, as some concepts are discussed in-depth in the guide.
  • I found the online class and group interactions more valuable as in my case I was forced to attend night classes from home.
  • The Last Mile prep and Rita’s book are great resources, especially the Last Mile course’s mind-map based videos.
  • Students should create a realistic study plan and period and must stick to it as much as life would allow them.
  • Very importantly, practicing questions are key! Mock exams from simulator is necessary to overcome gap areas and build confidence.

The main ingredient needed is – the determination to get certified!

Good luck!

Sandra Jones, PMP


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