If You Aren’t Using Simulator Your Exam Might Be At Risk – Juan Carlos, PMP

use pmp simulator derisk exam juan carlos pmpOnce the exam started, oh boy… the true terror began!

I read my first question, and remembered thinking to myself “wow, I don’t know the answer, this is nothing like the simulators”.

The same happened for the second question, the third one, fourth, fifth, and so on…

By the time I was around question 30 I thought to myself that I had already lost the exam, and everything I did was just a waste of time, I was completely demoralized.

Someone that began their exam this way, ended up scoring Above Target on all the domains.

Wouldn’t you want to understand exactly how they did it?

That, and more, you will be able to get in this week’s PMP Lessons Learned interview.

Juan Carlos is from Guatemala City. With a master’s degree in Project Management and a Bachelor’s degree in System Engineering and Computer Science, Juan works as an IT Project Manager. He loves binge-watching web-series, apart from enjoying movies in theater.

Because he loves teaching, Juan also contributes as a teaching assistant. One of his goals is to teach at his university on Project Management.

Juan is a PMP topper, he scored Above Target in all the domains, and shares how he did it, this week.

Don’t miss reading his exam experience. Gave me goosebumps.

What made you take up PMP?

pmpJuanCarlosI enrolled myself in a master’s degree program here in Guatemala.

To be able to graduate, one of the requirements is to get one of four certifications: CAPM / PMP by the PMI, or IPMA D / IPMA C by IPMA.

I knew since the very beginning, before enrolling myself, that I wanted to be a PMP, and it didn’t matter to me that it was the hardest certification of my options. That was my primary reason for taking up PMP.

What was your core expectation from this exam?

I wanted a formal project management training.

I knew I needed a proper set of guidelines and tools under my belt.

Now being a PMP certified professional, it helps me boost my career by having something tangible that shows my experience as a project manager. It also has given me the necessarily tools for me to take right decisions based on the project situation, and on how to approach it.

I also feel comfortable walking into a project that requires a waterfall, agile, or hybrid approach.

Also read:

According to you, what is the one thing a PMP aspirant should have/do/use, to prepare well and pass the exam?


I can’t stress this enough.

You MUST have at least two different simulators to prepare well.

Other than that, you need to have the correct mindset. You need to think that you will pass the exam, that’s the only thing that you really need to think about, there is no space for a negative or pessimistic mindset.

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

I read two different exam preparation books, did two different mockup tests in an Excel file, and used two different simulators from different websites, all of these in my native language (Spanish).

Book 1 (Spanish)

  • Director de Proyectos Cómo aprobar el examen PMP sin morir en el intento
  • Author: Pablo Lledó

Book 2  (Spanish)

  • Tool Book 2021 Keaton Training Projects Ver. 5.0
  • Author: Rafael Alberto Veloza Quintero (The 2nd book is not an official published book, it’s just a workbook with a compilations / summary of the PMBOK 6th edition)

Book 3 / mockup test (English)

  • Advanced Level PMP Mock Questions: PMP Certification Exam Simulator covering Predictive, Agile, and Hybrid approaches
  • Author: Yassine Tounsi

Besides that, I also used 3 mockup tests written in English.

Studying in both languages helped me a lot to understand certain concepts much better, and having tests with detailed explanations to each answer was for me the best way to learn.

Use these recommended simulator to pass your PMP exam –

What was your approach and study plan?

First, I started studying only Saturdays and Sundays, around 10 hours each day for 4 weeks.

After a month of studying, I dedicated time each day of the week to take simulator (mock tests).

I started with quick 20 questions simulations, then 50, and then 180 or 200 depending on the simulator I was using.

Any challenges along the way?

The biggest issue that I had was consistency.

After I finished my first month of preparation where I studied all the theory necessary, I had a time gap when I didn’t do anything, after a couple of months I retook my preparation process and I started directly to simulate.

There are multiple reasons on to why I stopped: my job, my personal relationships, some projects I was working on, among other things.

In the end, I realized I was using everything else that was happening on my life as an excuse to postpone my studying sessions for no reason.

So once I decided to focus again I got back in track and didn’t stop until I got my certification.

Not really, I did not have any incidents except fighting with my own procrastination (which has been a fight since I was a kid lol).

Other than that, it was a tough and long journey, but one that it’s definitely worth it. All of the sleepless nights, the time one sacrifices in order to dedicate it to study, all of it it’s 100% worth it.

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

Simulating like crazy!

I used all the time I had available to simulate, time and time again.

After each simulation I reviewed ALL my answers (good and wrong ones), and this really helped me, so the knowledge got stuck on my mind.

The night before the exam I mostly did not sleep. I kept taking simulator tests and studying my answers until very late at night.

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What was your exam experience?

My experience was a mixed bag of emotions.

I chose to take the exam at test center.

The staff was very supportive. They talked with me and helped me relax for a bit while they were taking my personal data and belongings. The small talk and some laugh helped. And then it was time for me to go to the exam room.

Once the exam started, oh boy… the terror began!

I read my first question, and remembered thinking to myself “wow, I don’t know the answer, this is nothing like the simulators”.

The same happened for the second question, the third one, fourth, fifth, and so on…

By the time I was around question 30 I thought to myself that I had already lost the exam, and everything I did was just a waste of time, I was completely demoralized.

Time kept dragging on and when I reached question #60, I looked at my clock and noticed that I had spent way more than just 1/3 of the exam time on the first 60 questions.

I finished the first part and took my break, went to the bathroom, saw myself in the mirror and accepted gracefully that I was done. “I lost the exam. I did not earn the certification.”, those were my thoughts. I was so very confident that I had gotten enough wrong questions already to lose the exam, and all the questions were so difficult to me, it was like I had never studied for the exam, like I went in completely blank.

Then something weird happened, I was so confident that the exam was lost that in an odd way, that gave me a clear mind, and a calm heart.

I wasn’t nervous, tense or scared anymore, I was completely relaxed because “I had already lost the exam, right?” so… why should I still be worried? The worst part it’s over, so let’s just finish this and let it end.

To my surprise, every question looked perfectly understandable now, they were not easy by any means, but once I read them I immediately knew the answer.

In my weird way of thinking that the exam was lost, I was able to don’t think of the outcome and just focused myself on answering each question 1 by 1.

I did the second part very fast, around 50 to 60 secs per question.

Once I finished the 2nd part my confident when through the roof!

Took my other break just for fun, cause I didn’t really need it, talked a bit with the office staff again, and then I went back to the exam. The 3rd and final part was a complete summer breeze.

My mindset was of a winner, it was the mindset of a PMP I knew I already had that certificate on my hands.

When I finished and I saw the results page it said that I passed, and I immediately started crying, true tears of wholesome joy.

As a last surprise when they handed me my printed results, I saw that I was above target in all the areas, so that was a nice added bonus to my wonderful PMP exam experience.

PMI has recently begun introducing questions from the PMBOK 7th version. Did you come across such questions?

Yes, a few. I would say that less than 10%.

Would you like to share any specific study tips, advice, techniques, or strategies for those preparing for their PMP exam?

  • Prepare a study schedule.
  • Research for the best simulators that you can afford, or the best free ones you can get if you don’t have money available.
  • Be diligent with your study sessions.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask help to the community (everyone is really helpful and friendly).
  • Get at least 2 different simulators, this is so you don’t just get good answers because you are memorizing the questions.
  • Be disciplined, don’t procrastinate like me.
  • Set a date for your exam before you start your simulation period, that way you will feel obligated to really fulfil your studies within a limited time frame.
  • Think at all times that you will pass, don’t be negative.
  • I did not do this, but try to sleep well the night before the exam… If you are a night owl like me, then study like crazy the night before. 🙂

All the best!

Juan Carlos Donis Aviles, PMP

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