When I came to know that Riley Fleshman passed his PMP® exam, I had to talk to him and find out about his journey. I knew that being in the military his exam strategies would be foolproof and study tips insightful. And I wanted to share them with you. Riley’s journey were full of ups and downs and his resilience exceptional. While Riley shares his exam insights in this article, the main takeaway is that veteran PMP® certification is possible with a planned and strategic approach.
I’m amazed to see how in spite of such busy schedule, Riley wears multiple hats and manages a successful entrepreneurial venture as well. You can read more on this at the end of this article.
Let us hear from Riley about his PMP® journey!
What made you take up PMP®?
I’ve been leading projects, developing plans, and in leadership positions early and throughout my military career. I’ve naturally done well at taking lead on figuring out how to solve issues and reach the desired end result, while also helping develop others as I gained experience and with life lessons.
Approximately two years ago I didn’t know it was a profession, I just knew I really enjoyed the aspects of it and did well in it.
Once I learned that it was a profession, I began my Masters in PM and learned more about the PMP® certification. Once the time was right and I knew that I met the requirements, I began self-study. And over the course of a year I prepared for the exam, I knew it was the direction I wanted to take my career.
With PMP attained, I am planing on pursuing the Program Management Professional (PgMP) and PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) certifications. I’m a true believer in life long education, personal professional, formal, and self-study. The moment one feels as though they no longer need to learn, they have lost.
What was the core benefit you’d expect from PMP®?
It validates my experience and knowledge of project management.
The quickest way to become known/respected in an industry is to become an expert. I have a long way to go but I will always continue forward in that pursuit.
Also, I wanted something that held weight and backed up what I’ve done over the last 9 years. I knew that it would open doors for future employment and higher compensation as well.
Which study resources did you consider?
The resources I used frequently were the current PMBOK edition (a must as that’s what you’re tested on), PM Pro-Learn, phone apps “PMP® Exam 2020” and “PMP Pocket Prep,” and LinkedIn Learning.
I also considered Vets2PM and another phone app “PMP® Exam Mentor.” There are many resources available, and these are just what I happened to use and what worked well for me.
I also recently published an article on LinkedIn titled “How I Passed the PMP® Certification Exam” that explains more in-depth about those resources and my “by the numbers” for my study habits.
How did you approach the exam?
I wanted to ensure that I knew and understood all knowledge areas, process groups, processes and ITTO’s (I studied nearly every day for a few hours for the four months leading up to the exam). Not only that but after I took the course with PM-ProLearn I wanted to take the test a few short weeks later so that the information I learned during the course would be fresh in my mind.
That didn’t work out because of the COVID-19 outbreak and my exam was rescheduled twice, so I used that time to take as many practice quizzes as possible, and also ensure my data dump was perfected.
My total study time was approximately a year, but again was very focused the last four months.
Here’s how I went about studying –
- Read and understood the PMBOK 3 times and referenced it countless times.
- Took 3 full practice exams.
- Took 60+ quizzes ranging from 10-30 questions.
- Prepared over the course of approximately 12 months.
- Took 2 separate PMP study courses.
Did you face any specific challenges during this time?
The biggest thing is dedicating time to study and understand. The PMP® exam is not only difficult because its long, but because the amount of information covered in project management.
You have to find dedicated time and stick to that plan as much as possible, even when you don’t want to.
Personally, in my approximately 12-month journey, I was deployed to South Korea, my sister passed away from brain cancer, and my exam was rescheduled twice due to the COVID-19 outbreak across the world.
This was all on top of having a family of 5 and working full time as active duty military stationed overseas. Things will always come up and most of the time, nothing works out as planned. You must adjust and do your best to make it happen.
The week before the exam is crucial. What was your approach to study during this week?
The week before I practiced my data dump (also called ‘brain dump’). I timed to see how much time it would take away from the exam.
I also went over processes and ITTOs, and took as many practice exams as possible.
When it came to mock exams I would not move on to another exam until I got a 100%, that was just a personal preference.
Can you talk about your exam experience?
Before you take the exam you are required to sign an non-disclosure agreement. With that said, when it comes to the questions on the exam you need to know a few things.
- What knowledge area is this question in?
- What process is this question in?
- What are they asking me?
If you know the PMBOK you should be able to narrow this down. Again, taking practice exams and quizzes will help you develop this as well.
My overall exam experience was quite positive.
I took the exam at a testing center that provided everything needed, a smooth and clear check-in process, and was accommodating as long as it was within the parameters/rules.
The testing room had computer stations with small cubicles for privacy and multiple test monitors/moderators to ensure everyone in the testing center was following the rules for their specific exam (there were others taking different tests).
When it comes to taking the exam, it is very straight forward and all directions were explained in detail before the exam began.
On average you have 1 min and 20 sec per question to complete the exam on time.
Any specific study tips for PMP® aspirants?
Make a schedule and dedicate time for study only and in a quiet place that you won’t be distracted. I have three children under 6 years old so studying at home while they were awake was nearly impossible. So I dedicated time in my schedule where I knew I could focus my study only.
Do not rush to take the exam, unless you feel you are truly ready. Though you have three attempts, but I wanted to pass on my first attempt. To gauge this many people do, and I agree, shoot for 80%+ on practice exam.
When it comes to quizzes you should be able to retake until you can get 100% as they’re shorter.
Above all, you need to understand the PMBOK, I know I’ve said it multiple times already but, its that important. The PMBOK is the guide that links mostroject management people around the world with common language.
All other resources are great and should be used, but none is more important the Project Management Body of Knowledge. In my view PMP® certification helps veteran transition into project management world confidently.
Best of luck,
About Riley Fleshman:
Hi, I’m Riley Fleshman, 31, born in Illinois, currently working in Japan, but will be returning to the United States within the year due to voluntarily ending my military service. Married with three children. In our free time we love to travel, snorkel, exercise, and spend as much time at the beach and outdoors as possible.
Over 8 years of program and project management in the military industry ranging from energy and utilities engineering, corrective and preventive maintenance, official communication and organizational readiness, standards and policy compliance, personnel readiness, equipment readiness, training and training standards efficiency, energy, military operations.
Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of Oki Nutrition, opened in August of 2019 with my wife Alyx, Chief Executive Officer and founder. My wife Alyx has been in the health and fitness industry for 6 years and is the vision and drive behind our business.