Saturday, January 17, 2015

PMP Success Story - Prepare Yourself for Situational Questions, Take Sufficient Practice Tests and Have Fun while Learning

PrashantT K.R prepared earnestly for the PMP exam. Today he is a proud PMP. As noted many times before in this blog, the exam is not easy and a rote learner will find it very difficult to pass the exam. Prashant took a detailed approach for his preparation. 
He also had some innovative ways in his PMP journey, some of which are:
  • Preparation with a Gantt Chart to check on milestones 
  • Imagine yourself as a PMP certified professional throughout the preparation
  • Most interesting part is having fun while learning - Imagine some well-known persons talking on or responding to a specific Knowledge Area of PMBOK Guide

Prashant was one of the participants who was very attentive during my session and has a lot of humility during learning, which in my opinion is one of the prerequisites to learn well. Some months later, when we spoke, he lacked a little bit of confidence, but I knew he was quite well prepared and on a right track. He just needed a helping hand to meet his goal. It is gut feeling, or intuition– whatever you may call – I knew that here is a PMP coming and I told him so.  

He has outlined his unique experience in his way. He has shared his own way of having fun while learning - imagine an Amitabh Bachchan talking on a Project Management topic like Integration Management!

Go on and read how he got certified as a PMI-PMP. 

It gives me a great sense of relief and a feeling of achievement to realize that I am a certified PMP now. I used to think earlier that one day I will write my learnings to help others and I feel so glad to share my experience.

PMP Trainings
I did a lot of research on the PMP training programs in my city, enquired each and every details about the course, the process, the tutor. I even compared the Tutors profile to others and spoke to ex participants about the quality of the course who attended. All were directing me to Mr Satya Narayan Dash. I along-with my good friend enrolled for PMP contact classes for 4 days. I would say my experience with the training program was far more than satisfactory. 

Satya has very deep knowledge on Project Management concepts and skills. His teaching style is different and one can easily connect to what he says or teaches. He is not just a trainer but a true mentor.

It is ideal to give the PMP exam right after the training as your knowledge and learnings are fresh and you can relate to the concepts very well. However in my case, that didn’t happen and my life and job priorities took over and I left the preparation in between. After about 3 months, I felt I should pull up my socks and start preparing towards my exam. I came up with a Gantt chart that helped me track my milestones with respect to each knowledge area.  I referred Andy Crowe initially for my PMP preparation as it was easy to understand.

I spent almost 2 to 3 days initially for each knowledge area and was about to complete the whole book in 1.5 months with some amount of irregularity. I started my second round of reading and went in detail this time, solving chapter questions and understanding where I lacked. I can say that I was able to score 70-80% in all the chapter questions. My third round of study was again a detailed one , filling my knowledge gaps, referring other materials, looking up for more information on internet, youtube etc.

Also to get some fun out of this whole study, I had imagined one celebrity assigned to each knowledge area. For instance I imagined Amitabh Bachchan talking about Integration management. Priyanka Chopra talking about scope management. Imagining Hrithik Roshan in a huge poster of Risk Management and promoting as if it’s a film. So if there is a question – let us say Risk - I would imagine what Hrithik would have done in this scenario. 

I gave my 1st sample test from Andy Crowe and scored around 76% which was an OK score. I tried my knowledge on Rita’s sample question and I scored 61%. This jolted my confidence a little bit.

This is when I contacted Mr Satya for his advice on the way forward and he selflessly guided me through on what I should be targeting and should be concentrating on. This one call had a huge difference in clearing my PMP exam.  I cannot stop thanking him for all that guidance he provided me.

This is what I did later:
I realized that I am little poor at situational based questions, so I started skimming for situational based questions from Rita, PMStudy, PMPforsure and other PMP websites. I kept solving all types of questions no matter whether it was correct or wrong. I tried to understand how the questions were actually framed. I tried to understand the pattern of the questions and its correct answers.

I solved all the questions from Rita PMPFasttrack from all the process groups totaling up to 1600. I downloaded various PMP apps on my smartphone and kept solving them whenever I got time. I enrolled myself for for 4 sample tests and I was able to score more than 75% consistently. In all I might have tried solving around 4500-5000 sample questions. I would say solving sample papers is a key towards clearing PMP exam. So look for solving as many questions as you would like to get a hang of it. I referred following books/Articles/Videos throughout my PMP preparation
  • Classroom Study Notes
  • Andy Crowe – How to Pass PMP in your first try
  • HeadFirst PMP – Especially for Time Management and Cost Management chapter.
  • Rita Version 8 – Skim through for missing gaps and chapter questions
  • Videos and Podcasts on PMP Prep from Internet, YouTube channels
  • – 4 sample tests 

PMP Exam
I was really nervous as the days started nearing. Mr Satya had advised to go and visit the test center 1 day before the exam to get a feeling of the hall, surroundings etc. I could not stress more importance on this part. I did plan to go to the testing center 2 days before and I was shocked to see my Car’s punctured tyre and unfortunately there was no other transportation that I could rely on. I am glad I figured this out 2 days earlier so that I could fix it rather than having it fixed on the D-day. (Most likely I would have cancelled my exam if I had not done this check 2 days before).

My exam was scheduled on 8 AM on Monday morning and I worked from home the whole of last week to prepare for the exam. I mostly solved all 4 sample question papers from PMstudy and Rita.  I stopped reading like after 3PM on Sunday and spend some time playing with my kid, watched some TV, sports etc. and went off to sleep. Next morning, I just browsed through the notes that I had prepared and that’s it.

My testing center was in San Jose, US. I entered the examination hall and was screened throughout for security and other obvious reasons. I was directed towards the PMP computer system. The 1st 15 minutes was a tutorial about the exam. I used this time to jot down the process-knowledge area table, all the formulas. Be aware that there will be students around taking tests and there will be some amount of noise.

I started off well, knocking off easy questions but somewhere down the lane, I lost my pace when I was just at 70th question in 1 hour. However later I picked it up, marked few for later and I could complete all 200 question in 2 hours and 45 minutes. I took a 10 minute break and then finished the marked ones first and then skimmed all the 200 questions again. I did change 4 answers during my final skimming and finished it somehow.
The wait time after finishing the exam is excruciating. I could hear my heart beat so loud and was so relieved to see “Congratulations” message on the screen. I heaved a sigh of relief.

  • Read one book be it Andy or Rita at least 3 times with undivided attention.
  • Go through the PMBOK at least twice. Read the glossary in the PMBOK whenever you get time.
  • Solve at least 1500-1800 questions before attempting the real exam.
  • Don’t conclude with the scores that you get during the sample test. All that matters is that you understand why you chose that wrong answer over the correct one.
  • PMP exam is a test of psychology and your mind and thinking is at test for that 4 hours. It all depends on how you think for a situation on that D- Day.
  • Clear the fundamentals and concepts. Understand the process flow, understand what happens before and next for each knowledge area.
Initiating, Executing and Closing process groups are the easiest groups, so target to be “Proficient” in these areas. Project Management experience helps to some extent in preparation.

Imagine yourself as a PMP certified already all through the preparation. Imagine the smile on your face after clearing the PMP exam while preparing for the same :-)
Wish you all the best :-) 

-- PrashantT K. R, PMP®

Brief Profile: I have been in the IT industry since last 10 years having diverse experience in the field of QA. Currently I am Project Manager for Infosys Limited working from San Francisco Bay Area, US.


I am thankful to Prashant for sharing his PMP exam experience. I believe he has outlined his experience in a detailed way and it will prove to be useful for many future PMP aspirants in their journey and quest for PMP.

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