By Ashita Singh, PMP
My decision to do PMP® was heavily influenced by the value of this certification in North America. I work for a very large American company and in my daily interactions with my business counterparts (who work in the US and Canada), I felt that getting PMP certified will not only strengthen my credentials, but will also boost my project management skills.
PMP 35 Contact Hours Experience
After I decided to pursue PMP certification, I spent about a week looking for good PMP coaches and training institutes in Bangalore. After all the research, I zeroed down on one as they had good reviews and offered the best value for money.
I signed up for PMP 6th edition 35 contact hours of learning in the week of 24th Mar – 1st Apr. Satya's classes were spread over two weekends. I found him very knowledgeable about Project Management and related concepts. It was apparent that he is an expert in this field. The articles that he has written for Microsoft® Project User Group helped me clearly understand so many tricky concepts. I continued going through his articles even after the class and whenever I had confusion about any topic in the PMBOK® guide. Satya also has a very good-natured humorous side which made it very easy for the class to connect with him. His tips and tricks on how to prepare for the exam were also very helpful.
After I finished the 35 contact hours, completed my online application on PMI website and submitted it. It was accepted within a week. I booked my exam date for 25th July in 2nd week of May. This gave me about 2 months of preparation time. I decided that I will give 2-3 hours of time on weekdays and about 5-6 hours on weekends. There were days when I studied a bit less, but there were also days when I studied more than I planned. The key for me was to maintain a consistent pace and focus.
I started studying for PMP from PMBOK guide and other sources from mid-May. I read one chapter from PMBOK and then followed it up with the corresponding chapter from other sources. After I finished both the books once, I took couple of mock tests and scored between 75-86%. Then I read PMBOK guide two times more while continuing to take mock tests online and other sources. I signed up for free one-month subscription on Scribd.com and downloaded their PMP question bank. As I was taking the mock tests I somehow felt that the questions that I was doing seemed too easy to be PMP standard. I started looking for harder questions and I found some from the internet. As I was taking the test, I kept making notes of my areas of improvement. I went back to PMBOK guide and other sources again and again to clear some concepts. Each time I read, my concepts became clearer than the last time. It is critical to go through the PMBOK guide and other supplementary book(s) at least 2-3 times.
The hardest part of the preparation was to remain committed to the plan. Like most people I too had work and family commitments, and to balance all of it while remaining focused on the exam was quite challenging. Every time I’d slip from my schedule, I’ll ensure I compensate for it over the weekend.
PMP Exam Experience
I scheduled my exam for 25th July for afternoon slot. On the day of the exam I didn’t look at any of the study material as I wanted to be relaxed and calm. I reached the venue an hour before the scheduled time. The venue was just across the road from my house ;-) and in the same building as my office.
I was asked at the centre if I am ready and willing to start the exam early. I said “Sure, why not.” So, they checked me in and I was seated at my desk about 30 mins before the scheduled start time.
My strategy for the exam was to read questions and the options extremely carefully. Sometimes even the placement of a preposition changes the meaning of the entire sentence. If you don’t read the question carefully, you will get the answer wrong. This was a learning I had from taking the mock tests. The other thing I focussed on was to have at least 20 mins in the end, to go through the “Marked for review” questions. I targeted to maintain a pace of 50 questions in 50-55 mins.
- I got about only 3-4 mathematical questions with very basic calculations. The mathematical questions were quite easy and straightforward.
- Most questions were situational and more than one answer seemed to be correct.
- I had quite a few questions on change and configuration management which was a bit weird because PMBOK guide didn’t devote many pages to this topic.
- A lot of questions on change requests and subsequent process flow.
- Most tricky questions were from Executing and Monitoring & Controlling process groups. Had to read questions very carefully and 2-3 times to determine at which stage is the project in its lifecycle, because the answer would change depending upon that.
- There were at least 25- 30 questions that made me really use all of my brain power. I marked these questions for review at the end. I had decided before I started the exam that I will not get stuck in tricky questions and waste precious time.
I completed all 200 questions with 40 minutes to spare. So, I used that time to go back to the “Marked for review” questions. I changed my answer for almost half of them because when I went back to those questions and thought very deeply over each of the options, the correct answer almost emerged to me like a secret hiding in plain sight ;-) .
The exam really makes you think. I finished reviewing all questions with 3 minutes to spare. I decided to hit the submit button. As soon as I did that, my heart started racing and beating so hard I could literally hear it. You have to click on a few more screens where you’re asked to give feedback about the test centre. I clicked through those screens with shivering hands. Finally, the screen came for which I was waiting. It said I scored Above Target in all sections with an overall Above Target for the exam.
Suggestions for PMP Aspirants
- Extremely important to remain focussed and committed to your goal during exam preparation.
- Read PMBOK guide at least twice. Use a good supplementary book to go with it. Read that too at least twice.
- Practice as many questions as you can. I’d recommend anything between 1500-2000 questions is good. Make sure you do good quality questions. Buy them if required.
- Keep a tab of your areas of improvement and make sure you bridge your knowledge gaps by reading content online. Satya’s blog and his articles are a great source of knowledge.
- Remain cool, calm and composed during the exam.
- Eat well and hydrate yourself well before you start the exam. You’ll be starving towards the end of it ;-).
- Do not use too many books to study for PMP. PMBOK guide with one supplementary book is more than enough.
- Don’t waste time doing free questions from the internet. The questions on the exam are way too tough than what you will find for free online.
- Do not spend more than 2 mins on a question in the exam. If you think you need more time, choose the best option, mark the question for review and come back to it at the end (if you have time to spare).
I’ll use the knowledge and the concepts that I have learned in managing my future projects.
Senior Program Manager and Operations Head for GE Digital.
An experienced IT Leader with over 11 years of progressive experience in IT Service Management, IT operations and Project Management.
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