Thursday, May 09, 2019

PMP Live Lessons Success Story: Stay Focused and Prepare Consistently to Succeed

By Shivakumar Viswanathan, PMP

I wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude for Satya’s help and support in helping me pass the PMP® exam and gain my PMI® credentials. I kept studying on and off for a while but took an in-depth dive into the studies about 6-7 week before the PMP exam. 

Like Satya says – “It’s not a candy certification that would be handed over to all and sundry”. Indeed, it requires serious preparation and here is my experience with the process. 

Primary study materials
These were the three primary materials I used during the last 6-7 weeks.

Preparation Process
My primary course prep material was the "PMP Live Lessons" videos and the PMBOK guide. Anyone reading this might think, “Oh No! One more guy writing about the PMBOK guide. I can’t read that big 976-page tome!” Well, I’ll get to the PMBOK guide in a minute. 

The big plus point of the Live Lessons videos was that it felt like being in a private class with Satya - very informal, yet focused. I had done perhaps one full round earlier. 

In the last one month before the exam, I would have done perhaps 2-3 more full rounds of the Live Lessons. One round was going across the knowledge areas (KA) one by one and each of the processes in those KAs. The other round was going down vertically - down the process groups (PG). So, if I start with Initiating PG, I would watch the videos for Develop Project charter and then Identify Stakeholder processes. Next, I move on to Planning and go through the videos for the 24 processes and then move on to Executing, M&C and Closing. 

In a nutshell, if you take the 49-process table, one round of studying was horizontal row-wise and another round was vertical-column wise. I actually would have done 2 rounds vertical column-wise and 1 round of horizontal row-wise studying in the last 6-7 weeks. I also did additional rounds of the process flow videos that Satya was constantly updating and informing us via emails. Without trying to commit anything particularly to memory, I re-watched the process and document flow videos multiple times. I think that was crucial to get a good feel for what was happening among the PGs and KAs. 

I then went through the practice questions and the explanations. The PMBOK Guide is vast. It will bog you down because it’s heavy and dull. I’ll read a few chapters and give-up after reading. 

Hence, in the last 6-7 weeks I used the new approach while I was using with the PMP Live Lessons. I would, after finishing the videos for Initiating group, read the 2 processes under Initiating group in PMBOK guide. Likewise, for every process group, I would read the lessons under that group, straddling the various knowledge areas in that process group. An additional advantage of this method was that it helped in slowly grasping commonalities among processes within the Process group under the 10 KAs. With this approach, I found I was able to rapidly go through the PMBOK guide without feeling the full weight of the 976 pages to complete.

PMP Live Lessons Review
I found the lessons and practice exams at the end of the PMP Live Lessons chapters very useful to gauge two things: 
  • Understanding of the subject
  • Approach to answering the multiple-choice questions

To get the feel for the actual computer based simulation, I used simulator of Prepcast. But in terms of content, the “PMP Live Lessons” course is miles and miles ahead of other prep materials in the market. The sheer depth and breadth of the course coverage is by far the best I have seen. Even the Prepcast exam simulator comes with its own video lessons in the form of Podcasts. While it’s professionally produced, it would pale in comparison with the vastly superior content of Live Lessons.

I practised writing the 49 processes and list of mathematical formulae many times. I would take an A4 sized paper and write it. I practised writing the formulae for EVM, PERT estimations etc. many times.

It is also very important to know why a particular choice is wrong. In the exam, you may face a question with all 4 choices being correct. In that case, you are expected to choose the best among the 4. Understanding why a seemingly correct answer is to be discarded was helpful. 

Final Exam
I reached the Prometric center an hour before my slotted time. I started the exam and spent the first 5 minutes to write the 49-process table. I didn’t want to utilize any more time by writing a list of formulae. 

Exam Strategy and Approach to Questions
I’ve followed these steps during my exam.
  • I paced myself with a target of about 50 questions per 1-hour block. 
  • As noted earlier, I had written down the 49 processes to refer during the exams, which came in very handy. There were many questions which would ask to choose an answer which can be arrived at by merely referring to the table at hand.
  • For all 200 questions, I would first read the 2nd half of the write-up, which had the actual question. Next, I would quickly run through 4 choices and read the full question again. 
  • For some questions, elimination of 1 or 2 choices can be arrived at quickly. That itself raises the probability of getting the answer right. 
  • I had practised reading the question part with an emphasis on critical words during the simulation. 
  • For example: 
    • “…which project DOCUMENT should the Project manager refer?” or 
    • “…the project manager to do all of the following EXCEPT…”
      Reading the emphasized words loudly (in the mind!) helped. 

I took a 3-minute break during the exam, came back and continued at the previous pace and completed the exam. 

The message “Congratulations on passing the PMP exam….” was a massive relief coming at the end of studying for an average of 6-8 hours a day for the previous 6-7 weeks. 

I was able to score Above Target on 4 of the 5 process groups and On Target for the Closing group.

Thanks to Satya, and his really superb training material, PMP Live Lessons, I am now a certified Project Management Professional (PMP). I would highly recommend this material to any aspiring PMP candidate. 

I also want to thank Satya for responding to all my emails and clarifying questions. Every single email of my mine has been responded within 24 hours. That speaks of his professionalism and concern for his students. So, a big thanks to him again and again.

Brief Profile:
Shivakumar Viswanathan
I am based out of Toronto, Canada and in a transitional phase to move into full-fledged project management consulting.

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