Friday, June 07, 2019

PMP Success Story: Credential With Real-World Applicability of New Project Management Concepts

By Varun Amirthakumar, PMP

I am Varun Amirthakumar and I am from Bangalore, India. In early 2018, I became a member of PMI® and by doing so, I gained access to the sixth edition of the PMBOK® Guide, along with the Agile Practice Guide. Then in the subsequent months of February and March, I attempted reading the PMBOK Guide, but found it to be too complicated and exhaustive.

I was also not able to grasp the contents of the PMBOK guide. Then I learnt about Satya’s classes.

PMP 35 Contact Hours Experience
I immediately enrolled myself in April 2018 for Satya’s 4-day classes. The tips and tricks shared in the classroom especially on how to remember the 49 processes across the 10 knowledge areas (KAs) and 5 process groups (PGs), on how to master the inputs, tools and techniques and outputs (ITTOs) for all of the 49 processes and the yogic tips shared across all chapters, really gave me the confidence that I can crack the exam of course by putting in extra efforts. 

Satya has a unique way of making everyone remember the 49 processes spread across the 10 KAs and 5 PGs. It helped me a lot. I strongly went by his advice “write down and practice – only then you will learn”. 

At the end of the 4-day classroom training, I was given this advice by him: "While taking the exam, for every question, look for options as a project manager, i.e., what would you do FIRST, before going over to others such as sponsor(s), stakeholders etc." Soon after, I went on to purchase the book: "I Want To Be A PMP".  

Towards end of April, 2018, I submitted my application for the exam. The sample application forms included in the book really helped me fill out mine. My application went through an audit by PMI and post that I paid the exam fee and scheduled my exam for March 7, 2019. Because I had a lot of work assignments and travel to do in between, I realized that I must have this examination taken up and completed in Mar 2019. 

As I was again pressed with a work assignment in March 2019, I had no choice but to push my exam to May 30, 2019. As time was too short for me, I instantly decided that I need to purchase Satya’s video package – “35 Contact Hours Online Course” as well. 

Review – PMP 35 Contact Hours Online Course
In this Online Course, All the chapters in this video package were synchronized to the layout within the PMBOK guide. Because of this, the PMBOK guide could also be read simultaneously without any difficulty. 

The most helpful part of the video package was the ITTOs, which Satya has explicitly mentioned for each process and the flow charts. These made a lot of sense in understanding the integration of the processes. The best part of this video package was that it was like a classroom session and I could replay any video as many times as I could, until I understood the contents. 

Remembering key ITTOs were made easy as they were highlighted wherever the process integrates and there were tips given to revise once you reach a certain level in learning. To top it all, the practice questions after each topic helped in gauging my understanding of each chapter. 

How I Prepared For The Exam?
The process spread in the PMBOK is known to most of us. For the sake of illustration, I’m only outlining these:
  • Project Initiation has two processes
  • Project Planning has twenty-four processes
  • Project Execution has ten processes
  • Project Monitoring and Controlling has twelve processes and
  • Project Closing has one process

Therefore, my first aim was to achieve an “Above Target” score for Project Closure and Project Initiation. My next aim was to achieve an “Above Target” score for Project Monitoring and Controlling followed by Project Execution and finally concentrate on Project Planning. I was very much confident that if one scores “Above Target” across all other Process Groups apart from Project Planning, there is always a strong chance for one to pass the exam – even in a worst-case scenario wherein one may achieve only a “Needs Improvement” score for Project Planning. 

I first thoroughly understood the ITTOs for each of the 49 processes by attacking the process groups one after the other in the order mentioned above. Next, I went through the Knowledge Areas and read the contents chapter wise to understand as to what are the emerging trends, tailoring processes etc. 

The only thing that I memorized were the mathematical formulae involved in certain Knowledge Areas as mathematical questions in the exam will have only one correct answer and such questions are easy to score in the exam. 

I then practiced over 3000 questions and answers applicable across all Knowledge Areas (with a mindset that I need to take no more than 72 seconds per question). By doing so, I was able to judge from the questions, four important things:
  • Which Process Group the question is talking about?
  • Which Knowledge Area the question is talking about?
  • What is the relevant information and what is the distractor within the question?
  • Whether the question is asking for a specific accurate answer such as the name of a project document or the name of a tool and technique etc. or whether the question is asking for the best answer from a list of choices? The last one is important.

What to Do a Day before and on the Exam Day?
I would advise the followings one day before the exam and during the exam day. Many such tips are part of Satya’s video package as well as the book. 
  • It’s advisable not to revise or memorize any last-minute chapter on the day before the exam.
  • A good overnight’s sleep is essential before the day of the exam.
  • It is advisable only to refresh your memory with the mathematical formulae in the morning hours on the day of the exam.
  • On the day of the exam, reach the Prometric Test Center well before time.
  • Before the start of the exam there is a tutorial for 15 min – it is advisable to read the tutorial with care.
  • Once the exam starts, do not straight away jump over to question 1 even though the clock starts ticking backwards from 3h:59m:59s.
  • It is highly recommended that one submits the exam rather than the computer (system) taking control of the exam submission. 
  • It is advisable to choose an answer for every question even though one may mark the question for review later on without choosing an answer. 

PMP Exam Experience
As the exam began, I spent a solid 5 min in writing down all mathematical formulae on the scratch paper which was very useful for me when the relevant question came up during the exam. I was able to finish 200 questions in 3 hours and 52 minutes. Of the remaining 8 minutes, I used the 7 minutes to review the marked questions and the final one minute to submit. 
I faced varieties of questions, some of which I’ve noted below. 
  • 50% of the questions were lengthy but had heavy distractors. There will be lot of redundant information, but the question is asking something else. 
  • Some of the questions were too short and of the direct scoring type, e.g., for activity B to start, activity A must be completed in full. What is the relationship involved here? 
  • Some of the questions were specifically framed to test if one as a PM is able to choose the correct project document, e.g., midway through a project, a new stakeholder was identified. Where would you record this information?
  • Some of the questions were tricky and had to be carefully interpreted, e.g., the sponsor just received an approved Change Request from the CCB and had the same passed over to the PM for implementation. What should the PM do next?  
  • Some of the questions were specifically framed to test if one as a PM is able to choose the correct tool and technique, e.g., answer choices had expert judgement as well as team judgement. There is nothing called team judgement! 
  • To the best of my knowledge, there were no questions on AGILE practices. But it’s wise not to skip reading this section. Read at least once from the PMBOK guide.

Tips for PMP Aspirants
  • Reading the PMBOK guide is a must. Read it two times at least – once in detail and once by fast tracking. 
  • Make it a point only to memorize only mathematical formulae.
  • Make it a point to understand all aspects of project management and associated processes via KAs, PGs and ITTOs.
  • Take more number of online practice tests. This will give you the confidence to complete 200 questions in four hours. 
  • Never panic before or during the exam: If a question is tough to understand move on and come back. Keep eight to ten minutes for review.  
  • While reading questions, straight away attempt to eliminate distracting information before looking at the best answer from the choices given.
  • Finally, God needs to be thought of just before taking the exam and while taking the survey questions of the Prometric Center when actually the exam report is getting generated.

Preparing and appearing for the PMP exam helped me in learning new concepts. I am now able to relate every Process Group (PG) and Knowledge Area (KA) to a real-world example and I am able to execute some of the concepts in my day-to-day work as well. 

Thank you for reading my experience and wish you all very best in your preparation. 

Brief Profile:
Varun Amirthakumar, PMP. 
I am currently working in the Pratt & Whitney Canada Center of Excellence for Cyient India Limited in Bangalore on aero engine maintenance and overhaul manuals, since 13.5 years. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from R.V. College of Engineering, Bangalore, India. I completed my schooling from National Public School, Bangalore, India.

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