Sunday, February 23, 2020

PMP Success Story: You Don’t Have to See the Whole Staircase, Just Take the First Step

By Tanushree Bhoi, PMP

I wanted to advance my skills in project management. Hence, I decided to achieve the Project Management Professional (PMP®) credential offered by Project Management Institute (PMI®). This was my primary motivation.

PMP 35 Contact Hours Experience
After doing some research, I came to know about a provider at Bengaluru which provides good 35 contact hours of project management learning experience. The reputation had been built-up primarily due to the Satya sir. These contact hours are mandatory for PMP exam eligibility. 

For the first time here, I met Satyanarayana Dash Sir, who has a unique style of teaching. Post his sessions, I got motivated to prepare for the exam. I liked the way he had explained the 49 process flows of the PMBOK® Guide, which is very important to clear this tough examination. 

Also, he always added some humour to his teaching, which made it easy for me to remember some difficult aspects of this course. 

Own Study
I’ve had a very good learning experience with Satya Sir in those four days and came to know about his book: I Want To Be A PMP. As I was very happy and comfortable with his teaching and training style, I bought his book. 

However, due to various reasons, I could not prepare much post the sessions. I finally submitted my application which was selected for audit. I was asked to update my project information in PMI’s language and not in general resume style. For Audit, I had to send all hard copies of my certificates and filled audit-forms to PMI. My application was approved on the same day when the documents reached PMI’s headquarters in the US. 

I was reading for the exam, but it was not a full-fledged preparation till the end of 2019. In November, 2019, I realized that my one-year membership subscription with PMI is going to end and hence, contacted PMI for an extension. Along with that, I finally decided to go full throttle and sit in the exam. And, I scheduled my exam for 23rd January, 2020. 

I cannot exactly say the duration of my preparation, but I think I really started studying from October 2019. I was used to spend 2 to 3 hours regularly. But the last three weeks before the exam, i.e., 3 weeks before the 23rd January date, I was spending nearly 8 to 10 hours in focused studies. I knew as I have already scheduled the exam, these will be crucial for me. 

First, I studied in the sequence of knowledge areas as outlined in the PMBOK guide, and then, I studied in the sequence of process groups.

Study materials
I referred the below study materials. 
  • Book “I Want To Be A PMP” by Satya Narayan Dash: I read this book three times. This was my primary reference. 
  • Book by Rita Mulcahy and Andy Crowe: I browsed through and did some of the chapter end questions.
  • PMBOK Guide, by Project Management Institute: I only read 3 process groups – Initiating, Closing and Executing. I referred this guide only when needed.
Other than the above books and guide, I referred Prepcast for mock tests. I scored nearly 80% in my first attempt and was reaching 90% in my second. 

I found my speed was good and I was able to solve 200 questions in 3.5 hours. I used to review all failed (and few passed) questions. My weak areas were primarily in these knowledge areas – Procurement Management, Quality Management, Schedule Management and Cost Management. To fill the gaps, I again referred the chapters using the above material. I also used to watch some content from the YouTube to get more clarity on few topics. Many times, I’ve reached out to Satya Sir to clarify and he would always respond with justifications for the answers. 

In addition, I also used Christopher Scordo’s PMP questions, where my score was varying between 70% to 80%. 

Book Review - I Want to Be A PMP
I would say this book is one of the best study materials I had for my PMP exam preparation. The contents of the book are very simple and aligned with PMBOK guide’s process groups and knowledge areas. 

The best part the book: it has a large number of tips in every chapter, which is very useful to connect all the processes. Another area is it sequences and connects the 49 processes across the knowledge areas in a logical way. Complicated, difficult knowledge areas like Integration Management and Procurement Management are written in an easy way to understand, which are crucial for the exam. 

This book has also provided spreadsheet with all Inputs, Tools and Techniques (ITTOs) and it’s a single file where you can apply filters to know the ITTO immediately. It was beneficial for me to refer to this sheet while attempting any mock questions. 

This book helped me to connect all processes in an easier way which I did not find in any other PMP preparatory books. I liked the videos provided in this book on change management (extremely important for the exam), conflict management and interpersonal and team skills. The book has references to few articles written by Satya Sir which is good to understand, e.g., key concepts like resource levelling and resource smoothing.

I highly recommend PMP aspirants to read this book.

PMP Exam Experience
I must say the exam was very difficult for me. May be because I was expecting the kind of questions where I was scoring 90%. 

Hardly 20 or 25 questions were straight/direct and the rest were all situational. I was able to eliminate two answers easily but was confused with the rest two. It was like 2 + 3 = 5, but so also 6 - 1 = 5! 

During mocks I never had issues with my time management. But in the real exam I ended up doing only 30 questions in the first one hour. I was stuck in many questions in the first one hour. Four hours were short for me and I got a message saying I have only five minutes left when I was solving question number 182. 

I was constantly praying and trying to control my anxiety during the exam. Then it automatically got closed when I just completed 185 questions. 

But then, immediately in few seconds I saw congratulation message. Such a great relief!! My final score was Above Target.

I could complete only 185 questions in 4 hours. I could not take any break during the exam. I didn’t get time to review five to six questions, which I had kept for reviewing. 

I received the followings types of questions:
  • Many questions will ask what the project manager will do NEXT. A situation will be given and you will be asked what you would do next. 
  • I received few mathematical questions on Earned Value (EV), Planned Value (PV), Actual Cost (AC), Schedule Performance Index (SPI), and Cost Performance Index (CPI). In total, they will be 4 to 5 and they were simple mathematical calculations. 
  • I received around 20 questions on change requests, change management. 
  • There were many situational questions with respect to these knowledge areas – Risk Management, Resource Management, Procurement Management and Stakeholder Management. 
  • Few questions were touching multiple knowledge areas and it was difficult to identify which process and process group I am in. 
  • Few questions were there on different contract types, stakeholder analysis, project charter (important to know what it includes and what not), business documents, tools on quality management, critical path analysis, and data analysis techniques.
  • I received few questions on agile framework and approaches – around three to four questions.

Suggestions for PMP Aspirants
  • It’s important to decide and schedule your exam at least 45 days before your exam date. 
  • Focus on understanding all 49 processes. You need to understand why these are input or output or why these tools or techniques are used in a process. 
  • Read a good PMP preparatory book and/or PMBOK with which you feel comfortable. You need to read multiple times until you understand the process flow. 
  • Initiating and Closing process groups have in total just 3 processes. Hence, you must read to score well. 
  • Executing process group has 10 processes and it’s very important because you will have more than 60 questions in the exam. 
  • Planning process group is vast, but this process group is easier than Monitoring and Controlling process group. 
  • It’s important to go through PMP exam content outline (ECO) as the PMP exam is based on its content outline and not on PMBOK guide. 
  • Work on your time management for real exam. 
  • Remember to visit the exam centre once before you go there for the real exam date. 

  • Don’t memorize anything without understanding.
  • Don’t spend more time on math questions if you are not good at math. If you are good at math, then you must do these because math questions will have only one correct answer. You need to remember a few mathematical formulas for that. 

I’ve learnt a lot during PMP preparation which is beneficial for my personal and professional life. I’ve outlined my experience on what I remembered. I believe it will help you in your journey to be a PMP. And wish you all the very best. 

Brief Profile:
Tanushree Bhoi, PMP
I’ve more than twelve years of experience in information technology (IT) sector with over eleven years of experience in developing and implementing quality assurance (QA) processes and leading software QA teams. 

I had to take a sabbatical for couple of years due to personal commitment in bringing a new life to this world and building, sustaining it. I’m currently looking for new opportunities and looking forward to use my project management skills and get back to project management areas. 

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