Thursday, July 30, 2020

PMI Online Proctored Exams in 11 Steps - Three Important Videos

This article is in continuation of the previous one:

PMI Online Proctored Exams - How to Take it Step by Step?

You need to go through the set of steps, notes and tips mentioned in the above linked article, before going through the videos. These videos are primarily taken from PMP Live Lessons – Guaranteed Pass. Exhaustive set of videos on how to take the online procotored exam, how to use the whiteboard, how to use the calculator, a number of tips (including the ones which can completely wipe-out your notes!), among many others, are available in PMP Live Lessons course. 

Though these videos are primarily a subset of videos from PMP Live Lessons, the content of these videos will be applicable for all PMI related exams - PMP, CAPM, ACP and PBA, which can now be taken in online protored mode.

The reason I decided to publish the videos are noted below.
  • There is still a lot of fear in taking the online proctored test, the main reason being there are few such experiences available.
  • In some countries one may never have a reliable power connection. The connection can go down at any time and this may last for hours and sometimes the entire day or days. India has this problem - even in big cities. You have to make arrangement(s) to circumvent this problem. Because, without a realiable power connection, you can't have a reliable internet/online connection.
  • Unfamiliarity with the tools such as Whiteboard. In the proctored exam, you can’t use any pen, pencil or paper. You have to write down everything digitally. Of course, writing on pen and paper is somewhat easier compared to whiteboard. But with sufficient practice, you won’t feel the difference at all.

The videos explain the steps needed for the PMI related exam in a sequence of simplified eleven steps. There are three videos in this post.
  • PMI Online Proctored Exam in 11 Steps (Overview).wmv [Duration: 5m:09s]
  • PMI Online Proctored Exam in 11 Steps (Part - 1).wmv [Duration: 14m:08s]
  • PMI Online Proctored Exam in 11 Steps (Part - 2).wmv [Duration: 14m:03s]

Video - 1: Overview of PMI Online Proctored Exam
This video gives the overview of the proctored exam in 11 steps. These steps entail - payment for the exam, scheduling your exam, having proper system and settings, running a system test, having familiarity with the online tools, the process of self-check-in till you complete the exam and see the result as a successful PMP, CAPM, ACP or PBA. 

First go through this video to have the overview on what you are going to know [Duration: 5m:09s]. For best experience, you may want to go full screen in HD mode and plug-in your earphones or headphones.

Video - 2: Simplified Steps for PMI Online Proctored Exam – Part 1
This video explains the first six steps in a plain way. I’ve considered myself and what I would do, if I were to take the exam. The steps are:
  • Step – 1: Make your payment to PMI. 
  • Step – 2: Schedule your exam. 
  • Step – 3: Ensure to have a proper system and settings.
  • Step – 4: Run a System Test few days before the exam.
  • Step – 5: Be familiar with the tools such as Calculator, White Board.
  • Step – 6: Self check-in 30 minutes before the exam day.

Do go through this video [Duration: 14m:08s], before you proceed to the next video.

Video - 3: Simplified Steps for PMI Online Proctored Exam – Part 2
This video explains the final five steps in a plain way. Again, I’ve considered what I would do, if I were to take the exam. The steps are:
  • Step – 7: Begin the Exam.
  • Step – 8: Take the 10 minutes Break. (in 3 sub-steps)
  • Step – 9: Continue with the exam after the break. And Complete the exam.
  • Step – 10: Exit from the exam.
  • Step – 11: Celebrate your success.

Important: A mid-exam break is NOT available for shorter duration exams such as CAPM and ACP examinations. This break is ONLY applicable for longer duration exams such as PMP and PBA. Hence, if you are going for the ACP or CAPM exam, then you can skip this step, i.e., skip the above "Step – 8: Take the 10 minutes Break".

As you go through this video [Duration: 14m:03s], and also the previous videos, pay particular attention to the behaviors which are not considered acceptable and may result in your exam termination. It may also result in invalidating your exam score, even though you have passed the exam.

The online proctored exam is here to stay as the world continues to grapple with the Covid19 virus crisis. In other words, you can continue to take the exam this year and in future years.

Hence, it’s a good idea to know the steps – applicable for all the PMI related certifications such as PMP, CAPM, ACP and PBA. I believe with these videos, you will get a much better understanding on how to take the exam in Online Proctored Mode and feel more confident to go with this mode.

If you are taking any of the above exams, good luck and wish you all the very best.   

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

PMI Online Proctored Exams - How to Take it Step by Step?

The Project Management Institute (PMI®) has started offering the online proctored exams over a couple of months before. Hence, you can go for either:
  • Traditional Center Based examination, or  
  • Online Proctored examination 

A proctor is an individual who actively monitors test-takers during exams. The proctor does it via the webcam and microphone.

Specifically, the online proctored version for the PMP exam has been introduced since April, 2020. The below steps for the online proctored exams are applicable (so far) for:
  • Project Management Professional (PMP®) examination 
  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM®) examination 
  • Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP®) examination
  • Professional in Business Analysis (PBA®) examination

The steps are divided into three broad levels.
  • Before PMI Online Proctored Exam
  • During PMI Online Proctored Exam
  • After PMI Online Proctored Exam

Since 2008, whenever I speak at an event related to the exams or take management classes, I’ve divided the exams into the above three sections. Hence, in this case too, I'm taking the same approach. Do note that there can be exam related changes by PMI and this post is related to the data that I've as of July, 2020.

If you are going for the online proctored exams, go through all the ones mentioned below. The content of this article is primarily taken from PMP Live Lessons, PMP 35 Contact Hours Online Course, and Various PMI Exam Prep Books

While preparing the content, I’ve referred to the resources from PMI, PearsonVUE® and feedback from successful PMPs, ACPs, CAPMs. Also, as I speak with many aspiring credential holders, their inputs and pain-points have been considered. Thank you everyone for giving your inputs. Without your inputs and feedback, it would not have been possible.

Now, let's check the details in each of the above broad level steps. 

I. Before PMI Online Proctored Exam

1. Take the pre-requisite training related to PMP, CAPM, ACP or PBA exam. 

2. Make your payment to PMI. PMI emphasizes it. Without payment you can’t schedule the exam or seat in the exam. Also, without payment, you are unlikely to be serious for the exam. 

3. Schedule your exam. You can schedule your exam by going to: Login to “” site and go to "Review Application Status" under “myPMI” tab. Click "Schedule Exam". It will direct you to PearsonVUE site for the online exam.

You can also directly login from PearsonVUE site to schedule your exam.

4. Ensure to have a proper system and settings. Ensure to have proper Windows OS (10, 8.1) or MacOS (10.13 or above). Do NOT use Windows Vista, XP, or 7 or Linux/Unix. 

5. Use the latest Chrome, Safari, Mozilla, Edge or any other browser. Enable internet cookies. Many forget to do so.

6. You must have these: 
  • A reliable internet connection.
  • A reliable webcam with microphone. 
  • A mouse. Use a USB connector mouse. Do NOT use an optical mouse.
  • Reliable power connection.
  • A quiet and undisturbed place. No one should enter your room during the exam, else the exam will be terminated.

7. Run a System Test a few days before the exam. Download the OnVUE online proctoring software from PearsonVUE. As you run the software, it will ask you to kill the non-essential applications. 

8. Be familiar with the Calculator, White Board etc. These are available on the exam screen. Most likely they will be on the upper part of your exam screen.
A whiteboard overview is available at: 

9. Online calculators may or may not be similar to the digital calculators available in your operating systems such as Windows or Mac.

However, many candidates informed that they have faced a normal calculator, similarly to the one available in Windows OS. 

10. The online exam asks for a self-check-in process, which happens just before beginning the exam. 

11. Self-check-in 30 minutes before the exam day. To self-check-in, go to:” -- “Certifications” tab -- “Apply Now”. This will show you the "Certification Program Overview" page. Here you will have to click "Begin Exam". 

The "Begin Exam" link - available 30 minutes before your scheduled exam time. 

12. During self-check-in, you will be prompted to take: your headshot photo, photo of your identification or ID (such as driving license, passport, national ID card etc.; these should be original documents), photos of your surroundings, i.e., front, back, left, and right.

13. Ensure to take a photo for the "access code", a numeric code. This code is the only way for you to get back in the exam if you are logged out, computer crashes, freezes etc.

14. Self-check-in typically takes 15 minutes, ONLY if you have completed your system test before.

15. A tutorial will be there at the beginning to know the functionalities available on your screen such as Calculator, White Board. If you want, go through it.

16. Don’t take anything into the room. Don't take pen, pencils, paper, writing material or equipment, mobile phones, and watch.

17. Don't eat, drink, chew, or speak during the exam. Your exam may be terminated due to it.

18. You can have water with you. However, just confirm it with the proctor.

19. Before entering the exam space (room), you can have a look at “PMP/CAPM/ACP Formula Gold Cards”. This you can download and take a print-out. These formula gold cards are part of all my courses and books – PMP, CAPM, ACP or other.

II. During PMI Online Proctored Exam
The below notes are to be followed while you are during the exam, i.e., within the four-hour duration.

1. After self-check-in and the tutorial, the exam will begin. You have to confirm that you are ready to start the exam. The proctor will initiate the exam. 

2. Write down the formulas that you couldn’t remember, only after the exam starts. This you can do on the whiteboard and drag to your left or your right (i.e., panning) so that you have enough space to write further. You are unlikely to forget everything, but some you may not remember. Write only those down. It will take a few minutes of your time. 

3. If you need to write down the process sequence flows, you can also write them down with shortened words on the exam whiteboard. Again, you should do this only after the exam starts. It will take a few minutes of your time, if you can afford it.

4. As your exam begins, all your actions will be recorded henceforth. Your system (laptop or desktop) will be locked in.  

5. During the exam, don't make sounds or noises. Don't cover your face with your hands. Don't move your head away from the webcam.

6. After 89-90 questions, you will be prompted to take the break. The break is optional

***Important Note***: This break is NOT available for shorter duration exams such as CAPM and ACP examinations. This break is ONLY applicable for longer duration exams such as PMP and PBA.

7. Before taking the break, review all the questions you have marked and submit. You won’t get a second chance to review. So, do not think about it later. 

8. During the break, go out, stretch your legs, have your food and/or drink. Come back before the completion of the 10 minutes break or your exam will be terminated. Inform the proctor and proceed with the next part of your exam. 

9. Complete from the exam. Take all questions. There is no negative marking. 

10. You can use both the calculator and white-board together during the exam.

11. Review the remaining questions before completing or submitting your selected choices. If you have marked any questions, you can decide to select those only to be reviewed. 

12. After you have completed your exam, you will be asked to take an optional survey. 

Next, your result will flash on the screen. 

13. Close the application and ONLY THEN leave the webcam. Don’t leave the application and webcam till you have completed your work. Your exam will be considered invalid, even though you have completed the exam.

14. After the exam is over, you may be somewhat exhausted or tired. It’s natural. You have been sitting at one place for around or over 4 hours now. Relax and take a small rest.

III. After PMI Online Proctored Exam
1. Check various sites on your result. It will be available on the PMI’s online registry. You may receive congratulation emails from PMI.

2. You are certified PMP, CAPM, ACP or PBA now. Celebrate your success. Reward yourself.

3. Follow the other tips and notes mentioned for the “Traditional Center-Based” Exam, except the ones which are solely applicable to online. They are clearly noted in my previusly mentioned book and courses.

Finally, as mentioned earlier, these steps, notes and tips are based on inputs from many test takers. I had taken the exams long back in traditional center-based mode. There may be small variations in aforementioned steps for online proctored mode. So, while I expect the steps to be similar, the final exam experience will be yours. 

[1] PMP Live Lessons - Guaranteed Pass or Your Money Back, by Satya Narayan Dash

[2] PMP Online 35 Contact Hours with MoneyBack Guarantee, by Satya Narayan Dash

[3] I Want To Be A PMP - The Plain and Simple Way, 2nd Edition, by Satya Narayan Dash

[4] I Want To Be A CAPM - The Plain and Simple Way, 2nd Edition, by Satya Narayan Dash

[5] I Want To Be An ACP - The Plain and Simple Way to be a PMI-ACP, 2nd Edition, by Satya Narayan Dash


Thursday, July 09, 2020

Agile Asanas: Story Map Vs. Product Backlog – The Differences

Recently, I wrote an article about Story Map in agile development. The article describes the story mapping technique in detail and you will know the followings:
  • Story Map Definition
  • Building Blocks in a Story Map
    • Personas
    • Backbone
    • Walking Skeleton
  • Release Planning with a Story Map
  • Story Map vs Product Backlog
  • A Practical Story Map (Hands-on Example)

You can read this article here:
The Big Picture with Story Map in Agile Development

[ To read all posts in Agile Asanas series, use this link. ]

I’ve received emails on this article from founders of software organizations and CEOs, who have online tools for story maps, product backlog etc., available in their product portfolios. In addition, there are quite a few questions from Product Owners, Managers on why should one go for a Story Map instead of Product Backlog?

To answer that, you need to know the differences between these two – story map and (product) backlog.

Let’s check them one by one. 

It’s not an exclusive list, there can be others as well, some of which I’ve noted in the conclusion part of this article. 

Difference - 1: Story Map gives the big picture of the product or solution that you are building, Product Backlog doesn’t. 

The product backlog has all the items listed that you are to be delivered in a product – features, stories, bugs, fixes to be done, improvements etc. While working with this artifact, the team members don’t get the big picture – the big picture of what they are building in a sequence of steps. Usually the team members work on tasks (stories broken down to tasks) and hence, it’s not easy for them to see the big picture. 
Story map on the other hand helps everyone in the team and also the customer to see the big picture.

As noted in the previous linked article, with a story map you don’t miss the forest for the trees. 
The big picture tells the story of the entire system/product/solution you and your team are building. 

Difference - 2: Story Map is a two-dimensional (2D) visual structure, where the product backlog is a one-dimensional (1D) non-visual one. 
Because the story map is a visual structure, everyone can see what is being worked-upon visually and how the system is built. It's just one single snapshot on the wall or electronic board.

Also, because it’s visual it shows the workflow of the system and gives a context to the discussion while writing stories. After all, stories are primarily about communication.  

The backlog shown above is a graphical one for your understanding. In real-time, it will be a one-dimensional figure in an excel sheet or any software tool such as MS Project or Atlassian Jira or any other.

Difference - 3: Story Map on its own acts as product prioritization technique, whereas the Product Backlog does not.
There are quite a few product backlog prioritization techniques that a Product Manager or Product Owner can follow, while refining the backlog. Some of them are: simple schemes (e.g., high, medium, low), monopoly money, Kano method, MoSCoW method etc.

You can read more on various product prioritization techniques here: 
Product Prioritization Techniques in Agile Development

With a story map, as you are building your backbone or walking skeleton, you are actually tacitly prioritizing! Do remember that the backlog gives you the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) - the minimum set of capabilities needed to deliver the product or solution or service. Without prioritization, you just can’t have it. Can you?

Similarly, as you build the skeleton part of the backlog, you are also having the Minimum Marketable Features (MMF) – the set of features that makes the product minimally functional. Again, here too, prioritization is involved. 

Going further, as you – the product owner/manager chalk out the release strategy with the project manager and team members, you will be again doing prioritization, i.e., which one will go into the first release, which will go into the next and so on. 

Difference - 4: With a Story Map, you can easily show the dependencies, whereas with Backlog, you can’t. 
As we just saw, the story map is a 2D one, whereas the product backlog is a flat one. How will you show dependencies in a flat structure? 

Story map doesn’t have this limitation. In fact, you can directly draw the dependencies on the wall or board (electronic or not) where you are building the story map. This brings in a lot of discussion among the team members and stakeholders, which is one thing I really like. Story map being about shared communication and shared understanding helps the team in this aspect. 

Dependencies are key in any project. Ask any manager who has really worked in any project. Solving dependencies takes a lot of time for the project manager. With a story map, you are doing it in front of everyone and from the beginning.

Difference - 5: With a Story Map, you can determine which part is missing in the system, whereas it’s not the case with Product Backlog. 
The story is told by a stakeholder or use from left-to-right in a sequence of steps - each step being an activity (or epic). This sets the narrative flow. 

Under each activity (or epic), we have a set of tasks (or stories) decomposed from the respective epic. These stories are placed vertically from top-to-bottom. 

Product Backlog is not represented in a sequence of steps and then each step broken down further vertically, because it’s a flat structure. Hence, it won’t be easy to determine which one went missing from the customer’s perspective to build a system or solution.

Difference - 6: Tracing and Monitoring of a story can happen with the Story Map, whereas with the Product Backlog you can’t do so easily. 
The backbone in a story map has the epics which are basically a sequence of steps. The backbone also can have a couple of levels of its own if the sequence of steps is too large in number. You can roll-up from the lower-level to the higher-level. 

Below the backbone, we have the walking skeleton, which describes each step in more detail, i.e., in the (user) story format.

Hence, if you or your team member wants to trace or monitor a particular story (which is under an epic or feature), you can do so easily.

Difference - 7: If there are a large number of stories, then the Story Map can take a huge space, which is not usually the case with the Product Backlog.

Now, this one goes against the Story Map! If there are a very large number of stories, then the story map can be a very big space in your working area. Sometimes it can even run into multiple walls if you are using a physical space or can run into pages and pages if you are using an electronic tool.
I won’t say this constraint applies to the Product Backlog, though a backlog can also be very big in size. However, because it’s one-dimensional and flat, it won’t be as acute as the case for a very large story map.

There are many other things one can derive when you compare the story map with the product backlog. For example, with a story map, you can decide which one needs more or less analysis as you proceed with your development and this can be done in a visual way. I’ve also noticed a drawback with story maps, i.e., a large story map can take much space. 

Another thing I’ve noticed is that many (not few!) product managers or owners don’t understand the concept of story map properly and mess it up.

So, first understand the concept of story map well. Also, do note that it can have variations. For product managers, the ONLY way to understand is to do it yourself and take feedback from your team members. Then decide which one to go for – Story Map or Product Backlog or a combination of both (which I’ve noted also in the linked first article). 

[2] Article: The Big Picture with Story Map in Agile Development, first published by MPUG, written by Satya Narayan Dash
[3] User Story Mapping – Discover the Whole Story, Build the Right Product, by Jeff Patton with Peter Economy

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Book Review - I Want to Be An ACP: Important Not Only for The Exam, But Also A Treasure of Knowledge To Apply in The Real-World

By Suresh Juturu, PMP, ACP, CSM

The book written by Satya Narayan Dash – I Want To Be An ACP, the plain and simple way to be a PMI-ACP - is particularly written for candidates aspiring to clear the Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP®) examination. This certification examination is from Project Management Institute (PMI®).  

Chapters Covered

The book covers all the important topics of Agile in nine chapters. 

The chapters covered are:
  • Welcome and Introduction, which covers the fundamentals on how to read the book and take the ACP exam. 
  • The next seven chapters covers the seven domains of PMI-ACP exam, i.e., Agile Principles and Mindset, Value Driven Delivery, Stakeholder Engagement, Team Performance, Adaptive Planning, Problem Detection and Resolution, and Continuous Improvement.
  • The final chapter covers a presentation on how to be a PMI-ACP.

You can know more on the chapters from the book index:

Key Areas
This book gives immense knowledge on these agile topics:

  • What is Agile: It covers all basics on agile framework.
  • How Agile works: All types of agile approaches such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean, XP, BDD, TDD etc. are covered.
  • How Agile teams are to be managed: You will learn various conflict management techniques for your agile team. You will learn how to do performance management for your team.
  • When to use Agile: You will learn when and how to choose the right agile approach. 
  • Where and how to focus when Agile deployment is not going well: For example, you will learn a number of innovation games.

Another aspect of the book is extensive coverage of Agile Earned Value Management (AgileEVM). It’s not an easy concept to grasp. But dedicated videos for this section covers the concepts of EVM, along with all the needed formulae.

In particular, I'll mention the Chapter 6: Adaptive Planning, where it is illustrated with various techniques on how to do cost baseline for agile projects and how different when compared with the normal waterfall projects. It also provides the extensive details on deltas of EVMs while following agile vs waterfall.

Most importantly, I would like to mention that the book reading is important not only for passing the exam, it is a great treasure for revising the knowledge on the agile concepts while you deploy these practices over time in the real world.

Brief Profile:
Suresh Juturu, PMP, ACP, CSM, CMMI V2 Associate®-acp®-csm®

Book Available for ACP Exam Prep:

Book Excerpts:

PMI-ACP Success Stories: