As my previous blog mentioned, on Saturday I answered all the sample questions in the Key Consulting binder, my first and only time to look at them. I didn’t review any material prior to answering the questions, so that my responses would be indicative of what I knew about project management rather than what I just read in a book. Since the questions were grouped by knowledge areas, the percentage of questions I missed in each category gave a clear indication of where I needed to focus my efforts in the time remaining (about 36 hours) until my exam. There was cause to be concerned since the test doesn’t include an equal number of questions from each category; some of my weakest, like risk, are more heavily represented on the exam. And to my chagrin, I didn’t do well with the HR questions, a section deemed to be on the easier side for most people.
Based on my not so great results with the simulated test questions on Saturday, I devised a strategy.
It was too late to change my appointment at the test center. I’d take the exam and if I failed, I would continue to study for a few more weeks and try again. This was hardly an ideal scenario, but knowing I had a Plan B for the very real possibility of not passing the first time took a little pressure off.
Recognizing I had a realistic option if I failed the first time allowed me to focus on a strategy for increasing my knowledge in a short time in the hopes of successfully passing on Monday. College students call this cramming!
Beginning Saturday night, I read the chapters that were giving me trouble in Rita Mulcahy’s book for a second time. On Sunday I devoted several consecutive hours to reading. Why had I waited until the last minute to figure out how to calculate early and late starts and finishes on a network diagram?! Feeling frustrated, I turned to the procurement chapter to read. Procurement is one of my strong suits, but there were still lots of new terms and concepts I needed to review in order to be prepared. I can’t sit still for hours at a time so when I needed to get up and walk around, I grabbed a pile of the flashcards I’d made with project management terms, definitions and formulas to go through. Also, I put everything together I’d be taking to the test center in the morning.
After dinner on Sunday evening there were still a few earned value terms and formulas I hadn’t nailed down — yikes! Since I’m a morning person, I was feeling tired. I called it a day after reviewing some areas I’d highlighted in red ink in the book.
I woke up before 4 a.m. on Monday, the BIG day. There was an hour and a half before I had to get ready to leave for the test center. I whipped out the flash cards and turned to pages in the Rita Mulcahy book I’d marked with critical content. By the time I was driving to the test center, I could verbalize every earned value formula. I checked in at the test center, but before I put my purse in a locker I sat down and went through all my flashcards one final time.
What were my impressions of the exam? The questions were generally not as long and complicated as I expected. A few, just a few, were downright easy to answer. There were more acronyms used in questions and response choices than I expected, a couple of which I didn’t know. The questions very much tested both your knowledge and your project management experience (since they so often ask what to do in a particular situation). It was a hard test for me and I didn’t expect to pass, nor was I convinced I could do that much better if I studied for a few more weeks and took it again.
After finishing, you’re not kept in suspense. Up pop the results on the computer screen. I had passed the PMP exam!
If you have experience working on larger projects in companies using formal project management, the test shouldn’t be as challenging as it was for me. If you have more time to study for taking the exam, you’ll probably feel more prepared than I did. If you’re like me, leading a busy life (with little time to devote to studying) and not having worked in an organization using formal project management (despite having managed many projects), I hope my experience demonstrates that you can successfully pass the PMP exam.