Clearing PMP in 7 weeks - My Experience

Before we begin with this blog, please do not treat this as a guide to what you should be doing to pass the PMP exam. Rather treat this purely as my experience of clearing PMP in the grueling 7 weeks run up to the exam day. I will keep this as crisp as possible and my assumption is that you already have the basic information on PMP (like experience and PDU requirements, different PMP books available out there, contact hours, exam format, PG-KA etc)

So in order to clear the PMP on the 50th day, there are certain pre-prep steps that I took,

1. Selected the dates of the PDU training well in advance

2. Made sure I didn't have any other commitments around 1 month after the PDU training as that was my target PMP exam date

Once done with both the steps above it was time to put my head down and not look up until the exam day. The next 7 weeks were obviously very, very important and exhausting. PMP is not just about clearing the exam. It’s much more about understanding the application of project management concepts in the real World. That is the main reason why the majority of PMP questions are not about selecting the right definition rather selecting the right approach in different scenarios.

Week 1 and Week 2

So getting down to business, I had 2 weeks in hand before my PDU training and I read through the entire PMBOK guide once. I was able to readily understand many concepts thanks to my project management experience. One thing to note in this period is not connecting everything in PMBOK with our day-to-day project management as processes are tailored in organizations to suit the environment. However, in the exam, the aspirant is expected to answer as per the PMBOK guide and not as per an organization's own practice. The other thing I did during these 2 weeks was referring to Rita Mulcahy and Headfirst books for the concepts that I didn't understand completely. However, I didn't make extra efforts as my target was to finish off the PMBOK completely before my PDU training

Week 3

Week 3 was my PDU training. Reading PMBOK beforehand really helped me keep everything in perspective and also clear some of my queries that I had after my first pass. Although the class did take away the entire day, I made it a point to answer at least 30 questions on the knowledge areas covered in the class every day. Although I got only about 60% of them correct I was happy with the progress and understanding of the concepts. Week 3 was probably the most backbreaking of the 7 as I was hardly sleeping 4 hours daily. Over the weekend after my class, I completed the PMP application form and also caught up with all the work emails to make my Monday easier :-)

Week 4 and Week 5

These 2 weeks are the key. In addition to going over the PMBOK again, I took much more time to understand the troublesome concepts in detail referring to other books. Stuff that I understood in my first pass of the PMBOK was fairly easy to review and skim through. During these 2 weeks, I also solved all the corresponding topic questions in the Rita Mulcahy book. My score did go up with this iteration and on an average, I was scoring about 70% in each topic. Although 70% is a good score and many experts consider it to be the 'PMP exam passing score', it is still high risk to go and write the exam because nobody can really tell you the PMP passing score which again adds to the uniqueness of this exam. Also, it was during these 2 weeks that I marked important texts in the PMBOK for revision later

Week 6

This week was more of a retrospect. To start with, I installed a mobile app for practicing PMP mock questions throughout the week whenever I got some free time. I did not just answer the questions, I reviewed and made notes of all of them irrespective of whether I got them right or wrong. Also in this week, I went over all the marked text in PMBOK and other books. I took a shot at drawing the PG-KA mapping and to my surprise, I was able to do so! I also practiced my brain dump for the exam (Brain dump - the stuff you will immediately write on the rough paper once you begin the exam!) Mine included all the formulae, names of the risk response strategies, names of the quality tools and PG-KA mapping. Additionally, I went over the PMI-isms in Rita Mulcahy book twice and ended the week going over the practice questions in Headfirst book with scores ranging from 75% to 85%. Those scores were very good confidence boosters

Week 7

Drawing close to the exam day, I started off the week with one mock test each day. I took 3 and was consistently scoring over 80%. By this time I was confident enough of clearing the exam. In the last days, I kept things a little lighter and practiced my brain dump, read PMI-isms and watched a few good PMP concepts related videos. In addition to that, I also went over the RDS and Code of Ethics documents which are fairly easy reads.

Exam Day

I wanted to have a good night's sleep before the exam day but the problem with me is I never get one when I want to! But since this was expected it didn't bother me much. I left for the exam center 3 hours before the scheduled time (Bangalore traffic) and reached in about 2 hours. After the formalities (and there are a lot of them, trust me on this!), the only barrier between me and the PMP certification were the 200 questions and 4 hours! And once I crossed the barrier and reviewed the marked answers, there it was...the survey screen! Yep, PMI expects you to take a survey about your experience before the result is displayed (you can skip it). And after the survey, there it was...the congratulatory message on clearing PMP with 4 Ps and 1 MP! I wanted all 5 Ps but it was still good to finally clear the certification and walk out the exam center not having to study anymore!

- Additional links from that you may find helpful if you are preparing for PMP exam,
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