I promise I will keep this blog 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, PMP certification cost, PMP exam format, PG-KA mapping etc)
I highly suggest you go over to the PMCLounge.com website’s Start Here section if you are completely unaware but interested to pursue the PMP certification
Now, I admit, in order to clear the PMP certification exam on the 50th day, there were certain pre-preparation steps that I took, two to be accurate,
1. Selected the dates of the PMP Certification Training well in advance (some people also call this PMP Boot Camp or PDU Training)
2. Made sure I didn’t have any other commitments around 1 month after the PMP Certification Training as that was my target time frame to take up the PMP Certification Exam
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.
Project Management Professional Certification is not just about clearing an exam, its more about understanding the application of the 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 its about selecting the right ‘approach’ in the given scenario. Alright, let’s cut to chase and answer the question,
How to get PMP Certification?
Week 1 and Week 2
So getting down to business, I had 2 weeks in hand before my scheduled PMP certification training. I read through the entire PMBOK guide once. I was able to readily understand many concepts, all 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. In the organizations we work in, the processes are tailored 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 much extra efforts here since my target was to finish off the PMBOK guide completely before my PMP certification training.
Key actions in Week 1 and 2
- Read PMBOK guide once
- Refer to reference books like Rita Mulcahy for the concepts you aren’t able to fully comprehend
Week 3 was my PMP certification training. Reading PMBOK beforehand really helped me in keeping everything in perspective. I was also able to clear some of my queries that I had after my first pass of reading the PMBOK guide. Although the 5-day training pretty much took away the entire day, I made it a point to answer at least 30 questions on the knowledge areas being covered in each class. I answered only about 60% of the questions correctly but I was happy with the progress and with the deeper understanding of the concepts. Week 3 was probably the most arduous of the 7 as I used to get hardly 4 hours of sleep everyday. 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 😉
Key actions in Week 3
- Attend PMP training class
- Solve atleast 30 questions of each knowledge area
Week 4 and Week 5
These 2 weeks are the key. In addition to going over the PMBOK guide again, I took much more time to understand the troublesome concepts in detail referring to other books as well as online videos. Stuff that I understood in my first pass of the PMBOK guide 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. 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 actual ‘PMP exam passing score’. Also, it was during these 2 weeks that I highlighted important text in the PMBOK guide (for revision later) and refined my notes. Did I tell you that I have been taking notes all along?
Key actions in Week 4 and 5
- Read PMBOK Guide once again
- Refer to other books and online videos for troublesome topics
- Solve all practice questions in Rita Mulcahy
- Highlight important text in the PMBOK Guide and refine your notes
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 also referred to some of the videos available online for practice questions. 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 highlighted important text in PMBOK Guide and my notes. I took a shot at drawing the PG-KA mapping and to my surprise, I was able to do so! I also practiced and finalized my brain dump for the exam
PMP Brain Dump – the stuff you will immediately write on a rough sheet of paper as soon as the time starts, this is basically notes for easy reference during the exam
My PMP Brain Dump included all the formulas, names of the risk response strategies, names of the quality tools and the 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 great confidence boosters
Key actions in Week 6
- Install an app, refer to online videos for practice questions and take notes as you go
- Revisit the highlighted text and review your notes
- Finalize your PMP Bain Dump
- Go over the PMI-isms in Rita Mulcahy book
- Solve practice questions of Headfirst book
Drawing close to the exam day, I started off the final 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 final few 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
Key actions in Week 7
- Take atleast 3 Mock PMP exam
- Install an app or refer to online videos for practice questions
- Revisit the highlighted text and your notes
- Practice your PMP Brain Dump
- Go over PMI-isms
- Watch PMP concept related videos
- Read RDS and Code of Ethics
I wanted to have a good night’s sleep before the exam day but I never get one when I need the most! 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 was a combination of 200 questions and 4 hours!
Once I crossed that barrier, reviewed the selected answers and went ahead, 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, (this time for real 😊) there it was… the congratulatory message on clearing PMP exam 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 totally relieved.
I created a PMP Study Plan in an excel file based on my experience, you can grab it from here. I write about PMP and other Project Management Certifications over at pmclounge.com, do check out the website if you are preparing for PMP. All the best!