How To Prepare For PMP Exam With Confidence

I know, passing PMP Exam is difficult. It requires a tremendous amount of efforts. The endeavor itself looks overwhelming.
Should it be that way?
I can tell for sure. There is a way to make it easier. You just need a proven preparation plan. A roadmap that you can commit to and track against.
You know I approach everything from project management perspective. “Plan before you act” is my motive.
Today I want to describe my journey to PMI PMP®. I will share with you the tips that helped me to prepare, stay on track and pass the exam on the first try.Here is what you need to know.
[PMP exam will change on 26 March 2018. These updates will ensure the exam content is consistent with the PMBOK® Guide. There are no adapted resources I can suggest at the moment. Focus more on PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition during preperation]

How long does it take to prepare for the PMP exam?

Is it possible to prepare for the PMP Exam in 30 days? I think you can. But I don’t suggest you to.
Why?
If you plan to squeeze all the benefits of PMP® certification, I would suggest you take two to four months for preparation. This way you will be able to remember and apply the knowledge on real projects. Moreover, they will stick with you for life.
However, if you are on a short deadline to prepare for PMP Exam, you can aim for about 30 days.

How long do you have to take the PMP exam?

You have 4 hours to pass the PMP exam. There will be 200 questions. In average 72 seconds per question.

6 Important Buffers on Your Way to the Certificate

There are several other deadlines and numbers you need to keep in mind:
  1. You need to get 35 hours of project management education. These hours are certified by the education vendor. This certificate has no expiration date.
  2. When you sign up for the actual examination, you need to book the exact date and time. Moving the exam date costs extra money. If you reschedule or cancel your exam within 30 days, you will have to pay 70$ fee. You can not cancel or reschedule your appointment within two days. In this case, you have to pay the full price again.
  3. When you start Application Submission, you have 90 days to complete it.
  4. Keep in mind that your application may be selected for audit. In this case, your review process will prolong until you provide the required information. You will have 90 days to do that.
  5. Once your application is approved, you have one year to pass the exam successfully.
  6. You have three attempts during the year to pass the exam.
So, what’s next?

PMP Examination in the Nutshell

On a high level the process of getting the PMI PMP® looks as follows:
  1. Make sure you eligible to become PMI PMP®.
  2. Register at PMI.org for free.
  3. (Optional) Become PMI Member. See justification below.
  4. Apply for PMP Exam.
  5. Book the exam at Prometric.
  6. Take the exam.
[PMP Prerequisites from http://www.pmi.org/]
Right after the exam, you will get the results. If you pass, congrats, you are a PMI PMP®! The certificate will be posted to you, and you should receive it within about two weeks.
What’s the real story?
The truth is you need way more efforts than it seems. But I will guide you through how to prepare for PMP Exam.

1. Safeguard Your Motivation for Success

It is difficult. I do remember dozens of times I wanted to postpone the certification for the next year. The strongest desire what three weeks before the exam. Just right after I paid for it.
Here is the deal.
You need strong motivation to finish the journey successfully. One glance on that motivation should give you a second wide in the most desperate moments. Here is how to discover that motivation:
  1. Ask yourself why you want to become PMP®. Give an answer.
  2. Take that answer and ask why do you need that for the second time. Give an answer.
  3. Take that answer and ask why do you need that for the third time. Give an answer.
  4. Take that answer and ask why do you need that for the fourth time. Give an answer.
  5. Take that answer and ask why do you need that for the last time. Give an answer.
  6. Write down that answer – that is your deep motivation.
  7. Put it down everywhere where you will see it every day. Put it as desktop wallpapers, stick it to your display and refrigerator.
Now, you are ready for the next step.

2. Get Rita

I believe PMP Exam Prep, Eighth Edition – Updated: Rita’s Course in a Book for Passing the PMP Exam Eighth Edition is the best book for PMP® preparation. In community, this book is called just “Rita”
Why?
  • It is complete and organized. The information structured in such a way that you get a whole picture of the project management process.
  • Rita Process Chart. On the exam, there will be questions that require knowledge of processes. Their sequence, inputs, outputs, tools, and techniques. You can’t merely memorize that. That chart makes the learning process as a game.
  • It will serve you well after the exam. You can return to it to recall the information for your actual work. It is that comprehensive.
  • It has additional tips on how to prepare for PMP Exam.
Depending on your geographical location it may take some time to deliver it.

What About PMBOK® Guide?

PMBOK® Guide is a reference book. It is not suitable for learning. The language is too dry, and there are no examples and explanations there.
So, how do you use it?
  1. Read first three paragraphs.
  2. Read the introduction to each knowledge area.
  3. Analyse diagrams. They are the most valuable.
Then comes a pro tip.

3. Get a PMI PMP® Mindset Before You Learn Anything

Questions on the PMP Exam assumes that you are managing a large plan-driven project. Moreover, it assumes that your organization applies best practices described in PMBOK® Guide.
It might not be your case.
Therefore, it is important to get a right mindset before you start the education process.
There are also PMI-isms that you need to keep in mind. It is how PMI sees the project management. I can say for sure, realities of my work are entirely different.

(optional) Pre-Preparations

If you are not yet qualified for PMI PMP®, but you do plan to get the certificate, you can use the extra time for powerful preparation.
  1. Read Rita right away once.
  2. Analyse your environment.
  3. See what is aligned with PMI’s vision, what is not.
  4. Try to match the processes described in the book with your observations.
  5. Mark the areas that you do not have experience in.
  6. Look for opportunities to get that experience.
This process will dramatically simplify your future preparation.

4. Join Preparation Courses

Now it is time to get your 35 hours of project management education.
You can get those from different providers:
  1. PMI Registered Education Providers (R.E.P.s)
  2. PMI chapters
  3. Employer/company-sponsored programs
  4. Training companies or consultants (e.g., training schools)
  5. Distance-learning companies, including an end-of-course assessment
  6. University/college academic and continuing education programs
What is important both online and offline education is valid. Nevertheless, I do suggest you visit offline life course.
I can’t advise you much about your local education providers. Personally, I attended classes by TenStep. It was a profound and structured education. They are present in 29 countries. Chances are good they are available to you.
If you are in Ukraine, I can suggest you Spider Ukraine. These guys are great. Moreover, they are doing much more than that!
If you do want to take an online class, after all, check Cornelius Fichtner’s PM PrepCast.
That is not all…

How to Make the Most Out of the Course

  1. It is a good idea to find a class that will be lead by a project manager from your industry.
  2. Do NOT take “express” course. 8 hours a week of education is more than enough. Why? See next point.
  3. Read Rita before the next lesson. Come prepared and with loads of questions.
  4. Focus on areas that you have no experience in.
  5. Do focus on the mock tests at the lessons and ask a lot of WHY questions. You need to get the feel of PMI’s project management.
  6. Ask to show and explain the process of submission for the exam. See below.

5. Allocate Time For Application for Exam

After the course, you will have everything ready for submission for the exam.
But there is a catch.
You need to describe your proven experience of work as a project manager. That is a lot of work!
You may require about a week to collect all required information.
You need to state the periods for the projects you lead, give a brief description for each of them. There are also specific rules to count the work on multiple projects. Check the handbook.
Moreover, you need to state a contact person who can confirm your experience. I suggest that you communicate with those people and ask their permission.
Also, these contact persons should be accessible. In case you are selected for audit, you will need their signatures. And you will have 90 days to get it.

Do You Need PMI Membership to Submit for PMP®?

The short answer is no. You don’t need the membership.
However, with membership, you will save 11$ on the exam. In addition to that, you will get a digital copy of PMBOK® Guide. It is about 39$ more.
And there are many other benefits of membership you can learn about at PMI’s website.
So, I believe, it is worth it.

6. Read Rita Start to End

Depending on how you will follow the process, it will be your first, second or even a third run.
In any case, focus on reading the text. Skip the exam questions for now but do the exercises.
And keep a notepad at hand!
Why?

7. Sharpen Your Focus on Gaps in Knowledge

You need to do two specific actions:
  1. During the reading, write down topics that you have a hard time to imagine. Like you don’t have a clue how to do it on a real project.
  2. After you read the book, skim through the chapters and write down topics that did not settle in your mind.
Why does this matter?
You see, the book is huge. There is a lot of information. Your attention will drift from time to time, and you will miss some pieces. However, if you will simply try to re-read the book, the chances are good that you will miss the same areas.
In general, I do not recommend to read the book from start to end again from here on. You need to focus on what you do not know.

8. How to Prepare for PMP Exam with a Colleague

The best way to learn and understand something is to explain it.
Find a friend or colleague who is planning to get the certification. Schedule meetings to discuss the topics you learned.
The best part?
You can do this at work. Either during lunch time or just block 20–30 minutes for a meeting.

9. Read Rita to Fill the Gaps

Since the start of this education plan, my list of knowledge gaps evolved several times. But by this time it should start to shrink.
Nevertheless, some areas require constant refreshment and polishing:
  1. Sequence of processes
  2. Inputs and outputs for processes
  3. Tools, techniques and their benefits
  4. Formulas
  5. Questions related to Network Diagram calculation.
  6. PMI’s vision of project management
So, what’s next?

10. Get Prepared for the Real Exam

Now, it is time to test yourself and assess your readiness.
There are many options. You can buy access to mock tests, or you can find some of them for free on the Internet. Also, there are a lot of questions in Rita. Start from them.
What is your goal?
  • Learn to read the questions really fast.
  • Learn to get the correct answer from the first time.
  • 75% of correct answers.
How can you actually use the results of your test?

11. Focus Only on Areas Where You Make Mistakes

Time is running out!
You will narrow your list of knowledge gaps. But that is not all.
Now you need to take each incorrect answer and analyze it. Why is the correct answer actually correct. How did you miss it? Did you think as a manager of a large project?
If you don’t get to 75% threshold in average, it means you need to learn some more.
Next, the scary part.

12. Schedule the Exam

Once you crack the questions with ease, it is time to make a commitment.
Schedule your exam within three weeks. It will be enough to fill in all the gaps. And it will not be too much to over-prepare. Yes, that is also possible.
Check the terms of rescheduling and canceling in the handbook. In most cases, you will have to pay extra 70$. You can not cancel or reschedule your appointment within two days.
Therefore, select the date that you can attend with 100% certainty. That is also the reason I recommend three weeks.

13. Test, Fill the Gaps, Repeat

All the remaining time you need to spend answering mock questions.
However, be careful. Answering the same questions over and over will give you a sense of improvement. That is because of you already know the exact answers. Try to find new questions every time.

14. A Day Before Exam

I do recommend to stop learning one day before the exam. Take a rest. Clear your mind and prepare mentally. Fear is your worst enemy.
Take a good sleep. If you did not learn something through these months, I doubt that several hours will make any difference.
Fresh body and clear mind is your best advantage.
And don’t forget to eat before the exam. Four hours of the intensive tests are exhaustive. You don’t want to crash in the middle.

The Next Action

  1. Register at PMI.
  2. Read the PMP® Handbook.
  3. Plan your certification process.
Good Luck!
Are you going to take PMP exam in 2018? Please put your answer in comments below.
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