Part 1: How to Create PMP Study Plan? | PMP Exam Success Tips and Basic Planning



Hello, my name is Murali, and I welcome you to this video series on creating your PMP exam study plan. As part of this series today, I am going to talk about exam success tips and basic planning. Firstly, you should know why exam success tips are important and how it will benefit you. As you know, every exam requires some kind of a planning and preparation in order to get the confidence to pass it. Similarly, the PMP exam is not so straightforward. You need to have some kind of a preparation, and a plan in place which will enable you to be more confident before you go to the exam and write it. This would assure you of success. Today I'm going to help you do that by taking you through several tips one after another to help you succeed in the exam.

Tip 1: Understanding the nature of the exam


This PMP exam is not just a regular educational testing but also has a psychological testing. This means that it's going to test you on your reaction to a series of challenges in project management. Now you will understand that every person reacts in a different way to a series of challenges. So you have to know the best practices on how to respond to those challenges. Many people who go to attempt the exam generally use their past experiences and attempt similar questions only. But you need to apply the best principles of project management during the exam. I will talk more about those principles and how we can handle them by answering these questions correctly. Apart from what I just said, the other aspects of the psychological testing are- the exam is very fair to everybody. For example, if you wrote the exam today; let's say you scored 70% and if you wrote the same exam tomorrow you will get almost the same score, right? But what nobody knows is, we don’t know the passing score for the exam. For example, is it 60% or 70% we do not know. What!! we don't know if there is a pass range? It might be 60-70, or it might be 65-75 and so on. Therefore, if you are not part of the group who scored those marks in that range, the person is considered to have failed. So, let's say, for example, 60-70 is pass and if the person gets 55 that might be considered as fail. Therefore, please watch out for that and I always tell people to try to get as much as possible in the practice tests, right? The last thing about this exam is it also checks whether you are part of a project management group and a project management community. This means if you are involved in studying project management, understanding the recent practices in project management if you are involved in things and trends in project management. If you are not doing any of it, then you might be a little outdated with that, right? So, therefore, emotional reactions, thinking, behavior, attitude, being part of a project management group, understanding the concepts, all these are part of responding properly to my tip number one, which is understanding the nature of the exam.

Tip 2: Practicing the right questions


If you remember, in tip number one I talked about understanding the nature of the exam. So in order to really succeed in the exam, you need to practices relevant questions. Therefore, when you attend the training from any institute, you need to practice lots of questions after the training is over. You may want to begin by practicing, maybe, a small number of questions; for example, 5 questions or 10 per day or 20 per day. But eventually, you have to come to a situation where you will be able to do 200 questions in one sitting in four hours. So please keep a clock in front of you, time the exam and do the exam of 200 questions within 4 hours. This is because you need to test your stamina to write the exam. Many times these institutes also provide access to the LMS where you can go and practice mock tests like Mock 1, Mock 2, Mock 3 and so on.  Or you might also have a module-based test like Module 1, Module 2 or let us say Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc. For the various knowledge areas, please do practice the various types of questions because the more you practice, the more chances of succeeding in the exam. One last thing about this tip is you need to get about 85% score in these practice exams. Remember what I said in the first tip, nobody knows the passing score but I think it should not be too high, right? to get certified. So, if you get 85 or try 90, keep practicing the same set again and again until you get maximum marks and then you will be assured of success in the real exam.

Tip 3: Studying the PMBoK guide


The guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge(PMBoK) is published by the PMI. This includes the standards of project management. Now, if you have attended a training, you know that they usually cover the PMBoK guide in the training. But if you have not attended it, let me tell you that the content of the PMBoK guide is the essential thing to know before you can go and write the exam. The PMBoK guide has several chapters. It has got the introduction the project environment, the role of the project manager. You have got the 10 knowledge areas. So initially you will be exposed to the process groups and all that and then the various knowledge areas. Now, the important thing here is to know that the PMBoK guide is a very thick book. It's got about 750 odd pages but then you have to study about approximately 560 out of them because the remaining things are, you know, a table of contents index and so on and so forth. So if you have to study about more than 500 pages and if even if you do like 5 minutes per page it's going to take you about 45 hours approximately to finish it, which is about 5 or 6 business days. If you are employed then, you need to spend about month or month and a half to cover the entire PMBoK. Now the question is how do I read this PMBoK because it can look very dry for some of us. So you may want to actually study it in a random order. For example, if you don't know about a specific process, let's say about cost management you can actually open a specific process under the cost management chapter and study it. You can do that maybe in half an hour or one hour. On another hand, if you let's say if you don't know about procurement management, you can study the entire chapter on project procurement management. So either study one process at a time or study one chapter at a time, rather than reading it from cover to cover. This is because reading it from cover to cover can take a lot of effort and it can also cause some lack of motivation if you try to read it like a thriller or like a fiction novel.

Tip 4: Using additional PMP Exam study guides


Apart from using the guide to the PMBoK, it's also good to use an additional study guide. These study guides have easier language, colorful examples, calculations, practice questions and so on. By the way, there are so many exam study guides available in the market. As far as I know right now in the month of April 2018, based on the new syllabus from PMI which is the effective end of March 2018, there is only one study guide published in the market which is written by Rita Mulcahy. There are of course other study guides which might get updated anytime like Andy Crowe, Head First PMP, Janice Preston, Elaine Ellis, Sean Whitaker, Christopher Scordo, Joseph Phillips, Ginger Levin and LeRoy Ward and so on. There are also several blogs and mock question websites where you can download sets of practice questions and you might get some good articles too. I can't name all of them and I'm also not trying to market any one of them. This is basically what I have heard and I've seen some good reviews. But please make your own decision before purchasing any one of them. This is because it depends on your learning style. If you are very visual you might want to see something which has a lot of images, etc. If you like to read a lot of text, if you want to do a lot of calculation it all depends on you. For those of you who are more kinesthetic which means you want to practice some activities. You may want to subscribe to the books who also supply flashcards which means you know the definitions of the various PMP terms. So please do your own selection in terms of selecting the best study guide for yourself.

Tip 5: Important Documents of PMP Exam


There are two important documents to study from the PMI website. The first one is known as the Exam Syllabus Document which is also known as the Exam Content Outline, and the second one is the PMI Code of Ethics. Let's talk about the exam syllabus or the content outline. For this, you need to go to, the PMI  website. Then click on PMP certification page and when you go there on this side you would find two documents. You would find the certification handbook which is more about the certification process. But I'm actually referring to another one which is known as the Exam Content Outline. So you need to download that, it's basically a small document which has all the tasks of project management by the five process groups. So if you open the document you will see the initiating process group with the few tasks listed. It includes planning process groups with few more tasks listed and so on. These tasks will be tested in the exam for you. Therefore, this document is extremely important. For example, let's say you are in the closing process and you have to know in the closing process that customer feedback is also taken. So if you see that exam syllabus document known as the Content Outline, you will see one of the tasks in the closing process which would say collecting feedback from the customer as part of the closing process. So just by reading this document can give you a lot of advantage to pass the exam because who knows maybe some of the questions are right away from this Exam Content Outline. There's also one more thing in this syllabus document and that is a list of skills required for a Project Manager. There are skills listed by each process group so initiating skills, planning skills, executing skills, monitoring and controlling skills, and closing skills. But there is also an overall skill required for project management as such. For example, it could be business acumen, solving problems, analytical skills, Six Sigma, Lean and so on. Please make sure you read this important document a few times before you appear for the exam. The second important document is the PMI Code of Ethics. Where do you find that? You need to go to the PMI website, and you need to go to the About PMI. Click on the About PMI link which appears here. When you click there, you will see a few links appearing on this side Code of Ethics and other links. When you click on the Code of Ethics link once again, you see a few links coming up and then you can click on the document and download it. It's a small document about eight pages - Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, just like you know you have a code of ethics for other professions also. As you know these code of ethics are about moral values and ethical values and so on. But these are very specific to PMI and to project management. It applies not only to Project Managers who are certified PMP but also those who are volunteers for PMI, who are members and who have just applied for the exam and not yet written the exam also. Please study this it's got some mandatory values as well as aspirational values. There are four different sections of different values which you need to understand and because the exam has some ethical questions embedded in them. So what you think is right may not be correct from a PMI ethics perspective. Let me give an example, let's say you are selecting a vendor and there are few vendors at the meeting. You happen to know one of those vendors who might be your university classmate. In such a situation you need to inform your management that you know this person. Since not informing that and being part of the selection committee for a vendor for a seller is a violation of the code. So please be careful about this. Depending on the Code of Ethics situation, you may have to pick up a different answer when you write the exam as compared to another answer.

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Tip 6: Studying the latest PMI articles on the PMI website


This is going to be helpful. It's a short tip and can be important. This is because of the changing nature of the project management industry. It's important to see what is changed recently and PMI is the best place to see that. So you go to the PMI website and you can actually search for something like let's say earned value management. You might be able to find some articles on the recent trends in earned value management. There are two ways to do your searches: 

(i) You may want to pick up a specific item, where you think you are not very clear about the subject; and maybe you can read a white paper or case study or a document at the PMI website, or (ii) You can also select maybe you have heard some latest trends in the industry and you want to know more about that. So you can try both of them and by doing this, it actually helps you to understand what you already know in a much better way and also to get some new things which you have not heard about in the past.

Tip 7: How to get motivated to write the exam?


We all know that however difficult the endeavor if we practice discipline, are enthusiastic and motivated, we can achieve success. Actually, I’ve heard and talked to a lot of people about how to gain enthusiasm to reach any goal. What I’ve also heard is it’s good to focus on the goal rather than getting stressed about the effort to be put. As I told you in the previous tips, you have to practice several questions, a study in the PMBoK guide, may be optionally studied additional exam study guide; go to the PMI website, study the code of ethics so on and so forth. But where do we get the motivation from to do so many things in a short time? So you might want to actually think about benefits of passing the exam. For example, passing the exam you might get a promotion or a pay rise, or you might get more status in your company. You might be more comfortable doing your work in your office and more comfortable in handling your customers, stakeholders and attending meetings or controlling your project so on and so forth. Therefore, please do focus on your end goal which is like passing the PMP exam and think about the feelings you get when you pass the exam. So from this perspective, I would also like to tell you something about the technique known as visualization. Visualization was very popular in 1990’s when I was younger those days there was a wonderful book written by a lady name Shakti Gawain. Of course, there are lots of other books today. Visualization is a technique where you imagine your end goal and it makes happen that way. By the way, it’s not like day-dreaming. Day-dreaming is just sitting on a sofa comfortably and just dreaming something. But here it is action-oriented. So in this case, what you can do is you can close your eyes and relax yourself and imagine that you are at the exam center and you have answered all the questions comfortably and you have submitted your answers, a final submission and it's doing calculations eventually getting a screen which is a bright screen; a pass on it and congratulations! So you can actually imagine this happening and whenever you feel some stress inside you. So let’s say you start preparing for the exam now you feel a bit stressed up, you can do this visualization exercise. Visualization does work for many people even if you are not visual person meaning you don't have to really think the colors and all in your head you can just think. Just imagine little bit and it should be sufficient.  You don't need to really have some pictures in your mind. The thoughts are more important. Somebody told me that the universe gives us what we feel most strongly about most of the time. For example, if I feel sad, most of the time and in a very strong way, the universe thinks that I want sadness so it is going to give me more sadness. So why not try to happy most of the time and so the universe knows that this person wants to be happy, likes to be happy so it gives that person more happiness. So why not think about what you’ve passed the PMP exam from time to time and have that feeling of relief, achievement, the feeling of happiness and being proud about clearing the exam. Keep this positive feeling from time to time and see the difference it’s going to make. But finally, I leave it to you. You don't have to agree with me and everything that I have said to all my tips. Particularly, this one about motivation and visualization. But try it for yourself and also search for other sources where you have found out other techniques and do better in the exam. 

With that, I would like to thank you for your participation in this video about PMP exam success techniques which is the first part of the series of creating PMP exam study plan.

Thank you very much for watching and I wish you success in case you are going to write the exam soon.  

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Muralidhar Gaddam