The PMP Exam: How to pass in 30 Days!



1. How long did I prepare for the PMP exam? 

A little bit of history here. I booked the exam in January and I decided to go with the new exam. The first available date was April 2, so I booked April 2 as my exam date, but frankly I did not get enough time or I did not make enough time to study because of the work that you have to do; you have to balance your family life and there are other priorities that take-over. So, effectively I started preparing one month before the exam. 

2. How did a PMBoK v6 change my preparation pattern? 

PMBoK v6 has a new exam pattern. To be frank, I did not refer to PMBoK v5 or PMBoK v5-based examination; so, I do not have a comparison or a reference point. And, because it was new, I decided to stick to the basics. So, I did not refer to any PMBoK v5 material to avoid confusions, and I decided to stick to the PMBoK v6 material. I would suggest the same to you, that do not confuse both the materials; don’t prepare PMBoK v5 and fill in the gaps with the changes. Don't do that. Stick to PMBoK v6 material and study that. The second important decision I had to take was, because PMBoK v6 also released Agile Practice Guide, another book- so should I be also studying that? Because I had very less time and that is where some expert advice will help, and I went to experts at GreyCampus to help me make this decision. After some rounds of discussion and also going through the exam outline by PMI; I have made a choice, not to refer to Agile Practice Guide. I didn't have enough time to study it, and good news is that it did not appear in the actual PMP exam. So, sticking to PMBoK v6 is more than enough. 

3. What are the various challenges that one should be aware of while preparing for PMP?

An important factor is linked to time, you have to optimize your preparation. So, you cannot spend too much time preparing like six months or one year; where you are going to lose focus and the intensity is going to go down. At the same time, you cannot spend too less time; because your brain needs some time to grasp the content, especially when you're not aware of the terminologies. So, optimizing your preparation is very important. How much time you spend in a day? Keep it simple- stick to PMBoK v6, do not go and fetch hundred books to study. Second is; stick to an experienced and reliable training provider. In my case, I went with GreyCampus for my PMP preparation. So keeping it simple, stick to PMBoK and choose a reliable, experienced training provider. The second is spread your preparation time- like on weekdays I used to give two hours, one hour in the morning and one hour in the night; and on the weekends I used to spend a little more time, four hours or so. Give your brain that much time to grasp; otherwise, you will be overloaded. So, be aware of this challenge. 

4. How did I align my preparation and prepared myself for this new exam? 

The simple thing is when you don't know anything; especially, I had no idea of the PMBoK Fifth Edition, so I just chose to stick to the basics. So, stick to the PMBoK v6, stick to the scope of the content that is covered in the PMBoK v6 was my first input and the first thing that I did. Second thing here is where,  when and how you are going to take the exam and it's unknown how the exam is going to look like, the experts’ advice help. That's where GreyCampus came into picture for me. The experts at GreyCampus helped me understand and keep my preparation focused and aligned to the new version; and the material, the GreyCampus material, was also updated well in advance in the market. So I had time to discuss with the experts to draw a preparation plan so, that was the second thing. And the good news is the new exam was within the scope of PMBoK v6, that's my experience. If you just prepare using the PMBoK v6 with GreyCampus material, then it will be very helpful. 

5. Can you quantify your preparation for PMP? 

Yes! If you are asking me how many hours I spent, like I said I had 30 or 25 days. So each day, on each week day, I used to spend around two hours, one hour in the morning, one hour in the night. On the weekends, I used to spend couple of hours extra, like four to five hours on a weekend. So that's my quantity of number of hours I spent. In terms of the number of practice questions I attempted maybe, around 400 or 500  practice questions mainly they were based on the different knowledge areas. Once I finished one knowledge area, I used to go to questions to help me sink that knowledge by answering some questions. And yeah, the number of mock tests that I gave is only one, I had time for only one. Towards the end of my preparation I wanted to check if I'm in the safe zone, so that's where I gave the mock test. And all this material that I used, is either PMBoK v6 official guide or the GreyCampus material, so the mock test and practice questions were from GreyCampus. So, this is the quantification of my preparation. 

6. How helpful was GreyCampus material in the preparation?

After giving the PMP exam, in hindsight, people often ask me this question. I would say very helpful. You know, there are two aspects to this question. My main preparation was PMBoK Sixth Edition Official Guide. But, if you see the PMBoK Official Guide, it's not very descriptive. So, that is where you need a perspective of what it is speaking about. If you have some examples that will be helpful to understand the content much more, so that's where a reliable and experienced training provider will come into picture. So, the training provider has to provide you with that insight and the perspectives. It should help you understand whatever is mentioned in the PMBoK Sixth Edition Official Guide, much more easily with some examples. So, that's where GreyCampus came into picture; the material was descriptive- it helped me understand the nuances of various things that PMBoK Official Guide was speaking.

For example, there is a difference between project document and project business documents. Project manager cannot change, but he can change project documents. Such nuances, you need to understand those things, if you want to give the exam; because mainly the questions are based on scenario. So, you need to understand those nuances, so that's where it's very helpful to have a mentor. And the second aspect is, the material from a training provider- they should provide you with practice questions and mock test which are very close to the actual questions that you'll see on the PMP; they should be modeled on that. So, look for an experienced partner. Practice questions that I attempted and the mock test that I had attempted from GreyCampus were very close to the actual exam. Actually, they had three mock tests- I didn't have time to go through all three, but I went through one mock test and gave it proper environment of four hours time, and that mock test was very close to the actual exam. That's mock test two. Mock test one is even more harder than the mock test two; if you can do well on the mock test one, you will be able to do well on the PMP. So, the mock test that I attempted was, I would say, 90 percent close to the actual exam. So, it was very helpful. Luckily, I was not surprised in the examination when I was looking at the questions. 

7. How helpful was the GreyCampus support team during the preparation?

Marvelous! Whenever I needed assistance, the support staff at GreyCampus were available. During my preparation I had lot of doubts, I had questions on the content and all that. So, I needed some kind of coaching. So, they also arranged a one-on-one coaching for me with one of their experts, for a couple of hours and that one session helped me fine-tune my preparation. They provided expert advice because I had less time, I needed to prioritize my preparation- so, the experts also provided me with a list of important topics that I should cover first. So, that is very helpful; because most of the questions, there's a weightage of questions on some processes or some topics is high, you need to know them well. So, the experts provided me with a list of topics and when I was preparing for the topics. Wherever the gaps were there, I was able to fill up by going back to the other processes, and that helped me prioritize my preparation. That was the second important thing, and they also helped me stay focused on my preparation by giving timely guidance and support. So, thank you GreyCampus team, and I owe this PMP certification to you too. 

8. What are the tips for the day before the exam? 

My tip is relax, eat well and sleep well. Don't go sleep deprived to the examination. And also, during my preparation I made some cheat sheets and some notes and revised them; that's it. 

Keep it very light; keep your day very light and sleep well, that's very important. 

9. What are my tips on the day of the exam?

It's a very long exam, PMP, it's a four hours exam. So, you need physical stamina and you will need mental stamina to get through the exam. If you have learned to meditate, I would suggest that you meditate; because it helps you improve your mental stamina and take the pressure of four hours mentally. It's very draining on the brain. Physical stamina- you make sure that you eat well, because there is no break in between the examination and it's quite a long exam. So, it will be helpful to keep yourself fit, eat well and healthy, keep your food healthy. Keep yourself hydrated also, make sure you drink enough water or juice to make sure that you keep yourself hydrated throughout the exam. You can take a break in between the exam, but the timer will keep running and I'm sure you will not want to take a break, once you start the exam. 

Make sure you're reaching the venue well in advance. My exam was at 8:00 AM in the morning- so make sure if your exam is at, suppose, 8:00 in the morning; then make sure you reach the venue at least 45 minutes before. When I went to the exam venue; I discovered that I had to pay for the parking, I need to give them cash- they were not taking cards. So, I had to go scout for an ATM, then get the cash. Then I went and parked my car. So, 25 minutes just went into this process and it was a surprise for me. So, avoid such surprises, go well in advance. At the venue also, there is a lot of checking that happens. So it also takes some time. So, reach the venue early; and at least make sure that you're sitting in your seat at least 15 minutes before the scheduled exam. So, you can settle yourself, you can concentrate and focus on the exam. 

10. How was my experience with the new exam-based on PMBoK Sixth Edition? 

I do not have a reference point; I do not know how the PMBoK v5 looks like. But, my experience has been that the were all types of questions. There were questions which were straight forward from PMBoK. For example, “What is the lowest item on a work breakdown structure?”. So, questions were as straight forward. And questions were scenario based- mainly what should a project manager do in a certain case; or what should a project manager refer to, which document or a plan he should refer to, in certain scenario. The questions were of maximum four to eight lines in length; I did not find very lengthy questions. And the fourth observation was, there were quantitative questions on the PMP exam, but it was completely within the scope of PMBoK v6. If PMBoK v6 mentioned those formulas in that Official Guide, the questions were based only on that- there was nothing outside the scope of the PMBoK v6. That's a very important tip for your preparation. 

Related reading:  Part 1: PMBoK v6 and PMP Exam – All that you need to know

11. What are my tips for the exam? 

The first and important tip is, keep breathing during the exam, because the pressure of the exam can overtake you and it's very important to keep pumping oxygen to your brain; because your brain is going to be drained at the end of 4 hours. So you need to keep your enthusiasm high. Secondly, it's a simple strategy that I followed. I need to get 110 to 130 questions right, so I have scope to skip at least 40 or 50 questions. So, I did not focus on getting all the questions right, I wanted to get this 120 to 130 correct for sure. So that's a simple strategy that I followed, see if it works for you. It's very important to learn to let go. If you're not sure about the answers, it's very important that you let go and move on to the next questions. That is where giving yourself, get wrong few questions or skip few questions helps. So, there are three types of questions where you may want to let go. First type of question is, you are not able to make any head or tail of the question. How to approach the question? My suggestion- Immediately skip that question. Don't even break your head, don’t even take it to your ego to answer such questions, it's not worth it. The second type of question, you may want to skip mark for later. What I'm saying is, learn to let go is, there is an option in PMP exam where you can mark the questions for later. The first kind of questions, mark them for later. If you have time, you can revisit them and do not even need to answer them. Keep them blank. The second type of questions, that you may want to mark them for later is; see, there are questions where there are four answer choices in each question. You know that obviously two answer choices are wrong, so you strike them out; but you're stuck between two answers, you are not very sure. So, there's another tip here, so the PMP exam gives you the option to strike out the wrong answer. So, you can strike out the obvious wrong answers, the two of them and then leave the two answer choices you are not sure of, don't mark and answer and mark this question for later. This is the second type. The third type is, you have chosen an answer; but you want to double check it, you want to reconfirm that you have not made a mistake. So, this is also a question that you should mark for later, but choose an answer. So, these are the three types of questions that you should mark for later and you should quickly let go and move on for the other questions. So, this is what I did. So, out of the four hours- I could finish the first round, I attempted all 200 questions. Of course, I have marked a lot of questions later. So, I've finished first round in 3 hours 20 minutes. I had 40 minutes to review. So, how do you review? What to review first? So, the second type of question that we discussed; where you are left with two answers choices, but you're not sure which one is right, could be the first. I reviewed those questions first, and it gives the brain enough time to process it inside once you leave and come back later. So, by the time you come back, you will have much better and newer perspective. So, that helped me. And the third type of question that you should review is, the question that you want to reconfirm. You have chosen an answer, but you want to reconfirm that you have not made a silly mistake or made a mistake. So, those are the questions that you should definitely review; and finally you should review the first type of questions that you are not able to make a head or tail of. So, there are no negative marks in PMP, if you're not able to make a head or tail, don't break your head, just choose some answer and letter of the day- you can choose that “A’” is going to be my lucky letter of the day and you can mark all “A’s”. Do not leave any questions unanswered. So mark something and finish it. So, I had 40 minutes to review, I did not get a chance to review all the questions that I marked, but I got a chance to review at least 80 to 90 percent of the questions that I marked. I feel that that was the key to crossover to the other side of pass marks.

Still wondering?  Is there any passing score for PMP exam?

You may also come across scenario-based questions, where you are not sure how to go about. Especially, questions where, what should a project manager do next or what should a project manager refer to? Some changes recommended and what should a project manager do. Always choose a moderate answer, do not choose any extreme answer that you should immediately change it, or you should ignore it. If some changes are recommended you should change it immediately or ignore it. Always choose an answer which is moderate, in the sense- there will be an answer where he will say; you need to evaluate the change, you need to understand to cross-benefit of change and stuff like that. So, those are the most appropriate answers. So, this is just a tip, just a guidance to help you with questions where you are not able to make out a head or tail. 

Some more tips for the preparation and the exam- it is very important that you learn key outputs of processes; there will be questions which will be linked to that. You should learn, for example, you should know when issue log is created, in which process issue log is in output for the first time, which process and assumption log is in output for the first time, in which process Project Charter is created? So, you should know, there are some key inputs. And also you should learn the sequence of activities. For example, all planning processes are completed before going into execution processes ideally. So, you should know that sequence; there could be some questions based on the sequencing of activities. And, you should thoroughly learn each and every project document, what is the purpose of it? Like, when is it used? Because there will be a lot of questions on which document to refer to. They will give you a scenario and they will ask you, which document you should refer to. You should also learn very well, the role of a project manager. So, there will be a lot of questions based on that as well. So, it's very important to understand the essence of a project manager, what he does. Finally, learn your formulas well, there will be quantitative questions which are like low hanging fruit. If you know the formula, it's a very straightforward question. So, make sure you are learning your formulas without any confusion. There are very few and you should learn them well and the questions will be very straightforward. 

So, I wish you all the best for your exam and I hope my experience and tips help you. 

Thank you!

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Raghavendra Puranam