How to prepare for PMP Exam?

This question is on the mind of every PMP aspirant. A good number of people keep thinking on this question for months and years. Many people keep thinking on whether they do it or not? Many people are not so clear about its benefits and many people keep postponing it because they are not confident about success.

People remain in this state because they never give a deeper thought on various aspect of this certification – what all do they need, how much is the total investment, what support do they require, what benefit will they get, how will they utilize it, how to be sure about success etc.

Here are my recommendations. Treat it as a project, apply all project management knowledge on it and your success is guaranteed. You are studying project management and there is no better way to learn than applying this knowledge in practice. So learn it by doing. Though here I am focusing on PMP Certification but this method is equally applicable to all certifications or as such any mission you take up.  Let’s prepare for PMP Exam in a project management way.

Following the PMBOK guidelines, we will start with initiation, then will chalk out a plan, will look into execution of the plan, we will see how to keep monitoring our progress and take corrective measures and once you have taken the exam, how to close out the project. This being a small project, the level of implementation of processes will be low and we will use only selected processes of PMBOK that are meaningful in this project. We call it tailoring

 

1. Initiation

In initiation, we do two things, first write the charter and then identify stakeholders. Let’s start with charter

1.1 Charter

Charter is a document that give us a clear direction. A direction is necessary because without direction, efforts do not give intended results leading to failure. We will write four things in this charter to understand where we should focus our efforts.

Business Case (Why do you want to be PMP Certified):

State clear reasoning. What issues or needs will get addressed by doing PMP Certification? For example – It will significantly improve my performance or it will help me to get a raise in my career or it will give a raise in my salary etc.

Your objectives:

Let’s write quantifiable objectives to address the business case. It could be as simple as passing the exam. I do not recommend it because you may not be doing this certification just for doing it. You have a specific purpose which you have just written down in previous point. What specific performance will it improve? What exact raise will you get in your career? How much salary will be raised or any other avenue it will open up.

Budget:

Let’s write down the overall costing. Many times we do not consider all expenses. We should know in who much cost we are addressing our needs and it is worth.

Application Fee: $555

Cost of the training: X amount

Cost of other resources like book etc.: Y amount

Cost of travel (if required): Z amount

Total Cost = $555 + X + Y + Z =

Milestone schedule

Many times people keep thinking for months and years. To stay away from this situation, let’s write down milestone schedule. Be realistic and consider only the time you can dedicate for preparation.

Write down – By when will you complete your training? By when will you complete the preparation? By when will you pass? etc.

If you want, you can write down high level scope, risk etc. also however I recommend it to take this up in planning as this is a small project.

 

1.2 Stakeholders

Let’s identify some stakeholders that are actively involved. Try to write all stakeholders and see what they want from your certification what you need from them for success. For example

Your family specially your spouse:

Whose time you will invest in studies. Don’t take it for granted, involve them and let them know how much you may invest in studies and how long and what support you need.

Your company:

It may sponsor your fee and possibly provide some resources. Company may conduct PMP Training in-house by calling a consultant. Also consider what it expects in exchange?

Your manager:

He/she may help you getting your fee reimbursed from your company. He may want you to bring some improvement back at the work post certification. His support may help you in getting some relaxation from the work to prepare etc.

Your mentor:

If you don’t have, my recommendation is to find one. He/she may guide you and help you in dealing with difficult situations, help you in resolving complex questions. You may discuss your issues with him openly and get directions.

Analyse their contribution and take ways and prepare a strategy to engage them so that they all become your supporter in your mission.

 

Now let’s plan out what we need to do to succeed in this effort.

2. Planning

Planning start from deciding what all I need to do i.e. defining the scope

2.1 Scope

Scope of the exam is basically PMBOK latest version (Currently 5th Edition). If I have to create a WBS of the efforts, I think it should be like this…

1. PMP Prep Training

1.1 Identify a good trainer (I insist on a good trainer not on a big institute. A big institute will not necessary give you a good trainer. I will suggest you to lookout for consultants, Your trainer can be your mentor also)

1.2 Get enrolled

1.3 Participate in the training

Go into the training with a mind-set of understanding concepts not just passing PMP Exam. If you go with a mind-set of just passing PMP Exam, you may not understand the concepts but if you have understood the concepts, you will definitely pass the exam.

2. Study

2.1 Revise Chapter 1, 2, 3 (Project Management Framework)

I mentioned revise as I consider that you have already gone through PMP Prep Training covering complete PMBOK.

2.2 Revise Chapter 4 (Project Integration Management)

2.3 Revise Chapter 5 (Project Scope Management)

… so on

… so on

2.11 Revise Chapter 13 (Project Stakeholder Management)

Few things are not so well explained in PMBOK, take the help of other books or your mentor and study them well. Like concepts of WBS, Scheduling, network, EVM, Quality Tools, Human Resource Theories, Communication Models, Risk Theories, Stakeholders Analysis

3. Practice of Question & Answers

Your purpose of attempting the questions should be to identify knowledge gaps and filling those gaps. So do not attempt a huge set of questions that make your study a rote learning but attempt limited quality questions. I believe 30 to 50 quality question on each chapter normally sufficient to identify the gaps and fill them.

3.1 Attempt questions on Chapter 1, 2, 3 (Project Management Framework)

This may immediately follow 2.1 (i.e. Revise Chapter 1, 2, 3). This mean 2.1 is followed by 3.1, then 2.2 is followed by 3.2 and so on.

  • Attempt questions on Chapter 4 (Project Integration Management)

3.3 Attempt questions on Chapter 5 (Project Scope Management)

… so on

… so on

  • Attempt questions on Chapter 13 (Project Stakeholder Management)

4. Test the preparedness

4.1 Attempt half-length exam – at least two

4.2 Attempt full-length exam – at least two

Try to score above 80% to be assured about your success.

 

2.2. Time

Based on the scope, I suggest following plan. This a 28 days plan. I have considered that you have a full time job and therefore may not be able to spend more than 2 hours a day. You can spend more time on weekend but I left weekends also with 2 hours considering that you may catch up if you miss out anything any day. You may modify this plan as per your availability and time commitment

Day Activity PMBOK Chapters Status
Day 1 Review Project Management Framework 1, 2, 3 Completed
Day 1 Attempt 30 Questions of Project Management Framework 1, 2, 3 In Progress
Day 2 Review questions that were incorrect or doubtful 1, 2, 3
Day 2 Review the chapter, consult your mentor, post your query on linkedin group or whatsapp Group to clear the doubts 1, 2, 3
Day 3 Review Project Integration Management 4
Day 3 Attempt 30 Questions of Project Integration Management 4
Day 4 Review questions that were incorrect or doubtful 4
Day 4 Review the chapter, consult your mentor, post your query on linkedin group or whatsapp Group to clear the doubts 4
Day 5 Review Project Scope Management 5
Day 5 Attempt 30 Questions of Project Scope Management 5
Day 6 Review questions that were incorrect or doubtful 5
Day 6 Review the chapter, consult your mentor, post your query on linkedin group or whatsapp Group to clear the doubts 5
Day 7 Review Project Time Management 6
Day 7 Attempt 30 Questions of Project Time Management 6
Day 8 Review questions that were incorrect or doubtful 6
Day 8 Review the chapter, consult your mentor, post your query on linkedin group or whatsapp Group to clear the doubts 6
Day 9 Review Project Cost Management 7
Day 9 Attempt 30 Questions of Project Cost Management 7
Day 10 Review questions that were incorrect or doubtful 7
Day 10 Review the chapter, consult your mentor, post your query on linkedin group or whatsapp Group to clear the doubts 7
Day 11 Review Project Quality Management 8
Day 11 Attempt 30 Questions of Project Quality Management 8
Day 12 Review questions that were incorrect or doubtful 8
Day 12 Review the chapter, consult your mentor, post your query on linkedin group or whatsapp Group to clear the doubts 8
Day 13 Review Project HR Management 9
Day 13 Attempt 30 Questions of Project HR Management 9
Day 14 Review questions that were incorrect or doubtful 9
Day 14 Review the chapter, consult your mentor, post your query on linkedin group or whatsapp Group to clear the doubts 9
Day 15 Review Project Communication Management 10
Day 15 Attempt 30 Questions of Project Communication Management 10
Day 16 Review questions that were incorrect or doubtful 10
Day 16 Review the chapter, consult your mentor, post your query on linkedin group or whatsapp Group to clear the doubts 10
Day 17 Review Project Risk Management 11
Day 17 Attempt 30 Questions of Project Risk Management 11
Day 18 Review questions that were incorrect or doubtful 11
Day 18 Review the chapter, consult your mentor, post your query on linkedin group or whatsapp Group to clear the doubts 11
Day 19 Review Project Procurement Management 12
Day 19 Attempt 30 Questions of Project Procurement Management 12
Day 20 Review questions that were incorrect or doubtful 12
Day 20 Review the chapter, consult your mentor, post your query on linkedin group or whatsapp Group to clear the doubts 12
Day 21 Review Project Stakeholders Management 13
Day 21 Attempt 30 Questions of Project Stakeholders Management 13
Day 22 Review questions that were incorrect or doubtful 13
Day 22 Review the chapter, consult your mentor, post your query on linkedin group or whatsapp Group to clear the doubts 13
Day 23 Review PMI Code of professional conduct 13
Day 23 Attempt 30 Questions of Professional Responsibility 13
Day 24 Review questions that were incorrect or doubtful 13
Day 24 Review the chapter, consult your mentor, post your query on linkedin group or whatsapp Group to clear the doubts 13
Day 25 Attempt a simulated exam of 100 Questions Exam
Day 26 Review the chapter, consult your mentor, post your query on linkedin group or whatsapp Group to clear the doubts Exam
Day 27 Attempt a full length (200 Q) simulated exam Exam
Day 28 Review the chapter, consult your mentor, post your query on linkedin group or whatsapp Group to clear the doubts Exam

 

2.3 Cost

You are not required to implement EVM here but it is important to understand the total cost as it is expensive. I will mostly repeat the same here what I have already mentioned in the charter

PMP Exam fee (Considering you will become member before applying for PMP exam):

Membership Fee: $139 (129 + 10 as application fee for new member)

PMP Exam Fee:     $405

Cost of PMP Prep Training:                     (Somewhat Rs.10,000 to Rs.15,000/-)

Cost of travel: Especially for giving exam:    (Say Rs.1000/- to Rs.2000/-)

Cost Saving:

Some tips to save cost

  1. PMP Prep Training:

Doing some more analysis your own and selecting a trainer who is good and economical (I term it affordable excellence) help you saving some money.

  1. Opting for paper based test (PBT).

– If you live in a city that does not have an exam centre, you can opt for PBT. The fee for PBT (Assuming you are a PMI member) is $250.

– It will reduce your cost by $150 which is approximately Rs.10,000/-

– Plus save cost of travelling to nearest centre.

 

  1. Share books and study material instead of buying them

– Take books from your friend who have recently passed the PMP Exam

– Form or join a Study Group and share the books & other study material

   Please do not violate the copyright while sharing

 

2.4 Resources

With respect to Human Resource, you are the only person in your team and solely responsible for success and failure. However you may use some stakeholders to help you i.e. your trainer or mentor, other PMP aspirants if you form a group, a PMP credential holder in your friend circle.

You may need some material

Books

  • PMBOK,
  • PMP Exam Pre by Rita Mulcahy – It’s quite popular book
  • Head First PMP – A good book to follow
  • The PMP Exam by Andy Crowe – It’s is also a good book if you can ignore its 10 repetitions of “PMP Exam is very hard to pass”
  • I have just listed few popular books. There are many other good books and new books keep coming. PMI eRead could also be a good source of ebooks if you are a PMI Member

Internet

  • To know more about PMP Exam
  • To get some tips to pass exam
  • To get some free or paid question set
  • Simulated Test – Free & Paid

Trainer/Mentor

  • Your mentor or trainer could be of immense help in guiding you, providing you a direction, approach to prepare, answering your questions, resolving your queries, clearing your doubts, imbibing complex concepts etc.

 

2.5 Quality

Quality in your preparation will only come if you select quality resources. For example select a quality training. In a training, trainer’s contribution is 80% and material & institute’s contribution is 20%. So select a quality trainer. For this, do your own home work instead of getting influenced by marketing campaigns. Seek references from your friends, try to understand how training is being conducted etc. Cost of the training does not indicate anything about its quality. A high cost training may not be good or a low cost may be good. But please be cautious about too low cost.

Similarly buy quality books, don’t go on cost. If the cost is high, try borrowing from a friend. Try to form a group and share the resources but go for quality books only.

Select quality questions even if you have to pay for them. Don’t assume a paid material is always better then free material. There is a lot of free quality questions available on the net freely. Seeking reference from your friend or trainer is the best policy.

We are done with our planning. I will move on Execution in next post and discuss what you need to take care during preparation.

 

3. Execution

Three things are most important in the execution of any project, so they apply here also

  1. Discipline
  2. Support from stakeholder
  3. Regularly checking quality of the preparation

Discipline:

Without discipline, quality results cannot be obtained. Either outcome will be degraded or delayed or both. Once you have finalized your plan, follow it with discipline. After few days, if you think some changes are required, instead of just executing the changes, change the plan and then follow the changed plan. This will help maintaining the discipline, track the progress and give you success.

Support from the stakeholders:

It is necessary to keep unwanted situations and surprises away. You have already prepared a list of stakeholders, their expectations and expectations from them. Now you need to do three things on a regular basis

  1. Ensure that you are taking care of their expectations especially critical expectations. It does not take time for a stakeholder to go unfavourable and then it will make your preparation difficult. Your manager in office and your manager at home (I meant to say your spouse) are quite important in this reference.
  2. Keep them involved by letting them know the progress you are making on your preparation and challenges you are facing. Don’t think they are not concerned. They are related to you and will be happy to see you pass.
  3. Seek help from your mentor, discuss your challenges with him and discuss concepts that you are finding difficult to grasp.

If you have formed a study group, then discuss chapters & concepts, offer help to others and seek help from them.

Regularly check the quality the preparation

Apply your quality plan and keep check points like 30 questions test suggested earlier. More on quality under Monitoring and Control.

We are reaching near to closing this series. In next post, I will discuss about Monitoring your execution and Controlling it to stay on track and achieve the goal within specified time. Next post will also be the last post of this series. Stay tuned for one more post in this series.

 

4. Monitoring and Control

It is important to measure the quality of your preparation. If you follow the plan provided above, you must do better and better day by day. As you progress, number of correct answers should increases despite chapters are different. There are some principles that apply across the chapters and if you understand them, you get better.

If you are taking full length simulated exam to check your preparedness, my recommendation is that you should score above 80% consistently. If you are not achieving, my suggestion will be to improve further instead hurrying up for the exam.

Too much preparation is also not good but it is definitely better than less preparation. Sign of a good preparation is that you feel confident. Take help from friends/trainer/mentor if your score is not improving. We call it corrective measures which is integral part of monitoring and control.

Hurrying up could be fatal. Change in exam due to PMBOK version upgrade or due to other studies is not such a major issue. Instead of hurrying up, better to take exam after change. Do not get disturbed with the marketing of “PMP Exam is changing on so so date”. If you are not ready, don’t give the exam. PMP Exam does not change more than 10% because of PMBOK version upgrade and even less due to other studies.

 

5. Closure

You have passed the exam! Great!! Congratulations!!! But don’t stop here. You have taken help from other, it is now your turn to help others. Do following three things before you close this chapter…

Lesson Learned:

Document lesson learned. What went well and what did not. Document your key take ways and suggestions and share them with PMP Aspirants.

Transition:

You would have collected study material. Some of them may not be useful for you anymore. Pass on this material to other PMP Aspirants.

Archive:

Some stuff, you may like to keep with you. Archive it safe so that you can refer it later or share with other people.

You can close this chapter now but to open another chapter. Learning is not a one time job. Leaders continue learning for life. So learn new things in project management. Also if you want mastery on this subject, apply it in your project in office and also in your personal life. Project management principles are equally helpful in achieving person goals. If you want to become champion in project management, teach what you have learned to others.

All three activities Learning, Applying and Teaching will also help you earning PDUs which you need to retain your credentials.

 

I am thankful you for staying with me till end. I hope my suggestions in this blog are useful to you. Though I am closing it now but as always I am available to you for your questions and queries. Feel free to post me your queries.

Wish you all the best.

1 Comment

  1. Praveen Malik Author January 16, 2016 (11:24 pm)

    Hi Vivek,

    Very innovatively put. IT will definitely help PMP aspirants. The aspirants should also read PMP handbook while preparing for the Exam.

    BR
    Praveen Malik.

    Reply to Praveen Malik

Leave a Comment

*Required fields Please validate the required fields

*

*