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My PMP Journey

New PMPs

Hi, my name is Nitin Garg and I am a Project Manager. I passed my PMP® exam in December 2020. 

I would like to share my PMP journey to help others who are thinking of obtaining their certification. 

If you are entertaining the idea of obtaining your PMP but don’t know where or how to start, I hope by sharing my journey will help your decision in beginning your own preparation. If my story helps kick start your own journey, I am excited for you. This is a lengthy read so take it in with patience, especially if you are aspiring to be a PMP.

It’s Time to Stop Making Excuses

I always had a reason to delay my preparation: too busy at work, too much to study, don’t know how to prepare, or too scared of failure. I made a commitment to start, and the time for excuses was over. I decided to set a SMART goal, I asked my boss to add my PMP examination as a goal for my year-end appraisal. Despite all excuses, as professionals we don't fiddle with our annual ratings. What will be your motivation?

Think of the Exam as A Project

I made studying for the exam a project with milestones. I began by creating a schedule (study plan), planning a budget (certification fee, course material, simulator, training), assigned resources (juggle between family and office responsibilities, day to day work) and quality (effective learning). I took the following approach:

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Step 1: Do some research

Visit www.pmi.org and read about the PMP certification process including qualifying criteria, fees, application process, exam pattern, etc. The website has everything you need to be informed about the certificate process and exam. If like me you meet the requirements, the next step is preparing your application and study plan.

Step 2: Create a Study Plan

There are various approaches to create an effective study plan. This is what worked for me:

1.

I assessed my workload and decided to commit 60 days studying for the exam. On day  61  I scheduled the exam.

Tip: Become a member of PMI. When we spend money, our commitment level and determination is elevated. Two benefits of becoming a member are saving on the overall exam cost, and you can download the latest edition of the PMBOK.

2.

If applicable, prepare your family that over the next 61 days you will be unavailable for about 2-4 hours per day. 

Tip: Plan a celebration on Day 62!

3.

Prepare a study plan:

 
  • Read the PMBOK: I finished the book in 25 days. I suggest dividing the PMBOK by 25 days and commit to finishing your schedule, planned pages, chapters, etc.

Tip: Don’t get upset if you only understand 50% of the content, there is a lot of content and you’ll get through it. Don’t waste time trying to cram the process ITTO’s in the first reading.

 
  • Training: Complete your 35 hours of training/courses. My organization has its own learning platform with 35 hours of PMP online learning modules. I completed this training in 10 days.
 
  • Apply to take the Exam: File your exam application with the Project Management Institute once you completed your training. Don’t stop studying, the application approval process takes 45 days.
 
  • The next 25 days:
   
  • Mock tests: I purchased a simulator for this part. I strongly support using a simulator to prepare for the exam. This gave me a new perspective of analyzing scenarios that are used in exam questions. The simulator will explain how you should think in order to select the correct option and it provides reasoning for every option. Don’t try to save money here. There are a lot many simulators available in the market, so make the choice that works for you. I used: https://www.project-management-prepcast.com
   
  • Almost all simulators give options for questions covering all knowledge areas and process groups in all mock tests.
   
  • How I used the mock tests:
     
  • I first focused on knowledge area questions – 50 questions each
     
  • Then, I read the whole PMBOK again. Why? Because after practising the questions your perspective on the PMBOK changes. In the first reading, you may feel many topics are not important but suddenly have a better understanding. 
     
  • Then I completed all 7 mock tests in the simulator. One day I would complete the exam and the following day I would do the analysis. This test-analysis cycle will help you strengthen your foundational knowledge, and check your understanding of the questions.
     
  • Practice tests will prepare your mind and body to sit for a 4-hour stretch.

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Time to Take the Exam

On day 61 I committed to take the exam. I admit I am a little “old school”, so I prefer going to the exam centre instead of the virtual exam option. While going to the exam centre, I listened to my favourite songs to help ease my nerves. I recommend doing something that will ease your nerves before the exam. During the exam they have added a mandate to take a break after  question 89. Once you click ‘next’ on question 89 you will be prompted to review your questions and go on a break. After you review your answers, you may take a 10 minute break or just click ‘next’ and start the next section. Please note that after the break you will not be able to review those first 89 questions again.

Immediate Results

Once you complete the exam your results are displayed on-screen.

Tips and Closing

Inputs / Outputs / Tools & Techniques (ITTO): Throughout the first 35 days of my study plan, I was apprehensive on how to learn all the ITTOs of the 49 processes. But once I started using the simulator questions, things started falling into place. It also helped me to read the PMBOK a second time. You don’t need to cram. All sequencing of processes will automatically make sense the more mock questions you answer. 

Memorize the Processes table: Use mnemonic techniques to memorize the processes. Practice it every day. This helps to sequence processes in your mind. By practicing everyday my timing in writing the entire process table went from 20 minutes to 6 minutes. For added tips Google “How to memorize 49 PMP processes” and choose the best option for you.

This is the technique I used > “How to memorize 49 PMP processes”

If you decide to start preparing for your PMP, I hope my journey helped guide your decision and future preparation. Good luck!

 

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Nitin Garg (PMI ID - 6506646)

 

 

Photo Credits

Planning time photo by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Passion lead us here photo by 
Ian Schneider on Unsplash