Some weeks ago, I got several congratulatory messages after I posted my PMP-exam success story on my social media handles. But then, some friends also requested for my exam preparatory tips, so I felt I should make a post to reach more interested persons.

… well, no need for the long intro, I’m going to get straight to the point. Here are some of my tips for acing the exam at the first trial.

1. Managing the PMP-certification goal as a project

I did that by decomposing the project’s scope into deliverables and their corresponding activities and then going ahead to monitor my progress at 2-weeks intervals. I also drew a work-breakdown structure (WBS) and a Gantt chart for my goal. They helped me envision my workload and measure my progress. Like I’ll always advise, if you want to make reasonable progress in reaching your life goals, manage them as projects, it has many benefits. Here is a view of my WBS for my PMP-certification goal:

I had the flexibility of viewing the pending work from different angles, some days, it’s a whole, other days, it’s a piece of various chunks. While reading a textbook, you know it’s easier to envision your next task as completing “a chapter of about 30 pages” than completing “a whole book of 976 pages”.

You’ll also enjoy the privilege of planning the finance requirements of the project and not get frustrated as the project unfolds.

2. Shortening the time between training completion and writing the exam

It’s true different things work for people, but I think this suggestion is gold. My mentor suggests taking this exam at most 4 months after the training, I took mine within the 3rd month. In my opinion, the maximum should be 6 months. The essence is to sustain the same energy level up till the exam day.

3. Having a mentor and a study group

One of the benefits I enjoyed from my trainers is the post-training free mentorship I got until I wrote my exam. I trained with Dinak Strategy Consulting Limited and asides their business of training us on the best practices of project management, I and my colleagues also enjoyed their free mentorship for an extra four months. I also had mentors from my industry whom I could easily reach out to whenever I get confused; find such mentors for yourself too, they’d come in handy.

Not only had I mentors, but I also had my accountability study group where we meet either remotely or physically and reiterate what we’ve learnt. Even within that our study group, we had our work-schedule plan and our responsibility matrix.

4. Using enough but limited materials

If you’ve never tasted anxiety, then try preparing for an important exam over a short period with an ocean of information. I mean … in this exam, you need to declutter and focus. For me, the materials I focused on were only four:

PMBOK Guide

PMBOK means Project Management Body Of Knowledge; it’s a product of the Project Management Institute. Without mixing words here, this material is a MUST read for you to pass this exam. I won’t even give any TED talk on why you need to have and read this guide, but just know that PMBOK Guide is like a visa to passing this exam.

Rita Mulcahy’s Exam prep textbook

Before her death, Rita Mulcahy was a seasoned project manager, and even after her death, her works still contribute to the birth of many PMP-certified project managers including me. She founded her PMP training company in 1991 and since then, all components of the company’s prep system go in sync with the latest edition of the PMBOK guide. What I enjoyed most from the textbook were the “tricks of the trade” and the flow/simplicity it applied.

PM Mentor

This is a mobile app available both on android and iOS platforms. It has both a learning and a quick test package. It also has some flashcards and formulae all woven for easy remembrance.

PM Aspire

This is a website-based PMP education provider and exam simulator, available in up to seven languages. I assessed some of the sample questions I answered from there.

5. Reading smart

You’ll have an overwhelming task ahead, so it will be great if you outsmart the hill. Here are some of my tips:

i. Memorize some things but try to understand them from the root

ii. Get comfortable with answering situational questions

iii. Jot down formulas in a notepad and practice through them within the last 24 hours before your exam

iv. If you’re using an exam prep text like Rita Mulcahy’s, I’ll advise this. Before reading any chapter, answer its set of questions without scoring them and after reading it, re-answer the questions, then mark, compare your scores, and fill in your gaps.

v. Some exam questions are wordy, when I meet them, here’s what I do. I read the last sentence to search for the actual question (it’s usually there) and then bearing the question in mind, I now go through the whole length of the question to search for supporting information.

vi. Sometimes, when revising the “ITTOs”, study it in reverse order. For example, I imagine that I want to produce a Project scope statement (output) and that I will need Project charter, scope management plan, EEFs, OPAs, etc (inputs) to produce it via decision making, expert judgment, etc (tools and techniques).

vii. When practicing questions, get used to a noisy environment, you cannot tell what your D-day will be like.

6. Spending time to answer sample questions

Generally, when preparing for an exam, taking the time to look through its sample questions is always advisable. It gives you a picture of its questions’ pattern and you get the opportunity to practice the exam-time distribution before the D-day. The exam is 200 MCQs written in four hours meaning you have 1.2minutes per question. The more questions you practice, the more familiar and confident you get.

Doing this also have a way of restructuring your reading pattern. You begin to appreciate what to focus on and what to know on a high-level. You also imagine how questions from a particular topic will be framed and make your reading effort more fruitful.

In this project, time is a major constraint. You’ll never have enough time to finish preparing for this exam, so try to make out the most from the time you already have, remember there are other things in your life that are already competing for your time.

7. Involving stakeholders in the project

Your boss in the office, your colleagues, family, friends, and even your pet are all stakeholders in this project. They were the custodians of your time before this project strolled in, now you have to share their time with the project, you owe them some explanations, especially your family.

Not only do you have to tell them because of the shared time, but they’ll be your cheerleaders. You know that feeling when you’re beginning to get tired of preparing and you remember that your children have been waiting for you to write this exam, are you willing to tell them that you are not equal to the task?

8. Having the proper mindset

Hey, you’ve prepared so hard for this exam right? Would you now want to get ill on the D-day or lose your mind simply because you got a “Sorry, you didn’t make it …”? Feed well, pray, get some break too, and days to the exam, make sure you get enough sleep. Four hours of tension and several moments of pre-tension from this exam will need you to stay healthy and strong, do not betray your body. Stay strong, and in this time of COVID-19, stay safe too.

In summary:

Equipping your portfolio with PMP-certification is a worthy achievement. If you have made up your mind to pursue this goal, then try and commit the necessary time, efforts, and resources to it. Manage the goal as a project, stay focused and committed, and go get your certification.

… like this article? Please leave a word for me in the comment section and share with friends who’ll find this piece beneficial too.

Good luck,

Dr. STM

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