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7 Lessons Learned from the PMP Exam

Everyone has different ways of studying for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification. You may carry the PMBOK® Guide around with you, or use flashcards. You may join your local Project Management Institute (PMI)® Chapter and study in a group. Whatever your study path, someone has been there before you.


While everyone has a slightly different story to tell, there are some things that make a big difference to your chances of success with the PMP Exam. Luckily, exam candidates are very happy to share their stories and lessons learned with you. We have reviewed and analyzed a number of lessons learned from the PMP Exam that successful exam takers have posted on our website. Here are our top 7 lessons learned.


1: Make a plan


“I had a plan laid out and had to rebaseline it twice but it helps to view where you are and align it once every 2-3 days,” says one student on our forum. Create a plan in a format that works for you and stick to it. It’s OK if it changes every so often, but having a plan will allow you to assess if you are on track with your studies. And you can take corrective action if you are not.


2: Read the PMBOK® Guide


You might think this is obvious, but it really does help to have a copy of the PMBOK Guide. “Get a copy of the current edition and read it twice,” recommends one successful student. “The first time highlight the important parts and the second time make flashcards of those highlights. Doing the flash cards will help get the information into your head.” You can then go through your flashcards daily to remind yourself of the key points in the PMBOK® Guide. “It is also a good reference,” the new PMP adds. “Go through the glossary twice… you will notice a few interesting definitions like Elapsed Time and Duration.”


The PMBOK® Guide is the basis for the majority of the questions in the exam, so you really do have to know the concepts and the terminology thoroughly.


3: Take sample exams


Several successful students recommend taking full PMP exams. “The use of full exams besides learning is to get to a discipline in taking the 4 hour exam,” one explains. “If you build on your mistakes, analyze why you are wrong, the final exam will be much easier. I also advise you to mark those answers which you guess, as next time you may guess wrong!”


Note what you got wrong in your sample exams. “You should try to understand why you answered incorrectly,” recommends another successful candidate. “I made a list of some categories such as ‘ITTO knowledge’, ‘Concept not understood’, ‘Question misunderstood’.”


Taking sample exams will help you establish where you need to concentrate your remaining study hours by flagging up the areas that you don’t fully understand.


4: Make the most of your study time


One exam taker explains how they found extra hours in the day to study. “Commuting to my work and back takes 2-3 hours so I decided to utilize this time effectively by listening to The PM PrepCast.”


Find moments in your day where you can study. “If you have an iPhone download an app that will allow you to practice all your ITTO’s,” recommends a student. “It will make it fun to practice.”


Passing the PMP exam successfully requires a lot of study – more than perhaps you first thought. Seek out extra time in the day where you can revise concepts to boost your study hours.


5: Be confident


“Trust yourself,” advises one new PMP. “If you can score around 75-80% in an exam simulator, you can feel confident about passing the exam.” Building your confidence is a key strategy to successfully passing the exam. You want to enter the exam room knowing you have the skills and knowledge to pass the PMP Exam. It will make you feel better about the exam itself, especially if you have not taken an exam for some time.


6: Time yourself


Four hours may seem like a long time but PMP certification holders know that it goes quickly. “Plan on your exam time expanding during the real exam,” suggests one student. “I had been taking practice exams in about 2.5 hours. On the day of the exam, I had under 3 minutes left on my timer when I hit submit. I spent much more time analyzing questions than I had before.”


You don’t want to run out of time in the exam so make sure you know what 4 hours feels like. Check you can get though a complete sample exam in that time.


7: Listen to others


Yes, lessons learned are a great way to prepare! Talk to previous students, discuss your study plans with members of your local PMI Chapter and listen to as many people talking about their own journey to becoming a PMP as you can.


One successful student on our forums recommends listening to interviews through podcasts. “People are asked about their experiences during their preparations and the exam itself,” the new PMP says. “Listening to the different opinions and experiences motivated me a lot. At the beginning of your study time you get an understanding of the effort it takes to pass the PMP Exam.” Talking and listening to others will help you establish if your study plans are on track.


Want more PMP lessons learned? Go to www.pm-prepcast.com/ll to read more advice from previous PMP candidates. There are always great ideas and suggestions that people have for other exam takers. For even more PMP Exam support, take a look at The PM PrepCast for your exam preparation. It’s full of advice, interviews and lessons from people who have successfully taken the journey to becoming a PMP. And when you’ve completed your own PMP journey, don’t forget to come back and share your experiences on the forum as well!








About Cornelius Fichtner

Cornelius Fichtner, PMP is a noted PMP expert. He has helped over 18,000 students prepare for the PMP Exam with The Project Management PrepCast at http://www.pm-prepcast.com and he guides PMI credential holders on earning PDUs with The PDU Insider at http://www.pdu-insider.com

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