The best to way to prepare for PMP Exam is to follow the plan laid out in PMBOK Guide.
Oh! Is there a plan in PMBOK Guide that addresses the best way to prepare for PMP Exam? Yes and No.
I said “No” because if you browse the entire PMBOK book, it will not discuss anything about preparations for PMP Exam. Then, why I said “yes”?
Consider PMP Exam as a project.
PMP Exam itself is a project. Do you agree?
Let us get into some details. It’s going to be a very long post. Go grab a cup of coffee and let us begin.
Is PMP exam a project?
Let us review the definition of a project. A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result (PMBOK, Fifth Edition). So, let us assume your PMP exam as a project and see whether it complies to the requirements of a project.
Is it a temporary endeavor? Yes, it is. It generally starts with you attending the PMP training programme and ends with you obtaining the PMP certification. So, it has a definite start date and a definite end date. It is indeed temporary, expected to complete in about 3-6 months, at the most one year.
Does it create a unique product, service or result? I would say yes. It generates an unique result for you. The result is a “Pass” in PMP Exam, followed it up with the prestigious PMP Certificate with your name embossed on it.
So, great. I am sure that your effort to get a PMP certificate is a project in itself. Do you agree? If not, leave your comment below. Let us discuss.
Follow the project management cycle
Since the preparation for PMP exam is a project, I am going to apply the concepts of project management outlined in PMBOK Guide.
I am going to follow the project management steps, which are listed below:
- Initiate the project
- Plan the project
- Execute the project
- Monitor & Control the project
- Close the project
You could also follow the PDCA cycle, which is a quality concept.
- Plan the project
- Do the project
- Check the project
- Act on the project
Both approaches are very similar. But, I would stick to project management approach here.
Step 1: Let us initiate the project
This is where you will be doing lot of research on the PMP Examination.
- What is PMP exam?
- What are the benefits of obtaining the PMP credential?
- Am I eligible for the PMP exam?
- How long will it take me to prepare and appear in the PMP exam?
- What is the cost of obtaining PMP credential? Is it within my budget?
- What is the format of the PMP exam?
- What is the passing score?
- What are the resources available to help me in my preparation?
- What are the risks involved in going ahead with the PMP exam?
- Should I buy resources or can I self-study?
- Who conducts the PMP exam?
Those are some of the questions you need to find answers. Once again, I am using the project management knowledge areas to guide my thinking.
You can see the questions are generally addressing the scope of the project, schedule of the project, cost of the project, quality, resources required, risks involved in the project, procurement and stakeholders’ management.
Once you find answers to the above questions, you can take a decision whether to initiate the project or not. If you are convinced that you want to achieve the PMP credential, take a piece of paper and write this down:
Project Title: To obtain the PMP Credential
Schedule: 6 months from 1 Oct 2017 (Milestone: 31 Mar 2018) – Write your own schedule here; but, you should be practical and work towards achieving this schedule
Budget: INR 50,000 – Write your own budget here. Don’t stretch yourself. Spend wisely.
Step 2: Let us plan our project
Great, you have finished the first step in your project. You have initiated the project. Now, the most important part is to plan the project.
- Should I attend class-room training or online training?
- What are the institutes that offer me the chosen type of training? How much do they charge? What do they provide? Do they include question banks? Do they provide me adequate mock exams? Do they support me in the application process? Who is their trainer?
- When should I commence the training?
- How many hours can I allocate for study in a week?
- What books should I buy? Is PMBOK Guide adequate? If I decided to buy a book, which is good? Rita Mulcahy or Head First?
- What are the online resources available that can help me in preparing for the PMP exam? Are there any good Facebook groups? LinkedIn groups? Google groups?
- Should I buy mock exams? Or, free online resources are adequate?
- How do I know I am ready for the PMP Exam?
Find answers to the above questions. This will help you in coming out with a study plan.
The following are my suggestions:
- You should plan for a class-room training programme, if cost of training is not a constraint to you. If you are cost conscious, you can go with online training programme. We can keep on discussing the pros and cons of class-room vs online. But, I prefer class-room. And choose the one that happens over 4 or 5 consecutive days.
- You should allocate anywhere between 10-20 hours per week for PMP exam preparation
- You should buy at least one reference book in addition to PMBOK Guide. Rita Mulcahy is the most preferred book.
- There are several online groups. Use them wisely. Don’t waste too much time on them.
- If you can afford, you can buy Rita Mulcahy’s mock exams CD. If you cannot afford, there are several free or affordable mock exams online. You should also try to bargain something with your training provider on this.
Step 3: Let us execute the project
The first step is to attend the 35 hours training programme. Attend with full concentration and focus. The attention in the class room and the discussions is going to help you in the exam preparation. Participate in the class room discussions. Raise as many queries as possible. Request the trainer to provide you sample questions every day and discuss the answers following day in the class room.
Get the contact details of the trainer and your classmates. They are going to be your support group. Exchange information and share study materials across the group.
If you chose online mode of training, ensure that you finish the training without much lag. I would suggest you to finish it in two weeks at the most.
Once you finish the training programme, it is time to start your studies. Three things to focus on during your study:
- PMBOK Guide
- Reference Books: Head First PMP is a good book to start with as it has lots of simple examples and end of the chapter questions at a very easy level. This will give you confidence. But, don’t get overconfident since Head First PMP book is at a very easy level. The actual PMP exam is much harder. So, you should focus on Rita Mulcahy’s book next. You should try end of the chapter, which are tough and closely reflects the actual PMP exam
- Mock exams
While studying, you should simultaneously start the application process. It needs some information about your projects. So, collect the necessary information and apply. If you need any help, your training institute will be able to help.
Once the application is accepted, you can also schedule your exam.
Plan the exam well in advance. Generally, candidates require about 6-8 weeks of study after completing the training programme. Don’t postpone the exam more than 3 months after the training programme.
If for some reason you cannot appear for the exam within 3-4 months, I suggest you to attend revision classes. Most of the institutes allow you to attend another batch without any additional cost. So, you have to ensure that this is agreed during your initial negotiation with the institute.
Step 4: Monitor and Control the project
This is the most important of the project. Several candidates just let their plan meander and go completely out of track.
You should not let this happen. Monitor every stage of your project, from training programme, studies, application process and exam scheduling all follow your original planned schedule.
You also should monitor your progress. I suggest you to create a simple spreadsheet and record your score, how many questions you attended, source of your exam, etc. This will help you to give an idea whether you are making improvements.
Once the progress chart shows that you are consistently scoring well, then you can be confident that you are ready for the exam.
Step 5: Close the project
The project ends with you appearing for the PMP examination and coming out with a victory sign.
The idea is to put you on a study plan. Following project management methodology for your PMP exam will be exciting.
What is your opinion on considering the PMP exam as a project? Share your views below.
Certified Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)®
An enthusiastic project management practitioner and trainer.
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