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Project Management

How to Prepare for the PMP Exam? (And Survive)

Recently I have been receiving many messages on either LinkedIn or other social media outlet asking me how did I study for the exam so I could score above target in all of the exam domains on first trial? Some even surprisingly asked me “What is your secret?”!

To be honest I’ve no secret as I myself did not expect to do so well on the exam, let alone passing it! After all technically speaking, thanks to PMI exam policies, I’ve never gone through this experience before regardless of how many exam simulations I’ve done before going for the actual exam.

Unlike any other certificate I had obtained, I’ve never had such tremendous feedback like what I had experienced when I shared my PMP exam results. As it appears, many are interested in the PMP certificate and wish to know my experience with its exam. So I thought it would be much more beneficial and efficient if I just share my humble answer here for all to read.

I will not be listing which courses to attend, or books to read or exam simulations to do, as a simple google query would list a plethora of much better results than I could ever write down here.

After getting my eligibility code from the PMI, I booked the exam by beginning of January giving myself approximately two months, or less, to prepare for the exam. Given my normal workload and the tight deadline I got myself into, it was next to impossible to simply memorize the 47 processes and their ITTOs, so rest assured, this exam is not about memorization!

PMI have been true to their word, the questions on the exam were mostly situational and not too much memorization were actually needed. I was simply answering the questions following basic logic.

During the PMP application you will be asked to showcase your project management experience, which would be truly needed to pass the exam. As without it you will really have some hard time understanding the concepts detailed in the PMBOK, one of the driest textbooks I had ever read, it was as amusing as reading the dictionary. And even if somehow you managed to memorize the book page by page, letter by letter and cover to cover. Still it’s not going to help you as many of questions does not have answers in the PMBOK.

The PMBOK itself states it clearly in its very beginning, that every project have a unique life-cycle and it’s not necessary to use all of the 47 processes in the 10 knowledge areas and they are to be used “when appropriate”, not to mention there are many ways to manage a project depending on the organization and management style. This phrase alone gives a huge window for different interpretations of how to properly manage a project!

So if you scrolled through my article looking for the “trick”, then here you go. The trick is to think of your bleakest and saddest moments while managing one of those non ending projects then think, how could any of the PMBOK 47 processes had helped you? Scope validation, maybe? or maybe, how to properly do a quality control? Or how should you had identified and engaged your stakeholders in the very beginning of the project. Or that time when you didn’t imagine a certain assumption to turn into a monstrous pure risk eating all of your project resources. And my favorite of all, to make sure that your project sponsor actually have the adequate authority to mobilize the much needed resources during project execution.

By doing so, you will be linking the PMBOK concepts to your actual life and work experiences. It’s a neural trick I like to use when learning something new, I tend to like laying new layers of information atop of a solid foundation of previous good old proven knowledge. This way the new information will assimilate with your previous experiences forming a cohesive and structural knowledge base in your brain, giving you dejavus during the exam where the valid answers will jump at you so you can mark them while you snicker at how silly are the rest of the options as you burn through the exam.

This trick is actually based on my understanding of how the human brain functions, one of my very biggest fascinations. As it seems, the brain neural networks form memories by manipulating the tendency of certain neurons to fire when other surrounded neurons are excited. The more a neural connection is fired the stronger it becomes and hence the stronger the associated memory. Thus if you link new learnt information with strong old memories, then keep revisiting them as you study for the exam, doing so would increase your chances of not losing these memories and to better comprehend the new acquired information within a bigger picture of your past experiences.

I hope this technique of learning help you to better prepare for the PMP exam or any other endeavor you wish to seek. Feel free to share if you find this article helpful. Also don’t hesitate to drop me a line if you have any sort of feedback.

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