A Quick Overview of PMP and Study Strategies

Overview of the PMP Certification

As a globally recognized designation, the PMP designation demonstrates to employers, clients and colleagues that a project manager possesses applicable project management knowledge, experiences and skills to bring projects from start to a successful completion. As the demand for skilled project managers continue to rise, practitioners who hold the PMP certification are well positioned to provide the professional skills necessary to lead project teams and achieve successful project results. Year after year, the pay scale consistently confirmed that the PMP certification has commanded a higher salary for certified individuals over non-certified individuals.

Knowledge/Process Areas of the PMP

Over the course of your PMP Certification journey, you will learn many aspects of being a project manager and how to apply Project Management Institute’s standards to each of the knowledge areas. They include, but not limited to the Triple Constraints – Project Scope Management, Cost Management, and Schedule Management, Project Communications and Stakeholders Management, Project Quality and Risk Management, and finally, Project Integration Management, as well as PMI’s Professional Code of Ethics and Conduct. Each one of the unique knowledge areas are then mapped across 5 Process Groups: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing. The cross mapping shows how important it is for the project management to be “applied” across the different areas while maintain the integration and cohesiveness of a project from beginning to end.

* PMP Exam Statistics:

Since the PMP Exam is quite a difficult exam, the passing rate for first try is estimated to be around 50-60% (i.e. 5-6 in 10 will pass the PMP Exam the first time). PMI intentionally maintains the very high standard of the PMP® Exam and this is a major reason why the PMI PMP Exam is a valuable certification to pursue. In the past, 61% was published by PMI as the passing score for the PMP® Exam (which means that PMP® aspirants need to correctly answer 106 or more PMP® questions out of the 175 real questions). When you pay the annual fee of $129 to join PMI, and then decide to apply for the PMP exam, instead of paying $555 to take the PMP exam, you will only pay $405. That is a good amount of money saved! Another related piece of information, the annual renewal fee is $119. It is $129 for new members. PMI makes updated changes without notifying, so check on the PMI website before you register.

PMP Exam has a tough and rigorous application process. With a University degree, you will need 4500 work experience hours spanned across the Process Areas and the knowledge areas. PMI can also randomly choose to audit you to make sure what you are stating on the application is your actual work experience and educational experience. PMI website has a more information on the auditing process if PMI does end up auditing you.

* Tips and Tricks for Passing the PMP Exam

Tip #1: Commit!

Make the decision. Take action. Join the PMI, pay your membership fee, and buy the PMBOK® Guide (a.k.a. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge). Commit to study three or four work nights per week and one weekend day, for 2-4 hours per session. Tell your spouse, significant other, coworkers, and/or boss, as appropriate, that you’re going to earn your PMP Certification and what your study plan will require. Ask for their moral support. Then stick to it.

\Tip #2: Don’t start with the PMBOK® Guide.

Instead, buy the Head First PMP bookThere you will learn the ways of the PMP exam from Jennifer Greene and Andrew Stellman. They will teach you with stories and pictures. They will train you with practical exercises.  Do every exercise in the Head First PMP study guide.  The 200-question Practice PMP Exam in the back of the book for your final session of study is also realistic when compared with the actual PMP Exam or other simulation exams out there.

Tip #3: Work through Rita’s book, too.

Buy Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep. It is more clinical and less organic that Head First PMP, and it is meant to be studied with the PMBOK Guide® opened side-by-side. This makes it more challenging and rigorous, so it will fill in the gaps and test you at a level Head First PMP does not. Why two study guides? Consider this: Head First PMP will give you a solid basic foundation (especially if you are like me, starting from zero), and Rita will finish your training. Both studied together will almost guarantee you to pass the exam the first attempt.

Tip #4: Understand your failures.

Each chapter of both Head First PMP as well as Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prepends with a few dozen sample test questions.  You must be cautious, check your answers. Ponder the explanations. Write in the margin why you got the question wrong. Do not rail against the machine. Accept the right answer for what it is—true insight into the ways of the PMI. Believe me, you will learn more about yourself and the PMP Exam from your errors than from anything else.

Tip #5: Do less memorizing and more understanding.

Many aspiring PMP initiates believe they can memorize their way to a PMP certification. Many of these are seduced by the dark side of the PMI. Impatience, anger, and hatred of multiple choice exams lead many astray. They fall prey to misdirection of superfluous information in the question and are consumed by the distractor answers. The truth is, the ways of the PMI cannot simply be memorized. They must be internalized. A PMP feels the Process Groups flowing through the project, surrounding it, binding it. The Knowledge Areas fill the PMP’s mind with right thinking. Only then will the correct answers on the multiple choice exam stand out as luminous as the beings we truly are. Of course, a PMP knows the Schedule and Cost Management formulas by heart, but these are merely tools useful for overcoming a few exam questions, whereas embracing the ways of the PMI will illuminate the solution to a great many more questions and ultimately be useful on the job.

Tip #6. Finish with the PMBOK® Guide and practice exam.

During your last few study sessions, review the PMBOK® Guide. If you’ve diligently worked through the material and exercises in Head First PMP and Rita’s, you will be pleasantly surprised at how much is familiar and well-understood in the PMBOK® Guide. Your review will be easy and will reinforce what you have learned. Then, on your last study session, take the Practice PMP Exam in the back of Head First PMP or with the PM FasTrack® software that came with Rita’sCheck your answers, and learn from your mistakes one last time.

Remember, the exam will test your knowledge of the Project Management standard as presented in the PMBOK® Guide, not your experience. Like you, I’ve accumulated years of professional experience and thousands of hours supporting, sponsoring, and leading projects. However, before I began to prepare for the PMP exam, I had received no formal training in project management and had never heard of the Project Management Institute. As I studied for the exam, all of my experience—good and bad, successes and failures—came flooding into my mind. “That’s not how we did it on the job,” I caught myself thinking many times. You will, too. That is one of the main keys to passing the PMP Exam.

Tip #7: Hydrate, get plenty of rest, don’t over-study.

Throughout the weeks of study, be sure to get plenty of sleep. That’s when your subconscious works on organizing and making available for recall all the material you feed your conscious brain. Study does little good if not followed by sufficient quality sleep. In addition, your brain works better when fully hydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of water for a couple days prior to, and the day of the exam. (Don’t worry, you are allowed to take comfort breaks during the four-hour exam.) Finally, the day before, do the practice exam and read PMBOK once more as a bed-time storybook. At that point, you know what you know. More cramming will only hurt.

Tip #8: Believe in yourself.

You’ve studied. You’ve worked hard.  You’ve rested up. You will spot the correct answers. You will scoff at the distractors. You’ve learned the ways of the PMI. The PMBOK® Guide is your ally, and a powerful ally it is. You will be a certified PMP!




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