I did it! I passed the PMP exam and to say that I did it without any help would be a lie. It’s certainly a very daunting exam – 200 questions in 4 hours. 25 experimental questions that aren’t tested. A few hundred pages of the PMBOK Guide v6 to go through. I started seriously studying for the exam back in November 2018 and I spent a significant amount of my holidays going through the materials but I did it, I passed and Above Target in all categories as well.

How did I do it? That’s what I wanted to share – the things that I found most useful to get through the PMP exam.

Tips on the exam
  • It’s a computer-based exam – 200 questions in 4 hours. I used the first 30 minutes to craft my cheat sheet (formulas, the process group in Rita Mulcahy’s exam prep book).
  • I finished the 200 questions with about 30 minutes left – which means that I did 200 questions in about 3 hours – not a bad pace but it also means that I didn’t have time to review every single question so you have to make the first time you answer count. You can mark questions and I estimate that I marked about 20 or so questions – questions that I was really not sure about and did not want to spend a ton of time thinking about before getting through all the other questions
  • Read the questions carefully – the questions may have modifiers that completely change your answer – which statement is FALSE or which one of these is NOT an input, etc.
Use Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep book the ninth edition (the latest)
  • The book covers the PMBOK information in an easier to read manner than the PMBOK. It also has the process group which I find very handy to memorize along with any of the formulas that you need for the exam
  • The book also covers sample exam questions – my approach was to read through the book the first time, creating flash cards for important terms and concepts I wanted to study again and then go through the book a second time making sure that I improved on the sample questions (though sometimes I remembered the answer from before so that’s not quite a great reflection of improvement)
  • I did the reading and review in pieces – luckily over the holidays, I had quite a few days where I could devote to studying but after I got back to work, I studied only a few hours at night and on the weekends – this is where it helps to have the exam about 2 or 3 months out so that you have the time to study only for one or two hours a day
Flash cards!

*I put Rita’s process group into flash cards and reviewed them every time I had a few minutes to spare – I’ve talked about it before about using the idle time to do reading and the flash cards are a really convenient way of getting some additional studying done, even if you only have a few minutes waiting in the elevator or for food at a restaurant

  • Flash cards are also good because it’s not the practice of memorizing but rather the practice of recalling that you need to be successful at exams
Edward Chung to the rescue

I found Edward Chung’s site searching on Google and he has a lot of useful tips and tricks for preparing for the PMP exam, in particular, I found:

Asking others

Finally, I did something very Tim Ferriss-y as I went about preparing for my PMP exam – I asked others around me what their advice was. I got a lot of different advice that I thought about and incorporated:

  • Don’t take the PMP exam lightly
  • Forget everything you know about project management in the real world – the exam tests how project management is done through the PMBOK
  • You don’t have a lot of time on the exam to go through a single question – you have to be quick and thorough
  • Set up a study plan – lots of studying upfront and then mock / practice exams in the weeks leading up to the exam
  • Budget about 200 hours for studying (I’m not sure I did that much but there is a point at which more studying is not going to lead to a better exam result)
My own experience / study tips
  • Memorize the process chart in Rita’s book – very handy for questions (see next point)
  • When appropriate, you will want to understand what process group the question or scenario is talking about – the answer is different if you are in initiating then in executing
  • A rule of thumb for figuring out the right answer if you have multiple problems in the question? (This is not in any particular order)

** Solve the immediate problem
** Find the root cause of the problem and solve that
** Solve the problem with the biggest negative impact
** Solve the earliest problem
** Be proactive (choose solutions where you are taking action rather than waiting for things to occur)

  • Practice developing your cheat sheet – it took me half an hour to develop mine during the test scenario and while it didn’t matter in the end, I probably should not have taken up so much time to do so
  • Keep calm during the exam – don’t worry about questions that feel like they are too difficult – just worry about the question in front of you, guess if you don’t have an idea / mark it, and come back to it later
  • Eliminate wrong answers as much as possible but do check to make sure they are actually wrong (this will help if you are guessing and it will also help you to think through the problem)
  • On the computer, you can highlight text (I highlight different process groups if the question says that I’m in executing or doing risk management) and can cross out answers (I cross out any wrong answers I see and choose from the answers I don’t cross out)
  • Get plenty of rest leading up to the exam – studying for a few more hours right before the exam probably won’t give you a better score than being extremely well rested
  • I didn’t really crack open the PMBOK – maybe flipped through a few pages but essentially did most of my studying through other materials

Hope that helps! And when you pass, let’s celebrate with tea!