Everyone studying for the PMP exam wants to know where to spend his time. These study tips may help you approach the test with confidence.
Every day I get email messages with the subject line, “I passed the PMP exam!” (I joined a lot of LinkedIn PMP groups when I set my sights on getting certified.) Before I sat for my exam, I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with these emails. On the one hand, the messages were inspirational. I thought, “If they can do it, so can I.” On the other hand, I was jealous, wishing it was me who was done studying, and past the anxiety.
Now I’m on the “other side,” having passed my PMP exam on the first attempt. I want help other PMP candidates by answering the two questions we all want to know: “How did you study?” and “What advice do you have for me?”
Before I get into advice, I’ll start at the end – with how my exam went. Honestly, shortly after beginning the exam, I felt over-prepared. I realized pretty early on that I was probably going to pass. I don’t say over-prepared in a bad way. My prep class made me a better project manager, and I felt calm and confident throughout the exam. That’s the way we all want to feel! Perhaps my experiences can help you get the same result.
“How Did You Study?”
I took a new course called The CertWise Learning System for PMP Exam Preparation. (Which, for transparency’s sake, you should recognize is this site’s sponsor.) There are a few course formats you can pick; I chose a five-week online instructor-guided course. My instructor met with our class via online webinars one hour per week, and also answered questions by email whenever we were stuck. She truly cared about us getting through the course, learning the material, and passing the exam. The course also came with great books and online study tools, so I didn’t have to look around for supplementary resources.
Without getting too deep into detail (you can look the course up online), this is what I really liked most about the program:
- It had everything I needed to prepare – even things I didn’t know I’d need, like online interactive worksheets.
- It got me past my fears. One of my biggest concerns for the PMP exam was the formulas, since I struggle with math. This class and the materials did a great job of breaking down all the formulas to help me both memorize them (in stages) and to understand and apply them.
- The online tests helped me assess my knowledge. Even before I picked up a book, I started with a pre-test. Then there were quizzes after each chapter, a post-test, and a practice exam.
- The flashcards really helped me learn PMP terminology. I could review the cards online or print them to take with me.
- The weekly webinars made a difference. Preparing for these webinars ensured I wasn’t falling behind. It also made me recognize my weaknesses and focus on areas where I was struggling.
- The reading materials were so comprehensive, teaching everything from the PMBOK Guide to the Exam Content Outline in a clear way. I loved that I had real books to flag and highlight, but I could also download an electronic copy to my tablet to read at lunch or whenever I had a few spare minutes.
“What advice do you have for me?”
In looking back on how I prepared, of course there are a few things I’d change. But there’s a lot I would do the same. Here’s my advice to you:
- Block off time to study. Put it in your calendar or you’ll never stick with it.
- Digest the materials slowly. You’re not going to get it all on the first pass. Dig into the details after the general idea takes shape. You will go over topics several times.
- Take the time, early on, to really understand what you need for the exam. For my course, it was Chapter 14: Exam Preparation and Review. Review it first! The resources help you understand the exam and set expectations.
- Study in a variety of locations, with friends. This helps with both motivation and collaboration.
- Your motivation level will change throughout the course. It is easy to let one study session slip and then another, so keep yourself accountable. Weekly webinars or classes help with this but you need to keep yourself on track too.
- Participate! The more you participate in your course, the more you get out of it. Questions and discussions allow you to learn from your instructor and also from other students.
- Set target dates. Create milestones along the way for your application, by when to complete certain chapters, and of course, your exam date.
One of my major takeaways after completing this process is that each of us is accountable for our own experiences. If you commit to your studies and engage in the course, you will have a great outcome.
Most importantly: Keep it all in perspective. The time, money and effort you put into studying these materials goes far beyond the PMP exam. This is preparation for your career as a project manager. From my very first week of studying, I started applying what I was learning to my position. Perhaps this long-term outlook will help you and your employer see the true long-term value of this investment.
My employer was very excited and proud that I passed the test and celebrated with me the following week. I’ve been told – not just once, but several times – that this was a worthwhile accomplishment. It’s a great feeling!
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