The PMP exam can be a daunting experience for even the most experienced project manager. You’ll need to know more than just the PMBOK Guide, be able to calm exam jitters, and prove your project management experience. Here are ten proven exam tips…
1. Prepare to pass the exam, not take the exam.
There is a distinct difference in just studying for an exam and studying to pass an exam. I strongly believe that when you choose the PMP designation you must go with the mindset of passing the test rather than just studying for this test. This mindset means that you’re dedicated, committed, and willing to do whatever it takes to pass the exam. Use the mindset by changing your verbiage; always refer to your efforts as preparation to pass the exam.
2. Schedule your exam now to create an exam deadline.
Treat your upcoming exam as a project. Projects require a deadline so your exam should too. When you work towards a specific date in the future you’re more focused on passing the exam, more focused on how you spend your time, and more aware of that looming date. If you’re treating your exam as a “someday” it’ll happen the same day you hike Mount Kilimanjaro. Set a date a work towards it.
3. Create a clutter-free area reserved for studying.
I believe that you need a clutter-free mind when you’re studying for the PMP certification. A clutter-free mind needs a clutter-free studying environment. When you’re studying at your desk that’s buried in assignment-related papers, email chimes, pictures, and tchotchkes you’re giving your mind all sorts of opportunities for distraction. Clean your desk of everything or, more likely, find a nook where you can create a study command center. Keep it void of everything that’s not supporting your PMP goal.
4. Repetition is the mother of learning.
Study your materials over and over and over until you know you have all the facts – and then repeat the process. Take practice exams and repeat them until you can answer and explain every question. Create flashcards and drill through them daily. Carry those flashcards around with you and whip through the terms at every opportunity. Knowing what the terms mean will give you confidence to answer exam questions correctly.
5. Answer the questions according to PMI, not “the real world.”
You may be a project manager with twenty years of experience or a new project manager with just enough experience to qualify for the PMP. In either case you’ll be taking the same test. Guess what this means? The PMP exam isn’t based on your experience, but on The PMBOK Guide. Sure, your experience will definitely help on the exam, but how you do project management in your company is likely different than how the PMP exam will test you. Answer the questions according to the PMBOK first, your experience second.
6. Practice creating your notes that you’ll create in the exam testing center.
If you were allowed to take a one page full of exam notes what would you include on this document? Formulas? Theories? Facts? While you can’t take anything into the exam center with you, you can write down as many notes as you want once you’re in the testing room. I recommend that candidates practice creating a “cheat sheet” that has all their favorite (or least favorite) facts and then create this document once you’re seated in the exam room. Now all of your facts are right in front of you – and you’ll likely learn them anyway by practicing the creation of your “cheat sheet.”
7. Study Beyond The PMBOK Guide
Yes, you do need The PMBOK Guide for your studying efforts. And yes, I know it’s really boring – but it’s a great tool to help you pass the PMP. Look for materials beyond The PMBOK Guide. I am the author of two leading books on the PMP, The CAPM/PMP All-in-One Certification Guide and The PMP Study Guide. There are also lots of other good books out there to choose from. I also have an online PMP Boot Camp at www.instructing.com that’s affordable and satisfies the PMI contact hours for the exam – again, there are lots of choices. My point is find additional materials that work for you and then embrace them.
8. Complete the PMI Application Now
Many PMP candidates make the mistake of waiting until late in their exam efforts to complete the PMI exam application. The application is a chore to complete – and even more of a chore and time-suck if you get audited. Don’t wait – start your application now. You’ll have to document your work experience, create a narrative on your project management efforts, and provide managers’ names and details. If you get audited it takes a more time to complete the process. Start soon, get approved, and then set your exam pass date.
9. Study Smart.
PMI tells you what you’ll be tested on – so study accordingly. In the Initiating domain of the test there are 19 questions, but in the PMBOK there are just two initiating processes. In the Closing domain there are 16 questions and just two processes. That’s a total of 35 questions on four processes. Compare that to the Planning domain with 40 questions across 20 processes. While you should know everything, really, really know Initiating and Closing and you’ve just aced 35 questions with less effort.
10. Reward Yourself.
Strike a deal with yourself that you’ll have a reward waiting for you once you pass the exam. Make the reward something good: a fancy dinner, a vacation, a wristwatch, or some other thing that you really want. Budget for the reward and promise yourself you can only have this thing when you pass the exam. It’s hard work to become a PMP and you’ll deserve more than those initials behind your name for your effort!
Joseph Phillips is a leader in the project management and adult education community. He is a PMI-certified Project Management Professional, a Project+ Professional, and a Certified Technical Trainer. Phillips has consulted on project management, business analysis, and adult education for hospitals, architectural firms, manufacturers, and information technology consultancies. He’s consulted organizations on project management framework, process engineering, change management, and the principles of project management.
As a leader in adult education, Phillips has taught organizations how to successfully implement project management methodologies, information technology project management, risk management, and other courses. He has taught more than 10,000 professionals through seminars, conferences, and presentations in the United States, Belgium, Germany, France, and the Netherlands. He is a member and of the Project Management Institute and speaks often for chapter meetings throughout the world. He has taught for Columbia College Chicago, Vincennes University, and Ball State University.
Phillips is the author of several top-selling books, including IT Project Management: On Track from Start to Finish, PMP Project Management Professional Study Guide, CAPM/PMP Project Management Certification All-in-One Exam Guide, Project Management for Small Business, Vampire Management, The Lifelong Project, and others. Contact Joseph Phillips.