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Helping you earn and maintain your PMI certification. Passing the PMP Exam is tough, but keeping your PMP Certification alive is just as challenging. Preparing for the exam requires an in-depth study of the PMBOK Guide and dedicated study discipline. And once you are PMP certified, then you are required to earn 60 Professional Development Units (PDUs) every 3 years to keep your certification alive. Let me help you make this journey easier with tips and tricks on how to prepare for and pass the exam as well as efficiently earning your PDUs once you are certified.
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The 7 Questions Every PMP Exam Student Asks Their Coach

The Three R's You need for Your PMP Exam

PMI-ACP Exam Lessons from Those Who Have Been There

Make a Plan to Earn Your PDUs

10 Reasons Flashcards Can Help You in PMP Exam Preparation

The 7 Questions Every PMP Exam Student Asks Their Coach

When students start their Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam prep (for the first time, or again after having failed the exam), there are a number of questions that come up time and time again. In this article we share the top 7 questions that every student asks us in our role as their PMP exam coach. Whether you have a coach or not, knowing the answers will help you get started more quickly with your own exam preparations.

Let’s dive straight in with the first question

1. Why did I fail the PMP exam when I studied so long and so hard?

Everyone is different, but you probably became overwhelmed during the exam as you didn’t approach it with the proper preparation and mechanics for taking the test. It’s not enough to go online and gather tidbits from other people about how to study. A Google search for “How should I study for the exam?” may tell you what to memorize and you’ll find some tips that have worked for other people. Reading the PMBOK® Guide really isn’t even mandatory for the exam, let alone reading it two or three times!

The scenario-based questions you faced in the exam are in depth and difficult, and you also need to be able to manage your time during the 4 hour exam. It’s hard and when you see the nature of the exam and the nerves kick in… all that leads to sub-optimal performance on the day.

Using a range of resources like videos, practice questions, flashcards, study guides and PMP tutoring can all help boost your chances of passing next time, if you combine them with practical preparations and test-taking strategies.

2. I am terrible at mathematics and at formulas. How will I ever be able to do all these earned value questions?

Have confidence! It’s not rocket science. If you’ve had an exposure to something like high school level math then you have the skills to do the math questions. It is just a matter of approaching these math questions in a formulaic kind of way.

First, memorize the formulas that are most likely to show up on the PMP exam – a PMP exam coach can help you identify which ones those are. When you have a theoretical understanding of these formulas and can see whether they are talking about planned vs. actual, variances or forecasts -- you will be able to understand the logic behind the math. At that point, practice, practice, practice! This is rote learning and with enough practical exercises and repetition you will achieve an “AHA” moment! Once you have done them often enough you’ll see the math is no longer a problem for you.

3. I took a few practice tests and I did OK with them so why I did I fail the PMP exam?

You probably weren’t using a very good set of practice questions. Make sure you are using the best quality question banks you can and take plenty of practice tests. Some practice tests aren’t the full length of the 4 hour exam, so be sure to attempt a few full length practice exams too. This will help you plan your time and develop test-taking strategies.

You really need to be dealing with practice PMP tests of 200 multiple choice questions and scoring 80 per cent or more. The reason for that is because there will most likely be a number of factors that could cause your score on the real test date to drop below what it was in your practice exams. Don’t forget that you might be nervous and you will be in an environment that is not comfortable to you because it is not where you did your studying. If you are only just above the passing threshold or achieving mediocre scores on your practice exams then you may drop below the success mark on the actual day.

PMP exam tutoring can help you identify the most realistic sets of PMP-style practice questions and with preparing for the rigors of the test environment.

4. Can you help me with Risk and Quality please?

Yes! These topics must be mastered for the PMP exam. Review all those little things like the 7 basic quality tools and the difference between quality assurance and quality control. Go through all of those risk processes and make sure you understand the whole sequence from planning risk all the way down to creating risk responses and the differences between qualitative and quantitative risk analysis.

Start there and drill down deeper, making sure that you understand all the concepts of risk and quality because they are going to make up a good percentage of the questions that you see on the exam.

5. What do I have to score in order to pass the exam? And can I get below proficient in more than one category and still pass?

The actual score to pass the exam isn’t made public and any passing percentages anyone mentions are just their best guess.

You should be aiming to score Moderately Proficient or Proficient in all process groups and an excellent PMP exam simulator will provide you with those scores. However, it is believed to be possible to pass the exam even if you are below proficient in more than one category.

6. How long should it take me to study effectively and pass the exam?

It depends! Everyone has different things going on in their lives from work, family and other commitments, so the time available to you to study is going to be personal depending on your circumstances. This will influence the length of your study schedule.

We see good results from students who can attack their studies aggressively and spend around 1-2 hours per day studying for the exam over a 1-2 month period. Students who put together long study plans of 4-6 months tend to see diminishing returns on their ability to pass. But remember that everyone is different. Working with a colleague who is already a PMP, a fellow student or a professional PMP coach can help you put together a personalized schedule that is realistic for you.

7. Do I really have to read the PMBOK® Guide twice like everyone says?

No, you do not, but it may help! The PMBOK® Guide is a useful reference guide and every good project manager should have one. You can also use a PMP prep book, a dedicated series of learning videos or the skills of a PMP tutor and have the PMBOK® Guide on hand to clarify further any concepts that you might not understand fully.

There you have it. These 7 questions are the most common questions that students ask their PMP coach when they start out with the PMP exam studies. Asking the right questions helps you prepare more effectively so if you are struggling with something related to your PMP exam prep, ask a colleague, a professional PMP tutor or another trusted individual for their advice. Knowing the answers will make you feel more confident and ready to face the exam and in turn, increase your chance of success on the day.

Posted on: March 26, 2015 07:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Three R's You need for Your PMP Exam

As part of the process of preparing to take the Project Management Professional (PMP®) Exam you have most likely read about the use of a Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM), Roles and Responsibilities, and the Resource Breakdown Structure (RBS). Each of these tools & techniques are discussed within A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition, Project Management Institute, Inc., 2013, the globally recognized standard and guide for the project management profession. In this article we not only look at each of these tools & techniques individually, but also how they interact with each other.

What is a Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM)? It is a tool used as part of the Plan Human Resource Management process that relates the organizational breakdown structure (OBS) to the work breakdown structure (WBS) and is used to ensure each project activity is assigned a specific resource. A RAM can be used at a high level, a low level, or a combination of both depending on the size and complexity of the project. A high-level RAM may show that Company A has been hired to complete the engineering portion of a project. A low-level RAM may show that Joe Smith of Company A will be completing the electrical engineering for the design portion of the project.

One of the most widely known and used type of RAM is the RACI chart. RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consult, and Inform. A RACI chart is simply a table with project activities listed along the left and specific individuals or groups identified across the top. This creates a grid where each activity and individual or group intersect. An R, A, C, or I can be placed in each of the intersecting boxes and at least one accountable individual or group is assigned to each project activity. For large activities there may need to be more than one individual responsible for completing the work. There can be multiple individuals or groups who need to be consulted or informed, but be careful to make sure that each is identified correctly so that not too many unnecessary individuals or groups are being consulted when they may just want to be informed.

What are Roles and Responsibilities? They are used to define the project role, authority, responsibilities, and competencies required for the role. Clearly defining and documenting the specific Roles and Responsibilities necessary for each project resource are essential ingredients of an effective Human Resource Management Plan. The best way to determine the specific responsibilities required of each role on a project is to document these roles in the form of specific job descriptions that must be matched with specific project team members in order to properly execute the role’s responsibilities.

The four key items to be addressed when developing Roles and Responsibilities are role, authority, responsibility, and competency. Role is the function an assigned person would take on such as designer, engineer, or tester. As part of a role it is also important to define the authority, responsibilities, and boundaries of the role. Authority is the right to make decisions, sign approvals, apply resources, accept deliverables, and influence others to complete project activities. Responsibility is the assigned tasks and work the individual is expected to complete. When developing roles and responsibilities it is important that the authority and responsibility match. For example, if an engineer is responsible for making technical decisions it is important they have the authority to implement those decisions. Competency is the skill set and experience required to complete assigned project activities. If the wrong competency is assigned to a role project progress can be hindered by some activities not being performed.

What is the Resource Breakdown Structure (RBS)? It is a graphical representation of the hierarchical structure of resources by category and resource type where each level is broken down until it is small enough to be used in conjunction with the work breakdown structure (WBS). The goal is to have all resources on a project, not only human resources, linked to specific activities in the WBS in order to plan, monitor, and control the project work. Being able to link resources back to the WBS is essential in ensuring that each activity will be successfully performed.

One thing to remember when taking the PMP Exam is that the acronym RBS has two meanings in the world of project management; Resource Breakdown Structure and Risk Breakdown Structure. If you read the questions carefully and understand the context of the question context (i.e., are they asking about resources or risks?) you should not encounter any problems.

How do the Responsibility Assignment Matrix, Roles and Responsibilities, and Resource Breakdown Structure interact? The RBS will provide the project manager with information concerning the resources required to complete the project work. Once the RBS is decomposed to the same level as the WBS then identified resources can be linked to specific activities. A RACI chart can then be developed based on the identified resources in the RBS and the activities that need to be completed in the WBS. The documented Roles and Responsibilities provides the project manager with specific information such as the responsibility, authority, and competency level of the role that each human resource is assigned to. This also helps the Project Manager complete the RACI chart because it provides them with important information such as making someone responsible or accountable for an activity fitting within the role they fill.

In this article we were able to take a brief look at three very important project management topics and how they interact with each other in practice. A popular RAM, the RACI chart, is an extremely useful tool used to identify who is accountable or responsible for or needs to be consulted or informed with regard to specific project activities. Roles and Responsibilities can be thought of as job descriptions that define the role itself along with the authority needed to perform the role, the responsibilities of the role, and the competencies required by the role. The RBS graphically displays what resources are necessary for successful completion of the project, broken down by both resource category and resource type. For the exam, it is important that you understand not only how and when to use each of these tools & techniques, but also how they interact with each other.

Posted on: March 02, 2015 03:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

PMI-ACP Exam Lessons from Those Who Have Been There

Are you thinking about studying for and obtaining the Project Management Institute® Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® certification? Are you wondering what study tools and methods others have used to successfully pass the PMI-ACP® Exam? Are you interested in reading about and learning from the exam experiences of those who have already passed the PMI-ACP Exam? Then there is a forum you should check out on The PMI-ACP Lessons Learned Forum website. All of the posts are lessons learned and tips from those who have recently passed the PMI-ACP Exam, who have become Agile Certified Practitioners, and who probably started with many of the same questions and concerns that you have right now.

One example from this forum was written by Michael Mondie after he successfully passed the PMI-ACP Exam. He shared his personal study plan and what items he reviewed the day he took the PMI-ACP Exam.

Some of the things Michael did as part of his study plan included:

•    Watching The Agile PrepCast™. He also noted that this will take dedication because there are many hours of podcast material in The Agile PrepCast.
•    Reading PMI-ACP Exam Prep, Premier Edition: A Course in a Book for Passing the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) Exam book by Mike Griffiths, PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM, and taking the quizzes that are included.
•    Completing the 50 question sample exam included in The Agile PrepCast Student Workbook
•    Finding a method for learning terms. Michael described his method as using a dry erase board to document made up words or acronyms that meant something to him that he could use to recall phrases.
•    Reading the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct

The day of the exam he did the following to increase his chances of passing the PMI-ACP Exam:

•    Reviewed his dry erase board items and brain dumped all of this information when he got into the exam room
•    Reviewed the Roles for each Agile method

Another example from this forum was written by Martin Gagne, who passed the PMI-ACP Exam on his first try. Some of the tips he shares are to:

•    Look into taking training by your local PMI Chapter. He took the training offered by his local PMI Chapter, which consisted of three days of training in a row.
•    Read the prep book ACP Exam Prep Plus Desk Reference written by John Stenbeck, PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM, CSP. He suggested reading this twice in its entirety.
•    Purchase and follow the training offered by Cornelius Fichtner’s Agile PrepCast
•    Learn the Agile Manifesto Values and Principles.

And in a final post from this forum by Larry Samlin, who also recently passed the PMI-ACP Exam, he shares these steps that he followed to successfully study for and pass the PMI-ACP Exam:

•    Used Andy Crowe’s, The PMI-ACP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try and purchased a 30 day access license to sample question bank
•    The main tip from Larry is that the key for him was to take as many practice tests as time would allow
These are just a few examples of suggestions and tips left by those who have recently passed the PMI-ACP Exam. Most of those who have recently passed the PMI-ACP Exam are more than willing to share what worked for them, and this forum is an excellent place to access all of that knowledge. Just remember when you pass exam to pay it forward by sharing your tips, study tools, and exam passing suggestions to this forum to help others on their journey to passing the PMI-ACP Exam.
 

Posted on: February 01, 2015 12:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Make a Plan to Earn Your PDUs

As a Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential holder, you must earn 60 Professional Development Units (PDUs) every three years in order to maintain your certification status in good standing. Not obtaining the required 60 PDUs within your certification cycle will lead to your credential being suspended. That is the last thing you want to happen, but life being what it is, you probably have family commitments, work-  and social-organization commitments, to name just a few, that are also important to you and probably a little more in the forefront of your life than earning PDUs. If you are anything like most others, as soon as you passed the PMP® Exam, you knew earning those 60 PDUs would be easy and you were going to start on it as soon as you got home, but time passes quickly, sometimes too quickly. So, it is not at all unusual to get well into the third year of your certification cycle and suddenly realize you are nowhere close to obtaining the 60 PDUs you need to ensure your certification stays in good standing.

So what do you do to make sure you do not find yourself struggling to earn PDUs late in your certification cycle? What can you do to make sure earning PDUs is as much in the forefront as other aspects of your life? Well, being a project manager you have the necessary tools to approach earning PDUs as a project by making a plan. Below are some steps to keep in mind when developing a plan to help make sure you earn those required 60 PDUs.

Step 1: Understand the PDU Categories. Read over the Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) Program section in the PMP Handbook to learn about the six categories in which PDUs can be earned. Set a goal for how many PDUs per category you would like to earn over the next three years. Keep in mind that for the PMP® certification some categories limit the maximum PDUs you can earn per three-year certification cycle.

Step 2:  Make earning PDUs a habit. Identify repeating PDU activities that you can participate in. Maybe attending dinner meetings with your local PMI Chapter works best for you. This is a good option especially if you have been thinking of networking and meeting other PMP® credential holders. Or maybe subscribing to The PDU Podcast at www.pducast.com to receive a new webinar to watch every month works better with your busy lifestyle. If the cost of earning PDUs is a factor for you, there are also options for earning free PDUs available.

Step 3:   Develop a plan. After you have decided what categories you would like to earn PDUs in; found local chapter meetings to attend; or subscribed to monthly webinars, develop a plan to earn those 60 PDUs. Make sure to take into account such things as planned vacations and other times when you will not be available to earn PDUs. There may be some months where you will need to earn more than the 1.67 PDUs needed per month to keep on track to earn the 60 PDUs. Planning for those events now and determining when you will make up PDUs in later months will help you make sure you do not fall behind in your plan for earning PDUs

Step 4:  Set up reminders for yourself. With the prevalence of smart phones and other hand held devices your calendar can be at your fingertips. Set up reminders for yourself to earn PDUs based on your plan. In addition to adding events to your calendar, another good option is to subscribe to The PDU Insider Newsletter at www.pdu-insider.com which is all about earning PDUs. This newsletter is issued every three to four weeks and can serve as your reminder for needing to earn PDUs. The PDU Insider Newsletter will also give you information on earning PDUs that maybe you had not thought of that you can add to your plan.

Step 5:   Execute your plan. As a project manager you should be an expert at executing plans, and this one is personal, so it should be an easy one to achieve.

Step 6:    Report your PDUs. Each time you earn PDUs, immediately log on to http://ccrs.pmi.org and take care of two things. One, input the PDUs you have earned, and two check the number of PDUs you have earned to make sure you are on target with your plan.

Step 7:    Apply for credential renewal. Once you have earned the 60 required PDUs, don’t forget to apply for credential renewal before your certification cycle ends.

Earning PDUs can be easy; the hard part is remembering to do so regularly. The steps to earning the PDUs you need to maintain your PMP® certification are as easy as understanding the PDU categories, making earning PDUs a habit, developing a plan, setting up reminders, executing the plan, reporting earned PDUs, and finally applying for credential renewal.

Posted on: January 07, 2015 04:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

10 Reasons Flashcards Can Help You in PMP Exam Preparation

Categories: PMP Exam

Studying for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) Exam can be a long undertaking that at times may seem overwhelming. One known effective method for studying for the PMP Exam is using flashcards. Flashcards are compact, quick and easy to use study aids that typically cover one question, formula, or tidbit of information per card. Flashcards can be used just about anywhere; waiting in line, on the bus or train, or even when you just have a few moments between meetings. In this article, we are going to discuss 10 reasons flashcards should be part of your PMP Exam preparation toolkit.

You should consider using flashcards because as a study method, it does the following:

1.    Allows you to study almost any time & anywhere -

•    Flashcards are portable and flexibly. They can go anywhere with you and can be used when you have some free time such as waiting for a doctor’s appointment, or the cable repair technician.
•    You can print flashcards and take them with you, or if you prefer PM Flashcards are also available to be viewed on mobile devices.

2.    Provides an active method for learning PMP concepts -

•    When you use flashcards as part of learning a concept, you are not just passively reading information; you are asking yourself questions and actively answering them.
•    When you pick up a flashcard that reads “What does WBS stand for?” you have to think about what the question is asking and recall details related to the question. Apart from asking what WBS stands for, you might then ask yourself what does it mean? What was the context in which I learned about WBS? What is the significance of a WBS?
•    You are more fully engaged in learning, which helps make the information “stick”.

3.    Allows you to think about how much you do or do not understand a concept -

•    Flashcards can be used to reflect on what you are learning, which is also known as metacognition, i.e. “Thinking about thinking”.
•    If you pick up a flashcard that reads “How do you calculate SPI?” you may remember what SPI stands for and that it involves earned value and planned value, but cannot recall the formula.
•    If you don’t have clear understanding of a flashcard question, then you know you may have to read more about it or review what you have learned about the concept. So this may mean looking up the SPI formula, study and work through an example to ensure that you know that you calculate SPI by dividing earned value by planned value.

4.    Breaks studying down into small chunks -

•    One flashcard covers a single topic so flashcards overall break studying down into small single concept chunks.
•    For each chunk, you can determine which ones you understand and those that you know you need to review more.
•    In other words, flashcards allow for you to focus on one question at a time. When you pick up a flashcard that asks “What does WBS stand for?” and you think to yourself “I have no idea” then you know you need to set that card aside, so you can spend more time on specifically on the topic of the WBS.

5.    Provides repetition -

•    Flashcards ask questions about concepts in a variety of different ways and are intended to be used over and over.
•    Knowing how to answer questions about a concept that is presented in a variety of ways ensures you learn, not simply memorize, the concept. In this way, you will find it easier to recall the information.
•    If you answer a flashcard question correctly, don’t just set it aside. It is useful to not only see the cards you have not mastered more than once, but also it is good to review cards you got right the first time. Answering correctly a few times ensures you have learned the concept.

6.    Allows for distributed learning -

•    Distributed learning is the practice of spreading out your studying over time and quizzing yourself on the concepts over time; in another words…not cramming.
•    Take a break between study sessions to learn other concepts or do other non-study related activities to allow for the information time to “sink in”.
•    Spreading out studying for the PMP Exam is a much better method than cramming all of the information “en masse”.

7.    Provides immediate feedback on progress -

•    With flashcards you know immediately if you are on the right track with a specific PMP concept, either you can answer the question correctly or not.
•    There is a growing sense of accomplishment with a growing pile of mastered flashcards.
•    There is no waiting time. You can immediately reprioritize your studies to learn more about topics on flashcard questions that you got wrong.

8.    Allows you to control your learning -

•    You can order the flashcards randomly, by subject areas, by how much you have mastered a topic, or in any order you would like.
•    You can learn at your own pace; set your own personal goals such as to review 5, 40 or 100 flashcards a day.
•    You can easily sort the cards in to groups of what you do know and what you need to spend more time studying.

9.    Uses both visual and auditory senses -

•    Memory improves when you use more than one sense to learn information, which can be done using flashcards.
•    It is useful to have cards where you can draw an image or graph on (visual) that you associate with the concept on the flashcard. For example if the concept is Maslow’s hierarchy, don’t just rely on the text to learn the concept – draw it out.
•    It can also be good to have someone else read the questions to you (auditory).

10.    Works well in a group format -

•    You can make a game out of using flashcards and create a contest or casual competition within the study group, so you can introduce some fun while learning, discussing, and debating questions and answers.
•    Hearing and discussing the questions in a group format can help you to reinforce PMP Exam concepts.

Flashcards are an excellent study aid that can provide a huge boost to you PMP Exam preparation toolkit. They are broken down into a single concept at one per card, can be used just about anywhere when you have free time, can be sorted in any order you wish, and can be used alone or as part of a group study session. Of course you can create your own flashcards as you study, but there are excellent inexpensive flashcards available such as the PMP eFlashcards that can give you a head start.

Posted on: December 02, 2014 06:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
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