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Cornelius Fichtner help you with your PMP Exam Prep (https://www.project-management-prepcast.com) as well as earn free PDUs (www.pm-podcast.com/pdu). 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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Episode 413: When the Organization thinks they don't need Project Management

Help! I’ve Failed The PMP® Audit!

Recently we’ve seen a trend: The Project Management Institute (PMI)® appears to be doing more Project Management Professional (PMP)® audits. That’s where they review your application in detail prior to approving you to take the PMP® Exam.

But there’s another part to this trend: we are seeing more people failing audits and reaching out for help. If that’s you, don’t worry: I’ve got you covered with this article. And if you are in the middle of your PMP training and preparing your application right now, read on: I have some great tips to help you avoid the headaches audits can bring.

Why PMI® Does Audits

First, you should know that being selected for an audit is random. There’s nothing on your application that flagged it as being worthy of a second look. PMI does, however, reserve the right to audit any candidate at any time – that’s clear in the PMP Handbook.

PMI does audits to ensure the standing of the PMP credential. The application team wants to make sure that their policies are fair and that they are only moving people to the next stage of the process who are eligible for the credential.

In other words, audits protect you because they ensure the value of the PMP credential stays high. As PMI can’t subject every application to an audit, they select a proportion to review.

The Audit Ensures That You Are a Project Manager who Leads & Directs Projects

One reason that the PMP credential has such a high regard around the world is the fact that it is reserved for a very particular group of people: project managers who lead and direct projects. And the audit ensures that you - the applicant - meet this qualification. So let’s make sure of that:

  • You are a project manager if you are the person who has been assigned to lead the project team responsible for achieving the project objectives.
  • You are leading and directing if you are ultimately responsible for the tasks as well as have the knowledge and skills specified in the PMP Examination Content Outline.
  • And finally it is only considered a project if it is a temporary effort (with a clear beginning and end) undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.

If you or the work you are responsible for do not meet all of these criteria then you should not apply for the exam.

Where the PMP Audit Fits Into the Application Process

If you are selected for a PMP audit you’ll find out by email after your payment has been processed.

You’ll have 90 days to provide the information that the audit team needs. Once you’re successfully out the other side of the audit, your one-year examination eligibility period starts.

How You Can Fail The PMI Audit

There are 3 ways that your application could result in an audit failure:

1. No Fault
This is where the audit team can’t verify your education or experience – you either don’t have the experience or education required or it isn’t clearly enough described in your application.

2. Non-Compliance
This is the outcome if you choose not to go through with the audit process at all. If you don’t respond to the audit you’ll receive a one year suspension period before you can apply again.

3. Fraud
If PMI identify that you have provided false information on your application then you will be permanently suspended from taking any PMI exams. Forever.

Top Reasons For Failing The Audit (And How To Avoid Them)

So what could result in your application failing the audit process? Here are some of the top reasons we have gleaned from students and what you can do to avoid them happening to you.

Your experience entries do not meet the requirements of the PMP credential

The work experience you’ve listed is not aligned with the project management process areas (initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling and closing). It might not be possible for PMI to see what role you took on the project. They need to see that you lead and directed the project.

They also need evidence that you have experience in each of the process areas. You don’t have to show experience in every area for every project but the totality of your application should document that you have experience that stretches across the whole of the Exam Content Outline.

Considerations:

  • Make sure your application covers all process areas.
  • Use PMI terminology to describe what you did and the tools and techniques you used.
  • Try to show your experience across different knowledge areas.
  • Focus on what was most important for each project.
  • Talk about what you did and how you did it, not what you were responsible for. Describe your contribution in concrete terms.

You’ve submitted experience that wasn’t on projects

PMI doesn’t care about the work you do outside of projects. If you are not clear enough to determine whether they are truly projects, PMI may deem that experience inadmissible.

Considerations:

  • Write clear descriptions for your projects.
  • Describe the project objective in a sentence.
  • Summarize project deliverables by process area (for example, state the project management documents you were personally responsible for in each process)
  • Add a single sentence to describe the outcome.

You’ve grouped information about multiple projects

PMI wants to review what you did on each individual project and your application will be rejected if you group information about multiple projects.

Considerations:

  • Do not combine your small projects into one.
  • List each project separately.

You included voluntary projects

While working on projects unpaid can give you considerable experience, for the PMP® application PMI only wants to see projects that “represent professional and compensated work.” If you include voluntary work this could cause you to fail.

Considerations:

  • Only include projects that you were compensated for.

You didn’t submit all the required audit information in one go

PMI requires that you send all your audit information back in one bundle. If they receive an incomplete submission from you, that’s an automatic fail.

Considerations:

  • Making sure you have everything required before you respond to the audit.

Boost Your Chances of Success

Going through an audit isn’t the end of the world. If your application is solid, the audit process doesn’t take long and you can start preparing for your exam. If you want to avoid the extra steps and stress that an audit might bring, it helps to have an experienced PMP coach review your application. This can give you confidence and ensure that your investment in your application has the best possible chance of success.

You might also choose to use a PMP coach if you’re preparing a new application after failing an audit. They can help you select appropriate, different projects that are new for PMI’s review: the audit team may not pass projects that previously failed.

If you’ve been audited once you should expect to be audited on your next application. It might not happen: but it’s highly possible. Using the tips in this article you’ll be well prepared in case that happens.

 

About the author: Cornelius Fichtner, PMP is a noted PMP expert. He has helped over 40,000 students prepare for the PMP Exam with The Project Management PrepCast at http://www.pm-prepcast.com and The PM Exam Simulator at http://www.pm-exam-simulator.com.

Posted on: March 22, 2017 08:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

No More Brain Dumps During Exam Tutorial

Effective immediately, Project Management Institute (PMI)® and Prometric have made the following change to the examination format of all PMI® certifications: You are no longer allowed to take any notes during the 15 minute time of the tutorial.

Here is what this means for you.

PMI Brain Dump Policy

Here is PMI’s policy on this matter and what will be enforced at Prometric testing centers:

  • Testing candidates can start to utilize their scratch paper/note boards once the exam has officially started
  • Doing a “brain dump” during the 15 minute tutorial period or prior is not allowed
  • All scratch paper/note boards will be collected at the end of the testing session

Are Brain Dumps Now Forbidden?

No. The policy states that you are still allowed to use a brain dump, but you are simply not allowed to write it down during the 15 minute tutorial. You have to wait until the exam has officially started. And once the exam clock is ticking, then -- and only then -- are you allowed to write down your brain dump.

Writing down your brain dump after the exam countdown has begun will of course "eat up" exam time that you could spend answering questions. So if you are concerned about not having enough time to answer all questions, then spending time to write down your brain dump may not be for you. However, spending a moment of your actual exam time in the act of getting everything you memorized onto paper will additionally give you confidence in your exam knowledge, and you now have a physical reference to go back to during the heat of the exam.

PMI Still Allows Brain Dumps

To clarify the policy, Gregg Shaffer (Manager, Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.) Program) posted the following comment on LinkedIn:

"To be clear, PMI still allows “brain dumps.” However, because of the importance of the tutorial, PMI simply states that the practice of “brain dumps,” in alignment with industry best practices and standards, not be allowed until after the tutorial is completed. We ask all to please respect and follow this direction."

We Recommend: When in Doubt... Ask!

At this time it is still early days and the exact implementation of this new policy may vary from one testing center to another. We therefore advise our students to ask the following questions before walking into the testing room:

  • When am I allowed to start making notes on the scratch paper / note board?
  • What am I allowed/not allowed to write onto the scratch paper / note board?
  • What else should I be aware of in regards of using the scratch paper / note board?

Student Experience

Here is what one of our students reported back regarding this new policy:

When I did my exam last week, I went in knowing I couldn't do a brain dump. So I spent 5 minutes going through the tutorial, started my exam, and did the brain dump as soon as I started the exam. If you go into the exam treating it as a 3 hour and 50 minute exam instead of a 4 hour exam, then you can take the time to do your dump, and just pace yourself slightly faster to complete the rest of it.

"I was given my paper when I was seated, and told that I wouldn't be able to write anything until I clicked the "start" button. Although in my case, I just had a bunch of EVM formulas, and in the end, there only a handful of questions that required EVM formulas..." Matt Mcdonnell

A Brain Dump is NOT = Exam Success!

Lastly, don't forget that a brain dump will not 'make or break" your exam. It is nothing more than a security blanket. The real factors that will bring you success on the exam are your experience as a project manager, your understanding of the material, and the hours and hours of preparation and taking sample exams that you put in.

Having Your Personal Brain Dumps is STILL Valuable

Are you wondering if you should still develop your own, personalize brain dump, what to put on it and what the "secret" of a brain dump is? Read this article:

The Secret Of Creating Your Project Management Professional (PMP)® Brain Dump

Read this Forum Post

For additional details please visit our website forum where we have an ongoing discussion on this topic.

Posted on: January 12, 2017 10:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Episode 377: The PMI Educational Foundation

(Click to download MP3...)

Suketu NagrechaThe Project Management Institute (PMI)® Educational Foundation is a charitable nonprofit organization, with the mission to inspire and empower people to realize their potential and transform their lives and their communities through the use of project management knowledge. This interview with Suketu Nagrecha, PMIEF Chair, was recorded at the 2016 PMI Global Congress in San Diego, California. We discuss:

  • The history of PMIEF
  • How PMIEF can help you with 
    - Scholarships 
    - Grants 
    - Awards
  • How you can apply for a scholarship, grant, or award
  • How your or your employer can become a PMIEF donor
  • And we'll hear a story from a project manager whom PMIEF helped in his career

Full disclosure: My own company is a PMIEF donor and offers certification scholarships primarily for PMP exam prep. If you are thinking of earning a PMI scholarship but lack the means to do so then please visit https://www.project-management-prepcast.com/scholarships to learn how to apply.

(This interview was originally published on The Project Management Podcast.)

Posted on: December 06, 2016 10:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

The 7 Questions Every PMP Student SHOULD Ask Their Coach

In our previous article we discussed the 7 questions that most of our PMP Exam coaching students ask us as they start out their journey. However, over the years we have identified a second set of 7 questions - the questions students SHOULD be asking us but they don’t. Here they are:

1. What’s the most important brain dump or diagram to learn?

This is an easy question! It’s Table 3-1 in the PMBOK® Guide. This covers the Project Management Process Group and Knowledge Area Mapping. It’s a complicated matrix and a very important visual representation of Project Management Body of Knowledge and Project Management framework. It is very much a guiding tool for approaching the PMP exam and one of the most important brain dumps that you could have in the testing center to help you.

2. What formulas do I need to know for the PMP exam?

There are many formulas in the PMBOK® Guide; upwards of 20 or 30 that could be referenced in the PMP exam. A PMP exam coach would tell you that you will probably only see somewhere in a range of around 15 formulas on the exam itself.
If time is short and you want to focus your learning on what will really make a difference to your success in the exam, identify the formulas that are most likely to come up and make sure you fully understand those. A formulas study guide, coach or PMP exam tutor will be able to pinpoint the most important formulas for you. Start by memorizing those to maximize your learning time.

3. What are these Inputs, Outputs, Tools and Techniques (ITTOs)?

ITTOs tend to scare a lot of PMP students and some exam candidates have confided that they didn’t understand or know about them before they took the exam! They are very important for understanding how project management concepts and processes fit together, both for the exam and also for managing projects in ‘real life’ after the exam.

Make sure you spend enough time learning about their structure, and how you are likely to encounter them on the PMP exam. You can do this through studying the PMBOK® Guide, and using other study guides and flashcards. Taking practice PMP exams is another good way of testing your knowledge of ITTOs as you will get to see how the questions are framed on the exam and learn how best to respond to them.

4. What are some tricks to answering these long scenario-based questions on the PMP exam?

This is an excellent question that PMP exam coaches don’t hear often enough! The best students want to know how to deal with the long paragraphs that they see on the PMP exam.

These long questions are often a source of great difficulty for many students. The content of the question is often in a strange order and there are facts that are added in simply to distract you. The answers are also often longer than normal, so scanning through and making a quick judgment about how to answer is tricky. So how can you deal with these scenario-based questions?

Something that works well for many exam candidates is to read the last part of the question first. You can also use a process of elimination on certain answers by referring to your brain dump of Table 3-1, the Project Management Process Group and Knowledge Area Mapping, or your formula sheet.

Practicing with an exam simulator and talking to your colleagues and coaches will help you understand and practice these long scenario-based questions.

5. How can I manage my time on the exam day?

Four hours seems like a very long time and in the past students were often able to complete the exam comfortably within this time. Now PMP exam tutors learn from their students that the test seems to be taking longer. You can still complete it within the 4 hour window allocated, but students are reporting that it is taking the full allocation of time so they don’t have the opportunity to leave early.
This could be for any number of reasons, including that students are now better prepared and are marking more questions for review. It could also be that earned value calculations are playing a great part in the exam and for many students, they add additional time. Whatever the reasons, you do need to manage your time carefully on the day to ensure that you have enough time to finish without being rushed.

Once you get on top of your time management you have a much better chance of passing the PMP exam.

6. What’s the best approach for learning all the content?

The best approach for learning all the content (and there is a lot of it!) depends on your learning style. Some people learn best by reading and absorbing information in their own time. This allows them to make notes and create their own flashcards, for example. If that sounds like you, a PMP study guide would be a good starting point.

Other people learn best through visual means, and if that sounds like your preferred learning style then the best approach that you could possibly take would be to find yourself a world class set of video learning lessons which will provide you with all of the content on all of the processes, the framework, and the body of knowledge in a visual way.

Others learn best in an environment with other people. A classroom course or PMP exam tutoring in a group can be a good solution if you prefer to learn in the company of others. Of course, you also have the option to learn one-on-one with a study buddy (a peer who is studying for the PMP exam at the same time as you), a mentor or PMP coach. Don’t limit yourself to having to meet in person as there are online options that also give you the personal touch without physically having to be in the same location, such as coaching via Skype.

You may want to use a combined approach to suit your situation so mix and match your learning options until you feel comfortable that you have a study plan that meets your personal needs and preferences.

7. How many practice exams should I take and what score should I score?

How many exams you take depends on how much time you have! It’s more important to make sure that you have access to practice exams that provide you with questions that are known to be almost exactly like the ones on the real test. Try to find a source of questions that are highly regarded to be very realistic. When you get to a point where you are repeatedly doing simulated exams at scores of 80% or better you know you are ready go in and pass that exam.

Do you feel better prepared for your PMP exam knowing the answers to these questions? We hope so! As you can see, it’s very difficult to give definitive answers in some cases as every student is different. The main message is to ensure you dovetail all of this advice together, making sure that you are studying in the right way, learning on the right timeline, taking the test questions right, and getting ready for the exam. Good luck!
 

Posted on: May 05, 2015 02:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

How To Become PMI-ACP Certified Even After A Disappointing Class

Even if your classroom experience is disappointing, you can still go on to pass your PMI exam. Felix Rodgers, PMI-ACP, is one successful candidate who had a less than good experience of his training course.“It was really interesting stuff,” he said, in an interview with Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM, host of The Project Management Podcast. “Even though the actual study guide we used in class wasn’t up to par.”

Luckily, Felix had a good trainer who helped to address some of the problems with the course materials. “He jumped in with stories of some of his work experience in large companies and explained some of the projects he worked on. I also learned that my trainer was later hired to update the study guide for the training company and it’s much improved now.” Despite the poor experience of the course, Felix felt ready to take the exam straight afterwards. However, he ended up waiting about a year due to work and personal commitments, although he would recommend others to take the exam as soon as they can.

PMI ACP class


“I also wish I’d have given myself a little more time to go over all of the different concepts that maybe on the test,” Felix said. “The totality of my experience had been with Scrum, one of the frameworks for Agile that’s part of the test. I felt very comfortable with that, but I was very weak with Lean and XP and they were the things that going in, I knew I didn’t have a lot of experience with.”

Felix bought some books and did some reading, and sure enough, the first few practice exam questions that he took were about Lean. “As you look at those questions, you start to worry: Am I going to have issues with this?” But as his studies progressed, Felix felt more confident. “I can’t stress that enough to people that you have to take practice exams,” he said.“The more testing that you do, the more prepared you’ll be.”

After the classroom course, and his break from studying, Felix spent two or three months reviewing for the exam. Everything in his study plan led towards his scheduled exam date. He studied for a couple of hours on weekdays and longer at the weekends, which is when he took his practice exams. He even considered taking another classroom course, but due to the investment, decided to give self-directed study a chance first.

He used Andy Crowe’s study book, The PMI-ACP Exam: How To Pass On Your First Try. “It’s a really good book,” he said. “I went through it about three times and it has really good test exams in the back. What was interesting about these questions is that when I actually took the test, I wasn’t too far off as far as what I saw in the actual exam.” The realistic questions helped Felix prepare. “It’ll ask a question but it’ll just twist just a little bit,” he said. “It kind of makes you take a second, a third and a fourth look at that question.”

Felix also found the focus on the 12 principles in the Agile Manifesto and the Scrum guide very useful. “If you’resolid with your principles, you always refer back to that,” he said. “If you’re in doubt when answering a question, always rely on what the actual Agile principles say. I did that for more than a few questions.”

On the exam day, Felix was a little late to the test center as he hadn’t worked out exactly where it was. He was able to enter the room without problems and noticed that there were cameras taping the exam and the candidates. “I went through the tutorial just to understand the system,” he said. This was valuable as the majority of Felix’s test questions had been in books. “They walk you through the process of how to mark things, how to go back and once you’re done with everything, you can click to finish. It’s a quick tutorial.”

During the exam, Felix found that his practical experience of managing projects using Scrum for 8 years was valuable, and he was confident with those questions. However, the majority of questions he marked for review were about Lean or XP. He finished in about 2 hours, but thought that was too quick. “Am I going out at a good pace? Am I too slow? Am I too fast? You’ve got to try to pace yourself to make sure that you get everything answered and also that you provide yourself with enough time to go back and review the ones that you had some questions about.”

The bulk of the questions were somewhere between the hard and medium category,” Felix said. Once he had finished the exam, Felix completed the feedback survey and received his results. He had passed! He received his score report, which was stamped in the bottom corner and then he was able to use PMI-ACP after his name.

As soon as he got in the car he posted his results in Facebook, and then started thinking about the next credential he could take, the Risk Management Professional exam. He sees instant applicable value for these courses in the real world. “In the work that I do now for a defense contractor, we’re trying to include Agile into the military and government culture,” he said. “They’re willing to try these types of techniques. I love the challenge of trying to apply things that I know work very well in the commercial world to a world that’s, let’s be honest, is not usually known for quick iterative releases.”

Overall, Felix felt that his study plan combined with practice exams and real world experience helped him prepare, despite his poor classroom course. “It is really important to get a good teacher along with good content,” he said. The Agile PrepCast would have been great for him. “For me it meant a lot of studying but I am so excited to have it and be able to use these kinds of skills and techniques in my current job and in the other future endeavours.”

Posted on: March 01, 2014 12:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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