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LL & Tips: Passed PMP First Attempt - AT Overall
Just passed last week taking the test in-person at Pearson Vue.

Here's my overview for those of you getting ready to take it:

Practice and Final Test Results
I passed the exam with T-BT-AT-AT-BT which gave an overall rating of just barely AT. My worst Domain was Closing where I got "low" rankings in 4/7 tasks.

I used PM Prepcast primarily for my practice questions. Over the course of my studying I took one 100 question un-timed quiz and then 3 timed practice exams.

Quiz 1: T- T-AT-AT-NI (73%-71%-79%-75%-43%) 74% overall
Test 1: T-AT-AT-AT-AT (73%-80%-81%-88%-77%) 81.5% overall
Test 2: AT-AT-AT-AT- T (81%-78%-82%-88%-71%) 81.5% overall
Test 3: AT-AT-AT-AT-AT (92%-86%-90%-75%-80%) 85% overall

Time and Process
I started things out in September 2018 with a local chapter PMI sponsored bootcamp (3 days earning 23 credits). Not much studying took place after the bootcamp but it did give me a great overview of the processes included, how to get the application filed, and a sense of how difficult the questions would be. I intended to get studying after that but my business underwent an acquisition, my responsibilities kicked up several notches and I ended up changing jobs last year. During this time I would half-heartedly read sections of the PMBOK but it was so dry and boring I didn't feel like I was getting much out of it.

I began studying in earnest October 2019; submitted my application at the beginning of the month and quickly was approved. Continued studying PMBOK until mid November and acquired new materials - Head First and Rita's.

Completed the Head First study guide front to back. It gave me a great overview of everything that would be included as well as some of the rationale of WHY which was really important with setting my mental framework. Finished this up by end of the year.

Started Rita's in December as a break from HF. I wanted to get a sense of my read rate for both books so I could schedule out how many hours I would need to complete both books. Btw my initial estimates were 25 pages/hour and 5 pages/hour for HF and Rita's respectively; ended up close to 31pph and 12 pph. I'm sure this varies widely by person and study style. This did include time spent cross referencing with PMBOK.

I took my first un-timed quiz after completing all of Head First and the first several chapters of Rita's to get a gauge of where I was at. After this I continued with several more chapters of Rita's (Procurement and Quality which had ranked lowest in the quiz) before taking my first full practice test.

I was supposed to take the exam end of February but unfortunately had a death in the family and rescheduled to mid-April. Took off half of February and most of March from studying. Then of course with COVID everything got shut down and my test date was cancelled about 2 weeks before it was scheduled. Online exams were still not an option at this time so I rescheduled to the next available date in person June 4th.

Took another studying snooze and started back up again early May. Completed Stakeholder chapter of Rita's (ranked low on both quiz and test) and re-tested; improved this area's score but Scope went way down.

At this point I stopped focusing on Rita's and just starting trying to better enforce my mental network of the processes and clarify the definitions. For me understanding the definitions of all the tools and techniques was much more useful than purely memorizing which ones were used for what process (honestly PMI's use of T&T and documents as inputs seemed so arbitrary to me). I also used MindManager to diagram out the relationship between specific processes. Especially important was mapping out in different ways in which work performance data/information/reports were generated, deliverables are verified and accepted, and how integration management links up with the other processes inputs and outputs.

The Exam
I was surprised to only have 20 minutes left by the end. My first practice exam took almost exactly 3 hours. The 2nd took a little more than 3 hours and the 3rd took 3.5 (but I was super tired, I live in Minneapolis and didn't get very much sleep the week prior to the test). I agree with others' statements that the questions were VERY difficult. I'm not quite sure if "vague" is the right word, maybe ambiguous? I am glad I used prepcast for testing, it probably was the closest formatting to the actual exam questions. My first 90 questions before the 10 minute scheduled break I was feeling pretty good about. But then I got to the second half and I felt like so many of the questions I could narrow down to 2 answers and then I had no idea after that.

Things That Helped/Key Tips
-I really liked starting with Head First and then moving to Rita's. HF got me engaged and set the groundwork which allowed me to PROGRESSIVELY ELABORATE my knowledge with Rita's and then focused studying.
-As much as the PMBOK makes it seem like this test is about memorization, it really is about genuinely understanding what a PM is responsible for, how and why to prevent and respond to problems in a project. IMO memorizing things is pointless.
-I made flashcards of all the process definitions and SEPARATE flashcards of all the process key benefit(s). This helped me reinforce the desired outcomes for the processes.
-Diagramming the process flows really helped me. Again I don't think that memorizing the ITTOs is a good use of your time. It's good to understand the MAIN deliverable that comes out of each process and the general definitions of all of the documents and T&T so you can reason during the questions.
-In my opinion, don't over stress about the network diagramming and earned value calculations. There were several questions on each but if you know the basics you don't need to study all these trick word questions about when to use which EAC equation. Time is better spent elsewhere.
-Rita's process flow helped me better connect all the nuances of what the PM is responsible for outside of what the 49 processes explicitly state. There's a free online test available that was helpful.


Things That I Should Have Done
-I should have done a little more review of Agile. I have never used agile and even though my PMBOK came with the agile guide I didn't touch it. There were probably around 10-15 questions on situations in an agile environment and I just took my best guess. Honestly my lack of knowledge probably could have been covered in a couple hours review of how agile planning and execution works I just literally didn't look at ANYTHING agile beforehand.
-Some of the questions on the practice exams I got wrong were direct quotes of the tasks in the exam outline. I should have made flashcards of these to better familiarize. However I think that studying Rita's covered these in some regards.
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Thanks for sharing your experience, Sarah, in such detail! I have noticed that the number of agile questions which candidates are being asked to answer has crept up from where it was one or two years back - this might be PMI's way of testing out some of the questions they will be using on the new exam. It is possible that those were within your 25 control question (i.e. the ones which don't get counted towards your score)...

Kiron
Sarah

Congratulations on passing the exam and sorry for your loss in February. This is great and very detailed feedback.

I always tell candidates not to memorize but understand how things are structured. Your feedback is spot on.

Good Luck with your future.

RK
Thanks for the Tips on Agile. I will give the Agile book which came with the PMBOK a read to gain knowledge in this area.
Very good perspective. Was also taken by surprise by the length of the exam, and further surprised that I had only 12 minutes left by the time I was done. Completely agree that even though the questions were phrased simply, the answers weren't straight-forward.

A well designed exam which balanced both theoretical knowledge and practical experience. The preparation and execution of the exam experience is a learning journey in itself!
...
1 reply by Sarah Marie Strese
Jun 14, 2020 9:55 PM
Sarah Marie Strese
...
Hi Jonathan, I absolutely agree regarding it being a learning journey! I have PM friends who are skeptical of the PMP's value, but I think that even if you work in a smaller organization the learning I gained through studying is worthwhile on it's own! Sure, you may not practice every single process in every project but knowing what tools are in your bucket is useful as well.
Congrats!

I passed at the end of May. I had 5 minutes left and just submitted, so I agree with your time management and practice.

I also highly recommend reviewing Agile and practice identifying which knowledge area and process group you're in. This is key to identifying what your best answer is.
Woaaa. Thanks alot for the insights
Jun 11, 2020 5:02 AM
Replying to Jonathan Lee
...
Very good perspective. Was also taken by surprise by the length of the exam, and further surprised that I had only 12 minutes left by the time I was done. Completely agree that even though the questions were phrased simply, the answers weren't straight-forward.

A well designed exam which balanced both theoretical knowledge and practical experience. The preparation and execution of the exam experience is a learning journey in itself!
Hi Jonathan, I absolutely agree regarding it being a learning journey! I have PM friends who are skeptical of the PMP's value, but I think that even if you work in a smaller organization the learning I gained through studying is worthwhile on it's own! Sure, you may not practice every single process in every project but knowing what tools are in your bucket is useful as well.
Thank you everyone for your responses! Very excited and can't wait to start on a new chapter of learning!
Dear Sarah,
Congratulations on passing the exam, this is great and very detailed feedback.
I plan to pass the online test end of this week, hope I will join the PMP team holders
All the best
Hamid

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