Preparing for the PMP exam is quite unlike what you did in school and college. Here the focus is not on memorization, but understanding the concepts, best practices, guidelines, and project management framework, as per PMI's PMBOK Guide (currently Fifth Edition since July 2013).
Most of the people I come across have heard about PMP from their friends or colleagues and are interested to gain the professional certification in Project Management.
However, they mostly lack the experience of project management. Most have worked on small projects, and may not have been in a Project Manager position for a significant amount of time. I have written previously about the eligibility criteria for the PMP Exam.
Further, they may have limited knowledge of all the project management knowledge areas, as not all are required for most small day to day projects. No wonder the casualty rate for first time PMP exam takers is so high.
So, when it comes to preparing for the PMP Exam, you need to have a plan that is specific, practical, time-bound and achievable. Without a good game plan, you may simply be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work, or just run out of steam mid-way...
One good Study Plan for PMP that I often recommend to my students is as follows.
1. Quickly enroll in a PMP Exam Preparation Workshop in your city. You can most certainly find one, and you can look up our PMP Training Directory if you need assistance. PMI has local chapters in major cities in almost each country, so you can ask the local PMI chapter for assistance, recommendations or suggestions of upcoming PMP boot-camps.
These boot-camps may be 4 day or 5 day in length, are are quite intensive. Some companies even run them on weekends, so you don't have to take leave from your busy project schedule.
Another alternative to Classroom Training is to Study Online for your PMP Exam. Yes, you can do this now, and study at your own time and convenience. Using Online PMP Exam Preparation Classes, you can also get the 35 PDUs or Contact hours, and they are considered valid for the PMP Exam.
2. Assess the gap in your knowledge: After you've attended the PMP Exam Preparation training of usually 35 contact hours ( a pre-requisite of PMI before you can take the exam), you will realize how big is the gap in your knowledge and the PMI's project management framework.
You should ask questions such as:
* In which knowledge areas do I have the least knowledge?
* In which kind of organization types have I never worked at?
* What kind of HR theories do I follow, and which are new to me?
* What kind of professional and social ethics are the norm in my company and my country?
* Is there a significant difference in my understanding and the best practices?
With the answers, you will be able to assess the amount of study you need to do, and how close or far you are from the PMP Certification exam.
3. Filling up the PMP Certification Application Form: The next thing you should do is to fill up your PMP Certification application at the PMI website. It generally gets approved within a week, if not audited, and you can then straight away take the Code given to you to schedule your exam at the Prometric website.
In Singapore, there are now 2 Prometric centers, and it takes at least 6 to 8 weeks before you can get a free slot for the exam. This is a boon in disguise, because you DO need atleast 6-8 weeks of earnest study time, to fill the knowledge gap, and prepare for the PMP exam properly. After all, you do want to pass it in your first attempt. It isn't cheap and you are probably stealing time away from your family, so get it right the first time.
4. Firm up Your Study Plan in earnest: Once you know your PMP certification exam date, you can then work backwards to today, and calculate the amount of days you have left at hand. This is all you have now, so use it wisely.
A good study plan is to ensure you have enough time to read, understand, and try your hand at mock PMP exam questions.
Get the PMP Exam Preparation Books, and start reading. You can also start with the PMBOK Guide, but it not a very easy read, and is commonly known as the remedy to cure insomnia. If you can't sleep, start reading any chapter, and within a couple of pages, you might be fast asleep.
My recommendation is to read Rita Mulchahy's PMP Exam Prep Book, 6th Edition, which aligns to the PMBOK Guide Fourth edition. By the way, both books are easily available at Amazon or your nearest bookstore.
5. Suggested PMP Exam Study Plan:
Assuming that you have atlest 6 weeks before the exam, spend the time as follows
First Round of Basic Study - Rita's PMP Exam Prep Book
* 2 Days for Project Management Framework
* 18 Days for the 9 Knowledge Areas (2 days each)
* 2 Days for Professional & Social Responsibility
For each day of study, read the base material, and create a mind map or write the key points on 4 by 6 index cards. You must attempt a few mock exam questions from each knowledge area, as you finish reading it. This will give you an idea of the kind of questions that come in the PMP exam.
Second Round - Test the Knowledge
Now that you have done one full round, start every morning and spend 5 minutes drawing the 47 Project Management processes on a piece of paper - just like on the PMBOK guide. Initially it will be hard, but with daily practice, you will be able to make it very quickly.
The second thing you need to do daily is to write down the Earned Value Calculation Formaulae on a daily basis too. Soon you will be able to write them out quickly. Make this a habit, and it will prove to be of immense use in the exam.
* 2 Days to review the entire mind map or cards, and make sure you still remember the key concepts.
* 1 Day to do a full mock test of 200 questions. There are many free or paid tests available that you can use to access your level of understanding, speed of answering and depth of knowledge. I found this online test to be a very Good PMP Exam Simulator.
Third Round - Strengthening
* 10 Days to review the framework and 9 knowledge areas each from PMBOK Guide, Fourth Edition. Each day do 30-40 mock exam questions
* 1 Day to do another full mock test of 200 questions. You should see huge improvement from the past test, or else you need to identify the knowledge areas where you seem to score the least.
* 4 days - study only the weak knowledge areas again, and attempt to fill the gap in your knowledge.
These 3 stages alone take about 40 days, which is about 6 weeks.
Take Action - Write Down Your PMP Study Plan
Like everything else in life, Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Go ahead, get up and take some action. Don't just keep reading post after post and get overwhelmed by the exam.
One of the best things we have seen that really works is to write your Study Plan, and then share it with your spouse, friends, and inform me. Once you share it with someone, you have shown your commitment, and you are more inclined to follow through. Your friends, spouse, and I will encourage you and make sure you have the time to study, and get the PMP Credential to boost your career options and credibility.
Ultimate Objective of this PMP Study Plan
You need to think differently to gain the PMI's perspective of answering questions, and learn how to think and act in the correct way, the best way, which aligns wth the PMI's way of thinking, to get the most out of any situation, and ace the PMP exam easily, on your first attempt, and be qualified, certified with PMP.
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