A week ago today, I took the Project Management Professional (PMP, not PiMP people lol) Certification Examination and was fortunate enough to pass on my first attempt. I have told people it was one of the two hardest exams I've taken in my life and that's a very accurate statement. The test lasted 4 hours and consists of 200 multiple choice questions. I know what some of you are thinking, "Multiple choice, it could not have been THAT hard." Welllllll, you're wrong about that lol. Completely focusing in on anything for 4 hours is tough, let alone 200 questions that are all very strategically worded with answers that all seem similar. It's not an easy task. Or perhaps it is for for most and I'm just a little slow. Either way, I found the test to be pretty tough.
With all that said, there may be some of you out there considering this certification and I wanted to pass along some of the things that helped me.
- I had already taken some Project Management courses and heard that the exam was pretty difficult. One of my professors recommended that I sign-up for an exam prep class prior to taking the exam. So after looking around at a few different exam prep classes, I signed up for PMStudy's PMP Exam Prep class. I did some research comparing various PMP Exam Prep courses and PMStudy seemed like the best value based on what I read online. I also looked into and considered Cheetah but PMStudy seemed just a little better though I'm sure Cheetah's program is great as well. In the end, I was very pleased with PMStudy and the structure of their course, though it requires a decent amount of study prior to the course and quite a bit of studying in and out of class during the 4-day exam prep course.
- Prior to the first day of the PMStudy course, I completed all the pre-course work required for PMStudy's class. This included memorizing a chart to help engrain the Project Management Process Groups, Knowledge Areas, and Processes. Also, I went over worksheets they provided to facilitate learning the Inputs, Outputs, Tools & Techniques of each process, and last but not least, I took a bunch of practice questions. You can do all this stuff in a day or two if you had to but I tried to stretch it out over several weeks so I wouldn't feel overwhelmed. I took myself to the library a few hours per day and took my time getting everything done.
- Applied to sit for the PMP exam: The exam application is not a trivial endeavor by any means. It's a process you probably want to dedicate a couple hours to and I also recommend collecting the following information prior to applying: Project management experience (include projects you've managed or been involved in and also hours you've spent on various aspects of the projects), classroom experience (if you've taken any Project Management courses, you should know the dates and title of the classes), employer information (you'll need information on your current and former employer where your project involvement took place including employer address, your role, and your supervisor's contact information). A big part of the application process for me was simply gathering all this information from old files and looking through old project files and emails to approximate how much time I'd spent on different aspects of the projects I'd been involved in. Once I'd applied for the exam, I was approved in 3 days, paid for my exam, and scheduled it for a few days after the PMStudy class just to be safe so I didn't feel rushed having to take the exam the day after the course ended. PMSTudy recommends that you take the exam the day after but after 4 days of studying about 12-13 hours per day, I knew I'd need a mental break for a few days before I took the exam.
- Project Management Knowledge Areas, Process Groups, and Processes: These are the foundational components you'll need to know in order to build upon.
- Inputs, Outputs, Tools & Techniques for each Process: In my opinion, this was the most important thing to know. The exam questions were heavily based on figuring out which process you were in based on the context of the question and then figuring out what inputs, outputs, or tool/technique you should use, could use, or how to apply them.
- Take as many sample tests and/or test questions as possible: There are lots of places online to take sample exams and if you take a prep class you'll surely be required to take sample questions and sample exams. Getting a feel for how the questions will be worded (in hindsight) was very beneficial. PMStudy's questions were similar but obviously couldn't be the exact same as what I'd see on the exam. This was extremely helpful in getting my mind to think the "PMI way".