The Project Management Prepcast is arguably the second-most popular PMP Exam Prep resource (after Rita Mulcahy's PMP Exam Prep book). The new Project Management Prepcast has just been released. I had a chance to do beta testing for it and spent a good portion of two weeks evaluating it. In this article, I'm sharing my feedback of the tool and other highlights from the review.
I passed my PMP certification exam in Nov 2007. I did NOT use the (previous) PM Prepcast for my preparation. To be very honest, when I first learned about the (old) PM Prepcast and found that it offers 35 Contact Hours for $49.99, I passed it off as a gimmick and thought it must be one of those cheap sleazy products. I wasn't even convinced that those Contact Hours would be recognized by PMI. After all, if you compare it with other PMP Exam Prep products in the market, most of them cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Moreover, my employer was paying for the prep course and budget was not a constraint at all.
After passing my exam, I started looking for resources to earn PDUs. Now this initiative wasn't backed by my employer and I had to bear the cost from my own pocket. That's when I learned about the free PM Podcast and came across Mr. Cornelius Fichtner (PMP), the founder of Prepcast. I was really impressed by all his work in the field of Project Management and his zillion articles posted all over the web. Now, I'm an active affiliate of the PM Prepcast. However, I did NOT get paid to do this review, though I believe I should have got :-)
In this review, I have tried to be as unbiased as possible.
PM Prepcast - Product Facts
- The PrepCast™ is the first and only 35 hour long PMP® Exam Video Workshop.
- It has 111 lessons (including bonus material) with a total duration of over 47 hours - 38 hours video and 9.5 hours of audio.
- The video material is in the form of Powerpoint-style presentations (you see the slides, not the presenter).
- You can use it on your computer, iPod, iPhone or any modern smartphone or multimedia player.
- Total file size of all episodes is about 2.6 GB. The material gets downloaded to your computer automatically, by simply pointing your iTunes or other similar player to a web URL.
- Using this workshop, you can earn 35 Contact Hours, which are a pre-requisite for the PMP Exam, at your own pace and anywhere.
- You need to pass a 25 question online test to receive your 35 Contact Hour Certificate. You need to answer 17 out of 25 questions correctly in order to pass the exam. You can take the test anytime and as many times after 2 weeks of purchasing the product.
- It comes with a free sample exam with 60 tough questions.
- It also comes with an unconditional money-back guarantee. And knowing Cornelius, I know that he'll keep his word on this.
- It can be used for PMP as well as CAPM exam.
- It is based on PMBOK Fourth (latest) Edition.
- Principal Instructor: Cornelius Fichtner
- Publisher: OSP International LLC, a PMI-Registered Education Provider (REP)
- Price: $129.99
UPDATE (Jan 1, 2012): The PM Prepcast price has been revised to $129.99
What Prepcast is Not
It's neither a replacement for the PMBOK Guide nor for a good PMP Exam Prep book.
Review of Content
- The material is very comprehensive and covers all aspects of PMP certification in depth.
- It covers all the topics of PMBOK very well. It certainly brings "PMBOK to life".
- It not only covers the exam contents, it provides detailed explanation of the entire process of PMP certification including:
- Value of certification
- Eligibility criteria
- Application process
- Audit process
- Exam preparation approach
- Recommended study material
- Exam tips and techniques
- Passing Score and Interpreting Score Report
- Re-certification process (after passing the exam)
- and much more ...
- Some important PMP Exam topics, which are not covered very well in other PMP exam books and courses, are also covered very well in the Prepcast. Examples include topics such as Delegation, EVM, Team Building, Motivation Theories and Conflict Management.
- It contains 11 interviews (audio only) with PM Experts, on applied concepts such as Critical Chain, Communication Planning, Virtual Teams, Team Building, Quality, Earned Value and Risk Attitudes.
- It has 4 interviews with successful PMP exam candidates. All the interviews are generous in length. The candidates talk about their reasons to go for certification, test preparation approach, study material used, lessons learned and best practices from their experience on the PMP exam.
- It comes with a sample exam of 60 tough questions. The quality of questions is quite good and answers are clear and crisp.
- It also has an episode dedicated to exam questions, where you are walked-through 15 sample questions along with the approach for selecting the best answer.
- It has 2 episodes where Cornelius answers questions posted by exam aspirants on various PMP Exam forums on the net. These episodes are quite interesting.
- You also get access to an online forum where Cornelius personally answers your questions. I think this can come extremely handy in clarifying your doubts.
Review of Presentation Skills of the Instructor (Cornelius Fichtner)
This is my favorite part of the review. Just to let you know, I'm an active member of Toastmasters International and regularly conduct language and speech evaluations in my club.
- Cornelius has a professional Radio Jockey (RJ)-like style of speech. He is unlike your typical college professor or instructor. He has a flair about him and gets really animated during the lessons. This helps keep the lessons lively and interesting.
- He has a clear speech, a mellifluous voice and good voice variation (in terms of volume, pitch and rate) that tends to engage you in the lessons. You can listen to him for hours without falling asleep.
- He has a very easy to follow accent which can be understood easily by anyone who understands English. The language is simple and precise, and effective in putting the message across to the listeners. Even his examples are chosen with the global audience in mind.
- He hardly has any pause-fillers (ah, umm, actually, so, you know, I mean, etc.) in his speech.
- Quality of slides in the presentations is top-notch. Slides are neatly laid out, fonts are big enough to be viewed easily even on a small screen, and the graphics are cool and interesting.
- His interviewing style is really good, in fact almost perfect. The interviews are very smooth flowing. I found most interviews quite useful, especially the one on Critical Chain Project Management.
- He speaks from the perspective of a PMP aspirant. He often cites examples from his own experience on the PMP exam and mixes it well with his professional experience.
- He has a very down to earth and light-hearted style of talking. I don't know him personally, but I guess it's his personal nature that reflects in his voice.
- You get a very cosy feeling listening to him and a quite reassurance that he'll take you through to success in the PMP exam.
- From Toastmasters' perspective, he's a very refined speaker and presenter. I can't think of many suggestion for him except perhaps he could add a bit more humor to the presentations.
As a testimony to the interesting style of Cornelius' speech, my 4 year old son sat through 2 full hours of lessons. I have no idea how much he learned from it but he definitely set the record for the youngest person to earn 2 Contact Hours of Project Management education.
Suggestions and Areas for Improvement
Having said all the good things about the PM Prepcast above, I do believe it can get even better. As they say, the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.
- The download of episodes is a bit slow and downloads break frequently. I was told that simultaneous downloads cause this problem but I experienced failures even when downloading a single episode at a time. Having said this, the episodes still downloaded faster than I could listen to them and I really never had to wait. Moreover, the downloads can resume from the point where they stopped, when you restart them. It could very well be a problem with my connection. I have a 1 Mbps line, which I admit, isn't the fastest. I'm not sure where the problem lies, but it's something that the company might want to look into.
- I didn't find any slide which gives an overview (picture) of all the PMBOK processes on a single page - something like Rita's famous Process Chart.
- The lessons do not have any cross-reference to the chapters in the PMBOK. I think that a snapshot of the figures from PMBOK Guide (or similar to the ones in the PMBOK Guide) at the beginning of each lesson would help to get an idea of your coordinates on the PMBOK.
- There's no Table of Contents, Index or Glossary of terms. If you want to listen to lessons on a particular topic, an index which provides a list of topics along with the corresponding episode number, would certainly help.
- You don't get any transcript of the lessons, but the Prepcast was never intended to replace your PMP study book. So, it's not really a 'con'.
- More sample questions should be offered. I think it should include a full 200 question sample exam. Currently it offers only 75 (= 60 + 15) sample questions.
- At least 2 or 3 sample questions should be presented at the end of each lesson. It does have a short description on the "type" of questions expected in the exam on each topic towards the end of each episode, but it doesn't present any sample questions.
- The occasional episode was a bit dry, especially in the middle. A bit of sprucing up with an odd example, a humorous incident or a joke might help. I think if they put up an online site where subscribers can go and 'rate' the episodes, it will help them to identify the episodes that need improvement.
- I found some repetition across various episodes, especially about those "sister" websites.
- On a few episodes, the sound volume was higher than on others. On certain episodes, I had to scamper for my volume controls when switching from one episode to another. I think the 10 to 15 older (audio-only) episodes have a higher volume than the newer (video) episodes. It's a small issue but I thought I should mention it anyway.
- Wishlist: It would be really great, if Cornelius could set up regular live online sessions with Prepcast subscribers, where people could ask questions and get answers in real-time. This would help bridge the gap between the Prepcast and a live-classroom experience.
'Pros' of the Podcast (medium)
- You can listen to the audio episodes while on the move, like while driving your car or commuting to work. This is a big plus as it helps you utilize your time more efficiently, and cut down your preparation time.
- You can learn at your own pace and from anywhere you want to.
- You don't need to take time-off from work.
- Having video presentations to go along with the audio seals the deal for me. My mind tends to wander off if I'm just listening to audio lessons. A full audio-video presentation really brings out that "classroom" feel.
- You can maximize the benefits if you own an iPod or a similar multimedia player because that literally makes this your "Personal Pocket Trainer" that you can carry anywhere.
- You can review the material over and over again. It never expires, unlike many online self-paced courses, which give you 30/60/90 day access.
'Cons' of the Podcast (medium)
- Some people prefer a more personal interaction with the instructor and fellow participants, as in a real classroom environment. If you are such a person, then this medium might not work for you.
- You might also lose out on networking opportunities and any opportunities to find study-buddies in your area that you would otherwise get in a classroom environment.
- Most classroom trainings provide 3-4 full length sample question papers. Of course they charge hundreds of extra dollars for it too. With Prepcast, you get only 75 free sample questions. Cornelius does offer another 100 odd free sample questions online. So, this is not really a 'con' so to speak.
PM Prepcast is a one of its kind, revolutionary product that is very attractively priced and delivers more than it promises. It's the closest thing you can get to a real classroom experience.
I believe it is by far the "best way" to get 35 Contact Hours of education for the PMP exam. Cornelius has really set the bar high in the field of self-paced professional education. At just $129.99, it's a very good investment in your education and career.
UPDATE (Jan 1, 2012): The PM Prepcast price has been revised to $129.99