Understanding vs Memorizing - What’s the trick to mastering ITTO for PMP Exam?

6 minute read    Updated:    Harwinder Singh

PMP ITTO - Should I understand or memorize them

Input, Tools & Techniques, and Outputs (ITTO) of the Project Management processes from the PMBOK Guide are probably the most dreaded part of PMP Exam preparation. The PMBOK® Guide, 5th Edition lists 47 Project Management processes in 5 Process Groups and 10 Knowledge Areas. These 47 processes have a total of 618 ITTOs. Now memorizing these many ITTOs is almost an impossible task. Even if you believe “impossible is nothing”, don’t expect the exam questions to be so direct as to test your memory. So, the burning question is, “What is the key to taming ITTOs for the PMP Exam?”.

Does knowing ITTOs really that important for the PMP Exam?

Let’s first address whether you really need to know these ITTOs. The short answer is ‘yes’. While majority of the questions on the exam would be situational, you can expect about 7-10 direct questions on ITTOs. Apart from that you’ll see many other questions where knowledge of ITTOs or processes interactions or data flow between processes, and the whole terminology around it does come handy while picking the right answer. So yes, you need to have a fairly good understanding of the ITTOs if you are going for the PMP exam (and even more so for CAPM).

Does one need to memorize ITTOs for the PMP Exam?

One of the most frequently asked questions by PMP aspirants is whether one needs to ‘memorize’ ITTOs for the PMP exam. The answer would depend upon whom you ask. If you ask experienced Project Managers, their answer would be a resounding ‘NO’. They will go on and on telling you that you only need to understand the principles and concepts behind PM Processes and ITTOs, and everything will fall in place. If you ever mention the word ‘memorize’ to them, you are bound to get ostracized (don’t try it, trust me).

I do believe that there’s some hypocrisy at play and many don’t admit what they actually did. If you ask the same question to a very close friend, you might get a more personal and honest answer.

What’s your opinion about ITTO memorization?

Worried about ITTOs for the PMP exam? Check out:
BrainBOK - PMP ITTO Explorer and ITTO Quiz

Trick to Mastering ITTOs

So, what’s the trick to mastering or taming these 618 ITTOs?

In my opinion, you do need to have a good conceptual understanding of the ITTOs. You simply cannot memorize all the ITTOs. However, if you find certain nuances, which aren’t obvious to you, you might want to take a (mental) note of them before the exam. Is that called memorization? You decide.

You can also device mnemonics for those few (maybe about 2%) special cases.

Understanding ITTOs - put to action with an Example

Let’s step back and think about the exam format for a moment. PMP Exam is an objective-type exam with multiple choice questions. Each question has 4 answer options. There’s only one correct answer and you need to identify it. So basically, the answer is right in front of you, staring you in the eyes! It’s not as if you are being asked to fill in the blanks.

If you understand the Project Management processes well enough, all you need to do is to apply some “logic” to either pick 1 correct option or to rule out 3 incorrect options. Trust me, it works. Let me take an example. By the way, this is my first ever self-authored sample PMP Exam question (though don’t expect such straight-forward questions on the exam)!

Q. All the following are inputs to Estimate Costs process, EXCEPT:

a. Scope Baseline
b. Project Schedule
c. Human Resource Plan
d. Resource Calendars

Now let’s try to answer this question by using some “logic”.

a. Scope Baseline: Remember Scope Baseline includes WBS and WBS Dictionary. Under Estimates Costs, you are trying to estimate the cost of activities and work packages in the WBS. So, Scope Baseline is an obvious input.

b. Project Schedule: It tells you when, how many and for how long the resources are needed on your project. If the schedule is very tight, you may need to add more resources, which would add to your costs. So, this input is also required.

c. Human Resource Plan: It tells you the types of (human) resources needed for each activity, their hourly rates and other cost components associated with them like rewards/recognitions, which might add to your costs. This is also required.

d. Resource Calendar: We already have the 3 inputs that are required for Estimate Costs. So, option d should be the correct answer.

As you can see in the example above, if you understand what Scope Baseline, Project Schedule and Human Resource Plan contain, and you also understand what Estimate Costs process is trying to achieve, you can apply “logic” to deduce the correct answer.

Conclusion

In conclusion, you are better-off investing your time to understand the ITTOs and the Project Management processes, rather than spending that time memorizing the ITTOs (or even worse, worrying about not being able to memorize them). For about 2% special cases, you may need to take mental notes (I didn’t say ‘memorize’).

I hope you found this article useful. Look forward to many more articles on mastering ITTOs. If you have your own views, opinions or tips on this topic, do share them in the comments section below.

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