Sharing lessons learned after taking the PMP exam has become a ritual. It’s our way of paying back to the community that helped us in achieving the PMP credential. These lessons learned are a great asset for anyone preparing for the exam. I developed the habit of reading every lessons learned post that I came across, during my exam prep days and it continues until this day. It helped me pass the exam then and it helps me keep up with the latest developments now. I have literally read more than 100 such posts in the last year itself.
As everyone’s experience is unique, there’s always something unique in each post. However, there’s also a common underlying theme in these posts. In this article, I’m going to share that common theme. The purpose is to help you focus your effort on the important aspects of the exam, and not get carried away with everything and anything that you read or hear. Before we get started, a small disclaimer - please use this information at your own discretion (what-worked-for-me-may-not-work-for-you).
Lessons that PMP exam-takers learned the hard way
- PMBOK Guide is The Bible for the PMP exam. I cannot stress this point enough. I realized this only when I was taking my PMP exam. Most successful PMP candidates will tell you to read the guide at least 3 times.
- Do not read too many exam prep guides. Usually one good PMP book is sufficient.
- Classroom training or online training? It's a personal choice.
- The exam does have some straight forward questions on Inputs, Tools and Techniques and Outputs (ITTOs). Memorizing ITTOs surely helps, but if you have sound understanding of the project management processes, you can answer the ITTO questions with the same ease.
- Most formula related questions (including the Critical Path questions) are not too complex. For most of the questions, you don't even need to use a calculator.
- The quality of questions on the (real) exam is generally better than that of most sample questions in the market.
- The questions are generally not as wordy as some training providers may make you believe. In my personal experience, I did see a few (about 5) verbose questions on my exam. But that was 3 years ago and things might have changed now.
No questions with double negatives. Let me first explain what double negatives are, with some examples:
a. All of the following are false EXCEPT ... Here the question is basically asking "Which of the following is true ...".
b. All of the following are true EXCEPT ... It is the same as "Which of the following is false ...".
c. None of the following is true EXCEPT ... Same as (a). Some sample exams play the double negative card too often. You need to be aware of double negatives, but need not stress too much.
- There could be questions with grammatical and/or spelling errors. Yes, believe it or not, you may find such errors on the exam. I can testify to this myself. I believe that these would be fairly rare now, but it's good to be mentally prepared.
- Attempt lots of sample questions, but only from reliable sources. You may be an excellent project manager, but ultimately you also need to be a good exam-taker to earn the PMP credential. It's important to practice taking tests, especially full-length tests at a stretch. Refer to my recommended list of free PMP exam sample questions.
- Four hours are more than sufficient to complete the exam. The average time to complete the first pass is two and a half hours, and to review the marked questions is another thirty minutes. But that doesn't mean that you can afford to sit too long on any particular question.
- Brain dump is like an insurance cover. Many people (me included) offload the 5x9s, important formulas and points on a sheet of paper during the 15 minutes tutorial session preceding the exam, but don't refer back to them at all during the exam. I think it helps in calming some nerves and giving a sense of security, nothing more.
So those were some points that I regularly see in the lesson learned posts. I hope you picked up something useful from the list. Feel free to share your comments and experience. And do stop-by to share your PMP lessons learned here, after you pass the exam.
Image credit: Flickr / Dawn Ashley