Santanu Deb, a visitor to my blog has recently passed the PMI-RMP exam, and he is sharing his lessons learned with us. I hope you will find his lessons learned useful for your studies.
On 15th September 2017, I passed the PMI-Risk Management Professional exam. Like as the saying goes: “sometimes the most shocking surprises are also the most beautiful ones”. I was thrilled to score a perfect 5/5 with “Above Target” scores in all the domains which—to be frank—I did not expect.
First, let me contextualize. I have been working on IT projects for my whole professional life of 14+ years. For the past 5+ years, I have been more involved in active project management activities. I received my PMI-Project Management Professional certification in Oct 2015.
I try to follow the project management best practices and company’s set delivery excellence processes to the best of my ability. My last project of over 19,000 person hours got me a CMMi score of more than 95%.
Many of us have issues in our projects—sometimes with the schedule, sometimes with resources, sometimes with stakeholders, and most of the time with scope. Why do we have such issues? Most of the time this is due to inadequate risk management. This aspect of conventional project management provoked me to learn and understand more about risk and its influence on projects.
In the world of project management risk learning, PMI-RMP is one of the most prestigious certifications and hence, I decided to go for it. Also, my previous experience with PMI has been a great value addition to my profile.
The PMI-Risk Management Professional exam is one of the toughest certifications around. This is primarily because of two major reasons:
- Smaller amount of quality study material available on the web or other sources. You won’t find many coaches providing training on RMP.
- The extensive course outline containing the whole syllabus of PMP and advanced topics of RMP. Some topics are difficult and require an understanding of mathematics and statistics which many of us are not comfortable with.
I will not talk about the eligibility criteria, application process, and audit procedure as they are self-explanatory. The approval process flow is like what PMP has, and you will find tons of such information on the web. I strongly suggest that one take the PMP exam before the RMP as this will make the path to RMP much easier. Should you need any help with PMP preparation, please read my blog on PMP preparation.
[clickToTweet tweet=”As of September 2017, the total number of PMI-RMP Certified Professional is 4,197. – PMI Today. ” quote=”As of September 2017, the total number of PMI-RMP Certified Professional is 4,197. – PMI Today. ” theme=”style6″]
It is very important and vital to have a well-planned approach to the exam. The strategy must be such that it works the best for you and hence should not be copy-pasted from some other source. Take inspiration but cook your own pudding, so to speak.
I strategized for the exam with an iterative mode like the concept of rolling wave planning or progressive elaboration.
Though, I had a high-level plan of 6 weeks, I decided the hourly details only on a per week basis. This enabled me to adapt quickly to the changing needs on schedule. Also, it empowered me to try different tactics without impacting the original plan.
This approach, which got its inspiration from the famous PDCA Cycle, was the key to my success in the exam. I would highly recommend this methodology to any aspirant.
Thanks to Dr. W. Edwards Demings!
My 6-week plan was divided primarily into 5 vital parts.
Week # 1-2:
- Get used to studying: This was by far the toughest week, as I had to start dedicated and smart training towards my goal.
- Recalling my PMP knowledge: I went through my PMP study material (from 2015). Yes, I kept them. This was to connect the missing dots between the different processes and how the ITTOs fit in. I studied the whole syllabus with more emphasis on risk management.
- PMI-RMP skim through: I skimmed through the Risk Practice Standard and RMP course outline to check what needed to be focused on. I found that Critical Success Factors, strengths and weaknesses of different tools and techniques, and the advanced tools and techniques from Quantitative Analysis were completely new and needed detailed study.
Week # 3:
- I browsed the web to study more on the tools and techniques of Quantitative Analysis like Monte Carlo, Latin Hypercube, and Sensitivity Analysis. The web is full of such material so be cautious not to overdo it. Understand only the basics, and see how the graphs are read and how probabilities are drawn.
- I also initiated my PMI-RMP application process towards my intent to become PMI-RMP certified and secured the approval.
Week # 4:
- I strengthened my PMP knowledge for all knowledge areas and how the inputs and outputs interact with each other.
- I started consolidating my knowledge by practicing numerical questions, drawing schedule diagrams, and conceptualizing a few risks-related specifics.
- I started to identify my weak areas or grey areas and focused more on them.
Week # 5:
- I started taking full-size mock tests, analyzing the results, and mending my understanding based on the results of the tests.
- A few tactics were worth making the best of my time. They are mentioned in the following sections.
Week # 6:
- I continued taking tests, and took my last test on 13thSeptember which is when I decided to take the exam on 15th September. I paid my certification fees and booked the appointment.
- Pre-exam day:I was very relaxed on 14th September and spent most of my time brushing up on my weak areas and knowledge gaps.
- D-Day:I tried to remain as relaxed as possible. My slot was at 12:30 but I arrived early and started my exam at 11:20 (yes, Prometric allows you to do so). I took the whole 3.5 hours to finish my exam and review a few marked questions.
Finally, all the hard work, all the sacrifices, all the sleepless nights, working weekends, struggles, and downfalls, paid off—with that certificate right there.
Note that the PMI-RMP exam (and other PMI exams) is a test of your understanding of the subject. It will seldom ask you a direct question like what is the input to process X or what is contingency reserve. Most of the questions will be situational where a project situation will be depicted and you need to choose the answer based on the situation.
The expectation from you is to analyze the situation, understand the circumstances, and then answer the question based on your understanding.
A few things which I tried to do differently to tackle this roller coaster ride were built on this above-mentioned philosophy of Mr. Shiv Khera. They are mentioned below for your reference.
How did I tackle stuff that I had to memorize? There are some topics that you will have to memorize; they cannot be understood or remembered. These are things like organizational theories, formulae, etc. I had 2 A4 sheets full (back to back) of such material.
I made it a point to read them daily at least 2 times in the morning and 2 times in the evening. Initially it was tough, but slowly the information started to become easy.
Utilize my driving time: I drive 2-3 hours every day, and I felt that I should make the best use of this time. So I built flashcards on ITTOs, Critical Success Factors, and strengths and weaknesses of risk tools & techniques.
When I was driving with my wife, I would ask her to quiz me based on those flashcards. When she was not around, I would play YouTube videos on my car stereo and listen to something beneficial, something related to risk, planning, motivation, etc.
How do you identify weak/grey areas? Identifying weak/grey areas is a significant area and is very important for you to be successful. I would analyze each wrong question, map it with my knowledge gap, fill it up, and refresh any study material which I had. I would also mark questions where I would kind of guess, and investigate them to build my understanding. I would also keep a track of any area where I would consistently get hit. Risk Response Strategy was one such area. It took me a while to understand how to read between the lines and identify if it was a transfer or a share or if it was an exploit or enhance situation.
Utilize office hours: I would use my office hours to do topic-based study as it is difficult to study for long stretches in the office. You often get distracted by someone or may have some deliverable to work on. I would steal time in slots of 30 mins or 60 mins and use them to study.
I practiced mathematical questions, schedule diagrams, topics like Monte Carlo, Sensitivity Analysis, and resource optimizing techniques during such slots. When tired or free, play games: I got a paid version of an ITTO app called PMP ITTO from Charmit which is what I would play whenever I was free or needed to take a short break. It has a multi-dimensional view of all ITTOs and is an excellent tool.
This is a great app and helped me to build my confidence on ITTO.
The questions on the exam did not surprise me. I was expecting them. There were no direct questions at all. The exam would mention a situation in which you might need to use a contingency reserve and the same situation would be presented in another question tweaked in a way to use management reserve. So don’t get confused between questions. This is PMI’s way of inducing complicated situations.
Your understanding should be very clear about the critical success factors of each risk process. Those critical success factors (CSFs) are used in a situation and you will be asked to identify which one of them is best from the list of choices.
For most of the questions, you will be able to eliminate two options easily. The residual two options will be very close to each other, making it a perfect trap. This is what I call a PMI catch-22 situation. Read the question and answer again and you should be able to identify the right answer with the application of PMI-RMP concepts.
Now coming to the most feared part of the exam—the critical tools and techniques of Quantitative Analysis and a few other processes. People are most fearful of these concepts: Stuff like Monte Carlo Simulation, Latin Hypercube simulation, Analytic Hierarchy Process, Failure Modes and Effects Analysis, Sensitivity Analysis with or without Tornado Diagram, Bowtie Diagrams, etc.
You should be able to know what the tool and technique is, how PMI describes it, how this tools and techniques (T&T) adds value to the process and any calculations which this T&T might require. If you are good with these for each T&T, you should be fine in the exam. I found the practice standard language very difficult to understand and hence used YouTube to understand them.
I used the following study material:
- Risk Practice Standard which you can download from the PMI website
- Risk Management Professional: Prep for the PMI-RMP by Fahad Saadah
- Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)by iCollege Certifications
- PMBOK 5.0 from the PMI website
- Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Book
- Rita Mulcahy’s PMI-RMP Book
- My PMP preparation notes
- Lots and lots of YouTube videos and online materials
- My notes as I went along
Most of the mock exams available in the market are close to what you shall see in the exam. I used the following mock exams:
- PMstudycircle’s PMI RMP Questions: Cheap and good, a must-have!
- Rita Mulcahy’s RMP Simulator: Good questions.
- SimpliLearn RMP Mock Test: Good but a lot of repeated questions.
Warning: None of the mock exams have questions on the Practice Standards and/or Critical Success Factors.
My special thanks to a set of people and/or companies without whom it would not have been possible:
- Ehab Shaaban from Arab Open University
- Neetu Verma from pmdesire.com
- Mohd Fahad Usmani from pmstudycircle.com
- Ahman El Sherif from Saudi Arabia
- Fernando Henrique Santos from Brazil
- Saket Bansal from Izenbridge.com
- Phil from praizion.com
- Fahad Saadah from Udemy
- Belinda Fremouw – iCollege Certifications
I hope to have helped anyone who is preparing for the PMI-RMP exam and have inspired others who would now like to consider the PMI-RMP exam. Feel free to reach out to me for any questions, queries, and topics. I will be happy to help you at my earliest possible convenience.