PMI-RMP Lessons Learned

Santanu Deb, a visitor to my blog, has recently passed the PMI-RMP exam. Today, he is sharing his lessons learned with us. I hope you will find them useful for your studies.

I passed my PMI-RMP exam on 15th September. I was thrilled to score a perfect 5/5 with “Above Target” in all domains, which I did not expect. It was like the saying goes: “Sometimes the most shocking surprises are also the most beautiful ones.” 

I have been working on IT projects for my entire professional life of 14+ years, including the last 5+ years in project management. I earned my PMP credential in October 2015.

I always try to follow the best project management practices and the company’s processes, to the best of my ability. My last project of over 19,000 person-hours got me a CMMi score of over 95%.

We always have issues with projects. They might be related to schedule, resources, stakeholders, or scope, and they happen because of inadequate risk management. This aspect of project management motivated me to learn more about risk and its influence on projects.

I started looking for a certification and found that PMI-RMP is one of the most prestigious. My earlier experience with the PMI has been a great addition to my profile, so I went for another PMI certification.

The PMI-RMP exam is one of the toughest because of two reasons:

  1. A smaller amount of quality study material is available for this certification. You won’t easily find PMI-RMP training providers. (Note: If you are looking for an affordable online PMI-RMP training program, you can join it by clicking here. This is a program developed by PM Simplify and me, PM Simplify is PMI approved and so this is a PMI-approved program.)
  2. The exam content outline includes the entire PMP exam syllabus and advanced risk management topics. A few topics are difficult for many aspirants because they require math and statistics.

I will not talk about the PMI-RMP exam eligibility criteria, application process, or audit as they are self-explanatory. The approval process is like the PMP, and you will find tons of information on the web.

I suggest you go for the PMP exam before applying for the PMI-RMP exam. This will make the path easier. If you need any help with PMP exam preparation, please read my post on PMP exam preparation.

It is important to have a planned approach to the exam. The strategy must be unique to you and not copied from somewhere. Take inspiration but cook your own pudding.

I planned my studies with an iterative mode, like rolling wave planning or progressive elaboration.

Though I had a high-level plan of 6 weeks, I decided on the hourly details only on a per week basis. This enabled me to adapt to my changing needs and empowered me to try different tactics without impacting the original plan.

I got the inspiration for this approach from the famous PDCA Cycle and it was a key to my success. I recommend this methodology to any aspirant. Thanks to Dr. W. Edwards Deming!

I divided my 6-week plan into five vital parts.

Week # 1-2

Get used to studying: this was the toughest week as I had to start my studies and trained myself towards the goal.

Recalling my PMP knowledge: I went through my PMP study material from 2015. This helped me connect the missing dots between the different processes and how the ITTOs fit in. I studied the complete syllabus with an emphasis on risk management.

PMI-RMP review: I skimmed through the PMI-RMP exam content outline and the Risk Practice Standard to understand what I needed to study. I found that Critical Success Factors, the strengths and weaknesses of different tools and techniques, and the advanced tools and techniques from Quantitative Analysis were all new to me.

Week # 3

I browsed the web to study Quantitative Analysis tools and techniques like Monte Carlo, Latin Hypercube, and Sensitivity Analysis. The internet is full of material so don’t overdo it. Understand the basics, e.g. how the graphs are read and how probabilities are drawn, etc.

I applied for the PMI-RMP exam and my application was approved. I was not selected for an audit.

Week # 4

I strengthened my PMP knowledge by practicing numerical questions, drawing schedule diagrams, and conceptualizing a few risks-related specifics.

I identified my weak and grey areas and focused more on them.

Week # 5

I attempted mock tests, analyzed the results, and amended my understanding.

A few tactics helped me make the most of my time. I will mention them in the following sections.

Week # 6

I continued attempting mock tests until September 13th and I scheduled the exam on September 15th. 

I was relaxed on September 14th and spent most of my time brushing up on weak areas and knowledge gaps.

D-Day: I tried to stay as relaxed as possible. My slot was at 12:30 but I arrived early and Prometric allowed me to start my exam at 11:20. It took 3.5 hours to finish and review marked questions, then I submitted the answers.

Finally, all the hard work, the sacrifices, the sleepless nights, working weekends, struggles, and downfalls paid off—with the result right there.

The PMI-RMP exam (and other PMI exams) test your understanding of the subject. It will never ask a direct question like what is the input of process X or what is the contingency reserve? In most cases, you will be given a situation and you need to choose the best answer based on that scenario.

You should analyze the situation, understand the circumstances, and then answer the question based on your understanding.

A few things I tried to do differently were built on the philosophy of Mr. Shiv Khera. They are mentioned below for your reference.

There are some topics that you have to memorize; even if you understand them, you cannot remember them—for example, organizational theories, formulas, etc. I had two A4 sheets of such material.

I made it a point to read them daily at least two times in the morning and in the evening. It was tough, but slowly I became comfortable with the information.

Utilize my driving time: I drive 2-3 hours every day. I prepared flashcards on ITTOs, Critical Success Factors, and strengths and weaknesses of risk tools and techniques.

When I was driving with my wife, I would ask her to quiz me. When she was not around, I would play useful YouTube videos on my car stereo.

Identifying knowledge gaps is important: I would analyze each wrong question, map it with my knowledge gap, fill it up, and refresh any study material that I had. I would mark questions where I guessed and then study them to build my understanding. 

I would keep track of any area where I was consistently getting hit; Risk Response Strategy was one. It took me a while to understand when to use the transfer or share risk response strategy and the difference between exploit or enhance strategy.

Utilize office hours: I 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 deliverables to work on. I would steal time in lots of 30 to 60 minutes to study.

I practiced mathematical questions, schedule diagrams, topics like Monte Carlo, Sensitivity Analysis, and resource optimization techniques during such slots. When I was tired or free, I used to play educational games. I bought an ITTO app called PMP ITTO from Charmit and played 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. It is a great app and helped me to build my confidence in ITTO.

The questions on the exam did not surprise me. They were not direct 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 but tweaked in a way to use management reserve. You may think they are similar and the answers are the same. Don’t get confused, as this is how the PMI tests your understanding of complicated situations.

You should understand the critical success factors of each risk process. CSFs are used in a situation and you will be asked to identify which one is the best from the list of choices.

For a few questions, you can eliminate two options easily. The remaining choices will be close to the answer and this is a trap. I call it a PMI catch-22 situation. Read the question and choices multiple times and you will find the correct answer.

Now we come to the most feared part of the exam: the critical tools and techniques of Quantitative Analysis and a few other processes. Aspirants are fearful of these concepts, such as Monte Carlo Simulation, Latin Hypercube Simulation, Analytic Hierarchy Process, Failure Modes, and Effects Analysis, Sensitivity Analysis, Tornado Diagram, and Bowtie Diagrams.

You should understand these tools and techniques, how they add value to the process, and any calculations that these techniques might require. If you understand these techniques, you should be fine in the exam. I found the Practice Standard for Risk Management has a very difficult language to understand and so I used YouTube to understand these concepts.

Study Material

I used the following study materials:

Mock Exams

Most of the mock exams on the market are close to what you will see on the real deal. I used the following:

Keep in mind that none of the mock exams have questions on the Practice Standards and/or Critical Success Factors.

My special thanks to the people and/or companies, without whom my success would not have been possible:

I hope I have helped anyone who is preparing for the PMI-RMP exam and inspired anyone else to consider taking it. Feel free to reach out to me about any questions, queries, or topics. I will be happy to help you at my earliest convenience.

Did you pass the PMI-RMP exam recently and want to share your lessons learned with the community? Please contact me at [email protected]