pmp exam lessons learned ashvini

Here is my lessons learned for my PMP journey.

I had aspired to become a PMP for almost 7 to 8 years. However, due to long working hours and official tours from 2009 to 2013, I could not pursue it.

I completed the PRINCE2 but the PMP certification has its own charm, as it not only tests your concepts but also how quickly you can decide the best answer. It is similar to a T20 cricket match where within 20 overs, you need to score on average 8 to 9 runs per over (in most, if not all of the games).

Resources Used by Me

My primary resource was the PMBOK Guide, 6th edition, which I read three times cover to cover. It is not an interesting or an easy read, but you can’t do without it. Many a time, it confused me. In addition, I referred to Rita Mulcahy’s and Kim Heldman’s books as supplementary resources to clarify the concepts I didn’t understand from the PMBOK Guide. 

I found Kim Heldman’s book more helpful than Rita’s, as he explained the concepts in detail. His work is organized according to the process group instead of by knowledge area. On the other hand, in Rita’s book, the process and procurement management are explained in detail.

I referred to Fahad’s blog from time to time to understand various aspects of the PMP exam, like concepts, mock tests, etc. He has simplified the concepts to provide clarity. I bought his PMP Formula Guide, which turned out to be invaluable.

In addition, I referred to Praveen’s blog from time to time to understand various aspects like study plans, passing criteria, an analysis of study resources, and mock tests.

For the mock tests, I purchased the PM Exam Simulator by Cornelius Fitchner. A few years ago, I bought a PMP math book written by Vidya Subramanian. Though it is written for the PMBOK Guide, 5th edition, it still holds well to a great extent. She explains the concepts related to PMP math nicely. In addition, explanations on quality management tools like histograms, run charts, control charts, beta, normal, triangular distribution, and more are covered in detail. 

I used to answer the practice questions from the summary guide given by my training provider, Rita’s book, Kim Heldman’s book, Joseph Phillips’s practice questions and one more training video on Udemy in my attempt to a wide variety of questions.

In addition, my training provider, M/s EPMC Pvt. Ltd, based in Thane-Mumbai, used to send one question daily after the completion of the contact hours training course. They offered five full-length mock tests, but I only took one and got 69%. It was a tough mock test.

I am thankful to my mentors, Mrs. Vaijyantee Kamat and Mr. Satessh Kamat from M/s EPMC, for their valuable input and guidance.

I attempted both of Oliver Lehmann’s tests. I scored 61/200 and 84/100.

For Cornelius’s mock tests, I initially chose the customized test of two hours with 100 questions from each knowledge area. I did it twice.

In the first trial, I scored 80-84/100 in eight knowledge areas and 72 & 79/100 in two knowledge areas. In the second trial, I scored 82-92 /100 in all knowledge areas.  

I started my studies with the PMBOK Guide 6th edition. I studied 3 to 4 hours a day, and during weekends and holidays, I devoted more time to my studies.

I faced difficulties understanding the concepts from the PMBOK Guide 6th edition, like Agile, Iterative, Incremental  LC, configuration management, organization structure, critical path method, quality management tools, EVM formulas description, procurement contract types, etc. 

For these topics, I referred to the study guides mentioned above. I also used a Google search.

Issues I Faced

While answering the online mock exams, I faced the issue of eye fatigue after 45 minutes to 1 hour and it affected my concentration. Due to that, I made some errors while reading the questions like missing words such as except, first, not, and least, which caused me to misunderstand questions and give incorrect answers. 

While analyzing the results of the mock tests, I noticed that out of the total wrong answers of 10 to 25, nearly 30% to 40% of answers were attributed to an error in reading due to eye fatigue, and I cursed myself. I didn’t face this problem while answering the questions from the printed books. Hence, I was concerned that this would happen during the actual exam. 

I am used to attempting online exams as I have completed certifications like Novell CNE, Microsoft MCP, and Cisco CCNA over the past 15 years. However, the duration of those exams was a maximum of two hours, and the PMP exam duration is four hours.

Hence, I discussed the matter with a medical practitioner who prescribed eye drops to me and it turned out I had dry eye syndrome. Sitting in the AC environment of offices, in the long run, can cause dry eye syndrome. Those eye drops helped me to overcome this issue to a great extent. 

My suggestion to other aspirants is that they should undergo an eye examination whenever they start exam preparation. Breathing and concentration exercises are also helpful.  Since this is a four-hour exam, it is advisable that you not go with a fatigued mind.

One week prior to the exam, I just skimmed through the PMBOK Guide, 6th edition, and devoted five hours on the day before to math questions from initiation PG, schedule, cost, and procurement knowledge areas.

My Exam Experience

My exam hall experience was good, and the staff was helpful. The majority of the questions were of medium to high-level difficulty. Most of the questions had two to three options that were very similar. Hence, choosing the best answer was a challenge, and it took more time. I missed three math questions because they took too long so I marked them for review to allow me time to answer the remaining questions. The actual exam was more difficult than the mock tests.

My Lessons Learned for PMP Aspirants

What I wish to tell all PMP aspirants is that reading the PMBOK Guide is a must; read it at least two to three times cover to cover. Do research about the topics, which you did not understand while reading the PMBOK Guide to get the right understanding, and solve plenty of practice questions that have two to three closely matching options. While studying, try to understand the sequence of actions or processes as many questions asked what you would do next as a project manager.

All the best to the PMP aspirants.


Ashvini K Chhabra, PMP