These are the lessons learned from Mr. Rajdeep Sengupta who is a regular visitor to this blog and passed the PMP exam recently.
I had been aspiring to become a PMP for the last 4-5 years, but because of my involvement in construction jobs, I couldn’t plan it. Then, earlier this year, I took on the challenge and started my journey.
Before I start my lessons learned, let me give you a list of the resources I used during my PMP exam preparation.
I used the following resources for my PMP exam preparation:
- I started my journey with Head First PMP. This book has a user-friendly approach. I recommend it for non-native English speakers.
- The PMBOK Guide 6th Edition—This is mandatory for every applicant. I reviewed it six times.
- I read only selected topics from Rita Mulcahy’s book.
- Many thanks to Fahad for suggesting Kim Heldman. I read seven chapters of this book and it helped me understand many concepts.
- Fahad’s blog—It is a rich resource and highly recommended.
- Simplilearn Forum and blog.
- Edward’s terms.
I would say attending mock tests is a critical tool to crack the PMP exam. I attended around 20 full-length mock tests. This helped me with time management, both my pace and speed in the real exam.
Here is the list of the mock tests I found helpful:
For ITTO and direct questions:
- Whizlab’s 5 full-length mock tests.
- PM Challenge from www.projectmanagement.com
Conceptual questions with an average difficulty, similar to the PMP Exam:
- Fahad’s PMP 400 questions (2 full-length mock tests from Amazon].
- Simplilearn (7 full-length mock tests).
- Udemy (3 full-length mock tests).
Question banks with moderate to high difficulty levels:
My PMP Exam Preparation Journey
I wanted to share my journey as it was dramatic, and I did not give up hope. My family members supported me in this endeavor. A special thanks to my wife; she lived on her own with our two-year-old son during my four months of preparation.
I went through different blogs and Quora to prepare my strategy. Then I started my studies with Head First PMP last February 2019. I took two months to read the book, but I could not dedicate enough time because of job commitments.
At the end of April, I joined PMI membership and downloaded the PMBOK Guide 6th Edition, and studied it. At first, I found the PMBOK Guide to be very difficult and I spent almost three months going through it. I took another three weeks for a second reading and a better grasp of the subject.
On August 19, I subscribed to Simplilearn to earn 35 contact hours and take the mock tests.
Then I began the exam scheduling process and this is where the story starts.
During the PMP application process, I learned that exam patterns would change on the 15th of December 2019, and everyone was advising candidates to book early. When I submitted my application, I was selected for an audit. It was the last week of August 2019 and a big blow for me. I didn’t know anything about handling the audit. My supervisors had been transferred to different locations. I took two days to plan and then I took action.
I reached out and convinced my supervisors to fill out the form. They assured me that they had verified my information, but I faced many difficulties following up from a different office. They sent the form by courier and then the local political party declared a strike.
Communication stopped for 2-3 days; more days passed and it was the middle of September, and I did not know when I would be eligible for the exam. But I did not give up hope.
I remember the day when I roamed through the town on a three-wheeler to find a courier. I finally gathered the documents and sent them to the PMI office in Pennsylvania, USA.
In the last week of September, my audit was completed. Thankfully the PMI took only half a day to clear my audit after receiving my application. I booked my slot on the 21st of October and applied for leave; however, another twist was waiting.
I completed my studies as per the schedule and always checked my inbox. I called the exam center on the 19th of October 2019 for directions and they told me that it was not possible to take an exam on the 21st. When I asked the reason, they told me that only the exam vendor could answer that question. I was shocked when I hung up because my leave was only up until the 21st of October.
I contacted Pearson VUE and it took fifteen minutes for me to convince them to investigate the issue because I had not received an email from them. The evening after my rigorous follow-up, Pearson was forced to cancel the exam (I later found out that it was due to technical issues at the exam center, but the exam had been canceled for the previous day only) and I booked my exam for the 22nd of October with a different test center.
I called my office and extended my leave. But there was another disappointment. On the evening of the 21st, I received an email that the exam on the 22nd of October was canceled. I went on to book the 23rd of October and extended my leave, yet again.
When I finally sat down to write my exam, I found that the questions were not very difficult. I completed it in 3 hours and 44 minutes and then reviewed my answers. I got “On Target” in 3 process groups, “Above Target” in 1 process group, and “Needs Improvement” in 1 process group. Unfortunately, I failed.
After all, I had been through in terms of applying, exam preparation, and the various roadblocks, the failure came as a big blow. I was very disappointed and felt very discouraged. I felt like everything was over and I would never be able to crack the PMP exam in my lifetime. At this stage, my wife stepped in, supported me, and encouraged me to not give up.
It was at this time that I communicated with Fahad Usmani and learned about his blog. He advised that I plan to score “Above Target” in all domains and read Kim Heldman’s PMP book. Later, I purchased Fahad’s PMP 400 questions (2 full-length mock tests from Amazon). After consultation with Fahad Usmani and reviewing the resources he recommended I was able to gain confidence once again. I scheduled my PMP exam on the 1st of December, 2019.
I changed my study strategy and focused more on practicing high-quality practice questions. On the day before the exam, I went out with my family to dine out and it really helped me relieve exam stress. On my second attempt, I was able to pass the exam with a score of “Above Target” in two domains, “On Target” in two domains, and “Below Target” in one domain. The questions were of average difficulty.
My advice is to research your study resources well, find ways to stay motivated, and not give up if you are not successful at any stage of the process. During the exam, review every question and given choices carefully. figure out a system of keeping track of time. I do not recommend checking the time after every question. I checked my time after every 20 questions.
Again, I wish to convey my sincere thanks to all who provided advice or support during this journey.
Rajdeep Sengupta, PMP
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