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Passed my PMP Pass 16 feb 2016 first attempt

Howdy guys,

I have cleared my PMP ( 2 Proficient and 3 Moderately Proficient) in my first attempt and it is imperative that I share the lessons learned ( as mandated by my new certification :-) ). I am both happy and relieved. I just have to get it out of my system. So here I go guys hope it helps the test takers out there.

My study plan: Spanning over 1.5 years. Thats a long time but I wanted to actually Learn the Concepts and not just study, blurt out and forget. One more reason I have one of the worst memories bestowed on any human being.And I have a two year old kid who wants to play with me all the time i am at home.

I was lucky to come across an old edition(3 rd edition) of Kim Heldman lying around in a newly assigned cube on a new job.Someone forgot it when they left the cube and firm. This was way back like four years back. It was with me and i happened to breeze through some pages every now and then.

Finally the day came I started my prep and somehow this guide was my obvious choice. I am very lucky on this choice of guide I feel. "Those who are well guided are well guided ;)". Read lot of blogs where people say that they read Kim at end and wished they knew about the book earlier. Kim has a good communication style but some places the sentences etc are complicated. But its a reliable friend if you just want to stick one book and consider it your bible, geeta, etc. Also, she shares how the PMI concepts actually pan out in real life. Some may find it confusing but i feel real time knowledge is more important. She also talks real good stuff about ethics, leadership, motivation theories and Quality Gurus and their theories.

I first opted for a classroom training as part of 35 PDUs. My firm offers it free of cost. Only ask is i become member of PMI. I did this last year on 4th may 2015. officially the first time I got serious about writing the exam.

I got hold of latest edition of Kim ( the one i had was old edition)and then wanted to read through 12 chapters before my PDU session starts. So that i get a double coat of all the concepts. I could finish about 9 chapters. It helped a lot . half the class did not know what he was talking about. The trainer suggested we write PMP in next 1 -2 months. Alas I had listened to him. I got sucked into a very challenging project and then 7 months whizzed past me. During this time I kept reading Kim whenever I got a chance finishing a chapter over two -3 weeks. As soon as my project ended i know i had to use the "beach/ bench" period to write my exam.

Took a date in next 45 days. Feb 16th. Reading PMBOK is mandatory even if you have the best guide in world. No one guide can cover all aspects of GUIDE. But suggestion is dont read it first. First select one book be it "Kim" or ":Rita" or "Head First" and then read your Guide. Dont get lost in the plethora of books and websites available. Choose 1 book and make it your bible. As expected I will suggest Kim as she covers the topics in a process approach " The way the processes happen in real life" and not by knowledge areas ( as in Rita, PMBOK). Big advantage is you will remember the Sequence of processes. You dont need to remember rita s chart for this. And you actually know how to use PMP concepts in your professional life because you learn the sequence and not just the topics.

I read PMBOK once. Some extra explanation for tools and techniques and few terms like OPM3 were only things that were missing in Kims book. There were lot of things in KIm which were not there in PMBOK. I Again completed the Kim chapters twice before my exam. So,

  1. Kim once
  2. 35 PDUs classroom session
  3. Kim again
  4. PMBOK once
  5. Kim again.

Important to remember inputs, Tools and techniques and Outputs. Best way is read them and then write them out for a process on a paper. If you keep doing this, you will start understanding relationship between them. example Work performance data input becomes work performance information, issue log become change log,etc. No matter how many times you do the above still you will not remember all but 2-3 times of above activity will get you through PMP.

One week before the exam due date i started giving Mock exams. I suggest you start two weeks before. A lesson learnt for me. Mostly free Mock tests available. You can find lot of free mock tests. I tried Oliver lehman pdf copy, PMSTudy, Edelweiss, Headfirst PMP,etc. One tip edelweiss has a free guide (complete PMBOK guide free of cost).You can try that if you want as additional guide and it has a free test at last of book. I think overall I gave 4 complete mock tests and around 5- 6 "50 qs tests". Its important to get into a test taking mode.

Actually sitting and treating it as actual test is important. I want to share that when i was writing mock tests i was able to finsh 200 Qs in about 2 -2.5 hrs. But in real exam its a different story ;)

The day of exam finally was here. Took a PTO one day before. Took a date for tuesday so had a buffer of weekend and one more day. suggest the same to you.

Reached exam center 30 mins before appointment. Make sure you carry a printout of appointment mail, ID (with photo, signature and name same as you have mentioned in application. name should match with middle name and all else they send you back). You will need this time for all the signatures, verifications etc. I started the test. had 15 mins. jotted down the formulae. Please practice this atleast 3 -4 times before. These formulae are difficult to remember at last moment. You have to write them before exam as mentioned by many test takers, if you dont jot down you will mess them up during the exam.

Started my exam . Saw many more questions on Initiation and Closing . Almost felt 50 % were somehow linked to them in one way or other. Luckily i had read not to take them lightly in one blog. Kept seeing Pareto, ishikawa, SOW and lessons learned in many Qs. Very few calculation based Qs mostly situation based Qs. Input, output and tool/techniques helped. After first 20 mins, felt that exam is actually tougher. First 50 Qs were especially first 20 i felt were tough. I think the exam looks at your ;level at this point and then kind of throws Qs to you as per this. Not very sure about this. 200 Qs took all the four hours. Took one break at 3 hrs. it was a 5 min bio break. Some of Qs had errors Eg. Risk response noted down in risk management plan. Many had more than 1 correct answer. And had to choose most correct answer. Didnt see any new terms. Finally Saw congratulations !! with 2 Ps and 3 MPs. I wanted all Ps but I can live with this. I dont think PMP is a perfect exam . There can be a different answer from a different view point. So dont worry about them. But when you prepare target for all Ps and then you will definitely clear the exam. If you target just pass then you may fail(most probably).

Mid way of exam i was not sure if I will clear the exam. The new format of exam is a little tougher. Only Oliver Lehmann had more tougher Qs than the real PMP. So choose your Mock tests with lot of research.

Just a last note is that if you become PMI member you get free PMBOK soft copy and plethora of books and templates. The exam fee for PMI also comes down a few notches . But only ask is you have to write PMP within one year of membership if you dont want to renew again. Make sure you download and keep this content handy. Make sure you apply your new found knowledge in your daily life. Happy testing.

Y Jagtap.


  • edited March 2021 Accepted Answer

    Congratulations, Jagtap!

    That's got to go down as one of the most detailed PMP lessons learned posts in history!

    You almost seemed like the marketing manager for Kim Heldman's PMP Study Guide :)

    Your lessons learned are really useful especially because they are among the first after the Jan 2016 change in the exam. My key takeaways are:

    1. There aren't major changes in the exam.
    2. More emphasis on lessons learned (in like with PMP Exam Content Outline June 2015).
    3. Initiating and Closing are key domains for the exam even though their combined weightage is 20%.

    Thank you very much for your invaluable contribution.


  • edited February 2016 Accepted Answer


    Some question for you:

    Did you prepare for any of the new topics on the PMP exam 2016 like Benefits realization, Lean/Agile/efficiency principles, CMMI, Emotional Intelligence etc.? Did you see questions on these topics on the exam?


  • @Harwinder,
    Thanks! I am a fan of Kim after reading her book . Thats all. :-). I hope she makes me her Marketing manager ;-).Could use an extra pay check.

    Yes actually I do not feel the PMP exam outline makes sense at all. It is a misleading document. As per it, I should not see more than 20% ie 40 Qs on initiating and closing. But i am pretty sure i saw more than that. Some Qs cover both initiating/ planning, or planning / closing . Can anyone sit and measure how much of the question is planning and actually add up the partial percentages? Yes I agree with - dont read the outline at all and actually give more weightage to " Initiating and Closing".

    I saw some Qs on "Project Life Cycle" which includes the Adaptive/ Agile. I saw couple of Agile related Qs on exam. Very basic agile which is again PM related. No specialized Agile knowledge needed. (Luckily I had attended a Fundamentals of Agile course few weeks back). I think some fundamentals of agile like scrum, sprint,ect can be known for PMP.Did not see CMMI, Emotional intelligence,? Role dileanation - cant tell if I saw that. I dont know what it is. By the way, If Kims book covered agile/ project life cycles also . :-)

    The changes post January seem to be:
    1. very little to the overall content. You can still read all the older guides and still pass
    2. Exam has become tougher a few notches. That's my personal take.
    3. Less Calculation based questions. I was expecting more. More situation based.
    4. Lot of misleading with respect to in-house or outsourced project. Always was seeing SOW as an option in answers.
    5. By the way, clock time showed hr, seconds. One of my colleagues had seen all seconds timer.

    • Jagtap.
  • edited February 2016 Accepted Answer

    Thanks, Jagtap. This information is very useful and I'm sure will benefit other PMP aspirants.

    One thought about your comment "Exam has become tougher a few notches" - I guess you cannot say that unless you have taken the previous exam too :)

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