Vicki James, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

formerly of Professional Project Services, LCC

PMP Exam Lessons Learned

Updated 7/27/2013 with a second student LL.

A student of mine just sat for the PMP exam and passed on his first try! Yay!! He took the extra step of writing up his lessons learned to share with his classmates. I am now sharing with the world (with permission).

Congratulations JC!!!! And thank you for sharing.

pass


Although I passed the PMP exam, it was actually a pretty stressful experience for me and there were a few lessons learned for me that I think are worth sharing without getting into the actual questions.

First of all, I made the mistake of not skipping the hard questions. I’m stubborn, so I just didn’t want to move on to the next question until I could at least make an educated guess. I felt like I was doing pretty well on the first few questions, but then I ran into this one formula question, where I could not figure out how to arrive at any of the answers using the formulas. After spending way too much time thinking about it, I finally gave up and made an educated guess without using any formulas. Because of this, and the fact that I’m a slow reader, I ended up spending almost an hour on the first 25 questions or so… So of course, I panicked and had to really rush for the rest of the exam. And being in panic mode made it hard to concentrate on questions, especially long ones. I was finally able to get through all the questions with about 20 minutes to spare for reviewing, but I wasn’t able to review all of the questions I marked. So you might want to practice the technique of skipping the hard ones the first time through.

Another mistake I made was that I drank too much water leading up to the exam and I did not go to the bathroom just before the exam. So I ended up going to the bathroom twice during the exam. And because I was in a rush for most of the time, I answered many questions while wanting to go to the bathroom…

Also, taking a bathroom break may take an extra few minutes than you think. And if you’re in a rush, you might wanna try to take your break when other test takers are not at the testing room entrance. Every time you go out of the testing room you have to check out, the test administrator has to help you sign your name and time. And before you can go back in, you have to go through the strip search again and then sign your name and time. If there is anybody else that’s checking in or out at the same time, then you have to wait your turn.

Other notes about the security:

  • The strip search involves rolling up your sleeves to show your wrists, turning all of your pockets inside out, pulling up the bottom of your pants to show the top of your socks, answering the question of where your cell phone is, and having them wave the metal detector on you front and back. So you might want to wear clothes that’s easy to show your wrist and socks and with fewer pockets.
  • However, the testing room had the air conditioning blasted, so it was freezing cold in there! I had a long sleeve shirt and slacks with a jacket on, but I often had to rub my hands and thighs to warm them up. I had only brought my jacket because it was cold in the morning and I had planned to take it off inside, but I ended up zipping up my jacket in the testing roomJ
  • Next to the locker, there was a rack to put your drink and snack outside of the exam room. You don’t want to put your drink and snack in the locker, because you CANNOT access your locker during the exam. They give you the key to your locker, but they put a plastic strip on your locker that prevents you from opening your locker until you are done with the exam. I think this is to prevent you from accessing your cell phone during your break. So I’m not sure, but I don’t think you are allowed go outside during your break either.
  • I brought my ear plugs, but I had a plastic case for my ear plugs, which they told me I had to put in the locker. Only the ear plugs were allowed and not the plastic case. I’m glad to have had the ear plugs just to eliminate the loud noise of the air conditioner. There were headsets at every desk, but I didn’t try them.
  • They also told me that I had to put my handkerchief in the locker… So I guess you have to take a break if you need to wipe your nose or hands (or use your sleevesJ)
  • I walked in the testing center around 7:50, but since there were many people ahead of me, so I ended up starting my tutorial around 8:15. So you will wanna get there early if you want to start on schedule.  If you’d like to know exactly what to expect when you walk into the testing center, here is what happens. When you walk in, they ask for your last name (no need for print out of reservation), they take your ID, stack them in a pile, give you a list of rules to read, and have you wait until it’s your turn. When you’re called, you get a numbered locker key, you put things in the numbered locker, place drink and snack on a rack, and then you get strip searched. Then they ask you for your email address that you applied with, check-in by using the same signature on your ID and they give you the time to write down. Then they hand you a stapled set of scratch paper and pencils (which you have to bring back out with you when you’re done with the exam and give it back). When they first escort you into the testing room, they ask you to wait by the door until they check your numbered seat and then give you the okay to go there.

Good luck!


Lessons Learned #2

I left 1.5 hours early after a good night’s sleep, a light breakfast, but didn’t overdue it on the coffee or water – based on JC’s recommendation.

I made the mistake of clicking on the END TUTORIAL at the end of the tutorial, which immediately started the exam. This means I forfeited the time to jot down my cheat sheet. Although I think this was mentioned in class, I still fully expected a START EXAM option.

Another odd thing was that time at the testing center is much faster than at home. I took a lot of practice exams, several with 100 questions and a full 200 question practice the day before my exam. At home I was never anywhere close to using up all the time, even including bathroom breaks etc. Similar to Jason’s report, I ended up being very rushed and paying close attention to the clock. Especially since at one point I’d fully convinced myself that since the was testing our project management skills, simply finishing within the allotted schedule might in itself affect the score.

I was very happy to have spent extra time practicing Earned Value. A few of the questions requiring formulas where however posed in such a convoluted manner that I ended up just giving it a best guess instead of figuring. I’d then note the question number on my scrap paper so that I could go back to it at the end of the test, if I had any extra time.

Understanding the differences between the various types of charts, diagrams, analyses, etc were not straightforward to me – so I refreshed my memory in this area the evening before the exam. I’m glad I did.

I didn’t spend additional time studying up on network diagramming, but only because I’ve had a lot of scheduling background, so this seemed fairly straightforward to me. I could likely have invested more time here, especially around calculating float.

I told myself I’d take a quick break at the 100th question. Of course someone walked into the ladies bathroom right as I headed there. I used the men’s room instead, and reported to the officials that they needed to restock the paper towels. I have no shame in this area.

I focused on remembering to take deep breaths at least three questions. Since it seemed that I wasn’t completely certain how to answer most of the questions, I was pretty certain I wasn’t going to pass. I reminded myself that I was doing the best I could and failing wouldn’t be the end of the world. I reminded myself that the end of the world is the only end of the world. Everything else is an inconvenience.

5 responses to “PMP Exam Lessons Learned

  1. Pingback: PMP Exam Lessons Learned | #PMChat

  2. PMP exam July 22, 2013 at 11:45 pm

    Great tips !!! looking forward to your tips the individuals will get a huge benefit.

  3. PMP Exam July 23, 2013 at 12:41 am

    Nice post !
    It’s really good that you have shared such a valuable piece of information. Students giving PMP exam will learn a lesson from your experience.

  4. furmanjeff August 2, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Hi Vicki, this is a great thread you’re sharing and will help a lot of PMs, and it’s very generous of your students to share their insights.

    One suggestion for test-takers following up on “Lessons Learned #2. It used to be necessary to write down the numbers of questions a test-taker wanted to come back to,
    but anyone taking the electronic test now has the option of “MARKING A QUESTION FOR LATER.” This way, it’s done electronically. So if you pick “A” for Question #50,
    and “B” for Question #65, you can click at any time “Go Back To The Questions You Marked For Later” and they will automatically come up one-at-a-time in order,
    so #50 would come up, you could re-read it and either stick with “A” or change it,
    then #65 would come up, etc. And if you don’t wind up having time to come back to the ones marked for later, whatever answers you entered for those marked questions will remain as your final answer on those.

    Not having to write the Question Numbers down on your scrap paper saves a lot of time.
    Also, the proctor takes away ALL your scrap paper if you need more scrap paper, so that is quite an inconvenience and also stressful if you wrote Question Numbers down on your scrap paper, and then you have to give up your scrap paper! So all in all,
    it’s good to know about the “Mark For Later” option and take advantage of it.

  5. Pingback: 100 PMP Exam “Lessons Learned” Posts… All In One! « TestPrepSupport.com Blog

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