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

formerly of Professional Project Services, LCC

Tag Archives: Certification

Get Ready for PMP Exam Changes Coming in January 2016

PMI© has announce changes coming to the Project Manager Professional (PMP®) examination beginning on January 11, 2016 (postponed from original schedule of November 1, 2015). The changes represent a 25% overhaul to the exam questions. While the exam is changing, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide®) 5th edition, is not. If you are scheduled to take the exam prior to January 11, 2016, do not change your course of study. However, if you do not pass prior to this date or are otherwise scheduled to take it afterwards, you will need to change your study strategy to include the exam updates.

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Number One Benefit of Achieving the PMP

I taught my first week long PMP Exam prep class last week. I recall when I first learned of these boot-camp style classes and my original thought. “Great, you learn how to pass a test. Did you learn anything about project management?” I often comment on my study experience that I learned more in studying for the PMP then I did in a 9-month university certification course and prior experience. The challenge for this course became to incorporate true learning into the crash course – to motivate the students to see how the processes, inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs would make their projects more successful.

I scheduled one-on-one briefings on the last day of class. One student, Marcus, talked of his father who had recently passed the PMP while in a long career in project management. We also had a few “seasoned” project managers in the class. Marcus questioned the value of the PMP for these folks with the reasoning that they had been successful project managers in their careers without the PMP. “Have they been successful with a reported project failure and challenged rate of 65%?” The bottom line is that even a successful project manager can learn new ways of doing things based on industry best practice and increase the chance of project success. There is no room for complacency in managing projects with millions of dollars at stake and an unstable economic market. Learning is the number one benefit of achieving the PMP.

Marcus went on to asked about case studies to support the benefit of PMP. I suggested that PMI would have plenty of information published through pmi.org and offered up the two following books for further exploration.

Remember this next time a non-certified project managers claims that a PMP is not beneficial –

Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise. View life as a continuous learning experience. Denis Waitley

Disclaimer: I do not profess that someone who has a PMP is superior to someone who does not. Only that one will have learned and demonstrated more knowledge than before attaining the PMP. See The  Chef or the Cook: Choosing the Right Candidate

Additional Resources

Related articles by me

Secrets of the PMP Exam

This was my submission for the The PMCAMPUS 60 PDU Online Giveway contest. The tips here apply to the CBAP examination as well. I hope you will find some valuable tips that work for you as your pursue your chosen credential.


Congratulations on your decision to pursue your PMP. What an exhilarating adventure. Stressful, yet exhilarating. I will offer you some practical tips to help you pass this strenuous exam. Following the advice here will reduce your stress for the exam itself. I’m not going to focus in PMBOK’isms, models, or formulas, but rather stress the importance of the questions themselves.

You are likely to hear about the difficulty in understanding and answering the questions. I cannot stress enough how true this is. Using the strategies I describe here you will be in a better position to understand the questions and possible answers, and select the “right” answer.

Practice Tests

Take many, many practice tests. The goal here is not to memorize potential questions and answers. Questions you find on a practice exam are not going to appear on the real test. Actual test questions are carefully guarded. Instead, you are going to focus in getting familiar with the question format and gain practice in analyzing the question and possible answers.

There is also benefit in getting a baseline on where you stand using the practice exams. Don’t put too much stake in the results you get. Many practice tests are actually harder than the real exam, and some are easier. What they will point out is in what areas you are weak. Use this information to prioritize your study.

Analyze the Question

Read each question multiple times. I recommend not looking at the possible answers yet. They may sway your understanding. Read the question as if they are trying to trick you (maybe they are) – don’t let them get away with it. Can the question be rearranged for a different interpretation? What information is extraneous to the core question? Consider these questions and use your best judgment to reframe the question in a way that makes sense to you. Review the question after you have reframed it to check that you haven’t read too much into it, or let wishful thinking lead you somewhere else.

Scrutinize the Possible Answers

You will find that three of the questions seem correct 50% of the time and two of the answers appear correct 75% of the time (my guess). You need a strategy to help weed out the wrong answers and find the right answer.

Questions will commonly be stated as “what is the next best step?” Here is the trick. Put the possible answers in activity sequence. Go back to read the question, and then check the sequence. What is the next best step? Now you are ready to answer the question. Use a similar strategy to organize possible answers by Knowledge Area and Process Group where needed.

Use Your Tools

There will be time when a scenario that ties into the next several questions. You won’t know this is the case until you move on. Often times in these cases the questions relate to a PMBOK tool. For example, one scenario may call for the need to draw a network diagram. The first question related to the scenario might be straightforward. You might be tempted to shortcut and just answer it. I recommend you do the full exercise and draw the network diagram. It may help point to a less obvious answer that is correct. It may also help you answer the next few questions. It will help you confirm the answer, much like checking an algebra equation.

Take many, many practice tests. It is worth stating again.

Additional Quick Tips

  • Understand and believe in PMBOK processes and how they will improve your projects
  • Do not go hungry
  • Review all your notes and formulas in the car prior to going into the exam
  • Use the scratch paper provided in the test cubicle to brain dump all those notes and formulas in your head
  • Flag and skip questions you are not sure about to go back after your first run through

Please save this article to review the day of the exam. I hope you will email to let me know how the exam goes and more tips you would like to pass on to future test takers once the ordeal is over.

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Related Articles

PMP “Marathon” Completed by David J. Kearney, PMP – describes time and costs pursuing certification.

Check out these Professional Project Services recommended PMP Prep books

Image: Keerati / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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