Tips For Acing Your PMP Exam - How I Passed

I finally passed my PMP exam today with an “Above Target” rating in all 5 process groups. Attaining the PMP certification is a journey I was on for quite a while, I must say. I set the goal a couple of years back but was too busy to do much about it. It feels fulfilling now that it’s done and dusted. I’ll outline in this post, what helped and what didn’t, especially for those on the path to getting certified. I hope this helps.

  • Don’t delay taking the course once you’ve had your training and approval to write the exam - Life got in the way after I finished the PMP training course. I started studying again when I had only a month left till the expiration of my eligibility period (PMP gives one year only from the point your application is approved). I had to rush through the materials again and was surprised at how much I’d forgotten within that window of time. As soon as you’ve finished your training and you feel prepared enough to write the exam, schedule the exam and just go for it. The longer you delay, the more reading you’ll have to do and the  intimidating it will get.

  • Mock exams do help - Taking two mock exams certainly helped me understand what sort of questions I would encounter and most importantly, it helped me identify how to think through each question, evaluate the options and understand the key words to look out for. The exams provided me with insights into the “expected” responses, where I’d gone wrong and the areas I needed to brush up on.

  • Consider taking a refresher course - Because I’d left quite a significant amount of time between my initial training and the exam date, I felt the need to subscribe to a “crash PMP course” on the Udemy website. It was a video course I could listen  to while I was on the move; this was quite handy as it meant I didn’t have to stop whatever I was doing to study.  The course saved me loads of time, explained the tricky concepts in simple terms and did a lot for my confidence.

  • Trust your experience - I found during the exam that most of the questions could be answered based on my prior project management experience.  In a lot of cases, I could answer the situational questions through a combination of personal judgement/opinion and prior experience, and not necessarily from my recall of what was in the PMBOK. Trust yourself and your experience to get you through.

  • Eliminate the unlikely options - I sailed through a number of questions just by eliminating the options that seemed out of place.  So for example, a question might specifically ask for a “technique” and not a “document/plan”. If a document such as a risk management plan was listed as one of the options, it was obvious what I needed to eliminate.

  • There’s no need to cram - Taking your time to understand the key concepts will take you a lot further than trying to cram definitions, ITTOs and formulae. I didn’t cram any of the formulae or definitions but  simply took my time to understand what each term/concept/formula meant. For the formulae that I found too complicated, I didn’t bother with them.  Only about 10 questions required calculation on the day.

  • Review the PMBOK with questions in mind - I’d planned to read a couple of chapters in the PMBOK but this didn’t happen. As I had only a limited time to prepare, I treated it more like a dictionary. If I encountered a question or term that I needed clarification on, I search for the keyword directly. It was more of a “reference” than a resource that I read from page to page.  

In summary, I’d like to emphasize that the PMP is not difficult and is certainly achievable if you’ve got the experience and time to understand its concepts. It took me 4 weeks in total to prepare once I decided to schedule the exam.