Sunday, June 8, 2008

PMP Lessons Learned

I passed my PMP Certification on June 7! I was proficient in 3 sections, and moderately proficient in 3 sections.

There was an one question that had me completely stumped. I was shown a PDM and asked which of 4 nodes had "bipert float". I had no idea, and just guessed based on which node looked the least like the other three. Google was of no help once I got home, and I'm reasonably sure that this is a test question that contained a typo of some sort.

Studying Recommendations
I took my practice exams from perceived lowest quality to highest quality. Earlier exams used primarily to identify studying points and gauge rough readiness level. Later exams were used as a last chance to reschedule before 48 hour threshold. I found many overviews and study guides online of varying quality, and it was useful for me to read all of them. Each one presented the material differently, giving me more opportunities to truly understand the material rather than memorizing the words. I also found that each study guide took 15 minutes to an hour to read, which was the right good block of time to set aside in a single session.

When reading a study guide or taking a mock exam, it is vital to take notes on which questions or topics are giving you trouble. Once I am done with a mock exam, or immediately when I encounter confusion in a study guide, I would check my books and search online for the answer. Searching online would frequently lead me to additional resources.

  • Some people passed the test without this, but I needed it to brush up on ITTO and Process Groups.
  • While you do not need to memorize the ITTO, it will be easier if you know the following things to quickly rule out choices
    • Whether something is in the ITTO (i.e. Project Status Report)
    • Whether an input or output looks out of place
    • Whether steps are being done out of order
Head First PMP (Andrew Stellman, Jennifer Greene)
  • I recommend browsing through the PMBoK, and then starting with this. Read the PMBoK as quickly as possible to get an overview, and then start with Head First PMP.
PMP Exam Study Guide (Kim Heldman)
  • I recommend others to read Head First PMP before this, unlike myself.
  • I saved this practice exam for last. It is included on the CD, and the interactive, computer-based format of the exam helps to familiarize you for the real thing. The questions were also of good quality.
Oliver Lehmann free sample exams (online 75 question and downloadable 175 question)
  • These were good exams.
TutorialsPoint free sample exams (2x 200 question)
  • I did not like these exams as much as Oliver Lehmann, Head First, or the one included in the Kim Heldman book, but they were good starting points.
Head First PMP free sample exam
  • I liked this one a lot. I agree with some of the other reviews, that suggest that the questions on this exam might be a bit easier than an actual exam. This was my last paper based sample exam.
Unknown PowerPoint:
Preplogic free 15 min study guide
  • I recommend this after reading at least one book.
  • Another good overview
Rita Mulcahy
  • I saw the many warnings of the material, and a cursory browsing of the free material suggested that this was the case.
  • The primary complaint of the material is that her phrasing and word choice does not match the real exam very closely, and that many people find her layout and explanations confusing as a result.
  • Most of the material I had to pay to see, and I was not lacking in free resources.

Friday, June 6, 2008

PMP mock exams

For posterity, here is a record of all of the practice exams that I took, and my notes following each exam. Starting a week before my exam, I decided that I would take at least one mock exam a night, in order to prepare for the real thing.

I made notes after any question that gave me trouble outside of ITTO memorization, and about any trend I saw in the questions vs. my knowledge. Two books, over a year old, cannot cover every topic that might be on the exam, so my hope is that my notes would lead me to supplemental studying materials.

On June 4, I took the Head First PMP Practice exam, which I felt was going to be the most accurate exam. Based on the results of the exam, I decided not to reschedule my June 7 exam date.

May 31: PMZilla practice exams -- N/A
  • Stopped after ~20 questions
  • Only correct answers have explanations
  • Could not understand half of the questions due to grammatical errors
  • Many questions seemed to have multiple correct answers
  • Many answers felt incorrect, but I cannot confirm due to my unsure knowledge of PMP
  • Many questions had a rote answer that was suboptimal.
  • Many questions involved picking the least incorrect of 4 answers.
  • (Score was 32% before I gave up)

May 31: 75 Question Oliver Lehmann -- 62%
  • Very Good Exam
  • Question format matches my two books
  • All answers have explanations
  • Topics to study before the next exam
    • "Management by Projects"
    • FTY and RTY
    • Must study 44 processes
    • Must study ITTO!
    • Must be able to tell a knowledge area from a process phase from a process group
June 1: 100 question exam from -- 57%
  • mediocre Practice Exam
  • contains user submitted content (saw a question from lehmann's 75 question exam)
  • No feedback: Does not tell you what questions are correct
  • Topics to study before the next exam
    • warranties
    • leadership styles
    • PERT details
    • 3 sigma/6 sigma -- memorize 1-6 standard deviation #s
    • Earned Value Method (EVM) details
June 2: 200 question exam (TutorialPoint 1) -- 65%
  • OK Practice Exam
  • Some answers are clearly wrong
  • Questions do not appear to be original (choices are numbers, but correct answer is a letter)
  • Topics to study before the next exam
    • GERT? (Graphical)
    • PERT details (oh, it's the pessimistic/optimistic predictive method)
    • TCPI? (T??? CPI)
    • Design of Experiments
June 3: 200 question exam (TutorialPoint 2) – 74%
  • OK Practice Exam
  • Better of the two
  • Questions still don't seem original
June 4: 200 question exam (Head First PMP) – 80%
  • Good Practice Exam
  • Newer exam, so most questions not stolen by other websites yet.
  • Very clear questions. None with broken english or mixed up terminology
  • Supposedly the wording is trickier on the real thing
  • Answers have explanations provided. Very helpful.
June 5: 175 Question Oliver Lehmann – 78%
  • Very Good Exam
  • Question format matches my two books
  • Answers have very brief explanations
  • Harder than Head First PMP
June 6: Kim Heldman exam from CD-ROM – 80%
  • Taken last due to exam format
  • Book is 4 years old.
  • Questions do not seem dated, compared to Head First and Oliver Lehmann
That's it! Just the real thing left.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

PMP online resources

To complement my favorite books, I looked at many websites filled with information on the PMP exam. Unfortunately, many of them focus on the rote memorization style of learning, and many of them are filled with errors made when copying material from each other. I gained value from the following websites, all of which contained free material.
  • Head First PMP has a companion web site for the book that includes a 200 question mock exam and forums.
  • has a 75 and 175 question mock exam, as well as study materials.
  • includes a 70 question mock exam and a bunch of tutorials.
  • tutorialspoint contains two 200 question mock exams.
  • This PowerPoint showed up when I was searching for information on leadership styles, which was not well covered by my two books.
  • Preplogic has a 15 min study guide that presents another overview of the material
  • contains Project management forums including this interesting thread containing many potentially useful links for exam preparation.
  • pm-professional is a blog with a section on PMP preparation.
  • pmhut contains an interesting article on the value of a PMP certification.