Passed PMP - 1st attempt - lessons learned

Like many others before, I trawled
quite a number of PMP-sites to get advice on exam prep.  Reading the
lessons learned posts from others got to be really helpful during my
three-month prep period, particularly since I wasn't taking any formal classes
or had anything in the way of a study group and hence no way to ascertain if I
was on the right track or not.  Anyway, I thought I'd post a few post-exam
thoughts here so that others out there might benefit.


Materials used:

  • Andy Crowe's 
  • Head First
  • PMBOK 4th ed.
  • (I signed up for the 3 month pkge with the
    4 sample tests; primarily to get the PDUs, but also the sample tests came
    in really handy at the end)
  • Cornelius Fichtner's PMP formula study guide


  1. Signed up on to get required PDUs.
    This turned out to be a great motivator since you have to read/understand
    each chapter and answer 12 questions related to it in order to get x
    number of PDUs.  Took me about 2 weeks to muck through all the
    chapters, do the sample questions (these are pretty decent at testing your
    understanding), and pass the 12-question test (not so useful since these
    12 questions are usually the first ones you encounter if you do the sample
    questions for each section.  But there's usually about ~60-100 sample
    qs for each chapter so skip around if possible.) 
  2. For each chapter, I read Andy Crowe 1st, then the
    PMBOK.  Andy's is good because he tells you to expect a certain level
    of difficulty for each section so you know to adjust your attention
    accordingly.  Also highlights the areas to look out for so that I was
    able to hone in on the relevant bits when I reviewed the PMBOK.  Did
    not take notes since I was more focused on getting a general idea of the
    content and a basic understanding during the 1st pass.  Skipped all
    the pmstudy guides -- did not find them particularly useful.  Did at
    least 50 sample qs for each chapter on, and breezed through
    the 12 questions after each chapter.  
  3. The minute I got my required PDUs I sent off my
    via the PMI website.  Waited about 5 business days
    and got an electronic notification that I should go ahead and proceed to
    schedule the test.  Did that right away as well.  Figured I
    ought to draw a line in sand somewhere to keep motivated.  I was
    super aggressive and gave myself 4 weeks to bone up on the
    materials.  The nice part is you get to reschedule the test up to 48
    hrs in advance. 
  4. Took two weeks off to do a kitchen remodel. Note to
    self -- this is the surest way to derail your prep/momentum.  After
    two weeks of no-to-minimal study, you really feel like you're starting at
    ground zero again, particularly as the concepts that you learn are SO
    specific to the PMBOK -- there's no other way to put it.  The
    material really calls for close attention -- I would suspect that if the
    content was a bit more generic in nature, more mathematical instead of
    situational perhaps, a 2-week break might not have been so bad.  I
    rescheduled the test another 4 weeks out to give myself more time.
  5. I did a second pass through of all the chapters. 
    I used Freemind (a free mind
    mapping software) to map out the concepts and ITTOs for each KA while
    doing a close read of the PMBOK. 
    For the more difficult chapters (Integration, Time, Cost, Risk,
    Procurement), I referenced Head
    as well as Andy’s text.  I
    found Head First to be absolutely crucial in helping me understand the
    mathematical and logical reasoning behind the formulas.
  6. About a week before the test, I began to put together
    my brain dump sheet.  Practically
    every lessons learned post I read advised doing a brain dump during the
    first 15 minutes while you go through the computer tutorial.  And from my experience, I will agree
    that that is pretty darn important. 
    Practice writing this brain dump sheet a few times EVERYDAY for a week before the
    test.  Among the things I memorized:

    • All the formulas (see Cornelius Fichtner’s formula
      list – well worth the 25 bucks to purchase)
    • All 42 processes (if there’s one area you should
      memorize, it’s Planning’s 20 processes since the order of what happens
      when is pretty important)
    • Differences between concepts like “Quality Assurance
      vs Quality Control”, “Qualitative Risk Analysis vs Quantitative Risk
      Analysis” – or whatever concepts that you think might be tricky or hard
      to distinguish
    • Types of procurement contracts
    • Whatever else you think might be tough to remember
      during the test
  7. Did pretty well on the Head First and Andy Crowe sample
    tests, but as most everyone will attest, these are pretty easy and don’t
    represent true difficulty.  The next
    test I did was the 1st pmstudy sample test – scored 75%, which
    was rather disappointing, but the neat thing about pmstudy is that it
    tells you which areas you need to improve on.  I soon realized that the mathematical
    questions were going to be the easiest to put away, so I made sure to
    review all of the formulas and practiced with Cornelius Fichtner’s 105
    questions that came with his formula study guide.  In addition to that, reviewed all the
    weak areas and did pmstudy’s sample tests 2 and 3 about a couple of days before
    the exam.  I raised my score up to
    84% on the last sample test and decided that that was alright.  Night before the test I sped-read
    through my weak areas in all three texts and practiced my brain dump sheet
    a few more times.
  8. Took the test on 10/31. 
    Marked about 30-40% of the questions for review (even the
    mathematical qs that I was absolutely certain of).  Finished the test in 3 hours total.  Passed (thankfully!) with a mix of
    proficient and moderately proficient in all areas.

Exam Analysis

  1. Quite a few tricky situational (what’s
    the best thing to do next) questions especially in the realm of professional

  2. You’ve got to know your ITTOs – no need
    to memorize, but questions on using the right tool/technique in situation x are
    common.  There were like 5 questions on
    Pareto diagrams alone.  Take special note
    of the tools and techniques that are used across different processes because
    they can be tricky to recall during the exam.

  3. Math questions were simple and
    straightforward.  Knowing earned value
    measurement techniques inside and out is absolutely crucial.

  4. About 2-3 questions on float –
    again, pretty simple and straightforward. 
    Low hanging fruit.

  5. Choose the right type of contract
    for this situation – only about 2-3 questions here but definitely the hardest I’d

  6. Level of difficulty – you can expect
    the questions to be more nuanced. 
    Wordiness was comparable to the ones you see on  A lot of the questions can be dealt with
    using a process of elimination. 


admin's picture

Congratulations and thanks for this wonderful writeup especially the exam analysis part. I am sure this will help the aspirants

Regards, Admin