Passed PMP on 1st Attempt
Made a study plan for what to read, when to read, and when I'd be taking my exam. I began this whole process in mid-May and just took the exam today, October 8th so as you can see this was a several month long journey.
Read the PMBOK 4th - Chapter by chapter
Concurrently read Rita's for the corresponding PMBOK chapter and took chapter tests
After completing both books, went on to read Headfirst's book and took those chapter tests
Read credentials handbook
I probably spent at least an hour almost every weeknight with several hours each weekend reading, taking sample tests, and reviewing areas where I didn't score as well as I'd like. Then, for the last several weeks I really hit the internet hard to find sample exams that could really test my comprehension.
Some of the things that I did along the way to help with comprehension is what I'd now consider to be overkill. I had made myself some flashcards for definitions and some other flashcards for the processes and their respective ITTOs with the intention of trying to memorize them. Thank goodness I read someone else's LL not too long ago about not trying to memorize ITTOs. After having taken the exam today myself, I would wholeheartedly agree.
For me, memorization was only good for the EV formulas. The exam is testing your understanding and knowledge of what to do in specific situations for the various processes. The only way to gain that knowledge is to understand each process in it's entirety: 1)what is the intent of the process 2)when you should execute it 4)what do you need to complete it (inputs) 4)how do you go about doing it (Ts/Ts) and finally 5)what do you get as a result when it is completed (Os).
If you spend your time doing the 5 steps above for each process, you should be good for a very large portion of the exam. Rita's does a good job covering the other material required not specifically detailed in the PMBOK (but referenced). I didn't use Crowe's book, but understand that it does the same from others that used it for reference.
The best advice I can give you is to practice, practice, practice!!! There are numerous free sites that have tests (some with explanations of why an answer is correct) and I used PMStudy's and Headfirst's online tests (much like the real thing with respect to the test simulation). Although, I have to admit that I thought the real exam I took today was much harder than the majority of practice exams. I'm glad that I did so many practice tests because it helped me find the holes in my understanding. I'd also recommend taking them early so you understand the real nature of the exam even if you have to fail a few.
One word of caution for any upcoming test takers...I sat down at the test center and clicked the start button for the tutorial, all the while knowing that was supposed to be a good time to begin creating my dump sheet on the scratch paper provided by the testing center. I was so busy furiously writing down the formulas that I thought I'd need when I just happened to glance up at the monitor screen to see that I had only one minute before the exam would end (not the tutorial)...so be careful. Get the tutorial launched before you try to create your dump sheet. I had 15 min. to complete the tutorial so there's more than enough time to get your dump sheet created. Mine took me less than a few minutes to jot down. Then, when you're ready, just click the start button to begin the exam. I found that I really didn't need my dump sheet, but it was nice security blanket to refer back to in a brief moment of uncertainty or panic..lol.
Bottomline is that there is no magic to this and no secret to success. It's all about working for it. You have to invest the time and energy to understand the material to pass the test. I'm glad that I did and am glad that my invested time paid off. Got proficient in 3 and moderately proficient in the other 3.