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Tuesday, 06 October 2020


By Robert Marshall, PhD, CSPM, PMP 

As professional exams go, the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam is on the more difficult side. Composed of 200 multiple-choice questions, the exam covers five process groups (otherwise known as phases or stages of a project), 10 knowledge areas, 49 defined processes, and dozens of tools and techniques. It covers a lot of ground in four hours—and not a minute more. The passing rate for first-time candidates is about 60 percent. In other words, six in 10 people who take the examination will pass, four in 10 will not. The takeaway is, while the examination is very passable, it is not a walk in the park. You must be prepared and ready. One way to help yourself is learning from the pitfalls that have ensnared the unsuccessful. Here are their six biggest regrets: 

Not starting a review early enough: This regret is a frequent one. As with anything, time has a way of sneaking up on you. Before you know it, the examination is around the corner and you have not started your review. Cramming is always an option, just ask any high school or college student. Unfortunately, cramming is not an effective approach for the PMP exam. The reason is because of what the exam measures. The PMP exam attempts to scientifically measure competence. Each question gauges how well you know the concepts and theory as well as how well you can integrate the right theory with a given set of circumstances. That takes higher order thinking and a cognitive ability. That level of knowledge needed only comes over an extended time period and can no more be reduced to a single marathon cram session than three years of experience can be reduced to 30 days. Give yourself many months ahead of the examination date to review each chapter of The Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) using frequent and short review sessions over as long a period as you can give. 

Not using the latest edition of the PMBOK Guide: The PMP examination is based on the latest version of the Project Management Institutes’ PMBOK Guide. The latest version is the Sixth Edition. Editions do change from one edition to another. Sometimes a little and sometimes a lot. From its first edition in the 1990s, the PMBOK Guide has grown from 180 to 980 pages and added 12 new project management processes. The latest edition added an entirely new approach to project management, namely “adaptive” or “agile” as it is commonly known. Resist the urge to save money by borrowing an old copy from a co-worker. Be sure to check the PMI website to identify the latest PMBOK Guide version number, then buy a new copy for yourself. You will be glad you did. 

Not being familiar with the exam question types: The PMP examination relies heavily on “scenario-based” questions. At a quick glance, scenario-based questions appear easy because of their multiple-choice nature. That is where the similarity ends. Scenario-based questions on the PMP exam measure several important aspects of competence not found on more ordinary multiple-choice exams. Not only are the questions designed to test what you know, but they also test your level of comprehension and your ability to apply your knowledge to a set of circumstances and facts. Getting to the right answer requires analysis, evaluation, and the integration of knowledge and experience. It is more difficult than it looks. The good news is that scenario-based questions have been around a long time—long before the PMP exam. Their design and structure are well known. The more you know about the organization of the question, the quicker you can identify the question “stem” and get to the right answer. Better review courses will include a review of the question types and how to approach them. 

Regrets of Unsuccessful PMP Examination Takers

Being over-reliant on work experience as a project manager. As the age-old saying goes, experience is the best teacher. The importance of experience is a key reason why PMI requires all applicants to meet specific minimums. As invaluable as experience is, it alone is not enough to pass. Candidates must also have an excellent grasp of the underlying theories, concepts, and principles of project management along with an understanding of contemporary project management tools, techniques, and processes. In a word, successful candidates must have a strong handle on theoretical project management as well as applied project management. The primary theories, concepts, and principles are included in the PMBOK Guide, many by reference. The PMBOK Guide is a compendium of the entire “body of knowledge” of project management. 

Not committing “inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs” to memory. While it takes knowledge and experience to pass the examination, here is one area where memorization is helpful. The PMBOK Guide includes well over 100 “tools and techniques” which include everything from “scatter-diagrams” to “team-building.” There are also at least 33 specific documents mentioned. The exam expects you to know which tools and techniques, along with which documents are associated with one or more of the 49 defined project management processes. The quicker you can recall the right tool, document, or technique for any given process, the more time you can devote to putting your knowledge and experience into the question. 

Not taking a PMP exam review course. Finally, a common regret is the decision not to take a review course. This is perhaps the most short-sighted shortcut of all. A good review course is essential. Not only will it cover all of the process, tools, and techniques you need to know, it will also cover important considerations including time management, question-types, managing personal issues during the exam, and many other administrative details that build confidence and free your mind to do your personal best. Not all review courses are equal. Make sure that you enroll in a course from a reliable provider. Look for those that are PMI Registered Education Providers (REP). That way you know the material being reviewed matches the PMBOK Guide and the text. 

EduMind is proud to be a Registered Education Provider through the Project Management Institute. Learn more about our comprehensive PMP exam review courses by clicking here.

EduMind Inc at 11:16

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