Secret to clear the PMP Exam

by jask2002 30. March 2012 10:39

Recently my colleague Ravi cleared the PMP exam. Here is the secret for clearing the exam in his own words

I cleared the PMP exam after several sleepless nights. I am sharing my experience and I hope it will help you prepare for the PMP exam.

You may call me obsessed with PMI approach to manage the projects; but I treated my PMP exam as a real “Project” and followed the same approach to plan and execute to achieve the PMP certification. Here are the details:


This is the initial stage where I decided to go for the exam. I had a vague estimate to achieve it no later than Aug, 2011. I already earned my PDUs so I wasn’t worried about them.


This is phase where I spent a significant amount of time to plan for study, method of study, material,  timeline etc. 

     1. Study Material & Simulators

After doing some research, I decided to use two books for preparation and kept 3rd book for causal reference. I used PMBOK and Rita as primary books and kept HeadFirst for casual reference. Here is the list of resources which I recommend:


  • PMBOK 4th Edition - This is the divine book for PMP exam.           
  • HeadFirst PMP
  • PMP® Exam Prep – Sixth Edition - Rita Mulcahy

Exam Simulators & Questions Bank


Other Resources

  • I found it very helpful to understand the ITTOs. ( )
  • Join few PMP Forums on Yahoo and Google groups.

       2. Study Plan & Timeline

  I decided to give it 4 months (around 18 weeks; around 240 hours) of serious preparation time. I choose 4 months due to several factors which includes amount of time I can spend weekly and my learning capacity etc. You must decide on the timeline based on your   experience, amount of time you can spend daily and based on your learning capacity. Here are some highlights of my plan:

  1. I was bit cautious so I planned a week off just before the exam.
  2. I planned to read all the books 2-3 times.
  3. PMBook is pretty dry so I started with Rita first.
  4. After reading the Rita for the first time, I decided to read PMBOK side by side with Rita.
  5. During this read, I planned to attempt the questions present in each chapter.
  6. I created an additional Calendar in Outlook and have put my entire plan along with all the activities in this calendar. I have set the milestones as well to track my progress. This really helped me a lot and kept me on track. Here is a quick view of my calendar:


Execution and Monitoring of the progress

So I had a plan ready for me and all I need to do is to follow the plan religiously. 

My Initial 16 weeks

                   I finished the books as per plan and tried to attempt some questions but not all. Although I didn’t create my own notes (one of my biggest mistakes) but I had a checklist of almost all the items (process, input, tools, analysis etc.)

Weekly Checks on schedule

                  I kept a close eye on my weekly study status. I was following my preparation calendar very closely and I keep it updated whenever there were any ‘variances’ J. I do it on every Sunday.


One week of vacation Time

                So I had this big chuck of time before I go for the exam:

                1. Skim through the Rita book for the last time and it took around 20 hours.

                2. Started attempting questions from “Good” sources. I already knew those sources so I really didn’t need to hunt for the material. Did GAP analysis and focused on weak areas.

                3. I attempted the questions in various ways like chapter wise, knowledge area wise and process group wise.  

                4. Took two 4 hours full length tests. It was tiring but worth the time and efforts.

                5. Go through the PMBOK Glossary thoroughly.

One day before the Exam

            1. Planned the strategy for the exam and how I am going to tackle 200 questions in 240 minutes with how many breaks in between.

            2. Ensured that I have all the important papers, my ID, map of exam center etc.

            3. I prepared a list of items (braindumps) which I need to download on the paper before the exam starts. Remember exam give you 15 minutes for tutorials. Make sure you use that time to write down any

                 important piece of note which you think  is important. I downloaded PMBOK page 43 and some important formulas.

            4. I put a final stop my study at 6 PM in the evening.

            5. I planned to take some extra sleep though it didn’t happen and I end up sleeping for just 6 hours. Next morning I woke up with heavy head.


On the exam day

           1. Reached the exam center 30 minutes earlier.

          2. Had a quick look at the braindumps.

         3. As planned wrote down those items from braindumps during the first 15 minutes.

         4. I completed 200 questions in around 3 hours and I took two breaks of 4 minutes each.

         5. I had marked around 70+ questions (I should not have marked more than 30 questions).

         6.  I wasn’t able to review all the 70s questions during last 1 hours and I ran out of time.

        7. I clicked the finish button and there I saw the much awaited “Congratulations”


Mistakes - Lesson Learned

  1. Have your own knowledge base right from day 1. I didn’t prepare my own notes. This is one of biggest mistakes I made.
  2. Don’t wait till the last moment for simulation tests.
  3. Choose quality questions from trusted source.
  4. DO NOT study till last hour. Take a good sleep before the exam night, watch a movie or go out. 
  5. Do not mark many questions during the exam. You should not mark more than 30 questions considering you can complete the exam in 3.5 Hours and you still need 30 minutes to review those remaining questions.

Tips - During the exam

  1. Start the exam with a positive attitude. Know it’s your day and you will achieve it.
  2. Utilize the first 15 minutes for tutorial and write down anything which you feel you might forget (ITTO, formulas etcs).
  3. Don’t spend too much time on any question. Take advantage of the “Mark for Review” feature.
  4. Make sure you read every question carefully and also read every answers.
  5. Wording is very important and can imply more to the situation beyond the obviously stated question.
  6. Take deep breath if you are stressed.
  7. Smile as much as you can during the exam. It’s a stress buster.


Tips - During the planning & preparation phase

1. Let me start this on a positive note; PMP exam is not that difficult. But it needs regular time commitment and requires a regular study plan.

2. Book your exam as soon as possible as possible. It will help you set a realistic goal. There will never be the perfect moment.            

3. Do not over study. You may study for a year and you may still fail the exam.

4. Plan well in advance. You must know in advance that what you are going to study today(, tomorrow, next week etc) and what source you will be using to study.

5. You don’t need 3 books to pass the exam but you will definitely need 2 books. PMBOK with Rita or HeadFirst is highly recommended.

6. Check your study progress weekly and act accordingly.

7. Although PMP exam is not very difficult but the questions are very tricky. PMP exam focus on your understanding of the concepts so memorization will not help.

8. You MUST understand the concepts. There is no need to memorize the ITTO’s.  Ensure your concept of why these ITTO belong to that process has to be clear.

9. Simulation is the key to success. The more questions you attempt the better chances are there for your success.

10. Do GAP analysis and find out where you need to focus more. Create a list of all the week areas and keep it handy. Simulation will help you a lot to do the GAP analysis.

11. Don’t wait for taking those simulations test till last moment. Put them as a part of your leaning plan.

12. Practice for 4 hour exam at least 2 times. This will give you an idea how you are going to feel and react in real exam. 

13. If you are scoring close to 75% in simulation, you should be in good shape.


Most Important Processes

    • Define activities
    • Sequence Activities
    • Close project or Phase
    • Plan Procurement
    • Develop Project Management Plan
    • Collect Requirements
    • Direct and Management Project Execution
    • Estimate Activity Resource
    • Develop Schedule
    • Define Scope
    • Verify Scope
    • Identify Stakeholders
    • Conduct Procurement


Questions Distribution in Exam

11%        Initiating

23%        Planning

27%        Executing

21%        Controlling

9%          Closing

9%          Professional & Social Responsibility

Difficulty Level

Intro                                                                       Easy

Lifecycle                                                               Easy

Process Groups                                                 Hard

Integration                                                         Hard

Scope                                                                    Mid

Time                                                                      Hard

Cost                                                                       Mid

Quality                                                                  Mid

HR                                                                           Easy

Communication                                                Easy

Risk                                                                        Hard

Procurement                                                     Hard

Professional & Social Responsibility         Mid

Should you have any questions, please let me know. I will be more than happy to be of any assistance.

Thanks, Ravi

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