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PMP (PMBOK4) Quick Reference: Your "Pass the Exam" Project

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Claudia Baca walks you through the steps of how you might proceed to build your study project to help you pass the Project Management Professional (PMBOK4) examination.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

It’s time to determine your game plan for studying and passing the exam. In this lesson, I walk you through the steps of how you might proceed to build your study project. I know this might seem like overkill to some, but I think you’ll agree that it will be time well spent after you pass the exam. Remember that this is a comprehensive exam that examines your knowledge of the entire domain of project management from start to finish, from the perspective of the Project Management Professional (PMP) examination specification and the PMBOK® Guide. It will be a grueling 4 hours of your life that is also expensive. Wouldn’t it be nice to only have to do this once instead of partially planning it and studying for it, and then having to do it over again? Besides, you can consider this exercise as a “practice what you preach” session. This plan proves that you are serious about your profession. So first, you need to ask yourself: How long do you want this project to take?

Look at your life, your workload, and your goals for this credential. Then, determine the length of the study project. You can take a couple of different approaches to determine the length of the project.

First, determine if you have any major milestones or life events that you want to schedule around. Say, for example, that you are unhappy in your current job and have set a goal that you want to be in a new company as a PMP before the end of the year. With that major milestone and knowing that it’s January, you realize that you should probably spend 6 months to get your credential and 6 months job hunting.

Now, let’s look at a life-event scenario. You know you are a procrastinator, and even if you plan to study 10 hours every week, there’s a good chance that little studying will be done before the test date. You also work well under pressure, so you decide to set the date of the exam immediately and schedule it at the end of your two week vacation in August.

If you have no major constraints in your life or milestones that you need to work with, the best study project plan is to take the exam when you are ready.

Now, you also need to ask yourself: How much time can I devote to studying each week? Will I be able to devote only Sunday afternoons? Can I study during lunch at work every day? If you just barely pass the experience requirements, you might need more time. If you are a slow learner, you might need more time. Only you can determine how much time you can devote to studying. Just know that this is an intense 4-hour exam, and you need to have a lot of terms, knowledge, formulas, and processes completely understood and memorized. There is no set formula for the amount of needed study time.

You need to factor your desired end date with the amount of study time needed to build your project schedule and its potential end date. In your factoring, remember that the credential handbooks suggest that you schedule the exam

  • At least 6 weeks before your preferred date
  • At least 3 months before your eligibility period ends

Before we start laying out a recommended approach, I want to make sure that you viewed and listened to Lesson 3, “How Do You Learn Best?.” Now is the time to make sure that you understand your primary learning mode or combination of modes. Once again, the modalities are visual, auditory, and tactile/kinesthetic.

You want to factor in ways to study that incorporate your primary mode. That way, you get the most out of your study time.

Start with the Fundamentals

Now that you know how long you want the project to take, how many hours you can devote to study time, and your primary learning modality, let’s talk about a general approach for studying for the exam. You should start with the fundamentals of the PMBOK® Guide and set a baseline via a sample exam for where you are in your understanding of project management.

I recommend that you study on your own for a while, and then see where you stand. For studying on your own, consider these activities:

  • Read the PMBOK® Guide.
  • Review the entire video mentor.

Determine what terms are not familiar to you and research them. For example, the PMBOK® Guide Introduction states that a project manager must have an interpersonal skill of motivation. You heard the term “motivational theories” before and want to make sure that you understand these theories for motivating teams. Go to your favorite search engine, type in “motivational theories” and study that term. Of course, there are other ways to research and understand terms. Pick the method that’s best for you.

When you start to feel comfortable with the material, take a sample exam. Be sure to see Lesson 15, “Working with the Exam Engine,” on how to use the sample exams that are included in this video mentor.

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