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Two Different Models of Approaching the Study of Project Management

The Phase Approach

Within the structure of a project, there are five phases: Initiation, Planning, Execution, Control, and Closing. Some people study for the exam by using each phase as a separate study area, looking at the key components from initiation, planning, and so on. Although this works well when looking at a project from its inception, it becomes very difficult to place management actions only in one phase. For instance, you will be doing project risk management throughout the entire project. You do not simply do a risk plan once and leave it. Risk is managed in every phase, and so are many other project plans.

Q.

Planning and Closing are two parts of a _________ approach to project management.

 

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A.

Tactical

 

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B.

Phase

 

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C.

Methodical

 

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D.

Practical

The answer is B. The phase approach is one of the ways in this book used to prepare for the examination.

What is helpful in managing a project with the phase approach as your model is that you can see the dependencies that occur throughout an entire phase as well as the entire project, and you are able to see the different ways in which certain things will interact during the project. Working through and planning the project phases is the best way to manage an actual project, and the phase approach of study will help to explain how the actual flow of a project occurs.

In this book, we will discuss the five phases, and we will tie two phases together because phases overlap during a project. So Initiation and Planning are the topic of one chapter, Planning and Execution are the topic of another, and so on. It is impossible to actually manage a project without overlapping phases.

One other reason that the phase approach is used is that some topics do not fit exactly into one knowledge area from the PMBOK. These are the topics that are discussed in the phase part of the book. Although there is some redundancy between phase topics and knowledge areas in terms of content, looking at the topics from different viewpoints will help you with the examination.

The Knowledge Area Approach

This is the way the PMBOK is structured. There are nine separate areas of study: Integration, Scope, Cost, Time, Quality, HR, Communications, Risk, and Procurement. Each knowledge area is given a chapter in the PMBOK that explains the facts that PMI thinks are important in the study of the particular topic. Most of the chapters are fairly short. The problem is not how long or short the knowledge area chapters are in the book; it's the fact that there is so much to learn in each topic that each chapter could be a doctoral dissertation area. This book will give you the knowledge that is required in a certain study area to satisfy testing requirements and also will link it to the rest of the areas because there are constant interactions between knowledge groups when a project is actually going on.

Because PMBOK is structured by knowledge areas, it would seem that you should study this model. Actually, if you only had one way to look at the exam and actual project management performances, that would be true. But the PMBOK doesn't give you everything you need to know about passing the test, nor does it have depth in more demanding project management practice areas. So it will be one of the learning models we will concentrate on for the test, but it is not the only model for preparing for the test.

Each knowledge area has several processes within it. These are subdivided into three categories: Inputs, Tools and Techniques, and Outputs. An example is the process areas found within the Scope Management Chapter of PMBOK. These five process areas are listed in the PMBOK as Scope Planning, Scope Definition, Create WBS, Scope Verification, and Scope Change Control. Within each of these are Inputs, Tools and Techniques, and Outputs. Some people like to memorize every one of the processes, and this can be helpful. The processes are detailed in Chapter 3 of the PMBOK. This chapter, titled "Project Management Processes," is a good one to read to understand how the processes fit into the phases. Make sure you read the first three chapters of PMBOK in depth. They help to explain how the entire project management process is linked together with all its sub-processes.

Q.

Each knowledge area is divided into ________ areas.

 

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A.

Tactical

 

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B.

Process

 

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C.

Project management

 

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D.

Strategic

The answer is B. Each of the knowledge areas has several subdivisions that are process areas.

Q.

Each process is divided into:

 

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A.

Inputs, Tactics, and Strategy

 

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B.

Inputs, Outputs, and Tactics

 

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C.

Inputs, Tools and Techniques, and Tactics

 

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D.

Inputs, Tools and Techniques, and Outputs

The answer is D. It is helpful to know what the three areas are in each of the processes, and this can be found in the third chapter of PMBOK.

Q.

Which is the best model for studying for the PMI examination?

 

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A.

The Phase Model

 

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B.

The Knowledge Area model

 

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C.

Both models

 

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D.

The DoD model

The answer is C. Use parts of both the Phase and the Knowledge Area model. In this book we will be offering various ways to approach the knowledge you need to pass the test. For some people, one model fits their cognitive process; for other people, another model is best. In this book you get a variety of ways to understand, memorize, and use information for the exam in the future. By using a combination of the two, we think you'll have the best chance of passing the exam and going on to become a PMP.

How Is the Test Constructed?

The test consists of 200 questions over the nine knowledge areas and the five phases. According to PMI, here are the percentages of questions asked by phase.

Phase

Percentage

Initiation

4

Planning

37

Execution

24

Control

28

Closing

7

Note that the Planning/Execution/Control phases comprise 89% of the test and that Planning has the most questions of all on the examination. Concentrate on these areas because that is how the examination is written.

Q.

The single phase that has the most questions about it on the examination is the ________ phase.

 

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A.

Closing

 

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B.

Initiation

 

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C.

Planning

 

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D.

Control

The answer is C. On the examination, 37% of the questions will focus on planning.

Questions You Should Not Answer

There are questions on the examination that you should not take the time to answer, at least on the first reading of the examination. These may be questions that are extremely complex, questions that are outside of your comfort zone from your study, or questions where you really have no idea of the answer when you first encounter them. Taking this exam consists of being aware of how much time you have, strengths in your study, and ways to pass the exam, not trying to get 100%. I have had many people tell me that the first few questions were confusing to them. There are going to be some confusing questions in all examinations. The best way to get rid of this stress is very simple. Keep on going through the questions until you find one whose answer you know for certain. Answer it and go on with the exam. By going through and finding questions that you understand, your stress level will come down, and later you can go back to questions that may have been daunting at first. Remember ONE QUESTION, ONE POINT. Let the exam "come to you" by working with questions that are in your strengths. Do not worry even if you have to go to the fifteenth question before you see one about which you're certain. Go there, get started, and you will find yourself relaxing, which is a key to test taking.

Why Do People Fail This Exam?

There are many reasons people fail an exam. The most common reason is that they didn't study enough. There are many good books available on the PMI examination that basically consist of a list of potential questions. These are very helpful in getting used to the styles of questions, and they help get the test taker more comfortable with the exam.

However, this type of studying comes apart if you memorize answers to specific questions instead of learning the content of the material. This book will give questions because questions are a good learning aide. But there will also be discussion about the answers so that the test taker understands what both the question and the answer mean. Do not just learn long lists of questions; learn the topic.

Another reason people fail a test of this type is that they fail to read all of the answers. There are several questions on the exam that have two answers that are very close. Your job is to understand the answer that PMI wants and use it. By failing to read all of the questions, your answer may not be the one that PMI is looking for. Within this book, we'll be looking at the questions through the eyes of the PMBOK.

People come up to me all the time and say, "I've been a project manager for more than 20 years. Do I need to study for the exam?" The answer is a resounding yes. I've known excellent PMs who weren't certified and who took the exam without a class and without using a book like this. Most of them failed to pass. It may be that the experience is there but learning the style of the PMBOK is critically important. So use this book as a platform to understand what is expected of you for the PMP exam.

Q.

What is the best time to sit for the examination?

 

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A.

Immediately after taking the course

 

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B.

When you feel comfortable

 

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C.

When the teacher tells you to do so

 

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D.

Whenever your organization thinks it is time

The answer is A. You have the best short-term memory right after the course, so you should take the test as soon as possible after you have finished the course. The longer you wait, the more studying you will have to do to pass the exam.

What Do I Need for the Exam?

First, you need your authorization letter from PMI. Bring it to the testing center. Also, bring a four-function calculator. Any calculators that are programmable will be taken away from you. The testing center will give you scrap paper and pencils. You should turn these in at the end of the test.

(One quick aside: if there are formulas that you want to remember, write them down immediately when you are in the examination room. This is the best way to make sure you have them down correctly. This procedure is in compliance with the test.)

You will be given a 15-minute computer tutorial, and then you will begin the test. When you have answered all the questions and signified you are finished, the computer will tell you whether you have passed right then and there, and a certificate will be printed out. This is a nice moment, at least for the many students I have talked with after they passed the examination. (If you do not pass, inquire what needs to be done to reschedule. Do not take too long to reschedule because you will begin to forget short-term memory materials.)

When Should I Apply to Sit for the Exam?

As soon as you have finished studying and you feel ready. When teaching the exam for PMI, I wanted the students to have their test dates scheduled at least half way through the class so that they would be taking the exam only a week or two after finishing. This is the standard way you have tests scheduled in an academic setting. It would be highly unusual for a school to schedule an examination covering a course that you had a half a year ago. You do not need a lot of extra study time after you've taken a course. The time immediately after taking a course is the time when the information is at the front of your consciousness. Submit your request by email (not snail mail) and be ready to go and pass the exam.

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