Thursday, 24 March 2016

Preparing for the PMP exam - The Journey, The Experience

Its been a while since Ganaraj and me blogged. Both of us have been slightly busy for the past few months and hence couldn't take time out for this. Finally, I have decided to sit down and just blog!! But this post, unlike the title of our site stick2code, does not really stick to coding :) Excuse me for that.
As a project lead, a fairly good amount of my work involves project and people management. Hence I decided to go ahead and give the PMP exam (Project Management Professional) a shot. This blog is all about the experience and journey through preparation, struggles and the final exam.

After ensuring that I had the requisite qualifications and was eligible for the exam, I sat down to take a look at the syllabus. Going through the syllabus of the PMP exam was quite exhausting and exciting. While there were a few things I was familiar with, there were those other areas that were completely dark zones for me. I realized it was not going to be a cake walk. After extensively googling around and reading about various PMP experiences, I decided to start my preparation.
As PMBOK5 serves as a bible for the PMP exam, the first thing I did was to get hold of it. But two days into the PMBOK and I realized that it was a bit too drab for my liking. As I looked around for other resources, I found the HeadFirst PMP book. I have never been a HeadFirst fan, but trust me, after using it for PMP, I strongly recommend that aspiring PMPs give it a try.
The PMP exam has a lot of areas you may not have worked on or may have worked on in a different way. So, its important to just forget everything you have worked on and start with a clean slate.

I started my preparation by reading through a topic in HeadFirst first and then followed it by reading the corresponding topic in PMBOK. This helped me in correlating and identifying gaps in my knowledge. As I read, I marked out the important sections and put in sticky notes for additional references. In parts that I had difficulty in understanding, google was my savior. There is a sea of resources on google and it answers and untangles almost all the problem areas. You just have to be wise and ensure that you are looking in the right direction.
Some excellent resources out there are youtube videos by iZenBridge and PassionatePM. While iZenBridge provides in-depth knowledge on some topics and helps you get a clear understanding, PassionatePM uses a comparative approach and clarifies concepts that are confusing. I highly recommend these two sites to be used in parallel in your preparation.

At the end of each topic, it is important to also attempt practice questions on that topic. After each topic, there are a set of questions in HeadFirst. I attempted these questions with all seriousness and tried to figure out my areas of weakness, and brushed up on those areas.

Once I was done with both these books, I enrolled with SimpliLearn's self-learning PMP course. This was essentially to get the 35 hours of learning required for PMP. I went through their course at my own pace and then went through the PMBOK a second time as I always considered PMBOK to be the primary resource in my preparation. Of course, SimpliLearn's course acted as a nice refresher and helped me in reinforcing my concepts.

I was also active on iZenBridge and SimpliLearn forums and posted many queries there. They have very interactive forums and the responses are generally quite prompt.

Once I was confident with my preparation, I started attempting practice tests. SimpliLearn's package came with a set of 5 practice tests. I attempted each of these tests by clocking myself. SimpliLearn's mock exams were quite close to the real exam and were quite helpful. I also attempted tests from Oliver LehmanniZenBridge free exam and Certchamp. Post each of these tests, I went through each question to understand the gaps in my understanding. This exercise is extremely important and very useful. It gives you an idea on the kind of questions to expect in the PMP and to understand how to handle the scenario based questions.

Disclaimer: The above post describes my experience, journey and things that worked for me. Each person is different and hence what worked for me may not necessarily work for you. Find out which approach and resources work best for you and then focus your energies towards it. All the best to all the aspirants.

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