How did you pass the PMP on the first try?

I was recently asked this question. The truth is, I wore my lucky socks for seven days before taking the exam. If only it were that easy. It took some considerable hours of study and practice exam taking. The easiest part of the process was the actual test. Assuming that you are already cleared to take the test by PMI and that you have set your date, here are a few tips from my experience:

  • Enroll in an instructor led course. The self-paced courses are ok, however, interacting with an instructor and students goes a far way in helping understanding the concepts. The PMI website has a wealth of information on courses you can take. When selecting one, be sure to research the instructor as well. Sometimes you may not know the instructor before taking the class but you should still request that information from the provider.
  • As a PMI member you have access to an online version of the latest PMBOK. Believe me, you will need this. It’s your bible on all things PM for the exam. Aside from using it as I went through the course, I found it particularly useful when I reviewed a question I go wrong on a practice test.
  • The format of the exam this year is slightly different from last year. Make sure you understand the changes. You can find the full list of change here. The full exam outline can be downloaded from PMI here.
  • Get your hands on as many practice tests as you can. While the format has changed in 2016, you could still use a test questions from the last edition and get close to the 70% needed. The majority of the test questions I had were from 2015 as I had already purchased these sample exams. As part of the online instructor led course, I had a few exams in the 2016 format.
  • Another area that I found helpful was the Projectmanagement.com website. They have a very cool quiz feature that is basically test questions. It’s called the PM Challenge. It’s convenient and I was able to use my phone to take these quizzes during a commercial break watching TV. You earn points and ‘badges’ the more questions you answer right. There is no penalty for getting an answer wrong. It also gives you the correct answer.
  • Develop a study strategy. After taking the course, I took a full test to baseline where my strengths and weaknesses were. I then focused on the areas that I was poor at and did more questions in these areas. This may sound strange but don’t panic if you are not comfortable in all areas. Simply ensure that you are at least proficient in the weak areas and superior in the areas you already know.
  • You will also hear your instructor and others say that it’s all PMI-isms. Believe them, it is. You may see a question that the answer may seem obvious, don’t be fooled, remember to always ask yourself “what is the PMI way” before selecting an answer. Also when in doubt, check PMBOK.
  • Develop a test strategy. After you have studied and gained greater understanding and confidence in your weak areas, formulate a plan of attack when taking the test. I marked the questions that I was unsure of and moved on to the questions I definitely knew. You can always go back to the questions that you weren’t sure of. Be sure to choose an answer for those that you marked. This is critical as time is not your friend and you want to spend more time on the questions you are not sure of and less time on the ones you are more confident.
  • Lastly, don’t stress too much about the test on the day of the test. This takes away from you being settled and relaxed. Being in a relaxed state allows your mind to work at its best and its ability to recall the information you need, will be heightened.

These strategies may sound very straightforward and simple, but they really work. Good luck on your exam.

Published on April 26, 2017

Philip Reid, MSIM, PMP, ITIL ®Follow

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