45 Days. Above Target in All 5 Domains. Here is how I did it...

PMP® Exam Lessons – Success Stories
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Joined: Wed Mar 14, 2018 3:51 am

45 Days. Above Target in All 5 Domains. Here is how I did it...

Tue Mar 27, 2018 4:14 am

I cleared my PMP exam on first try on 24th March (the last opportunity to give the test under 5th edition criteria) with Above Target in all 5 domains. As others have done before, I would like to share my experience in the hope that it will be of help to someone else. This is going to be long as I want to post everything while it is still fresh in my mind and provide a good base to someone who is just starting their preparation.

I planned to prepare for 45 days and started my preparation on 1st Feb. I had a very clear goal in mind as far as the exam was concerned: I didn’t have the luxury to prepare for 3 or 4 months like some of the other candidates (as I wanted to clear my exam before the 6th edition changes came into place) so I had to do it in the time I had. This was a benefit in disguise as it made me focused and dedicated to achieve my target in the limited timeframe. While I cannot comment on what the 6th edition will entail as far as the exam changes are concerned, the preparation syllabus is still going to be around 90-95% of what it used to be with the 5th edition. So if I can clear the exam in 45 days with Above Target in all domains without ever having read any PMP related material before that while going to office every day from 9 AM to 7 PM, you can definitely do it as well. The 6th edition changes will of course require a little more study than the 5th edition, but hey, as far as I was concerned, the 5th edition and 6th edition were the same before I started my preparation. So if you are starting your prep now, it is simply a matter of keeping your eye on the target regardless of the path you take to reach there.

Before I get into the details of my study plan and what I used to prepare, I will mention 6 points that were instrumental in my success; if you follow something similar (and it is all common sense), you will be mentally prepared right from the start (and mental preparation is half the battle!).

1. Don’t have a 6 month study plan – It might sound counter intuitive but this is extremely crucial. The longer your study-plan, the less likely you are to stick with it till the end. Have a goal of maximum 3 months as far as your preparation is concerned. Even with the 45 day study plan, there were days when I felt absolutely drained and tired and even bored with the whole preparation process. So you need to have a clear cut date and goal in mind before you start your prep and then work towards it diligently.

2. But do have a study plan! – Continuing from the point above, if you plan to give your test in 45 days or 2 months or 3 months, you need to then have an actual plan. It doesn’t have to be too detailed (as you wouldn’t know everything about the syllabus before you start preparing) but it should have enough detail to know at a high level what you will be doing on a particular day. In my plan I wrote the chapters I will be studying that day, from which book I will study them, what day I will start giving mocks and when I will revise my notes etc. Every day before sleeping, I would strike out that day from the plan and that gave me confidence that I was proceeding as intended. Having all this outlined beforehand takes away the uncertainty from the day to day preparation. If you are trying to clear PMP, then as a budding certified project manager, you need to have a plan that you need to execute during your preparation.

3. Stick to the plan – I know this sounds so obvious but this also where I had the most problems. For professionals like me, who have been working for a while, it was very difficult to get back into the whole ‘study’ mindset. The mind wanders aimlessly, every WhatsApp message or TV show is a distraction and once you check that message or watch that one episode, you are down the rabbit hole and by the time you emerge, the day/night is gone and you wasted a precious day. I had a very simple way to tackle this – I would turn off my Data/Wi-Fi, put some relaxing study music on and get on with it. If anyone wants to reach out to you and it is urgent, they will call you. So avoiding the social media trap was a big factor in me sticking with the plan. As I mentioned before, I would reach home every day about 7 PM, cook my food and then start studying about 9:30 PM till about 12. Weekends were different as I knew I barely had 4 or 5 weekends before the exam so I tried to make the most of them. No plans with friends, no parties (I told myself that it is a matter of 5 weekends, I will have all the time to party after that! ;) ) and I spent about 6-8 hours on Saturdays and Sundays.

Please note that all this doesn’t mean that I never relaxed or never watched a movie or never took breaks. That is the trick to keep you motivated; if I met my criteria of the 6-8 hour study period on the weekends (or if I was able to complete that day’s plan to my satisfaction earlier than anticipated), I would reward myself with a break that night. If you really stick with your plan then trust me, you will actually feel a sense of accomplishment if you are able to complete something before the planned time and then would be motivated to actually beat your plan and complete the next day’s study in advance! There were days where I felt so good that I would skip that break on the weekend and instead study the next day’s work. Looking at my plan and seeing that I was 3 days, sometimes 5 days ahead of schedule gave me a lot of confidence.

4. Mock Tests are your buddies – It is critical, CRITICAL, that you give mock tests at least during the last 2 to 3 weeks of your preparation. My study plan had me giving my first mock test after I had read the PMBoK once and had gone through Saket’s videos (more on those below). My score on that first test opened my eyes to the fact that just reading what is in the book and thinking you are ready for the exam is trap that you shouldn’t fall into. The mock tests helped me apply the knowledge I was getting from the study material; I learned how to distinguish between questions that look like they are asking for what needs to be executed when in reality they are asking what you need to do to plan the task. I understood how definitions of terms given in the books are not presented directly on the questions; you might be provided a scenario and you have to identify which topic it is referencing. This was true of my actual exam as well. While there were questions that were straightforward, there were many others where I had to actually understand what was being talked about and then pick the right option based on the scenario. Mock tests are your lifeline. Period.

As an additional note, I gave all of iZenBridge study course questions and mocks. All chapter end quizzes (after finishing the chapter), all Assessment Knowledge area and Process group quizzes (after completing my study once), All 4 defined mocks and the 5th Dynamic mock (during the last 2 weeks of my prep). They are of very good quality and even if the questions on the actual exam are different or a little more complicated (which they will be), these tests will absolutely 100% make your concepts crystal clear which is what you want at the end of the day. I actually gave all the quizzes multiple times, sometimes 3 times over the course of my preparation because you forget the questions after a week or so and returning to them again after revising gives you a better grasp of what you did wrong the first time around. The explanations provided for the answers after you complete a test/quiz/full length mock are very helpful and will fill your gaps and let you know the areas you need to focus on. Most importantly, ensure that you read the explanations for the questions that you correctly answered as well; this will solidify your concepts and will also let you know if you got a question correct by chance and that the actual reasoning was something entirely different. All in all, I ended up attempting about 2500-3000 mock questions overall from various sources but you should aim to at least attempt 1000.

5. Make your Notes – People study using just PMBoK, or read Rita or Head First or all of them but it is not feasible to keep going through the books again and again. Not only will it be very cumbersome, it will take away precious time towards the end of your prep when you should be giving mocks to solidify your weak areas. That is why you need to make notes when you are going through the books so that when it is time to revise, you have a ready-made list of items for each area. I filled up a notebook with my notes and here is how I went about it:

a. Read PMBoK once to get an understanding of what the topics were about and watched Saket’s videos along with it. Made no notes during the first go through as I didn’t know what was important or not and just wanted to understand the scope of it all.

b. After completing that, I again started PMBoK (yes, you have to read PMBoK however boring and dry it might be! It is the base on which the exam is structured so it will be foolish to ignore that) and again watched Saket’s videos to go with the chapter and this time around, started making my notes.

c. I supplemented the notes by reading the Head First book and then reading a few chapters out of Rita (Human Resources, Risk, Quality, Change Control etc. have some good details in Rita). You don’t have to read all three books; I did because I was going faster than my study plan and thus was able to make the time. I think PMBoK along with Saket’s videos should be good enough for most people but it never hurts to read another book. Head first is easy and fun to read and will make everything very easy to understand and Rita, while very detailed and a little dry like the PMBoK, has very good coverage and knowledge on every topic. Each to their own!

d. Finally, after having these notes, I watched Saket’s videos (again!) and updated the notes without referring the books so that I could focus on the content of the videos and make updates as necessary.

In the last two weeks, I don’t think I ever opened the books again to read, that is how much confidence I had on my notes. The only time I opened books now was to update my knowledge if I got questions wrong on any of the mocks and then would update my notes again with the newly gained knowledge from the books. So notes will help you avoid going through the books and save time (and boredom!).

6. Saket’s Videos and iZenBridge forum – I cannot say this enough, Saket’s videos and the iZenBridge forum were the most important factor in me clearing my exam. My preparation was actually 60% Saket’s videos and 40% books; that is how much detailed and helpful the lectures are. You don’t need to watch them 3 times or 4 times but I watched some of them 10 times! Some of them I watched just once based on my understanding of the area being taught. I would be in office, and during my lunch break, I would start watching the videos. If I had a half hour break and didn’t have any work, I’ll watch another video. Going to the loo? Videos! Not feeling sleepy enough and want to make the most of another half hour? Videos! Going for a long drive due to some work? Listen to the videos as audios in the car. If you are going to pay and get the course then why not make the most of it. There were many questions on the exam that I was able to answer because I was able to visualize Saket’s videos in my mind and refresh the material.

I didn’t ask many questions on the forum but that is because I never had to; almost all my doubts had been asked by someone else before and I was able to search the forum and get responses from experts like Manish (Btw, Manish was very prompt and detailed in his response to the one query I had and I thank him for that.) The forum is very active and the experts will provide answers to your questions as soon as they can with as much detail as required.

…And that’s it! That’s how I cracked the PMP exam. I would like to thank Saket and Manish for the videos and detailed responses on the forum and Seema and Namita for help with the application submission process and any other doubts I had around the course. I would recommend iZenBridge to anyone and everyone without hesitation, the whole team is very professional and helpful. Below is a quick summary of the books I read and the tests I gave:

Study Material -
PMBoK – Read twice
Rita and Head First – One time each (Head First in detail and Rita chapters from here and there)
Saket’s Videos – As many times as needed
My notes – Summary of all of the above

Mock tests –
iZenBridge – All quizzes and tests and full length mocks (very helpful in clearing your concepts)
Oliver 75 questions and 175 Questions – There are some topics in Oliver that are not in any study material. Don’t be disheartened if you get them wrong, I did too. If we know everything else, then these few topics don’t really matter (Free)
Simplilearn Online test – 200 Q good quality (Free)
Head First Book - end test (200 Q) and all Chapter end tests
Rita all chapter end tests – Good quality
Cristopher Scordo - Did all questions in every test, good quality questions
Edwel 75 questions – Easier than others

If you are scoring 80% or above on most of these mocks by the last week of your preparation, then you should be in good shape.

Best of Luck!
Posts: 20
Joined: Wed Mar 07, 2018 12:57 pm

Re: 45 Days. Above Target in All 5 Domains. Here is how I did it...

Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:49 am

Congratulations !
Posts: 2513
Joined: Fri Jul 11, 2014 11:57 am

Re: 45 Days. Above Target in All 5 Domains. Here is how I did it...

Thu May 24, 2018 5:49 am

Posts: 2883
Joined: Sat Jan 04, 2014 3:55 pm

Re: 45 Days. Above Target in All 5 Domains. Here is how I did it...

Thu May 24, 2018 6:03 pm

congratulations, well deserved.

How many Agile questions did you received in exam?
Manish P
PMP, PMI - ACP, SAFe Agilist ... ification/

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