PMP Study Plan: Lessons Learned to Pass

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Study to Pass the PMP

Hi fellow (aspiring) PM’s! By the end you’ll know how to create your own study plan to pass your PMP exam the first time. Let’s get right into my lessons learned for the “Pass My PMP in One Try” project 🙂

Now if you are following me regularly you know that I mainly focus on emotional well-being and PCOS. But today I want to specifically share what has consumed my life for the better part of 6 months… The PMP (Project Management Professionals) certification exam!

I want to start by saying that the structure for the PMP exam changed on January 2nd. Be sure to study the correct material! According to my market research, they are continuing the use of PMBOK 6th edition. But the exam is more agile based. I don’t fully understand this change but hey, these are the facts and I am simply informing you.

Now, back to my lessons learned:

First things first, don’t get caught by the Parkinson’s Law like I did. This law states that the time you allot to something is the total amount of time it will take. (This term may be on your PMP exam, so it wouldn’t hurt to remember it).

If 8 weeks is your goal to study, by week 4 you should be deciding on a testing date. Same goes for any allotted time frame, halfway through you should evaluate your knowledge and. If you determine you’re halfway there then you purchase and schedule your testing date! 

Originally I had planned to take the test in late July/early August. I signed up with my PMP coach Lanier Logan to help me apply and create a study plan. I got approved in June to take the exam. Buuutt… After a lot of negative self talk and imposter syndrome I ended up only studying for like 2 weeks. I knew I had one year to take it so why rush right? (wrong!!)

Things didn’t get real for me until I bought my exam and realized I actually needed to know the material I had been obsessively devoting my life to. I took a social media break in October to focus on realigning myself with the goals i had set in January 2020. Mid-October I got some clarity on what I wanted for my next steps. So I started seriously studying for 1-4 hours a day at the end of October. 

But I only had a general plan of taking my exam at the end of November-ish. Nothing was official until I bought the exam and scheduled the date. 

Let’s get real now

To be honest, I didn’t start with a PMP study plan. But I knew I needed to learn the basics so I read Head First and PMBOK Guide 6th edition simultaneously. I worked on a chapter a day or spread the chapter out over 2-3 days depending on how my brain was digesting the content. For example, If chapter 4 of PMBOK was Project Management Integration then I would read that and follow up with the Integration chapter in Head First. 

I completed every assignment in the Head First chapters, including each exam. My notes were a mix of key information to remember and terms. One thing I didn’t want to do was write down the definitions “in my own words”. Because I didn’t know how PMI would phrase it. On any other test or assignment I would write definitions using my lingo. After taking the PMP exam, knowing the definition inside and out, just as PMI has them, is key. You may learn differently than me. But I strongly suggest doing whatever method helps you grasp the bigger concept of each term.

Minor Regrets, no biggie though 🙂

What I regret is starting practice exams one week before my exam date. I learned about this reddit thread (or whatever they call it there), the week before my exam and it helped me tremendously. After reading others’ experiences with the PMP exam, I finally committed to a date and felt allll the pressure. It was at that moment I knew I was definitely impacted by the Parkinson’s law. 

Based on some of the threads I decided to purchase PMtraining.com. Many prefer prepcast. But those questions confused the life out of me. I took the free version of prepcast, and reading one question took like 30 minutes to even understand. Okay maybe that’s being a bit dramatic but still. Prepcast questions were far more difficult than the actual exam. The free version did challenge me in a good way. It helped me learn how to recognize what the question is asking asked even if the sentence is lengthy.

The PMtraining site had more straight forward questions, and thankfully my exam was similar to their formatting. I only had a week to use it, so I didn’t take all of the questions they had to offer on their site. That’s my fault, you win some you lose some.

How did this workout for me?

After reading 13 chapters in the PMBOK and HeadFirst, as well as taking practice exams, I just went for it! And I passed!!! 🙂 

I really struggled in the planning and initiating areas on all of the practice tests that I took on any platform, including Joseph Phillips PDU course on udemy. 

PMI shows you how you performed once you receive your scores on a scale with something like: Above Target, Target, Needs Improvement, Below Target, and maybe one more. But a pass is a pass no matter how you slice the bread.

Side note:: Joseph Phillip’s course was also such a great intro to PMP, gave me the contact hours I needed to apply for my PMP, and also served as a great refresher during the last week of prep. 

My Ideal Study Plan:

If I could do it all over again this is how I would structure my study plan:

  • Only allot 5 weeks to study (I have a 9-5, work from home, and was able to get 2-4 hours on a good day). My weekends were completely devoted to studying. I studied until I couldn’t stand to read another letter.
  • Read through the PMBOK 6th edition that first week (personal choice, not for everyone, it’s really dry)
  • Read Head First and reference PMBOK when/if needed the second and third week
  • Start taking practice exams as soon as I finish both books week 3
  • Notice where I am strong and weak, then go through and refamiliarize myself on the content for weeks 4 and 5.
  • Pass that exam with ease!!

That’s all I have for you this time friends. Just and overview and an ideal study plan. In two weeks I will be posting another article that focuses on “Avoiding Burnout: Staying Motivated to Study and Pass the PMP Exam on The First Try”.

Lengthy title, but you know exactly what to expect. Sign up below to be notified when this is posted!

    Thanks for reading my lessons learned. Now go get that PMP study plan together so you can ace this exam!

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