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M Gurunath: PMP as of May 13, 2010

As of 13 May, 2010 I am PMP v4 Certified. I have to say the experience was very satisfying and relieving.

I would like to share my experience with all.

I took my contact hours training exactly one month back and thats when my study started.
The training gave structure on how to go about my study.

I used Rita Book, Fast Trac and occasionally I used audio flash cards.

Rita Reading First Round
First reading of Rita could be quite difficult. Some times during the reading you might feel the book discouraging you, may be because you didnt understand what it mentioned or because you didnt do a certain process in your company or even since you picked a wrong answer. Don’t worry, it just means you have a knowledge gap and you need to concentrate on the topic and fill it up. Have the goal of being PMP in sight.
During the first read, mark all the important points and points that were difficult to understand.
Diligently answer all the questions at the end of each chapter as soon as you complete the chapter. Do not guess the answer, if you don’t know it leave it blank.
All the questions that you answered wrong, mark it in the book and DO NOT read the reason given for the correct answer.
Maintain an Excel sheet for marks obtained in each topic.

Rita first round reading can take the most time, so don’t worry if its taking too long. On an average each topic reading should take around 3 ~ 4 hours of dedicated effort. Some of the topics like Communications, HR and Professional behavior should NOT be skipped or given lesser importance.

One problem with Rita book (In my honest opinion, might not be the same for others), is that the book is not organiszd. In the sense we can’t understand when the heading of the topic is in fact the next process she is talking about, or sub part of the earlier topic, or just additional information regarding the topic she is already discussing. It would have been lot more helpful if she has some kind of hierarchical numbering scheme for topics. That would have given readers a better perspective. At least the first time I read I understood the individual topics, but couldn’t knit them together.

Other problem that I faced was, during my contact hours training I realised that ITTOs were the foundation for understanding
But Rita doesn’t concentrate on ITTOs, at least not all of them. That confused me a bit.


I was warned by others that PMBOK reading is a sleeping pill. Hence I was very wary to touch it. But because of the above constraints in Rita, I decided to read PMBOK.
But in my experience, as a formal book, PMBOK does a good job in explaining all topics. More over it has precise definitions to each word used in Project Management, that helps us clarify the real meaning rather than the informal/loose usage that we do during our work.
Concentrate on ITTOs and meaning of each word that you cant understand.
Again, in my opinion, ITTOs have to be memorised and are not very “logical” to understand and replicate. Refer to my ITTO section.
But then again I am very bad at memorizing and that showed up in the exam as well :(.

I joined, tracked a few forums where typical questions were discussed. Some of the forums can be found in my resources section. I tried my best to answer then off and on forum. It did a lot of value add to me. It exposed me to other points of view, exposed me to other interpretations of same wordings etc.
I took back the knowledge and updated my own knowledge gaps.

Question Banks

Attempted a few question banks (found in resources section) including Rita. Time yourself on answering and try to develop some techniques to answer lengthy questions, because according to my calculation they ate up most of my time reserves.

Also sitting for 4 hours and being attentive and alert was the second most challenging thing. I normally used to end up getting the answers at the end wrong. So I decided on taking breaks in between and do some relaxing activity for around 3~5 mins and get back. That helped me, it may help you too, try it.

Some of the questions in the question banks may look straight forward but you may get them wrong because in reality they needed deep thinking. That sometimes discourages, but again take it as a learning and knowledge gap, fix it and move forward.
Sometimes the questions might have words (not answers) that you never heard about. Thats the ONLY time let your logic and PM experience kick in.

Re-read Rita in parallel, start with topics you fared badly in your last read and during answering questions during current read check for
Questions that you got wrong in all previous reads – This is a real big knowledge gap. to concentrate on
Questions that you sometimes get right and sometimes wrong – There is some confusion in your understanding
Questions that you get right majority times but not this time – Is this question one of the last questions? Did you get this wrong due to wavering concentration? Audit your relaxation process, is it working as expected, does it need an update?
During all the above activity (including question banks, forums etc), do the following
Keep updating your knowledge gap notes/database
Have screenshots/copy-paste of all difficult questions you came across.
Have an update of all the unknown words you came across
Have an update of which topic you are scoring the least from the marks Excel you maintained earlier.
Pre-Last day preparation

If you did all the above, last day would be an easy day (yes even if you were an Engineering student). Divide your time between
Reading knowledge gaps
Important definitions (end of PMBOK)
Questions you got wrong
Points you noted in Rita
Important formulas
Professional behaviour chapter
Understanding of types of org (Functional, Matrix, Projectised)
Roles of each type of stakeholder
Most importantly, relax and (try to) have a good nights sleep

When I am writing this, I am making references to Mumbais Prometric center perspective, it might be different for other centers.

In case you don’t know where it is, and didnt have the time to visit the site before hand, then it is a bit difficult to figure out. At least in my case, I got a bit panicky since I was heavily dependent on Google Maps for help, and I couldn’t find it.

But then Wikimapia came to my rescue.

Here are some tips :
Plan to reach at least an hour earlier. In my case, exam was scheduled for 1 pm but I was asked to be ready by 12.30 pm
If you plan to study after reaching the center (like other exams), its not going to happen. They dont allow that.
You dont require pen, pencil, watch, calculator or any other material to be carried into the test center.
You would have to empty your pockets before you go in.
You would be provided a locker for your material
Most importantly, carry two proofs of IDs, even though the mail says they require just one (Passport & Pancard in my case). This and your locker key are the only things that you are allowed to carry inside (not even your kerchief)
If you brought some food stuff to eat during the breaks you plan to take (of course exam time would be running), that has be kept separately outside not in the locker.
Goes without saying you cant carry your mobile, and it should be off or silent in your locker
Once they call you inside for the test
You will have to present your id, and sign in-time (and sign out time) each time you walk in or out of the place
You would be provided with two pencils, calculator and a rough sheet booklet ( it contain 6 sheets and they do take them back if you ask for more and at the end of the exam:) )
You would be provided instructions on how to answer questions
All this and the four hours of exam is audio and video recorded
During the exam
First when they turn on the machine, you would be asked if your name is the same as they expect, click Yes
From now on your name appears on the top of the screen.
There is also a Headset which you can wear, its best to use it.It blocks out all other noise from outside and helps concentrate. In my case it was a blessing, the lady in next cubicle had the habit to read question aloud!!!
They provide a tutorial on how to answer the exam, if you had used Fast Track you already know how it works. It is for 15 mins, so go till the last slide(it wont take more than 5 mins), but dont click “End” use that time to dump all the things you want dump on rough sheet (typically formulas, difficult/important ITTOs, points to remember…anything that weighs in your mind). This frees up your mind for concentrating on the exam
After the 15 mins, there is no other alert, your exam starts, first question pops on the screen
Read the questions slowly till the end
Read ALL answers given
Use technique you developed for reading wordy questions (Read answers first, read last line of question first, what ever works for you)
Don’t hesitate to mark questions for review, its better safe than sorry
In my opinion, first 20 questions are the toughest and take most time to answer (this is what I faced and I received feedback from others too), so do not worry about time or get nervous because you cant answer
Don’t leave any question unanswered. Even if you dont know, guess answer and mark the question
Again from my interviews with others and my own experience, 4 hours for answers is much more than is required. So don’t worry about time.
Typically it takes no more than 2.5 hours to answer all questions.
After first round, do not get dejected if you marked many questions or dont have confidence about many questions. Remember 25 questions are dummy questions, and that is a LOT
Start next round use the “Review all marked questions” option, this typically goes fast. You might be surprised why you marked some obvious questions in the first round. This might happen because you were thinking about the previous question when answering the first time.
This round typically eliminates more than 60% marked questions.
You might still have time left. Do not finish the exam.
Review the marked questions again, these are the real complex ones. You might have sudden brain waves, or remember an funny incident relating to this topic and you might get the answer.
At the end of exam, you still might have marked questions. Dont worry it doesnt effect your grading process
After the Exam
To increase the anxiety, they dont display the result immediately. They display a survey at the end, regarding the center etc.
You may choose to end it, or complete it
Once thats done, the screen goes BLANK. That is expected behaviour dont panic.
Then it displays “Congratulations … “. I didnt read the rest part. This means all the hours and hours of preparation, the tradeoffs you made to your precious time has bore sweet fruit and you are now PMP CERTIFIED
Call the supervisor, he/she does the rest.
You are required to sign out.
Supervisor congratulates you, gives you a print out that is to be used as a certificate till you receive it from PMI (which they say takes 6 weeks)
On they way out empty your locker, and don’t forget to take any eatables you carried (I forgot this part 🙁 )

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