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SC Foster: Passed Sept 27th First Try

Started studying for the PMP on June 9th and passed the exam this morning on September 27th. (just over 15 weeks) or 3 1/2 months.

The score was 3P’s and 2 MP’s.

This was my first attempt at passing the PMP and I have to say that it was one of the more difficult exams to prepare for and pass than I’ve ever experienced.

I have an Aeronautical Engineering degree (yes I worked for NASA) a Masters and an MBA, so I’ve been through more than a few tests.

The reason I state all this is to make sure people understand this isn’t something that you just breeze through. You have to commit to a serious study regimen to prepare. What I did was purchase Crowe’s “How to Pass On Your First Try”, Rita’s “PMP Exam Prep” and O’Reilly “Head Fist PMP”. I also used the PMBOK guide. The O’Reilly book wasn’t to my liking so I dropped using it after the first couple of chapters.

First I read the entire PMBOK guide. Then all the chapters of Rita. Then all the chapters of Crowe. No notes, or attempt to memorize or commit anything to memory. Just read them in their entirety. I also had the audio for the Crowe book but found it to be marginally helpful, so I stopped listening to it.

Second, I then used the Crowe book as the main study guide. It suited me the best and wasn’t as wordy as Rita. I studied each chapter and did the questions for each. I then did the questions for the corresponding chapter in Rita. Anything I got wrong, I studied both Crowe and Rita to find the answer.

I started out trying to memorize a whole lot more than I should have (ITTO’s) and this REALLY slowed down the studying. I could have shaved month off the process at least, if I had not tried to do this.

DO NOT TRY TO MEMORIZE ITTO’s (just my opinion).

I would say the biggest contribution to passing was Rita’s process chart in Chapter 3 (page 41). I didn’t bother with any of the processes outside of the Planning group. Those are the only ones where timing is important (what comes before what), so I created a way to memorize just that list.

I was able to recreate it on the scratch paper during the exam, which was a HUGE advantage. I grouped the items as:

HP DR SS WP DT

WBS AL ND ER TC

CP DS DB QS PI

RR PC RP IT PD

CP FP DB GA KM

If you compare those letters to the list, you can see how you would be able to recreate all of the process names.

I also memorized the obligatory formulas for CV, SV, CPI, SPI, EAC, ETC, VAC & TCPI. Then Point of Total Assumption (PTA).

Last bit of memorization was creating a grid of all of the processes (Process Framework). Knowledge areas go down the left side (INTEG, SCOPE, TIME, COST, QA, HR, COMM, RISK, PROC) using the number of processes for each knowledge area as a phone number 656-334-0564 (take out the zero).

Across the top, is listed the Process Groups (INT, PLAN, EXEC, M/C, CL) with the corresponding number of processes in each column (2,20,8,10,2). The first side of the laminated Crowe quick reference guide, that came with the book is what gave me this idea. Do this in a spreadsheet and you’ll see what I mean. Now it’s just a matter of filling in how many processes go in each resulting square (cell). I used another “phone number” to memorize the number of processes in each cell for the Planning column (20 items). The number is “135-211-1511”, with the last “1” filling in the top cell in the EXEC column. I would then practice filling in the squares with the corresponding numbers. Took about a week, and I could do it in my head.

So to recap, the things I memorized to write down on the scratch paper in the exam, were the list of Planning processes in order, the formulas and the Process Framework grid. With those items, I was able to logically go through all of the “what comes before what”, or “what do you do next”, or “what process are you in” type of questions. For instance, if the question relates to RISK, a quick glance at the Process Framework grid and you know there are only processes in Planning and one in M/C. No guessing. Again, I would have shaved a month off the whole ITTO processes, if I had come up with this approach sooner.

Once I had these three sets of items figured out, I used them for studying. I did a quick review of all the Crowe chapters (third time through) and did all the problems again. Then I was done with reading the chapters.

Lastly, I got a hold of the RMC PMP 1500 question database (simulation software) V6. I know they are up to V7 ($300) but I was able to get it used. I then worked though all 1500 questions, by knowledge area, using primarily the Crowe book to re-study the questions I got wrong. Doing poorly in RISK and PROCUREMENT, I re-read those chapters in the Rita book. I then redid all the questions I had gotten wrong in the database, scoring a passing grade using only those harder questions.

i did not do any other online questions, notes, books, study guides, etc. Just Rita, Crowe, one reading of the PMBOK, the Crowe study questions and the RMC PMP database test bank. I did have a subscription to Crowe’s online test question database, but did not use it at all.

Registered for the 8am test when going through the RMC PMP database wrong answer group.

Showed up (here in the USA) at Prometric about 20 minutes early. They have lockers, and I brought some snacks/water. You are required to remove even your watch and empty your pockets, so don’t plan on bringing anything into the exam.

Took the tutorial and blasted through it, so I could preserve as much of the time to fill out the scratch paper with my three memorized groups of items, before using up any of the 4 hours for the exam. Turned out I needed all the time so that was a great tip in the Crowe book. Tried to stick to a plan of 75 questions in 45 minutes then a break but ran over an hour. Took a 5 minute break anyway to use the restroom, stretch, get a drink of water and a snack. Concentrated on moving quicker through the next 75 questions but again took longer than I wanted. Still, I took another 5 minute restroom break (drank too much coffee before the exam). Planned on doing the final 50 questions then reviewing the marked items by the end of the three hour mark but only got the 50 questions done and was well past three hours.

Forced myself to take another break (which I’m glad I did). Spent the last block of time going through the marked questions carefully, only changing the answers for about 10-20%. At the end of this I had only 6 minutes left, so I clicked the finish button. At that point I was fried and would not trust anything I rushed through in 6 minutes.

The screen of the test terminal went white and nothing happened…….for a long time…..scared the crap out of me. Finally a box popped up (looked like an error message) with the Prometric logo. Waited some more, waived the survey, waited some more…..can I have the answer already?……please God let me pass…..wait some more…..Finally a screen pops up and it takes a way too long to figure out I’ve passed. I can safely say that the studying process has improved my PM knowledge and was worth all the work.

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