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Thursday, May 17, 2012

What NOT TO DO and What TO DO while preparing for PMP.

By Makarand Hardas, MBA, PMP

I have passed the PMP exam on 7th May 2012, so thought of sharing Lessons Learned out of my PMP exam preparation experience.

The examination emphasizes on testing the applied skills and knowledge of the project manager. Situational questions and answers are structured in such a way that only experienced Project Manager can make out the best choice for the given situation. The examination is a kind of litmus test and with the objective to filter out those who does not have relevant experience.

I decided to go for PMP in January this year and opted for the 7th May as an exam date, as my registration was about to expire on 10th May (in May 2011 I enrolled) and didn’t really want to take a 2nd attempt, so decided to clear the exam in the 1st attempt itself. Actual study I started around late February / early March and put myself on a full throttle during April

My Roadmap to PMP

Week 1 - PMBOK Preface, Glossary, PMBOK - Chapter 1-4

Week 2 - PMBOK - Chapter 5-12 and Appendix A-F,

Week 3 - PMP Exam Prep, Rita M - Chapter 1-5

Week 4 - PMP Exam Prep, Rita M - Chapter 5-13

Week 5 - Quick Revision of all Knowledge Areas using PMBOK

Week 6 - Knowledge area wise Mock Exams, Review answers, Skimmed through PMP Exam Prep, PMBOK

Week 7 - PMP Exam Prep, Rita M - Chapter 14, Skimmed through PMP Exam Prep, PMBOK, Online and offline mock PMP exams. One day of break before appearing for the final exam

Though I feel 7 week is not at all adequate for through preparation, you need minimum around 8-10 weeks based on the experience and time available during weekdays. I stretched long on weekends around 10-12 hours to compensate for starting late.

What Not To Do

1. Do not put too much of emphasis on memorization techniques. Exam really tests your skills through clarity on subject matter and experience and not memory.

2. Do not over study, as it could lead to confusion. Indication is you start seeing two correct answers for one question.

3. Do not solely rely on single book, must have minimum 2 or more books for reference.

4. Do not skip reading PMBOK, its a must read at the beginning.

5. Do not directly jump to knowledge area chapters. i.e.PMBOK chapter 4 onwards.

6. Do not just rely on single source of online exams. Also do not start for mock exams unless you finish with minimum 2 readings.

7. Do not expect that wording of questions would be same or close to what you have seen in the mock exams. It could be totally different but underlying concept would be same.

8. Do not ignore ITTO's. Knowing ITTO's is must and there are many questions around ITTO's. See also To Do

9. Do not miss numerical from Cost, Schedule, Time and Communication management knowledge areas. Level of difficulty is moderate and if you are prepared then you can quickly get few more correct answers.

10. Do not over prepare just before the exam day. You need time to digest / process every information you have come across as part of study.

11. Do not get overwhelmed by what your peers or friends talk about PMP exam. Be yourself

12. Do not underestimate as well as overestimate the PMP exam. It is designed to test your experience, knowledge and not really intelligence.

13. Do not rush to answer the question; probability of choosing wrong answer is high.

14. Do not go by gut filling, probability of making mistake is high.

What To Do

1. Try to understand the whole philosophy behind the Project Management.

2. Try to co-relate it with your experience. If you are not experienced then try to visualize the situation.

3. Do not skip reading PMBOK - pages 1-76. PMBOK page 43 is most important. Revisit page 43 after finishing every chapter.

4. Take online mock exams from different sources, good news is there are multiple free resources. Start for mock exam only when you are adequately prepared

5. I would suggest to use BrainBOK, PM Fasttrack and Headfirst

6. ITTO's are difficult to memorize but easy to understand and co-related with previous and next set of activities

7. Develop your own theme and technique to walk through ITTO's

8. Visit ITTO at least one in a day for minimum 10 days. You will start seeing the inter relationships among Inputs, Outputs and Tools and Techniques

9. Solve all the exercises from RMC book religiously. This is very important for all but especially who are on accelerated path.

10. Take knowledge area wise exam from PM fastrack after you finish the chapter exercise.

11. There are around 10-25% numerical in the exams. Prepare for numerical early in your study program. In exam you can get sure shot quick and correct answers, if prepared well. Personal advise, do not miss it, as I found those easiest. Sometimes numerical data among few questions is inter connected so just be little alert.

12. Do visit PMP sites, forums to read other people experience. You may find it useful.

13. Put minimum 2 hours on weekdays and minimum 6-8 hours on weekends for around 8-10 weeks to thoroughly prepare for the exam.

14. During initial study from PMBOK, follow the below mentioned pattern for each topic,

Read > Understand > Analyze > Apply ( your work) > Revise

15. Develop the habit of sitting for long hours (min 4 hours) with full attention and focus

16. Take minimum 7 hours of sleep during the last few days.

17. Make sure you don’t develope the headaches during the mock/real exams. It indicates the increased stress level, follow relaxation techniques like long breathing.

18. Right from beginning mold your mind for time bound preparation, as well as for reading exam questions. Do not spend long on one topic so as one question during preparation and exam. You can always revisit difficult areas during preparation or at the end of exam.

19. Long questions are difficult to grasp in one reading. Read second paragraph or last few lines in the second reading.

20. Read choices from bottom to top sometimes. It helps to quickly eliminate obviously wrong choices.

Other Useful Tips :

1. I followed writing practice around important concepts, formulae, ITTO's. It helped me to clearly understand those for exam and even in developing my own theme

2. Though people say to prepare in group but I like to be alone while studying. Those like to be alone do visit various online information, it helps.

3. In case of accelerated preparation mode, refer two books concurrently. Mark the important concepts, information from either one. It comes handy during the revision.

4. Solve minimum 10 to 15 numericals of each type. Revisit the same during the revision.

All the Best!!!

PMI, PMP, CAPM, PMBOK, PM Network and the PMI Registered Education Provider logo are registered trademarks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.


  1. Thank you sharing such a useful information and wonderful tips.

    One can make out how thoroughly you prepared for the PMP exam. Your inputs would certainly help for the people like me who are daunting on this.

    Thanks, Deepali

  2. good one

  3. Thanks! these are short, simple and very important tips.

  4. Thanks, Would be definitely useful for me soon. - Vishal

  5. Mahesh LahurikarMay 21, 2012 at 2:37 AM


    First of all congratulations to you for completing PMP certification. This is great initiative to put all the things you experienced together so that others can benefit. I really liked the way you categorized it and put together every minute detail.

    I agree that it should be dedicated studies for 8-10 weeks and we must focus more on practical implementation rather than remembering theory part.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Mahesh Lahurikar

  6. Thanks Makarand for sharing your experiences. I am taking the exam on 8th June. I hope it goes well the 1st time.

  7. Really very useful information, although I am not eligible to write this exam yet, but definitely use your tips, when I will write PMP :)

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.


  8. Good summary. Very useful.

  9. Hi Makarand,

    A really helpful information for PMP preparation.

  10. Thanks Makarand for sharing this information. It will really help us in preparing for PMP exams.

    Keep posting.