Are Boot Camps Necessary?

AreBootCampsNecessary78747583blogIn my introduction blog, “Let’s Get Started,” I said I was going to write about a variety of issues. It’s never been difficult for me to have an opinion — just ask my friends. The challenge is which issue of the day to address. Last week while running a Project Management Professional (PMP) preparation boot camp for Global Knowledge, I looked around the room as students completed practice questions, and I had all kinds of ideas. These hard-working professionals pay a lot of money to attend a grueling week of preparation. Maybe I shouldn’t ask a question that so clearly affects my livelihood, but I had to ask myself if taking a boot camp is really worth it.

First, some background: There were over 20 people in the classroom. As I always do, I began by asking the participants to quickly introduce themselves. What I really wanted to know was what Project Management training they had already attended. It didn’t take long to learn that only one person had taken the suite of Global Knowledge courses that are both built around the PMI (Project Management Institute) methodology while focusing on how to be a better Project Manager (PM). The remaining participants had either not taken any courses in the last five years or had taken in-house or college/university continuing education courses.

The Global Knowledge courseware methodically works through each chapter of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition. At the end of each chapter, students complete 25 relevant questions. Typically, grades range from 55–80 percent. I caution potential exam-takers that they need to consistently get 80 percent on all exams in order to be confident in being successful (PMI likes to call it proficient) in the exam.

After a group completes about three chapters, reality starts to settle in. Individuals who are fairly new to Project Management come to realize the work that they do at the office isn’t nearly as structured as the PMI methodology. Those who have been PMs for many years approach me to discuss their frustration. Despite having much success with their projects, they cannot seem to meet the 80 percent benchmark. Even the student from last week’s boot camp who had taken six courses said he wished he’d committed to taking the PMP exam sooner so he could take advantage of what he had previously learned.

I like to tell attendees my own story from when I took the exam. I “worked my tail off” to pass the exam, and had I worked as hard during my post-secondary education, I likely would have achieved much higher marks (just don’t tell my kids this). I also tell participants that my “study buddy” didn’t find it difficult to digest the methodology. He was simply more academic and a better learner than I was.

As the week progresses, participants in my boot camp learn the techniques on how to read questions by focusing on the critical elements within the questions. They learn how to avoid distracting elements and eliminate true but incorrect answers. They discover how to pace themselves for the marathon that is the PMP exam.

Let’s be honest — you can approach studying in many ways. Potential PMP exam-takers can buy study guides that walk readers through the PMBOK. Others have the ability to nearly memorize the PMBOK® Guide. And, there are tons of we-promise-you-will-pass classes available at discounted prices. Any of these styles can work, but for my money and time I want something that looks like Global Knowledge’s industry-best study material: more than 1000 questions with answers that are explained, and a knowledgeable facilitator who will motivate me to succeed.

Your career development is on the line. Do you really want to gamble with anything less?

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