Are you a busy project or program manager who wants to obtain the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification from the Project Management Institute but you’re worried about passing the exam or clueless about how to even approach it? Earning the prestigious PMP credential may be easier than you realize.
Think of this as another project. Apply the project management methodology process groups to your exam preparation: initiate, plan, execute, and monitor and control. Then close and celebrate!
At the beginning of each project, you identify a business problem to be solved or a business opportunity to be exploited. You initiate the project. Follow the same process in deciding to become a PMP: analyze your personal and professional situation to determine if certification makes sense.
As the sponsor of this project, you should officially commit your time and effort. Take ownership of your project. Of course, deciding to become a PMP is merely the first step in obtaining the certification.
Follow project initiation with planning to decide how to accomplish your primary objective. Build a work breakdown structure (WBS) to identify the tasks and resources needed to accomplish your goal. While the primary objective is to take and pass the PMP exam, there are other key tasks. You may want to join PMI, which will allow you to save a substantial amount of money on application costs. Other preliminary tasks include documenting your project management experience, completing the application, obtaining the required validation, studying and scheduling the exam.
As you work toward your goal, execute the tasks on your WBS. Research the many options for preparing for an exam like this. Register for a formal class, participate in online study sessions, study by yourself and take practice tests that simulate the actual exam or any combination of such tasks. As with any other project, the execution phase is when you do the actual work and expend the most time, energy and effort. Take this project seriously!
Since a project has a defined beginning and end, establish a schedule for this project too. In particular, set the date for the final deliverable — a passed exam — and begin working toward that end. Work your way through PMI’s, “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)” and other study materials. Approach the tasks in sequence.
Learn the process groups and knowledge areas. Practice using the earned value formulas and know how to interpret the results of your calculations. Understand and apply concepts in situational questions. As you’re doing all this, make sure to measure your progress toward reaching your goal.
Monitor and Control
Check your progress by following the monitoring and controlling stage of the project management cycle. As you practice on tests that are very similar to the standardized exam, check your answers. Work to achieve a score of 70 percent or better on each practice exam. At least once during your preparations, check your internal schedule and stamina. Sit for a four-hour practice test of 200 questions and then check your answers. Successfully doing this will allay your fear of not being able to finish the exam on time. When you think you’re ready, schedule the exam.
Finally, take the certification exam to close this project. Arrive at the testing center early enough to allow yourself to settle in before taking the exam. Use the blank paper supplied by the testing center to complete a “brain dump.” Write down the key concepts that are crammed into your head. The earned value formulas, the chart of process groups, contract types and matching procurement documents are some of the concepts you may want to capture. Doing this will provide you with a legal cheat sheet and it will reinforce that you really do know the material.
Then, just before taking the test, take the online tutorial to learn how to mark answers that you want to revisit before submitting your answers and how to display graphics that may be referenced in the questions. You are allotted 15 minutes for the tutorial, but it seldom takes that long. So, use part of this time to complete your brain dump.
Remember your success with the practice tests and your real-world experiences as you “think like PMI” to answer the questions. Pace yourself as you did with the 200-question practice tests. Remember to breathe. When you complete the exam the answers will be checked and your results will be displayed in approximately 30 seconds – perhaps the longest 30 seconds of your life.
Finally, do what you normally do when you successfully complete projects: celebrate! Do something special for yourself, something you’ve planned ahead of time. Smile to indicate that you planned, executed and completed another successful project. This one you did for yourself!
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