Submitted by Cory Camic
As a recently certified PMP®, I have been honored with the task of documenting my experience. I successfully passed the PMP® exam on March 31st of this year, and it was simultaneously the most humbling and rewarding experience of my career. First off, I will say that I did not think I had the experience to even qualify for the PMP®. Until recently, my project management experience was very informal. I have a background in sales, and joined Solarity in June of 2014, where I was asked if I would be interested in pursuing the PMP® certification. That’s where my journey began.
Let’s start with the education requirement. To qualify for the PMP®, you must complete 35 hours of project management education. I needed a little more than that! I don’t want this to sound like too much of a commercial, but I started by taking Solarity’s Best Practices in Project Management course in order to get a good foundation and learn the lingo. To put the timeframe of my preparation in perspective, I took the exam on March 31, 2015, and I took this first class in September 2014. Fast-forward a couple of months, and I participated in Solarity’s PMP® Exam Prep course in November 2014. When I took the class, I had a goal of taking the exam by mid-January. Unfortunately, life got in the way. Due to the holidays and work commitments, I was unable to devote the study time needed. Thus, I did not meet my original goal.
Now let’s move onto the experience requirement. In order to qualify for the PMP® certification, you must have 4,500 hours of project management experience if you have a bachelor’s degree, or 7,500 hours of experience without the bachelor’s degree. Initially, I was skeptical that I could meet this requirement. After all, my project management experience had been very informal. But when you really think about it, we all use project management skills on a daily basis whether we have the title or not. So, in December of last year I sat down to document my experience. What I realized going through that process (and I had been thinking about tracking my experience for the previous several months) is that I easily could meet the required hours. Prior to joining Solarity, I worked for a technology training company for 9 years. During my tenure there, I sold several large projects that I ended up managing as there was no one to completely turn them over to once the sales process was completed. I was the only person who knew all the “requirements” (as I now know the correct term) of the various projects. Looking back, I now realize that I was often times serving as the project manager, business analyst, and SME for most of those projects. In the end, I spent about 10 hours documenting that experience. I also reached out to each of the individuals that I had listed as contacts either from my former employer or the clients I was working with to let them know that they may be contacted to verify my time spent working on the various projects I listed in my application.
After getting through the holidays and the start of the new year, I realized at the beginning of February that I needed to set an exam date to motivate me to do my final preparation. In early February, I set a goal of attaining my certification by the end of March, and took the bold step of scheduling my exam for March 31st. At the time, I was nowhere near ready for the exam, but I needed a target to shoot for. I also added the exam to my public work calendar and wrote the date in LARGE print on the white board in my office for all to see. As February progressed, I began adding preparation milestones to my white board, such as Saturday study blocks and practice exams. In the end, I spent about 80 – 100 hours outside of my education time studying for the exam.
I used a variety of study materials in my preparation for the exam. Much of my foundation came from attending the classes, but also from attending PMI® chapter meetings. Other materials I utilized heavily during my studying included:
- A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide, 5th Edition)
- Rita Mulcahy’s PMP® Exam Prep, Eighth Edition
- VMEdu PMP® Gold Plan (online course material)
I read through the PMBOK® Guide cover-to-cover, and also did a thorough reading of the Rita book, heavily utilizing the chapter quizzes. The online content helped to reinforce the concepts from my reading, but also included 4 full-length practice exams. In the end, I had to block a lot of time for studying. I was coming into work early to study and on most Saturdays throughout February and March.
For my final preparation, I took a full-length practice exam on the Saturday before my exam and then spent several hours going back through the questions I missed. I then took another full-length practice exam the day before my exam, and followed the same process.
On the morning of the exam, I ate a light, but protein-packed breakfast. While eating my breakfast, I studied the “dump sheet” I had prepared with all of the key things that I was having trouble retaining, such as many of the formulas. Once you arrive at the testing facility, you cannot take anything into the testing booth, or take anything from your locker. You are allowed breaks, but cannot access your locker. Be sure to leave a drink on top of the lockers to utilize during your breaks. Other tips that I would give include the following:
- You are allowed 15 minutes for a system review before starting your actual test time. The testing environment is very intuitive. Use this time to do your “brain dump” on the paper provided by the test center.
- Use the noise cancelling headphones provided. My exam was held in a large room with at least 10 other individuals taking various exams.
- Take breaks. You have 4 hours to complete the exam. Manage your time and take a couple of breaks to reset and calm your nerves.
- Mark any questions you are unsure about and save time at the end to review these questions.
- All exams are different, but I saw many questions on Quality, Risk, and Stakeholder management. There were also several questions on contracts.
- Don’t stress…keep in mind that you “only” have to answer 61% of the scored questions correctly in order to pass the exam.
- Remember that you are in “PMI® Land” for the exam where the project manager typically has the authority, and you are managing multi-year, multi-million dollar projects. This is typically not your reality, but it is essential that you put yourself in that mind frame to pass the exam.
If you are interested in pursuing the PMP® certification, Solarity has two (2) upcoming classes that would both help prepare you for the exam and meet the education requirement.