If you have been a professional project manager for a number of years, then it is highly likely that you have considered earning your Project Management Professional (PMP®) credential. And why wouldn’t you? It is well known that the PMP certificate is not only a demonstration of your mastery of project management concepts, but it also shows that you have the dedication to take on a rigorous course of study. For some the task can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. The key to successfully navigating the exam process is to approach it like a project, which you already know how to do!
I want to share with you my four-step plan for earning your PMP credential. While your goal is passing the PMP exam, it will just be an abstract concept unless you have the systems and processes in place to make it a reality. Here are the steps to lead you to your goal:
Step 1: Assessment and Research
The first step in your project should be to conduct an assessment as to whether or not you are qualified to earn the PMP credential.
- If you have a four-year degree from an accredited college or university, then you must have:
- 36 months and 4,500 documentable hours of project experience
If you have a high school diploma or equivalent, then you must have:
- 60 months and 7,500 hours of project experience
There are time limitations on that experience, however. If your experience is more than eight years old it is no longer valid. Be sure to reference the PMP Credential Handbook, published by PMI in order to be sure that your experience meets all of the criteria. Once you cross that bridge, it’s time for Step 2.
Step 2: Document Your Project Experience
The last thing that you want to be worried about when you are ready to dive into the real work of your exam prep is scrambling to fill out the PMP application. In order to set the optimal conditions for submitting your application, you need to document your project experience now. Thinking about all of the projects that you have worked on over the last eight years may not be that tough, but here is the rub: if you were working on multiple, simultaneous projects, you can only count one of them at a time.
Here is another tip: although we both know that you were working 100-hour weeks while on that project, you can’t document more than 40 hours of project credit per week, per project. My suggestion is that documenting more than 2,000 hours of project experience in one calendar year is not something you should attempt. Besides, you must have 36 or 60 months of project experience, anyway. Do not try to show that you did 4,500 hours in 24 months. It won’t do you any good. Once all of your project experience is documented you are ready to cut and paste all of it into your application when you are ready to submit. But before you submit, you need to have a minimum of 35 contact hours of qualifying project management instruction. Which brings us to Step 3.
Step 3: Study
I wrote a white paper titled, Tips and Techniques to Pass the PMP Exam to get you on the right track. The vast majority of candidates for the PMP credential earn their 35 contact hours through a PMP Exam Prep Boot Camp. Your boot camp will do an awesome job of reinforcing key concepts, teaching you how to think like PMI test makers, and expose you to 1,000 practice exam questions. You will discover what learning style fits you best and be given tools for success whether you are an auditory, tactile or visual learner. During the boot camp, you will create your study plan, be taught by an expert instructor and perform exercises that will prepare you for Step 4.
Step 4: Use Your Time Wisely During the Exam
Exam day is here and you are ready. On exam day, you will have four hours to answer 200 questions. This means that you have 1.2 minutes per question. Some will take far less time, some will take more. The important thing is to go into the exam with a plan. You will get a 15-minute tutorial before the test, but it only takes a few minutes to accomplish the tutorial. Use that additional time to create your “brain dump”. This is where you jot down things like process groups, knowledge areas, processes and formulas. Everyone’s brain dump is different and your PMP Exam Prep Boot Camp will help you figure out which concepts and formulas you need to jot down in order to maximize your chances for success.
I recommend that as you go through the exam you answer all questions that you know on the first pass and mark those questions which you are not sure. This will allow you to revisit them later and save time. Many times, if you don’t know the answer to a question a subsequent question may answer it or give you a clue. On your second pass through your marked questions, do the same thing; answer what you know and revisit those which you are unsure of on the next pass through. Do not waste time waiting to remember an answer that you don’t know. Don’t rush to failure. Instead, use that time to answer questions that you’re sure about. You have four hours which is a long time. When you are confident that you have answered every question to the best of your ability, click submit and wait for the good news.
Following this four-step project plan doesn’t guarantee success, but it will surely give you a great head start.
Dan Stober, PMP, has spent the last 17 years exploring and implementing transformative leadership and effective project management techniques into multiple organizations. Often, the difference between good and great is the quality of leadership that is displayed by those who are in charge. At Project First, we focus on advancing the leadership skills of your executive and management team, teaching effective project management, and engaging your staff toward a single, collective goal: success.
This article was originally published in Global Knowledge’s Business Brief e-newsletter. Global Knowledge delivers comprehensive hands-on project management, business process, and professional skills training. Visit our online Knowledge Center at www.globalknowledge.com/business for free white papers, webinars, and more.
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