Want to learn how to pass PMP® exam on first try? Ranga was one of my students from the June class, and from the start, he demonstrated his leadership abilities by proactively helping other students. He approached me after class and asked if he can get involved with the classes in a bigger way. After a series of conversations, he’s now hired into the ExamsPM team! Welcome Ranga.

Despite having a crazy work schedule that involves working many nights and weekends, he still made time to study for the PMP® and passed within a month of taking the course. I caught up with him this weekend and asked him about his experiences. This post is about his journey and tips that may help you in your own journey.

Before the exam

Tip #1: Create a study plan and set daily goals
As a project manager, you need to create a project management plan before executing your project. You can think of passing the PMP® as a mini-project, and before you dive in, you need to first determine your plan. Try to do something big or small everything. Mark it in your calendar so that you remember. Consistency builds momentum.

In Ranga’s case, he studied for 2 hours consistently every night from 8:30PM until 10:30PM. Before each study session, he set mini-goals of what he hoped to accomplish by the end if the 2 hours. These mini-goals build over time, and eventually led to him passing the PMP®. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Tip #2: Know the fundamentals first
Going to ExamsPM’s training helped Ranga understand everything he needed to know for the exam. After the class, he read over the course slides, PMBOK®, and Rita’s book. He wanted to ensure that he understood all the concepts before he dived into the questions. “The questions are based on the book, so it makes sense to me to read and understand the book first.”

Tip #3: Don’t rely on your real life experience
Despite having 10 years of project management experience at GM and 5 years at Linamar, Ranga still found some concepts in the PMBOK® foreign. The PMBOK® aims to cover all the topics a project manager needs to know across any industry. However, in reality, you will probably only use a handful relevant to your project. Additionally, the exam questions you in a “PMI way,” which may not be the way you are used to in real life.

Bottom line: relying solely on your work experiences is dangerous; you still need to study.

Tip #4: Make it a priority
I know you are busy. You’ve got work to do, kids to take care of, grass to mow house to clean… Life gets in the way all the time. You need to make time to take this exam. There is no short cut. To save time, Ranga studied while eating dinner (not recommended), and put some of his other commitments on hold. He also made it a priority to set aside 2 hours daily for studying. Remember, this is temporary. You can resume your normal schedule as soon as you pass your exam!

Tip #5: Borrow books from the library
To get access to additional practice questions for free, Ranga took out a few PMP®-related books from the library. He aimed to do 50 a day. If you are looking for more sample questions for free, you now know where to find them.

The Day of Your Exam

Tip #1: Arrive an hour early
When Ranga arrived at his Prometrics test centre, he had a very difficult time finding parking – it took him half an hour to figure it out! Thankfully, he arrived an hour early for his exam, leaving him enough time to make it on time. You never know what can go wrong, so try to get to your test centre an hour prior. It is also a good idea to drive or bus to the exam centre a few days before the actual date of your exam so that you know which route you should take and so you get a feel for the atmosphere.

Tip #2: Use the first 15 minutes wisely
There is a 15 minute tutorial before you exam actually starts. Use this time wisely. You are probably pretty tech-savvy already, and you probably don’t need a tutorial teaching you how to press the forward and backward buttons, so use this time to write out your cheat sheet on the scrap paper that you are given.

Ranga drew out the process chart with the 5 Process Groups along the columns, 10 Knowledge Areas down the rows, and 47 processes filled into the matrix. He also wrote out all the formulas for easy reference.

During Your Exam

Tip #1: Don’t look at the watch
The timer on the screen during your exam may be intimidating and nervous wrecking. It might cause you to panic when you realize you don’t have that much time left. Ranga’s advice is to not look at it too often. After every 10-15 questions, glance at the timer once, and move on.

Tip #2: Guess > Null
The PMP® exam does not penalize you for wrong answers, so if you are stuck and don’t know the answer to a question, guess and move on. Make sure you star the question so that you can go back to it later.

In Ranga’s case, he still had 3 more questions left when the 4 hours was over. Unfortunately, he left the last 3 questions blank instead of putting in a random guess. Fortunately, he still passed. If you are in a similar situation during your exam, take the last 30 seconds to fill in a random guess to the last 3 questions. Who knows? You might just be lucky and score an extra point or two. No harm in trying.

Tip #3: Take breaks when you need to
If you are feeling tired, go out and take a moment to stretch and breathe. To keep his mind fresh, Ranga took regular breaks throughout his exam. A note of caution: manage your time accordingly. Your breaks do cut into your exam time.

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