PMP® Success Stories – Meet Simone Perch. She took and passed her PMP® certification after completing ExamsPM’s training program. We caught up with her and asked for her lessons learned. Here’s her advice for test takers:

1. Why did you want to get PMP® certified?
I chose to become PMP® certified as the fulfillment of a personal goal on a course that I set upon years ago and to fulfill a company objective to get as many managers/project/program managers PMP® certified as possible.

2. What is your current role? What were some past positions you’ve held?
I am a Health IT Quality Assurance Manager in the federal government subcontracting arena with 25 years experience, 20 in QA. My past positions include (in descending order): Senior Configuration Management Specialist, Systems Analyst, Project Coordinator, Senior Technical Writer, Technical Publications Lead.

3. How long did it take you to get PMP® certified?
It took me nine (9) months–I started on January 1, 2018 and earned my certification on September 5, 2018. I took the exam in two (2) different formats, the first time was the fifth edition in March (above target in Initiating and Closing, bombed all else); second was the sixth edition on August 9th (passed Planning and Initiating, but performed poorly; bombed all else) and for the third and last time September 5th.

I took periodic breaks during the intervening period to regroup after each failed attempt, and to earn my Lean Six Sigma Green Belt (from May to June). Incidentally, pursuing the LSSGB seemed like a nutty idea, but it turned out to be REALLY instructive and helpful in informing my PMP® training!

4. What did your study plan look like? How often and how long did you study per day? Per week?
I used the ExamsPM study plan model: studying 2-3 hours a day, six days a week (Mondays through Saturdays), with limited bursts of longer study time.

I did NOT focus on the PMBOK® (unless or until I needed some foundation support); I set my attentions on exam preparation materials instead.

5. What study material did you use?
I used several tools to help me absorb the material: ExamsPM’s online training, instructor-led in person boot camps (one for the 5th edition and one for the 6th edition) and their corresponding materials (e.g., their videos, notebooks, etc.). The blend of materials and approaches helped me in different ways at each juncture: initial understanding, absorption, and the ‘ah ha moment’/application.

6. What tips and tricks would you give someone who is currently going through this certification journey?
I would encourage others to do lots of practice tests; not merely 20 questions at a time; consider doing 50 to 100 at a time to learn how to recognize question components (e.g., are they situational, calculations, sequential?).

This focus helped me see patterns once I actually sat for the exam. I would also urge candidates to focus on language triggers such as authorize = initiate, etc. Finally, focus on how the puzzle pieces of the five process areas connect.

Before Initiating, one must perform a needs assessment > business case > benefits management plan, etc. Knowing the preparatory steps in each KA, and how each predecessor intersects and flows to its successor in a cyclical pattern while learning the ITTOs helped me.

Memorizing the ITTOs wasn’t a goal, so I focused on how the inputs fed into the KAs and process areas and their logical outputs.

Once I learned the percentage of questions for each topic (Initiating 13%, Planning 24%, Executing 31%, M&C 25% and Closing 7%), and learned that I’d only be answering between 5-10 calculation questions, I also made an executive decision to forego the calculation memorization and problem solving practice to just focus on what was essential: determining how to answer questions without calculating them.

RATIONALE: All questions are worth the same, but not all require the same effort. So, figuring out that with CV and SV, >0 = good, and CPI and SPI, >1 is good, then I used common sense to answer the 7-10 mostly situational questions that I had on the last two tests. The first test I was so ill-prepared, that I can’t recall what I did.

7. Walk us through your actual exam date. How did you find the actual exam?
About 30-40% of the questions I classify as ‘Gimmes’, meaning that I understood them and answered them without marking them, or being concerned that they were wrong.

Most of the questions that I answered the last two tests were situational, about 60%. I had two (2) that had or mentioned Tornado diagrams, around three (3) that were Monte Carlo simulation oriented, several that addressed LSS, a few that were management and leadership style oriented.

8. Can people connect with you via LinkedIn?
Yes, I use my middle name, Dominique, professionally. Here’s my LinkedIn contact data:

Congratulations Simone Perch! What an incredible success story!

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