How I Passed the PMP Exam

Passing any exam takes extensive knowledge and dedicated study habits, but the Project Management Professional exam is a true example of this type of commitment. I had 7 years of management and project management experience, plus common sense, and thought it would help me work through the questions presented in the exam, but I was wrong! Since the project management community is strict on being honest and maintaining exam integrity, there will not be any exam-specific information or examples here. 

Head First PMP

I ended up failing the exam on my first attempt. I remember walking away thinking.... "What just happened?!" I thought I probably studied enough but quickly realized that my study plan had failed me. I made flash cards of terms I couldn't remember, studied diagrams a friend shared who took a special boot camp course to help study, briskly read through the PMBOK Guide, and practiced a small handful of common formulas. I truly thought my hands-on experience would handle any gaps I may experience on the exam. 

When I got home after my failed exam, I reached out to a friend who is a PMP, and admitted my defeat. He assured me not to give up as it is a difficult test and many people fail multiple times, while others invest in upwards of a year to study and prepare for. He then shared with me that I should invest in a book, Head First PMP (I purchased their 3rd edition but make sure the edition correlates with the correct PMBOK Guide 5th edition). What a difference this book made! It offered a different perspective and learning style than just straight reading and memorization of the PMBOK Guide, and lots of visual nuggets to help ingrain the info into my mind.

 Head First PMP,  3rd Edition

Head First PMP,  3rd Edition

This book offered test tips, quizzes, real case scenario practices, and plenty of opportunity to practice formulas. I started and completed this book 30 days prior to my 2nd scheduled exam attempt. To my delight (and somewhat surprise) I had passed the PMP exam finally!!! What a HUGE relief and important step in my career! Not only is this an expensive endeavor, but the stress alone and time invested can be a huge disappointment when you fail, but it adds to the overall satisfaction of finally knowing my new efforts were successful!

My personal tips to help you be successful for your PMP exam: 

  • Get the Head First PMP book as recommended! Make sure you read the PMBOK Guide once first, so you can absorb the information in two different ways and it's not foreign to you on your first read through with the Head First PMP book.
  • Toss your experience out the window. Learn what the book tells you is right, not what your current job says is right.  
  • Give yourself at least 30 days prior to your exam to complete the book. Don't allow too much time in between reading completion and taking the exam as you will forget important information! 
  • Develop a plan to study everyday, whether its a chapter a day or "x" amount of pages. It will help you stay on track and reduce cramming close to exam time.  
  • Don't over-study - you will feel you can always study longer or try to memorize more terms, but in the end focus on what the book tells you to.
  • Choose 10 common formulas and memorize them, unless you can memorize them all! 
  • Take this seriously; PMP certification is highly desired in order to move up in your project management career and start earning more for you and your family!



Mindy Sullivan