Thursday, May 21, 2009

12 Tips and Tools to Pass the PMP Exam - A Social Media Effort

Passing PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP) exam was a project in itself.  A valuable tool, I look forward to being able to apply it in the near future…once I exhale.  Here are 12 tips that I “brain- dumped” immediately after coming home from the exam and worked on today for you:

1.      Online tools - Social media and networking – There are tremendously helpful people out there who are willing to pass on the knowledge for those willing to learn…but they’re not going to come to >you<.  Don’t wait for your ship to come in, swim out and meet it…or tweet it!

a.      Twitter – If you’re not bitten by the twitter bug, don’t worry – you don’t have to use this step, but it >is< one way for you to find others in project management – and for me, it was those people that totally motivated me and believed in me that really encouraged me to do this, and I can’t thank them enough!  For twitter activity,  I use Tweetdeck to manage my accounts @Vickie_Smith (for social media) and @VickiePMP (that says it all)  – I have a column that filters for project management, and am able to connect with PMs all over the world, sharing info re proj mgmt.  I’ve gotten links shared with me that I share with my Linkedin group…

b.      Linkedin – If you think Linkedin just serves to another way to collect connections like an online Rolodex (here’s my profile), you are missing a great opportunity.  It is through my PMINJ group that I joined that I was able to meet other PMI members locally and have received such helpful information that I was inspired and learned things that I am not sure I would have in such a short amount of time.  It was through this group that I was introduced to PMLessonsLearned – also on yahoo groups.

2.      PMP Exam Prep book, by Rita Mulcahy, PMP.  I highly recommend this book that was highly recommended to me.  It was with the help of this book, that I really began to understand the PMBOK guide.  I read the book three times through, alongside the PMBOK guide, chapter by chapter.  It was by going through the questions at the end of each chapter, that I learned the thought process for answering them on the test.  Her explanations are just great, and will prevent you from being tripped up.  It was on my final review of the questions that I imagined Rita talking me through them!  It was awesome, and she’s got some great freebies on her site, too.  Check it out.  I did buy the book on Amazon, along with her flash cards, but I only used the flash cards at the very end, and by then, my brain was so saturated. I didn’t have any room left, so I don’t think they helped me as much as the book.

3.      Don Kim PM Cert Notes, by Don Kim, PMP.  I highly recommend visiting Don’s blog, but his notes also gave me insight into the tools and techniques a little better – it’s all there for >you< as it was for >me<.  I highly recommend checking out these valuable tools.

4.      Test UP!  With all these free tools available online, why not take advantage?  Visit my earlier post with lots of questions to train on – I never bought a single test, and found these invaluable.  Just be careful – I found one site, Oliver Lehmann, that had helpful questions, but I was frustrated when I found that some questions I couldn’t answer referred to books I had never read.  Also, one site gave only 10 questions, that were ALL tricky, so it made you feel like you needed to buy their prep course.  I had all the tools I needed online.  Practice makes perfect, and you don’t even NEED perfect, right?  Pass/Fail – don’t forget!

5.      Brain dump… Learn how to write it on one page, as if that’s all you’re going to get.  I was lucky and my testing center gave me a booklet to use.  But I’ve heard that there are testing sites that are pretty tight on resources, so make sure you practice enough before-hand so that it can just be “dumped.”

a.      Process chart, This nifty little trick really opened my eyes to the way the processes were interrelated.    I,P, E, M&C, C on top, and ISTCQHCRP on the left side – make a grid, and fill it in!  It comes from Dana Safford’s conference call on Lessons Learned

b.      Earned Value Formulas, 3 Point Estimates & Pert, and the process grid.  PM Lessons Learned Yahoo Group conference call led by Dana Safford made ALL the difference.  The technique for this brain dump is in the files section once you will be able to access once you join the group.

6.      Learning Inputs, Outputs, Tools and Techniques – For me, actually working with the individual pieces manually that sealed it all in – I guess like writing a note, rather than popping it in your blackberry – you >own< it in a whole new way.  Rita Mulcahy’s process game is similar, and I cut out squares of paper, which you will see in a previous blog post, and every time a breeze came through the window, I’d be picking them up off the floor.  Don’t get me wrong, they helped a lot, but I’m a high-tech gal, so I was able to create an Excel spread sheet for this one, which I will be presenting via conference call shortly.  (Join PMLessonslearned on yahoo groups, and you’ll be notified when that will happen!)  But if you’re scrapped for time, and are on your way to PMPness shortly, here’s the abbreviated version…Make 9 worksheets for all the knowledge areas, a header “Process  Inputs  Outputs  Tools/Techniques  Desc,” and fill in each one, filling the first output box (like Proj Charter), and it becomes the Input to the next (Develp Prel. Scope Stmnt).  You will see things really jump out like you never have, in full color, and also see how all the processes are truly integrated.  An input from one becomes the output for another on a totally separate worksheet (e.g. performance reports is an input to multiple processes, from the performance reporting process in Communication Monitor & Ctrl) – I just saw things in a whole new light, and I nailed those exam questions because of it.

7.      Mark for review technique  The exam is NOT over until you click “end exam”, so no need to worry about not being able to change or finish.  You can mark questions for review, skip them, and come back to review before you end the test.  For me, I did 75 in an hour, first, took a break, did  50, another break.   When I came back to the room for the third time, I said I would finish the exam as best as I could, and go back to missed questions and review – I finished completely satisfied I had done the best that I could, in 3:56.  Cost me about $1 a minute ($405), and I was going to use them all if I needed to!

8.      Get to the point technique  For ALL questions, I looked to see where I was headed – kind of like not driving without a GPS, right?  I would take a look at the question at the end of the narrative (often containing useless info), to see what they were asking me to do.  Then I’d drive through the question, knowing when to make a left turn.  Better than making a wrong turn!

9.      The day before…Visit your testing site  The day of the exam, I knew exactly how to get there, without a thought, reserving my brain cells for the job at hand.  I had to drive to the site, so I made sure my GPS was prepared, and I also checked it out on google maps to do a street view.  I knew once I got to the Dunkin Donuts, I was half a block away.  I also made sure I knew where parking was, and I went in the building, and saw it was the second floor.  And I decided I would choose a different way home than the day before so I clicked “shortest distance,” and I was on my way.

10.   Pack a snack attack.  I was not allowed to take any food in the room with me – in fact everytime I had to reenter the room with my license and signature, I had to invert my pockets. You get an assigned locker, so I had to keep a granola bar, a banana and a bottle of water on top of the lockers to come out to and stretch.  And be sparing with the water, unless you want to get up and leave the room again shortly thereafter.  Remember, this isn’t the Tour de France!

11.   Be smart about what you >can< wear.

a.       Sweatshirt/dress light  Note on this – I was expecting the site to be chilly for some reason, but there were about 15 people in one close room with heat-generating PCs – luckily, the proctor sat me close to a fan.  Be prepared!

b.     Ear plugs.   I was warned that the testing center would have people in the room with you taking other exams, so bring ear plugs.  Other people were typing at various speeds (I think the girl next to me was typing a thesis!), and every time I got back in the room I popped in my little orange ear plugs.  I could have used the airplane runway earphones that were left at each station, and I admit, they looked pretty useful, if I worked at JFK.  My foam ones worked just fine.

12.   Think ahead.  I kept thinking of that certificate framed on my wall, and that shiny new job that will come in the not-too-distant future to make it all worth it.  When you have the “Pass” letter in hand – you never have to take the test again!  And when you do achieve success, and you will, let those that made it possible know.  I am so thankful to those that helped me, and now I spread the wealth.  Pass it on.  J

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