In this entry I would like to summarize and share the lessons learned for PMP certification. If you are not familiar with the term PMP (Project Management Professional), here is the quote from the official website:

PMP® is a certification which is the most important industry-recognized certification for project managers. Globally recognized and demanded, the PMP® demonstrates that you have the experience, education and competency to successfully lead and direct projects.

In order to get the certification, you have to take the PMP exam, which in turn requires you to have at least 35 hours of project management education (training, courses, etc), at least three years of project management experience, with 4,500 hours leading and directing projects.

So, the big question is what lessons I have learned from the whole thing?

I am going to split the whole lessons in two big phases: the preparation and the exam. The preparation is all about the learning curve and also important, completing the administrative application. Both have to take into account during preparation since if you are not able to manage them well, you should better not come to the exam. The exam itself spans 4 hours with 200 hundreds tricky questions. Consequently, there are also a lot of important lessons I learned.

Okay let’s begin with the whole story. The most important tip, however, I would like to announce right now: Relax. You must be relax from the beginning of the preparation until the end of the exam.

The Preparation

Preparing for the exam is quite overwhelming thing to do, not only you have to study a number of books,  but application for the exam is very tedious. But remember, remain calm.

  1. The very first thing I did for exam was to read presentation slides from project management training. And this was not a good idea for one big reason, presentation slides require the presence of an instructor or a trainer to tell you the whole story. All I can suggest you that start with light and more understandable stuff, you may easily read from Wikipedia.
  2. You should collect the soft-copy of necessary documents, the most important books are among others, PMBOK (PM Body of Knowledge), PMP Exam Prep (author: Rita Mulcahy), PMP Exam Study Guide (author: Kim Heldman), and Head First PMP from O’Reilly. I used all the mentioned books with the main focus on PMBOK and PMP Exam Study Guide. Each book has its own character, while PMBOK is a must-read, other books offer you the same content from PMBOK with different approach. PMP Exam Prep is very exam-oriented (personally, I didn’t quite like the book), and meanwhile PMP Exam Study Guide offers PMBOK-like content with more in-depth explanation. The last book is intended for right-brain type of people who find it better to read with visual illustration and comic style.
  3. I started with reading the first chapter of PMBOK to get to know about the main concept and obtain the big picture of the book. The most important of this point is to understand the characteristics of the project (according to PMBOK) and the 9 famous knowledge areas with those processes. If you are very good with memory, you should immediately begin with memorizing all the processes, from Develop Project Charter until Close Procurement. And if you are really really good, the best thing you want to do is to memorize the complete processes along with the so-called ITTO (Inputs-Tools and Techniques-Outputs). When you are done with this, you are halfway for passing the exam, I promise you. You may also find a similar list of processes in Rita’s book, however I found it too overwhelming and unnecessary.
  4. Now as I had have first taste of PMBOK, I was looking to attend a training that would give the project management education hour or PDU (Professional Development Unit). Typically, if you are preparing for the exam, you should find training that will give the 35 hours PDU. In my case, the training took only 3 days, and gave me 21 hours. As a result, I had to find other trainings or events from PMI for the remaining PDU.
  5. After collecting 35 PDU, I began with the application for exam. You should not underestimate this process, because after all if you haven’t completed this, you can’t go to the exam. Go to the PMI website, and do the registration. Then, proceed with PMI’s member registration that costs you US$ 129. And now congratulation! You are officially member of PMI (Project Management Institute), a world-wide organization leading in the project management area. Not bad at all!
  6. After becoming a member of PMI, I continued with applying for the exam. As mentioned at the beginning of the post, you must obtain 35 hours project management education, at least three years of project management experience, with 4,500 hours leading and directing projects. So when applying for the exam, you are asked to complete the form for the information of where you obtained the 35 hours project management education, three years of project management experience with 4,500 (yes, four thousand and five hundred!) hours leading and directing projects. If you have worked for more than three years, the number will sum up to 4,500. So, don’t be afraid. However, you should worry when you are being audited by PMI. In this case, you should prove the numbers by getting formal letter from person in charge of the project, this can be your manager, your customers, etc. So, be prepared that you have made contact with those involved in your projects and let them know that their signatures are really important for your exam. Now after done with the application, you have to wait an email for your eligibility confirmation from PMI for the exam. For your information, for the exam registration you have to pay US$ 405.
  7. Meanwhile, I continued to be more focus with PMBOK. Yes, the book is not really a piece of  joy to read at the first sight, it is quite thick and full with text, but it was not that terrible. At the beginning, I thought I would not be able to completely read the book, but if you have started reading it shouldn’t be that scary. Each chapter, basically, explains about the one knowledge area. I can recall that I spent around 30-45 minutes for one knowledge area. It is not that bad, is it? Surely, if you read for the first time, you would not understand the idea and terms mentioned in the book. But you should move on and try to finish with one knowledge area. What I did was to read the complete 9 knowledge areas, and admittedly without comprehending what I read. But some terms will stay in your mind and from there you can gain some know-how.
  8. The next step was that I read PMBOK for the second time without having read any other books. Though I didn’t feel it was okay, I can recommend you to go with other books, such as the one by Kim Heldman or whatever works for you. I would read one knowledge area from PMBOK more carefully and take note for any hard stuffs. Then, I would try to figure out in other books for a second opinion. Move along with each chapter in this fashion, I can assure you that you would get more understanding.
  9. After having read PMBOK for second time and one other book, and thus making your self confident with the material, you should proceed with sample of exam questions. I started with one from Kim Heldman, but I would definitely recommend you to do it with questions from Head First for one good reason: the questions are easier. From there you can gain confident and the feeling that your studying has been paid off.
  10. So I have done with PMBOK for the second time, read one other book, and tried to answer questions from Kim Heldman’s book (or Head First). What still missing, and yet very very important is to memorize ITTO (Inputs-Tools and Techniques-Outputs). This is one tedious thing to do, but forget to pass the exam if you are not willing to do this, and I’m not kidding. Believe me, how good you are with understanding the concept in PMBOK, but without having memorized ITTO, you can easily miss one big portion of the exam questions. I really emphasize this that you should (and must) have ITTO in your head.
  11. Assumed that you wouldn’t be getting audited and the confirmation email from PMI has shown up in your mailbox for eligibility. Now it is time to go back to the application, find the exam date. This can be pretty tricky too. I took the exam right by the end of year (30 Dec. 2010), so practically I had some plenty of time during the Christmas holiday to review my preparation. Therefore, I would definitely suggest you to find the exam date after short holiday, forget your work for a while. The funny thing after determining the exam date was that you would get this kind of pressure all of the sudden, but don’t forget to relax (the most important tip from me). Now you are done with the administrative obligation and simply waiting for the exam date.
  12. The rest of the time I spent for studying again. But this time was a bit different, because now I exercised with brain-dumping. If you are not familiar with the term, here is the simple explanation: Remember that I have memorized ITTO, but the bad thing is that you can completely forget it if you don’t exercise it. For this reason, brain-dumping is simply to dump all your memories into piece of paper. This is very helpful for the exam, because you would be given some papers and you can use this medium for brain-dumping. And voilà, by brain-dumping you can get yourself a cheat paper for the exam. And don’t forget to measure the time you take for brain-dumping.
  13. One day before the exam, I wasn’t really into studying again, I felt my brain was full and knowing I have to be fit for the next day. So practically I was trying to relax and calm on the day. Not forget to review the exam location and check the required personal identification (KTP, SIM, or passport) for the exam. One or two brain-dumping would do just good to ensure everything okay.

The Exam

  1. If you reside in Jakarta, your exam would be in Prometric at Menara Imperium located in Kuningan area, next to KPK building. It’s a quite neat place with a nice restaurant on top of the building called Kampus. Well, what I was trying to say was come one hour earlier to the exam location! You never know what would happen in this jungle of traffic in Jakarta. You definitely don’t want to be stuck in traffic before one of most important exams in your life. Wear one of your nicest clothes to make yourself comfort, believe me, this will help!
  2. You will be asked to register at the receptionist in Prometric. Now, all you have to do is to sit down and wait until the time. One thing I forgot, I chose 9 AM for the exam considering the freshness of my brain. Anyway, while waiting, I don’t suggest you to re-visit any stuffs, just trust yourself and relax. If you are accompanied by somebody, that would be great, because you could chat with him/her to deflect and reduce the level of your stress.
  3. When time is coming, you will enter the exam room and need to provide your personal identification for verification. Once you’re done, there is another room look like “Warnet”, with one personal computer in each cubicle. There is where you destine will be decided. You will find some piece of papers on your desk. What I did was immediately to brain-dump, while the computer screen showed exam instruction (not that important) for 15 minutes. Brain-dumping took me for about 40 minutes, which means I lost around 25 minutes to complete it.
  4. Now, this is it, the first question is right in front of you. My tip during the exam is to mark any questions you don’t know the answer, even when you already answered it. The first round was simply to complete the 200 questions. The next round is to re-visit the marking questions, and still mark it whenever I wasn’t sure the answer. Both rounds took me around 2.5 hours. See, the time constraint was not a big deal, there are plenty of times. I decided to take a short break to go to the restroom and to finally breath for 5 minutes.
  5. The final round is to review the marking questions and ensure that everything has been answered. The rest of the time (around 45 minutes) I spent to check all questions and the answers.
  6. The last minute I used to pray and let whatever happens, happen.
  7. When the time is up, the screen will ask you to do survey regarding your satisfaction of exam facility, location, hospitality, etc. After the survey, the result will show on the screen. I remember everything went so quickly that I didn’t really get to realize that I actually passed the exam. Yes, thanks God, I passed it.
  8. Whatever the result is, a soft-copy of the result will be given to you, and now you can leave the building.

I think that is all the lesson learned, or my adventure if you will, from my PMP preparation to the exam. I only can say good luck with you and feel free to ask me regarding the exam, I would be definitely happy to help you.