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Making a Project Plan to Pass the PMP Exam

~ By John Reiling

Senior lecturer in front of his class

Passing the PMP exam is challenging, but hundreds of thousands of people have already done it! What is the secret? One of the keys is to put into practice the discipline, practices, tools, and frameworks that are the subject of the exam. This is accomplished by making a plan based upon the many structures, terms and concepts that are part of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). These are the things that experienced project managers will learn that takes them beyond their project management experience base. This article discusses some keys for building an effective project plan to pass the PMP exam.

8 Points for Building an Effective Project Plan to Pass the PMP Exam

  1. Writing down the goal, which presumably is to pass the PMP exam, is a great first step.
  2. Putting together a Project Charter for the objective of passing the PMP exam is the next step. This Project Charter is an opportunity to think through many of the aspects of project management as per the PMI and PMBOK Guide.
  3. As part of the plan, any aspirant should join the PMI. It is actually less expensive to join the PMI and take the exam, than to simply pay the exam fee without joining the PMI. In addition, project managers will get "plugged in" to the network of project managers, including selecting and joining a local chapter, networking, a great deal of information that can help with the plan, and opportunities to find potential study groups. A PDF version of the PMBOK will also become available for free. Joining simply involves going to www.pmi.org and following the steps.
  4. One decision to make is to determine what study materials are needed. This is a personal decision, and involves thinking about learning style, learning preferences, hardware, learning environment, time available, and budget. Training comes in many forms, including CD's, audio programmes, books, exam simulations, two day classroom training, full week fast track training, instructor lead e-learning, and online training.
  5. Now, with a little background and "lay of the land," there should be enough information to begin to build a schedule. It is highly recommended that aspirants set a goal to pass the PMP exam within 2 to 4 months of starting to study. Doing so will allow the material to be fresh in mind. In addition, it will promote a high level of involvement and activity in pursuit of this shorter term goal. This is usually not the case when a longer timeframe is selected.
  6. Using exam simulation questions is an important component of the study plan. There are many free exam question resources available, and they can be very beneficial. However, a much more organised approach and comprehensive set of materials are usually provided with a purchased exam simulation, and they are not all that expensive. In either case this should be a regular activity in the exam preparation routine. Most students will find that they need to take a minimum of two full length PMP exams prior to actually taking the exam, and that they need to strive for score of at least 80% on those exams. This highlights any weaknesses and focuses continued study. Once the desired scores are reached, candidates grow in confidence and feel prepared to walk into the exam.
  7. Students should construct their own brain dump for the exam. In the course of studying, students will come across certain concepts - mostly formulas - that simply need to be memorised. Students who regularly build this "brain dump" as they progress in their studies are not only learning these materials, but are removing a great deal of pressure from themselves. Once it is finalised, the recommended strategy is to commit it to memory, then at exam time rapidly write it all down in the first few minutes in the test room before beginning the exam. This again is a great pressure reliever.
  8. Students need to exercise discipline and stick to the set schedule. Two hours of study per day, Monday through Friday, is a good starting point and is usually what it takes for most people.

Passing the PMP exam is hard work, but like many challenging accomplishments it takes a plan and strong execution. Many people have passed, so it is within reach of most who try. Given that it is all about project management, it makes great sense to take advantage of the challenge of this personal project to put into practice the best principles of project management. This will greatly enhance chances of success and help to solidify the PMI PMBOK framework for project management.


John Reiling, PMP, PE, MBA is an experienced Project Manager and certified Project Management Professional. John's site, Project Management Training Online www.pmtrainingonline.com provides online project management training for PMP exam prep. John also writes regularly on project management and certification in his blog, PMcrunch


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