My PMP learning curve


Learning experience:

  • It was one full month hard-core learning. But from August I had started to think about ‘soon I have to take the exam’
  • I believe my 10+ years of IT industry experience (6+ years as a Project Manager) helped me a lot in understanding PMP concepts. Even though many words were new for me, but it was very easy to relate to my similar activities.
  • Even before I started dreaming about PMP, I was much interested in project management and used to read blogs, articles and ebooks (not related to PMP of course) years back.
  • After initiating the application, I used to bookmark PMP/questions related websites whenever I come across. This helped me a lot.
  • Fully depend on PMBOK and did not use any other proprietary websites or tools.
  • I believe I did more then 3000 freely available practice questions from internet. Below are some to project:
    • Oliverlehmann – 175+25 qns
    • BrainBOK 
    • PMStudy 
    • HeadFirst
    • So many other sources.
  • Planned one full month study process and pasted in my bedroom. Spent 3-5 hours per day and 5-6 hours on week ends. I had tight work schedules but some how managed to cover the planned topics by spending extra hours with the help of Red-Bull (not recommended)
  • Read PMBOK – 2 times in first two weeks and used to refer when ever I have doubt or a wrong answer in a practice test. At lest 20% of the questions on the websites were out of PMBOK but google had all the answers. 
  • Used to make study noted. Prepared brain-dump sheet for the exam and used to review every day in the morning last 3-4 days.
  • Did not by-heard any ITTOs but tried to understand it. Even though BrainBOK had limited access for free account, it was helpful for a starting.
  • Lot of illegal copies of exams and books are floating in internet but most are old so better purchase the study materials. 
  • I had ‘mathematics days’ planned in my study calendar as I did not do much maths after my college. Also like any techies, I am also used to mobile/win-calc/excel for even single digit calculations


  • Don’t trust all the freely available questions on Internet. Many sources had wrong answers marked as correct and many sources were for old PMBOK.  Always check last updated date in practice test websites, forums, blogs etc. before you ‘waste’ time.
  • Start a blog or notepad. It is usual that you will forget studied terms since you don’t use it daily. You can always search for that word in your blog and since you wrote it, it will be easy to understand quickly.
  • Refer to archives/old entries (for PMBOK – after 2009) in study groups and forums. People usually post questions which are tougher for them. Also, you will get enough proprietary questions also for ‘free’ 😉
  • Be active in study groups. Many people are ‘silent members’. But if you start answering and involve in discussions, those discussed points you will never forget
  • Don’t by-heart ITTOs. Aim for a serious PM career than just PMP credentials. Think in this way:
    • Why I need a Project Charter???
    • Why do I need a business case for creating a project charter?
    • Why should I update Project documents while defining scope?
  • Change your attitude from an employee-point of view to an organization/manager point of view. You may not have roles in vendor selection or customer relations in your company but presume like you have authority. Believe, you have even ‘penalty’ power in your company with over 200 employees 😉
  • Use Microsoft Project or some similar tools if you haven’t used any. This will help you in understanding WBS, Schedule related stuff. (Considering PMP eligibility criteria, I should not be mentioning this here ;))
  • This is a very good resource –  
  • Keep printouts of Sreelatha or Rajesh Nair notes with you for last day reference. I did not get time to read them as even the last day I had to work overtime at office – but I personally found those very good for reference.
  • Don’t do Oliverlehmann questions at the end. Plan this at the middle of your plans. These questions might demotivate you but you will learn much from this. A good set of questions for changing your attitude. I scored 74 in 175 questions. I think if you get at least 70, then you are fit for the exam ;). I think pmstudy is a good set for you to before 2-3 days of the exam. I don’t know about the quality of paid sets but free 200 questions will give you confidence that PMP-exam-is-a-piece-of-cake.
  • Don’t forget to read appendix sections – especially terminologies in PMBOK

Exam Center

  • Before you leave to exam center – just do 5-10 easy sample questions. It will give you a PMP mood for the day 😉 
  • Even though I chose a date after one month while scheduling in Prometric website, I did a check for other possible-near dates. There was no slots available (Dubai). But at the test center I had the feeling it was possible to get a near date if you visit the center directly and schedule.
  • I met a guys who just finished his PMP exam in the waiting area. He was waiting for his “failed” print-out. This was a a bit demotivating factor but after 4-5 questions in exam I returned to my normal form.
  • Questions were not tough but not easy too. Most questions you can answer if you read it twice.
  • There were 15-20 formula/calculation/network diagram based questions. All I marked and attended at the end only.
  • There were wordy questions too and lot of questions which you wont see in any available free online test websites or pdfs. Just apply your ‘brain’, you can answer.
  • This is for those who plan to take exam mainly in Dubai – but hopefully this will be same in most centers. Anyway I did not face this when I wrote my MCP exam in Kerala center few years back:- 
    • I was not even allowed to keep my water bottle with me. Also there was no water provided even in the reception area. You will have to go outside for water but in the same building itself you have snack bars available. You will get a locker but it is too small for a laptop bag. But still they will provide a place under the table to keep it. You will have to keep everything including pen, pencil, watch etc. in the locker or your bag. They will let you in only if you show your empty pockets.
    • If you use any emergency medicines – like BP, Inhalants etc., just inform them. They will allow. But you will have to place it near the computer and not your pocket.
    • You will get a writing pad and two pencils. There are lot of cameras in the exam hall to scare you.
    • Good that you will get ear plugs. But if you do not have the habit of listening to MP4 players or hate sea-wave sounds, you may not like it ;). I used it when ever the person in next cubicle was putting much pressure on keyboard or rotating his chair.
    • You can take break but previous ‘security checks’ will happen again. There was notice pasted in reception telling “if you use mobile phone while on a break, you will not be allowed to continue exam”. Clock will be ticking on your break time too. I did not took a break as I was a bit nervous about my marked questions.
    • There wont be much PMP exam guys so you will see other people coming in and out. Because not many exams are lengthy as PMP.
  • You will get a keyboard but you will not get a chance to touch that because it is a useless thing for PMP exam.
  • Train yourself to use the windows calculator using mouse. Numeric keypad in keyboard will not work.
  • I wrote all the formulas and page-42 before the exam. I did not had to use them but must say this act gave me a memory refresh.
  • You will get a print-out with promatric seal at the end of the exam. I got official mail next day.
  • Do a search of healthy food for long exams in google. Don’t eat fatty food which will make you sleepy. Even if you are healthy you will get tired after 2-3 hours if you do not drink water. I read somewhere health-drinks are not good for exams. Eat banana, blueberries etc. instead. 
  • In the morning – don’t learn anything new but read your study notes or go though the marked sections in your PMBOK – if you had marked.
  • There will be 15 minutes exam tool training. It is boring. Just use that time for brain-dumps.

Much more to write but too lazy. Please put comment in this post if you want more information.



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