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  Lessons Learned - PMP in 6 weeks

Lynn Massimo got a new three letter suffix - PMP - to her name yesterday. She sent me this message today. Going by the post, she must have drafted it before she passed the exam because nobody can write such a well crafted, elaborate, informative and useful message, within a day. Here's what Lynn had to say:


Thank you so much for this site. I am happy to report I passed the PMP exam yesterday after 6 weeks of full-time study. I am thrilled to share my Lessons Learned and hope you'll post them.

Lessons Learned - PMP in 6 weeks

First let me say I was not working full-time while studying. What I covered in this time was done so by studying about 4-6 hours per day, everyday (yes, weekends too) for 5 weeks. Then 4 days of exam prep boot camp totaling about 12 hours per day (10 hours in class, plus reading 30 minutes each way on the train, plus 1 hour homework). If you’re working full-time, 6 weeks to PMP may not be realistic.

At a high level my approach was:
  1. Self-study for 5 weeks pretty much full-time including weekends.

  2. Boot camp class for 4 days at the end of self study.

  3. Took exam 3 days immediately following boot camp prep class.

Key lessons learned
  • Read each knowledge area first in an exam prep book(s) then read the same material in the PMBOK.

  • The best source for understanding Earned Value Management was Rita’s book.

  • The best source for understanding how to calculate float, Critical Path, forward/backward pass was Sir Ganttalot on YouTube.

  • Rita’s process chart is overrated. I never studied it. I repeat… it’s overrated!

  • Rita’s Fastrack software is expensive but worth it because you can take exams comprised of only the knowledge area you are focused on at the time so you can practice questions that match/exceed the difficulty of the exam but cover only the area you have studied.


During my 5 weeks of self-study before the prep class I covered the following: all 9 knowledge areas, plus framework and professional responsibility. Do not blow off frame work and professional responsibility (the latter is not in the PMBOK but you can get it as a member of PMI, also both Crowe’s and Mulcahy’s books cover it).

The materials I used were:

  • Andy Crowe’s The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try

  • Rita Mulcahy’s PMP® Exam Prep – Sixth Edition

  • PM Road Trip (available free online)

  • PMBOK 4th edition

Other media:
  • Andy Crowe’s flashcards

  • Rita’s PM FASTrack® PMP® Exam Simulation Software – V 6. $300, but really, really, really worth it.

  • YouTube video by Sir Ganttalot’s on Float and Critical Path

  • Sir Ganttalot’s video on forward and backward pass. This video uses the technique of the first day starting at day zero. There is another technique which starts at day 1. Both are valid. Just pick a method and stick with it.

  • 1 week free subscription to this site came with Andy Crowe’s book. I used it to do practice exam questions arranged by knowledge area.

  • simulated exams (boot camp class included 4 online simulated PMP exams, although you can buy the 4 simulated exams as a standalone package for about $130)

  • istudy PMP app for iPod. It was ok. I found an error in one of the questions so I wouldn’t give it too much credence, but it’s great for when you’re sitting on train and want to do a few questions.

My study habits, step by step:
  1. Start each day by writing the process chart (PMBOK page 43) and the formulas. I did not attempt to memorize and/or write the formulas (Earned Value, etc) until I understood what they were for.

  2. Read the knowledge area in Crowe’s book then do the chapter end questions. They are not as difficult as exam questions, so don’t think the exam will be that easy! They are focused on reinforcing the material you just read.

  3. Read the same knowledge area online in PM Road Trip and do the chapter end questions.

  4. Read same knowledge area in Rita’s book.

  5. Lastly, read the same knowledge area in the PMBOK. By this point, I understood the knowledge area so the dry, hard to understand PMBOK actually made sense!

  6. As I read the knowledge area in each book, or immediately after reading, I took notes. The key here is that my notes were NOT a duplication of ITTOs.

  7. Then after having read the knowledge areas in each of the books and taking notes I would do practice questions with Rita’s Fastrack application. The key here is that I would select the option to take questions filtered for the knowledge area I had just studied. The Fastrack questions are exam-like in their difficulty. In fact, I’d say they were harder. For the most part I was scoring in the mid to high 70s on her questions.

After 5 weeks of doing this I took a 4 day exam prep boot camp. Because I had self-studied every knowledge area, the boot camp class served as a review for me. It was good because it forced me to engage in the material 12 hours per day (vs. on my own self-study I averaged anywhere from 4-8 hours). So this was a great way to do the last big push, the last big review before the exam.

The class ended on a Thursday and here’s what I did over the next 3 days to prepare for exam:
  • Friday – full day of study
    • Went back to the notes I had taken while reading the knowledge areas (about 1-2 pages of bulleted notes per area). For each knowledge area I now added in additional things I gleaned from the prep class. I now had an awesome, small, tidy self-study packet of ALL the material condensed down to about 15 pages of bullets.

    • I printed out the 9 PMBOK pages of ITTOs. Near the start of each knowledge area chapter the PMBOK has clean, easy to read, one page list of all the processes of the knowledge area along with their ITTOs.

    • For the first time in 6 weeks I cracked open Andy Crowe’s flashcards. There’s a card for each process but he doesn’t list every ITTO, just the ones he thinks are primary. So, as a study tool I went through all his process flashcards and highlighted those important ITTOs on the printouts from PMBOK.

    • Also went through the rest of the flashcards (all 250) and pulled out the ones I didn’t feel confident about, which was a short list of about 15. Being unsure of only 15 out of 250 had me feeling pretty confident.

  • Saturday – half day of study
    • Write the process chart and the formulas. (15 minutes)

    • Reviewed my self-study packet of bulleted notes. (1 hour)

    • Reviewed the short list of 15 flashcards and got it down to only about 10. (30 minutes)

    • Read the PMBOK glossary. This was just a confidence builder, as reading it I realized I knew all the terms.

    • Took a full length 200 question simulated test on Scored 84%. (3 hours)

  • Sunday, day before exam – only about 2 hours of study
    • Write the process chart and the formulas.

    • Reviewed my self-study packet of bulleted notes.

    • Reviewed the 10 flashcards again and again. Recall significantly improving for these sticklers.

    • Then I cooked dinner, watched a movie and went to bed on time.

  • Day of exam
    • It was warm in the exam room even with AC on. Wear layers but know that you must exit the room to take off / put on a layer.

    • There is a 15 minute tutorial which is designed to teach you how to use the computer to fill out the questions (duh). Click to start the tutorial and just let it run its count down while you do a brain dump and write the process chart and formulas on scrap paper.

    • I did the first 100 questions, skipping anything with a calculation or anything that made my brain hurt. At question 200 I took a break to stretch and go to restroom.

    • At this point I had 1:45 left. Came back and first did all the skipped ones, then reviewed the ones I had marked for review.

    • With about 50 minutes left all questions were answered and I simply began reviewing from question 1 again and got as far as 100 before time ran out. Glad I did because I did find one or two that were wrong.
- Lynn Massimo, PMP


  1. hi Harwinder,
    you're funny... LOL... no I didn't draft the Lessons Learned in advance of the exam. I wrote them the day after the exam. Was too busy studying to draft them before ;)

  2. Hi Lynn,

    Thanks :)

    I appreciate the effort you put into it.

  3. Lynn,
    Thank you for the post. It was very helpful to see a detailed, and what appears to be completely honest, study plan. It can be trying to read input from others about "I read the PMBOK and passed the test on my first try..." which made your post very refreshing.

  4. hi Cary,
    I'm so glad to hear my post was helpful and refreshing!


  5. Thank you for sharing the lessons learnt. It gives me good idea how to do. I have only 4 weeks for my exam.

  6. Hi Lynn,
    Beautiful post, the road trip precisely articulated. plan to follow this ..
    Congrats and thanks for sharing!


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