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  PMP Exam Lesson Learned by Kalpana Garyali

Kalpana passed her PMP exam on Apr 14, 2011 and sent me a note with her lessons learned and study notes. I'm sure there's something that every PMP aspirant can learn from this elaborate and well-written piece of information. Here's what she has to say: Hi Harwinder, Kudos to you for the wonderful explanation and details in each and every post of yours. Thank you so much for your time and effort towards running this blog. I cleared the PMP exam on 14th Apr, 2011 . I scored Moderately proficient in Professional and Social responsibility and Proficient in all the 5 process groups. I would like to share my lessons learnt. Hi everyone, I was so scared to write this exam and I had the itch to delay the date 48 hrs prior to the exam. That being said, I think the exam is not something to be scared of if you are well prepared. So, preparation is the key. Once you are confident that you are prepared, I think you will overcome any fear you may have. I personally believe the method, timeframe etc varies from individual to individual. Here are my lessons learned on my journey towards a PMP and an approach that worked for me. The materials that I used for studying are:
  1. PMP Exam Prep, Sixth Edition: Rita's Course in a Book for Passing the PMP Exam.
  2. Audio book, PMP Exam Prep, Sixth Edition: Rita's Course in a Book for Passing the PMP Exam * - This was of a great help to me to keep my concentration intact. The number of minutes remaining in the playlist would help you stay motivated that a particular chapter is going to get over soon :) Rita Mulcahy, in the audiobook is more motivating as opposed to sounding demotivating in her textbook.
  3. [ofcourse] PMBOK.
  4. Lessons Learnt and other posts in Harwinder's blog,
In the first pass,I went through PMP Exam Prep and gave it a thorough read and meticulously did the exercises. In the 2nd pass, I read a chapter from PMBOK and the corresponding chapter from PMP Exam Prep and took the tests in PMFastrack for the corresponding KA.I analyzed each and every mistake and prepared a lessons learned. It was during the 2nd pass I realized, only things I have done in the real world stuck with me in my memory and that I forgot many things I learnt newly in the first pass. I placed emphasis on such areas and spent time reading those topics. Along with the lessons learned, I made notes of things I was seeming to forget. I took a test on Oliver Lehmann's 175 questions. The outcome of the test doomed me. When I thought I have read each and every word of Rita's book, I should comfortably score 80-85%. I scored about 73% and I was disappointed. The outcome of Oliver Lehmann's test emphasized the importance of reading through PMBOK instead of skimming it. I also figured there are things such as influence diagrams (a diagramming technique used to identify risks) missed out in PMP Exam Prep. After all this,I decided to pay attention to PMBOK. I had only about 15 days to go for my exam. I had sufficient time for the 3rd pass. In the 3rd pass, I went through PMBOK and the points I jotted down from the 2nd pass. I wrote the SuperPMP exam from PMFastrack and scored about 78%. I analyzed my mistakes and most of the mistakes I made was because of fright. Figured that I had reached saturation and decided to go ahead with the exam. Among all the chapters, I loved the way Integration management, Procurement management, Risk management and Quality management chapters are covered in PMP Exam Prep. I have never had a first hand experience in Procurement management. The book covers these areas in simple terms. Thanks to the book, I got most of the questions based on Integrated Change Control right in a few seconds of reading the question and the answer choices. My lessons learned:
  1. Project sponsor protects the project from changes and from loss of resources.
  2. Deviations from baselines are often due to incomplete risk identification and risk management.
  3. Wider the range between optimistic and pessimistic estimates in a 3 point estimate, more the uncertainty the estimator has.
  4. GERT chart - a chart showing loops between activities.
  5. Resource working on an activity with most float will be considered for transitions.
  6. To save time, you want to fasttrack activities on critical path.
  7. Team needs to approve final schedule to ensure activities can be completed as scheduled.
  8. Crashing an activity with float will not shorten the project.
  9. 2+ Critical paths in a project makes it more risky for the project.
  10. Detailed project schedule should be approved by functional managers.
  11. More interdependencies on a project increase the need for communication.
  12. Discretionary dependency - important when analyzing how to shorten or resequence the project to decrease the project duration(fast-track).
  13. Schedule compression occurs before finalizing the schedule.
  14. CPI is the most critical EVM metric.
  15. Resource breakdown Structure (RBS) is useful in tracking project costs.
  16. Stakeholder list is created at project initiation and reassessed at project execution.
  17. WBS allows communication within the organization as well as outside the project.
  18. A project manager does not have authority to issue change orders, but must request them from the procurement manager.
  19. Project manager cannot accept shipments that do not meet the requirements of the contract; but may meet the project manager's needs.
  20. Seller cannot issue a change order, although can request one.
  21. Normal response to force majeure is to give extension of time.
  22. When a seller goes abruptly out of business, best thing to do is to hire a new seller under a time and material contract.
  23. Main purpose of procurement audit is to identify the successes to transfer to other procurements.
  24. Transference of risk is included in the terms and conditions of the contract.
  25. A decision to accept a risk must be communicated to stakeholders.
  26. Forecasting methods:
    • Time series methods
      • EVM
      • Moving average
      • Extrapolation
      • Linear prediction
      • Trend estimation
      • Growth curve
    • Causal/econometric methods
      • Regression analysis - Linear, non-linear
      • autoregressive moving average
      • econometrics
    • Judgmental methods
      • Surveys
      • Composite forecasts
      • Delphi method
      • Scenario building
      • Technology forecasting
      • Forecast by analogy
    • Other methods
      • Simulation
      • Probabilistic forecasting
      • Ensemble forecasting
Day of the exam: I started with a good flow and I marked questions that I was skeptical about, although I answered them. So, In the first 2 hours, I had completed my first pass of the 200 questions. I had about 60-80 questions marked for review. Can't recall how many were marked. I went through them carefully for the next 1 hour. I was thinking about submitting the exam. But I listened to my instincts and decided to stay back for the next 1 hour and review 1st 100 questions as quickly as possible. I reviewed almost 70 questions and the time ran out. I filled the survey and heaved a sigh of relief when I saw the word Congratulations on the monitor. All the best to those of you working towards your PMP. Good luck, Best regards, Kalpana


  1. Hi Kalpana,

    Thanks much for sharing the informations and especially lessons learned.
    Best Regards,

  2. Is it really that hard? Frankly speaking, from my experience I will tell you.. it is very easy to pass the exam. I had all these tensions when I was preparing for the exam, however once I started attending the questions at the exam hall, I found it is very easy to answer. It is noted there are few questions that is tough but you don’t need to answer those questions to pass. My advise to all exam aspirant is to approach the exam like any other exam, it is not that tough. PMBOK+ practicing around 3000 questions will help you to pass the exam. Don’t spend too much reading study materials. Don’t loose fun time in your life for this pretty easy exam. We should stop posting and reading too much ‘lesson learned’, reading too much lesson learned won’t help. After all everybody has to tell same thing. Dear Harwinder, I request you to prepare a comprehensive lesson learned and publish it. That is enough.

  3. @ Anon, thanks for sharing your thoughts. The questions in the exam are picked randomly from a pool. It's quite possible that one set turns out to be easier than the other, even if there's some logic to balance the difficulty. Moreover, difficulty is a subjective matter.

    But I do agree that following every advice in every lessons learned post is not the best idea. I think what you are asking for is already available here - Common theme among PMP exam lessons learned posts. Let me know if that's not the case.

    Thanks again for your thought-provoking comments.

  4. You are welcome Harwinder. Yea, that is what I suggested. It is really worth and more than enough for those who looking for ‘lesson learned’. By the way, when I was preparing for the exam, I used read your blogs regularly. It simplifies many concepts which are hard to digest in the first reading.

  5. I passed my PMP exam today (30th August 2011) ... it was a roller coaster ride for me getting into the examination hall... but it ended well..

    thanks :)

  6. Moin,

    Congratulations on your achievement. You should share your own lessons learned with us.

    Sorry for the late response. I have been super-busy with BrainBOK for the past few weeks.


  7. Congratulations on your achievement. Silly question, do you know what the requirements are too pass? I know there are the levels of proficient, moderately proficient etc... but do you know what is considered passing?


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