Tags: PMI, PMI study tips, PMP, PMP study tips
While I do manage projects in my daily work, I’d never thought of myself as an actual project manager. Being a take-action, Active Directory kind of guy, I primarily develop Microsoft practice exams and leave products like Project+ and CAPM to the professionals (aka Robin Abernathy). But last year several of my co-workers began suggesting that I take PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP) exam. Then my supervisor softly “suggested” that I take the PMP exam. Even my sister, a project manager, got in the game and encouraged me to take the exam. Furthermore, my sister said the exam was easy and did not take a whole lot of work to prepare for.
Well, she was wrong.
Since I am a veteran trainer, exam developer, and test-passer, my initial plan of attack was to fill out the application, take a practice test to identify gaps in my knowledge, do self-study to close those gaps, schedule the exam, take the exam, and pass it. BOOM! PMP-ville.
The Bad News
Not so fast. First, it took forever and a day to detail all of my project work experience for the application. Yes, you have to document 4,500 hours of project management experience (7,500 hours if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree). They also require 35 hours of formal project management training, which I didn’t have. The training materials was not actually a problem, as I was able to take a Skillsoft e-learning course that my company offers, but I did have to stop and find time for 35 hours of training in my schedule.
Once I finished the training and completed the application, back in June 2012, I got the go-ahead from PMI to schedule my exam. Next, I tested my existing knowledge by taking the Transcender PMP practice test. I failed that practice test miserably, and I emphasize: miserably.
I appealed to my friends and Dr. Internet for advice. One friend suggested a book that turned out to be a lifesaver: PMP Project Management Professional Exam Study Guide by Kim Heldman. Meanwhile, Dr. Internet suggested that I read the book chapter by chapter, then go through some practice tests after I’d finished the whole thing.
The More Bad News
Great plan, except for the part where it didn’t work. I would read one chapter, then another chapter, and then life would get in the way. I would put in one week of good study, then put the PMP info down for about 10 days. Unfortunately, a lot of the information that I’d studied seemed to float away. This process continued all the way through fall. By the time September rolled around, I was still not able to pass the practice tests that came with the book. Worse, the actual PMP exam is four hours long, but I had to take lots of breaks to finish each practice test. I just could not sit through all 200 questions. I felt like I was in high school taking the SAT test again. Augh!
I soon figured out what everybody and their mother has already posted on the Internet: you need to know every process, every input for that process, every tool and technique for that process, and every output for that process. By the way, there are a whole lot of processes. I tried to memorize them with repeated reading, but was never successful.
Finally, I tried using the audio CDs that came with Heldman’s book. Since my office recently relocated to East Tumbleweed, I had plenty of driving time to listen to someone else describe each process. Although this sounds like this would be outlawed by the Geneva Convention as torture, it actually helped a lot. I was able to memorize most of the processes and their information in this way. More importantly, I was able to do significantly better on the book’s practice tests, and started to make headway on the Transcender practice test as well.
The very last thing I did to prepare was to actually read the PMBOK guide. Not exactly a page turner, but it had to be done. I wasn’t too far into the PMBOK when I realized that Heldman’s book has done such a great job of explaining the abstract terminology with real-life examples, that I didn’t need to spend a lot of time with the PMBOK itself. I might owe dinner to the buddy that recommended Heldman’s book.
The Dire Warnings
Scheduling, or rather the impossibility of RE-scheduling the PMP exam, was no walk in the park. I strongly suggest that you do not schedule your exam too many months in advance. In fact, you might want to make sure your test date is carved in stone. If you need to reschedule your exam within 30 days of the exam date, you will have to pay a $70 fee. Worse, if you need to reschedule within 48 hours, you lose the entire testing fee ($405 for PMI members, $555 for non-PMI members). Ouch! Just be mindful, if you schedule the exam months in advance, life might get in the way, and you will risk losing your $70.
All warnings aside, I do recommend you set a goal date. I decided on the date that I wanted to take my exam and scheduled the exam only a few days out from that date. Set a target date for when you want to take the exam, and then try to schedule the exam two weeks out from the target date.
The test center where I took the exam reminded me of the gulag in the movie “Stripes” where the East Germans held John Candy, Judge Reinhold and the gang, before Bill Murray and Harold Ramis busted them out.
The lighting was so bad that I could barely see what I was writing on the scrap paper they gave me. As promised, the exam had 200 questions and blocked out four hours. My sister said that it would only take me two hours, tops. As I may have mentioned before, my sister was
wrong. It took nearly the whole four hours for me to finish. It was comprehensive and really a tough exam. After staring at a screen for four hours, I could barely see to drive home.
Finally, the Good Advice
The exam was not impossible. Looking back, there are some things that I would have done differently. For starters, former Transcender team member Jennifer Wagner gave some really good advice on the application process in her blog post from 2009. Like she mentions, you should start documenting your project hours as soon as you start thinking about the PMP exam to cut down on the time spent sorting out the application requirements.
After I finished the application process and got the approval to take the exam, I would have tried to take the test within 6 weeks. I would have taken several days off from work and buckled down to go through all the material and practice tests on a continual basis, instead of trying to dedicate 90 minutes to studying five days a week. PMI uses specific terminology to describe things that seem obvious or intuitive when you’re actually managing a project. If you do not know that terminology backwards and forwards, which I didn’t at first, it will be tough to pass the exam, even if you apply those principles every day at your job.
For me, the best way to get the knowledge about the processes was to go through as many practice test questions as I could to cement the information about the processes in my brain. There are about 800 practice test questions and over 1000 flash questions in the Trancender PMP practice test. I also went through the 400 practice test questions in the Kim Heldman’s book. With my work/life schedule, it took about two weeks to go through all those questions. Going through the questions highlighted my deficiencies. This was the key to the whole process, since after I identified the weak areas, I concentrated on the processes that I was weak on. I got better and better at the flash cards and practice questions until I felt ready to schedule my exam.
The more that you space the studying out, the less you’ll retain. Dedicate some time to the process and knock it out of the park while it’s still fresh. Hope this insight into my experience helps set your expectations & project management goals. Good luck!
Tags: Continuing Education Units, PDU, PMI, PMP
Editor’s note: Our guest blogger, PMP certification holder Colleen Reed, project manager for a Washington, D.C.-area information technology firm, shares her budget-busting method of acquiring PDUs.
My most excellent Project Manager Professional (PMP) certification comes with a requirement to take 60 continuing education credits of the PMI-approved sort, called professional development units (PDUs). I have three years from the receipt of my PMP to earn those 60 PDUs. There are many, MANY ways to earn credits, which the PMI helpfully lists here (http://www.pmi.org/Pages/Ten_Ways_to_Earn_PDUs.aspx). Some of these credit methods have limits; some do not.
My favorite method for earning my PDUs are those very inexpensive ($5) or free Web-broadcast seminars that account for between a half and two credits each. So far, I’ve nickle-n-dimed myself up about 10 credits worth of those classes.
My favorite class so far has been a Web-broadcast lecture on project risk management for the widening of the Panama Canal. It was hosted through the Washington, DC PMI chapter, and cost me $5 to “attend” online. That was an interesting political science and management lecture rolled into one convenient package. And it earned me 1.5 PDUs towards recertification. I also took some online webinar courses on Earned Value Management from Global Knowledge, which earned me a single PDU each.
Admittedly, this earning rate pales in comparison to, say, the 22 credits that I could earn for attending a three-day class of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. But as a working professional, I find there are many advantages to these small-fry webinars:
- The first one is convenience. I can “attend” a webinar from any location that has a computer and a connection, and sometimes I don’t even need to attend the presentation in real time.
- The second advantage is targeted content. I can pick a class that covers a topic that I need, and earn PDU credit while also advancing my knowledge base.
- The third advantage is what I consider my brain-full level. An hour of class time contains just about as much material as I want to absorb during my work day.
- And the fourth advantage is, of course, cost. While my own company has a very generous training policy, many of us in the consulting business must arm-wrestle our companies for the time off to take courses, the money to take the classes, or both. These webinars are low-to-no cost, so might not be worth anyone’s time when it comes to fighting about money.
So, in short, using webinars to earn PDUs is a great idea. I get my PDUs when and where I want them, in bite-sized pieces, on topics that interest me, and no one is complaining about my training budget. To quote Stephen Covey, that’s a “win-win.”
Colleen Reed, PMP, SNVC L.C.
Program Manager, National Guard Bureau
Related blog posts:
Tags: PMI, PMP
Recently, a customer named Alex sent in a question asking about our current PMP practice test demo. He asked, “I would like to know if this sample test is representative of a current test or the one that will begin on 8/31/2011?” While our current practice test covers the content and format of the current exam, I realized that there were probably more folks out there wondering just what this new update means. So here I am again discussing PMP.
PMI announced that the current PMP exam that addresses the PMBOK 4th Edition will be updated August 31, 2011. PMI has published a new PMP Examination Content Outline for this new version. In addition, Global Knowledge has published a white paper that details the changes.
To sum up the changes as I see them, the Professional and Social Responsibility domain has been removed from the outline. However, this content will still be on the test, but will be located within the appropriate phase. Because of this domain removal, the weighting of the other domains has been changed. Finally, within each of the other domains (which are the project phases), new tasks (what we here at Transcender often call subobjectives) have been added. These new tasks are not necessarily “new,” but PMI has found it necessary to add these tasks. So a possible restructure of the existing content will probably be necessary, meaning some content in one task may need to be moved to a new task and/or new content will need to be written to cover the new task.
Because this update does NOT involve an update to the PMBOK, I don’t really expect any surprises here. But rest assured, we will be updating our practice test once the new exam goes live.
To discover more from PMI about the PMP changes in 2011, go to http://www.pmi.org/en/Certification/Project-Management-Professional-PMP/Updates-to-PMP-Certification-Exam.aspx.
To download the Global Knowledge article, go to http://www.globalknowledge.com/training/whitepaperdetail.asp?pageid=502&wpid=819&country=United+States&utm_source=twitter.
Keep in mind that we don’t really know what this means for the exam until we see the exam. So please, hold off on those “When are you going to update your practice test?” e-mails until AFTER August 31, 2011. Although I do have a crystal ball and a magic-8 ball, I have found them unreliable in predicting live exam content. But they are often reliable when predicting the outcome of those NCAA playoff brackets.
Tags: CEUs, Continuing Education Units, PDU, PMI, PMP, Professional Development Unit
Now that you have that PMP credential framed in gold and proudly mounted over your mantle, you are probably interested in maintaining it. Having undergone the extensive application process the first time, you’d be loathe to have your certification expire and begin the application all over, not to mention the stress of taking the exam again. As with most things in life, it’s not just the achievement that matters, but also maintaining it for the long run.
Every three years, you will need to renew your PMP credential (unless you fall into the partial year extension outlined by PMP). If you forget to do so (like I did recently), then you will be suspended from the program for up to one year. During that year you cannot associate the PMP logo with your name, but you can still earn credits towards its renewal. After a year, you will lose the PMP credential completely and must re-apply and take the certification exam again.
There was an easy way for me to avoid the hassle of having my certification expire. If you read on, I’ll share the secret.
First, a quick background review. For any PMP certification holder to renew, you will need to participate in PMI’s Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) Program. Adhering to the CCR Program means that you earn the required number of Professional Development Units (PDUs) and pay a renewal fee ($60 for PMI members, $150 for everyone else). PMP certification requires 60 PDUs be earned in the three-year certification cycle.
A single PDU represents 60 minutes spent in learning, teaching, planning or executing a discipline in a structured project management environment. Although PMI provides an exhaustive list of all twelve types of PDU activity, here are some of the most common categories:
- Formal Academic Education: Taking classes with a curricula that meet PMI standards for project management.
- Self-Directed learning: Non-official learning sources, such as sessions with co-workers or reading books on project management. You can earn 9% of your PDU requirement through self-study, or 15 total PDUs.
- Authoring or contributing to an article: Writing articles, white papers, or books that pertain to a project management discipline or best practice. Publishing in a refereed journal earns more PDUs than publishing in a non-refereed journal, but both will earn PDUs.
- Speaker, panel member or instructor: Providing official training on a topic related to a project management discipline or best practice.
- Project management practitioner: Actually practicing project management is considered on-the-job training. Any project-related activity you perform, including planning, execution, and evaluation, can be submitted for up to 15 PDUs (9% of your total required PDUs) for the three-year cycle.
- Volunteer officer or committee member at a not-for-profit organization: That’s right, as long as there is some project management activity, you can do good work and earn up to 20 PDUs. And what volunteer organization do you know of that doesn’t engage in project management to some degree?
Each of these PDU categories can count towards renewal, but as I mentioned above, there are some PDU limits in each renewal cycle. For detailed information, consult the following resources:
- PMI’s Continuing Certification Requirements System: https://www.pmi.org/ccrs/
- The online PDF of the PMP Handbook, pp. 31-41, http://www.pmi.org/PDF/pdc_pmphandbook.pdf
- PMI: Maintain Your Credential, http://www.pmi.org/CareerDevelopment/Pages/MaintainYourCredential.aspx
How do you report these PDUs? PMI makes it easy, both on their website and within your PMI transcript.
- From the PMI website, download the PDU Activity Reporting Form: http://www.pmi.org/PDF/CCR%20Activity%20Reporting%20Form.pdf
- In your PMI transcript, you will click the Report professional development units (PDUs) to see your current PDU activity. To log new PDU activity, you will use the Report PDU link.
As you submit PDU credits through your transcript, you will receive almost instantaneous confirmation of approval or rejection. Any reported credits over the 60 required for 3-year renewal will be applied to the next renewal cycle. That means if you register PDUs throughout the three-year cycle as you earn them, then the actual renewal process will require nothing more than a payment of the fees.
Just as the original application process is greatly simplified by good record-keeping beforehand, so is the PMP renewal process. Now that you know how to keep your PMP credential current, you need not worry about taking that beautiful certificate down from the mantle.
Tags: PMBOK 4th Edition, PMP
Can you believe it? We have finally arrived at my sixth and final post that details changes in the PMP 4th Edition exam.
We have covered a lot of ground, and some of my posts seemed to go on and on…and on. But at least now you see the major changes in the PMBOK 4th Edition.
We covered all of the process groups:
- Initiating – covered in Part 1
- Planning – covered in Part 2
- Executing – covered in Part 3
- Monitoring and Controlling – covered in Part 4
- Closing – covered in Part 5
- Professional and Social Responsibility – covered in this post
In this final edition, we’ll discuss the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct and how it relates to the Professional and Social Responsibility objective of the PMP exam.
PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct
In the PMBOK Third Edition, project managers had two separate codes that they had to understand for certification testing purposes: the PMI Member Code of Ethics and the PMI PMP Code of Professional Conduct. Because there was so much confusion for the project management professional when considering both of these codes, PMI decided to create a comprehensive code that covers both areas.
In 2006, PMI released the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, which contains five main topics that the test candidate should read and understand:
- vision and applicability
The guidelines set forth should be considered for all decisions that the project manager may face.
You can retrieve the PMI Code of Ethics and Responsibility at http://www.pmi.org/PDF/ap_pmicodeofethics.pdf. When you read through it, pay special attention to any italicized notes. PMI tends to focus on these points in the exam. Most of the items are straightforward knowledge-based questions, but they can still trip you up if you aren’t familiar with the Code.
Well, that’s all….for now. If you would like to see any other posts on this topic, feel free to make a suggestion in the comments. Most of the time, we try to predict what you want. But our crystal ball does get cloudy at times!
Tags: PMI, PMP, PMP study tips
Here we are again, folks!
We have covered Initiating in Part 1, Planning in Part 2, and Executing in Part 3 of my study series. In this post, we will cover Monitoring and Controlling. The PMBOK Fourth Edition had quite a few changes compared with the PMBOK Third Edition. Remember, I’m only highlighting the changes between the two — do not expect this to be a comprehensive PMI study guide.
Special note on Part 4: You need to take particular care when examining the acronyms and formulas used in earned value management (EVM) because so much has changed between the Third and Fourth editions. The test candidate should be sure to memorize all formulas from both editions. There have also been some changes made to the formulas used for forecasting for the Control Costs process. These changes, and the formulas for TCPI, should be memorized as well.
Process Group Four: Monitoring and Controlling
In the PMBOK Third Edition, the Monitoring and Controlling phase had 12 processes. In the PMBOK Fourth Edition, it has 10 processes, of which eight have been renamed, as shown in Table 9. (The Manage Project Team process and the Manage Stakeholders process were removed from the Monitoring and Controlling phase in the PMBOK Fourth Edition and placed in the Executing phase, as described in Part 3 of my study series.)
|Fourth Edition Process Name||Third Edition Process Name|
|Monitor and Control Project Work||(same)|
|Perform Integrated Change Control||Integrated Change Control|
|Verify Scope||Scope Verification|
|Control Scope||Scope Control|
|Control Schedule||Schedule Control|
|Control Costs||Cost Control|
|Perform Quality Control||(same)|
|Report Performance||Performance Reporting|
|Monitor and Control Risks||Risk Monitoring and Control|
|Administer Procurements||Contract Administration|
Table 9: Processes in the Monitoring and Controlling Phase
The changes in the Monitor and Control Project Work process are shown in Table 10 (click the image for a larger copy): Continue Reading Obtaining Your PMP Certification: A PMP 4th Edition Study Plan – Part IV…
Tags: PMBOK 4th Edition, PMI, PMP, study tips
There are six objectives covered in the PMP exam:
- Monitoring and Controlling
- Professional and Social Responsibility
I covered the Initiating process group in Part I and the Planning process group in Part II. But remember, I am just highlighting the changes in the PMBOK 4th Edition as compared to the PMBOK 3rd Edition.
And now on to the Executing process group.
Process Group Three: Executing
In the PMBOK Third Edition, the Executing phase had six processes, but there are eight processes in the PMBOK Fourth Edition. The Manage Project Team process moved from the Monitoring and Controlling phase. The Manage Stakeholders process moved from the Monitoring and Controlling phase and was renamed the Manage Stakeholder Expectations process. The Request Seller Responses and Select Sellers processes were consolidated into a new process called Conduct Procurements.
The changes to the Direct and Manage Project Execution process are in Table 7. Continue Reading Obtaining Your PMP Certification: A PMP 4th Edition Study Plan – Part III…
Tags: PMBOK 4th Edition, PMI, PMP, study tips
As I stated in Part 1 of my PMP study plan, there are six objectives covered in the PMP exam:
- Monitoring and Controlling
- Professional and Social Responsibility
In this installment, I’ll cover the Planning process group. (But remember: this overview only highlights the changes from 3rd Edition PMBOK to 4th Edition.)
Process Group Two: Planning
In the PMBOK 3rd Edition, the Planning phase had 21 processes. In the PMBOK 4th Edition, it has 20 processes. Process names were changed, processes were consolidated, and one process was replaced completely. The Planning phase processes in the PMBOK 4th Edition are shown in Table 1. Continue Reading Obtaining Your PMP Certification: A PMP 4th Edition Study Plan – Part II…
Tags: PMBOK 4th Edition, PMI, PMP, PMP study tips
(Editor’s note: After writing Obtaining my PMP Certification, Part One: The Application, Jennifer Wagner not only passed her PMP exam, she also moved on to manage a brand-new initiative here at Transcender. We miss her, but we’re excited that she’s able to practice her skills in a whole new arena. Fortunately, Robin was able to step in to write about her own PMP testing experience. So this post is less a follow-up & more a roadmap to prepare for your exam once your application has been approved. )
There are six objectives covered in the PMP exam:
- Monitoring and Controlling
- Professional and Social Responsibility
Unfortunately, none of the third-party books or even the PMBOK present the material organized by the process groups. Instead, the material is organized by knowledge areas.
There are nine knowledge areas. The basis of the exam is the process framework. Within each knowledge area are processes that fall into one of the five process groups. The discipline of project management is processes. There are 42 processes. Each process belongs to one process group and one knowledge area. Confused? Join the club!
A good approach to your studies is to start by focusing on the changes within PMBOK 4th Edition (when comparing to the PMBOK 3rd Edition). I can hear you saying, “Does that mean I have to purchase BOTH books? My budget can’t take it!” No, you don’t. That’s where I come in. Over the development of the PMP practice test, I took the time to identify the changes from 3rd Edition to 4th Edition and document them. So over the next few weeks, keep your eyes peeled for additional parts to this study guide. We’re sure you’ll find it quite helpful.
And to satisfy your appetite for PMP content today, I’ll start with the Initiating process group.
Process Group One: Initiating
In both the PMBOK Third Edition and Fourth Edition, the Initiating phase has two processes. The Develop Project Charter process is in the Initiating phase for both editions. However, in the PMBOK Fourth Edition, the Develop Preliminary Project Scope Statement process was dropped and a new process, Identify Stakeholders, was added.
A few changes have been made in the Develop Project Charter process. The business case has been added as an input to this process. It provides information for determining whether the project is worth the required investment. The business case is created for one of the following reasons: market demand, organizational need, customer request, technological advance, legal requirement, ecological impact, or social need. Project selection methods, project management methodology, and project management information systems have been removed as tools used by the Develop Project Charter process.
The Identify Stakeholder process is completely new in the PMBOK Fourth Edition. This process has four inputs: the project charter, procurement documents, enterprise environmental factors, and organizational process assets. The project charter is created in the Develop Project Charter process, and the procurement documents are created in the Plan Procurements process. Two tools are used in the Identify Stakeholder process: stakeholder analysis and expert judgment. Stakeholder analysis gathers and analyzes information to identify the stakeholders of a project and the impact these stakeholders may have on the project.
The two outputs of the Identify Stakeholders process are the stakeholder register and the stakeholder management strategy. The stakeholder register lists the stakeholders, their requirements and expectations, their influence, and the stakeholder classification, and acts as an input to the Collect Requirements, Plan Quality, Identify Risks, Plan Communications, and Manage Stakeholder Expectations processes. The stakeholder management strategy details how each stakeholder will be managed throughout the project and often includes a stakeholder analysis matrix. Both of these documents become part of the overall project documents repository.
I know it’s quite the sea of inputs, outputs, tools, and processes. And just think - this is the FIRST process group. We have quite a bit more ground to cover over the next few weeks (and I haven’t even thrown in the formulas yet.)
Coming soon: Part II – Planning.
Robin has been neck-deep in tools, techniques, and processes for three months while she developed practice products for both CompTIA’s Project+ and PMI’s revised 4th Edition PMP exams. These are both jargon-heavy tests with a lot of precise methodologies. (While Robin is more than up to the task, we expect her to take a nice, long vacation on a remote island where no one will say the words “phase,” “project,” “procurement,” or anything at all starting with the letter P, with the possible exception of “piña colada,” when all is said and done.)
Speaking of said and done, Transcender’s PMCert: Project Management Professional Fourth Edition practice exam is now available as a download, CD-ROM, or online-only access product. And if you scroll to the bottom of our product demos page, you can download a free demonstration of the exam: here. (Demos require that you download and install our demo test engine as well.)
PMP3ED retired earlier this month and is no longer available for testing through PMI.