Study plan

I have been studying intensively for the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam since mid-December.  I had this plan to obtain my PMP for about 2 years.

I started in August to accelerate my PMP study plan.  The first step was to read completely PMBOK, 5th edition.  It is nice that as a member of the Project Management Institute (PMI), you can have a free electronic copy.  Of course, if you are planning on obtaining the PMP certification, you will have to become a member of the project Management.

You can buy a paper copy from PMI or a bookstore.

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I discussed my study plan earlier in the following three posts:

Study time for the PMP exam

The PMP study plan – the exhaustion phase

As the title of the last one says, studying for the PMP exam can be exhausting. I took the exam very seriously.

The final blitz

Last weekend, it was my final blitz of studying for the exam.  I had my exam scheduled for Monday at 8:00 so this was the last weekend before the exam.  I must say that booking the exam date in December was the best decision.  If I would have waited for me to be comfortable before booking the exam, I would have studied far less and would still be trying to find more time to study.  I would also be too much of a perfectionist and try to improve a bit more before taking the challenge of the exam.  Nothing beats a commitment.

Before the weekend, I had done 2,000 practice questions, progressively improving my results from 65% in September 2013 to about 85% in January 2014.  Because of the date commitment for the exam, I had to be very strategic and use an effective and efficient approach for my PMP study plan.  It is not the best use of time to study everything equally and perfectly.  I have a full-time job, my family, spouse and kids to take care.  It is not as if all the knowledge areas are new and I have never been exposed to these concepts. Therefore, it was important to design a study plan that would maximize learning at the lowest cost.

Being a CPA, I have done professional exams in the past.  Using practice exams and working with the official book is always my preferred approach.  These are not exams that test your ability to read.  You must develop your ability to answer questions in the format or style that you will see in the actual exam.

The most logical approach is to study all modules, then do all practice exams.  However, it is definitely not the most efficient approach.  After an initial read of the material, here’s what I always like to do for professional exams:

  • Take a practice exam
  • Analyze the results to identify the weakest knowledge area.
  • Focus studying of the weakest knowledge area only.
  • Take another practice exam
  • Analyze again the results to identify the weakest knowledge area
  • Focus studying of the weakest knowledge area.
  • etc. repeat as often as needed

By using this approach, you can maximize your study time and invest time where you can improve most your results, and not invest time in knowledge area that you already know.  This is very important.  This approach is the best to increase the results with the least effort.  During simulation exams, the objective is to identify as many weaknesses as possible and improve them.  It is like designing a very precision quality management plan for your project.

500 questions

Over the weekend, I set 500 questions as my target for the final review.  I used the same set of questions used previously and answered them in practice mode, 10 at a time.  I identified again weaknesses and reviewed PMBOK to improve those.  The objective was to give me a way to gain a few more points and thus ensure (as much as I could) that I would pass the PMP exam on the first attempt.

Final results after so many hours of studying : 432 / 500 or 86.4 %

It was then time to rest, have a good night of sleep and be in top shape for the exam.  Because sleep is also a key success factor.

The exam day

My exam was scheduled at 8:00 AM.  Many articles on the web recommend that you visit the testing site at least the day before.  I must confess that I didn’t do that.  I did check on the map where it was and decided that I would just drive there early enough.  Strangely, when I found the address, I had a moment of stress.  While I had the correct address, a retail mall on the east side of Ottawa, I could not easily find the training provider.  I guess it was just me.  After walking around, and being a bit nervous, I finally found their door!

I took a few minutes to go buy a coffee, my very first morning coffee.  I then came back and started the registration process for the exam, only to learn that no drink was allowed in the room.  So I had to abandon my coffee.  I took a few sips and then did the exam, without much support from caffeine.

Coffee cup


After about 3 hours, I had the 200 questions answered and reviewed a second time.  I had the courage to click the button to end the exam.  And here it was in front of me, on the computer screen:

I passed the PMP exam!

I am so happy.  After so many hours of studying, I am now a PMP.  I can thank everybody who supported me in this adventure, starting with my wife, my kids and also thanking all my friends.

I am proud of the results.  I was worth it.  It is now a success.  This should give me more time to develop this website, Project-Aria.

Hopefully, sharing my study plan and own experience will help others in acquiring the PMP certification.

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Tools used to prepare for the PMP exam:

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