The fact you looked up online for PMP® exam tips and tricks, suggests that you have started your prep for the one of the most rewarding certifications in the market these days. There are plenty of articles online which claim to have some sort of a secret recipe for passing the PMP exam. Even though, a lot of that could be useful not everything works for everyone. PMP® exam tips and tricks will work only if you have put in the effort to see the desired result. There is no alternative to hard work. In my last article on “How to study for PMP exam and pass” I shared a list of best practices that have worked well for my students, but you will have to introspect and pick and choose what works for you. Tips and Tricks are nothing but a recognized pattern and a bunch of techniques to handle the difficult parts of the test. PMP exam has been in existence since October 1984 and given that it is conducted several times a year across many countries it is possible to outline a pattern and mold your approach accordingly. In this article I will share a list of tricks and tips that have immensely helped my students to tackle the most difficult parts of prepping for the exam and the PMP exam itself –
A schedule and a to-do list that you follow – You need to pre-define a schedule for your preparation. Clearly demarcate the number of hours and the exact time for weekdays and weekends. This will help you to steer away from distractions and make it hard for your brain to procrastinate. When you have a set schedule then your mind is aware of the exact expectation for the day. Another important thing to do is to have a to-do list for every day. Be mindful of how much you can achieve in a day and do not try to stuff in too much. Remember, the more excuses you give the harder it gets for you to deliver.
PMBOK Guide, 6th Edition is the gold standard – There is no better resource in the market to prep for the PMP ® exam than the PMBOK guide. There are many books in the market which will give you a good understanding on how to work in a real-life scenario but PMBOK Guide is best suited for the exam. The content will help you strengthen your concepts which is very important on the day of the exam. There would be times when you will find the PMBOK guide to be extremely boring, but you just can’t do without it. Go through the entire guide at least twice to cement your learnings. However, if you have more than 2-3 months to prep for the PMP exam then you can refer some additional resources. The best ones (after PMBOK Guide) are –
• PMP Exam Prep – Rita Mulcahy
• Head First PMP – A Learner’s Companion to Passing the Project Management Professional Exam – Jennifer Greene
• The PMP Exam – How to pass on your first try – Andy Crow
Sit even if you can’t study – In addition to training your mind you must also train your body to handle the long hours of study. There would be days (especially in the beginning) when you will not be able to concentrate as per your standard levels but make sure that you still sit and try to concentrate. Once your body is used to sitting for a certain number of hours, you will find it easier to concentrate. A trick that worked for me was to study at the same time every day. For example – Study everyday from 7PM-9PM. Our body and mind perform better if the task is repeated at the same time every day.
Take regular breaks – Split your study hours by 30 mins intervals. Take a quick break for 5-10 mins and resume your studies. Numerous studies have been published which suggest that it is more efficient to take break when you are working on tasks that need concentration. Be sure to get back to studies though.
Revise what you study – Our brain is designed to let go of the information that is unnecessary. But how does is differentiate between what is important and what is not? One of the ways to suggest that to the mind is by repetition. Get back and revise the topics multiple times before you take the PMP® exam. The information will be retained, and you will be able to better connect the concepts on the day of the exam.
Take written notes and make diagrams – Carry a handbook where you take small notes of the key words and concepts. Also try learning with diagrams. Pictorial representations of something makes it easier for the brain to retain it. There are plenty of processes to be memorized and this small handbook will also allow you quickly review the important concepts even while you are commuting or waiting for a friend. Trust me, every minute counts.
Deactivate your social media accounts – This one came across as the hardest one for quite a few of students. But you will be amazed by how much extra mental vitality you have once you get off it. It has been scientifically proven that social media is one of the leading reasons for short attention span and distraction. Moreover, social media is repeatedly associated with depression. A distracted and depressed mind is the last thing you want when you are studying for the PMP® exam. If you find it extremely hard to deactivate your social media accounts, then you may explore some mobile application to block certain websites or platforms for a certain period.
Practice exams will take you home – The closest you can get to a real exam is by taking multiple mock tests. I have repetitively emphasized the importance of taking mock tests in my previous blogs. In case your education provider is not giving out quality mock tests (which they should) do not hesitate in buying a few online. There are plenty of free tests and questions available online but there a big difference in the quality and how close one gets to the real exam. Your aim should be consistently score 85%+ on your PMP exam.
Your 35-hours of training are very important – It is required that you get 35 Hours of formal education training to qualify for the PMP® Exam. Train only with the Registered Education Providers or “REPs”. They are affiliated and approved by the Project Management Institute (PMI). Do not hesitate to ask questions and to clarify all your doubts. You must do everything to ensure that you get maximum value for what you pay and to build a solid foundation. Always ask for a demo class before you make any commitment.
Keep yourself motivated – This is often the hardest tip to work on to pass the PMP® exam. You will have to consistent and conscious efforts to maintain your motivation. Eat well, exercise, get optimum sleep and take time out to relax. Another trick is to reward yourself. Plan an outing with your loved ones or with yourself at the end of the week or simply treat yourself with a small piece of chocolate at the end every session.
Bonus tip to ace the PMP exam – Focus on the learning experience rather than focusing on the result. Doing so will help you take off the unnecessary stress and be more present to take your knowledge to the next level. Regardless of the result you will come out as a better individual both personally and professionally. So, have faith, work hard and take the dive.