How and Why I Passed the PMP Exam

I passed the PMP Exam recently, and wanted to share my experience in general.  For those opposed to the PMP exam, please read before commenting, you may be surprised at my take on it.

In general:

  • Many questions involved picking the best of several correct answers
  • The technique of eliminating 2 answers first didn’t work in some cases: for many there were 3 correct answers to choose the best one from
  • I don’t remember any questions that involved picking which answer is NOT correct
  • There was a calculator program built into the CBT software, was not allowed to bring in my own calculator (it may be different for you, I suggest you check with your examination place beforehand)
  • I brought bottled water and some light snacks, and took a break at least every 45 minutes.  It was good to just stare out the window and clear my mind of PMP-related thoughts for 5-10 minutes.
  • It took me only 2 1/2 hours, but I could see how if you are not a native english-speaker it may take longer to interpret the questions properly.

My preparation:

  • PM Prepcast (comes with some sample questions, study guide, etc.)
  • PMBoK Guide (reference only, I never read through it)
  • Using the concepts whenever possible on my project
  • 2 weeks before the test, no more studying.  Only sample questions.  All the free sample questions I could find plus the ones I got with the PM Prepcast

I listened to the PM Prepcast on drives to and from work, and because he gives so many examples of real-world situations it helped me internalize the concepts so I really understood them.  I didn’t spend any time trying to memorize inputs and outputs, etc.  If there was something I needed to see, I made a mental note and then when I got to work or home I’d pull out the PMBoK guide and reference the section in question to better understand it.  For the most part, I just used the graphics and flowcharts in the PMBok guide for reference.

What value did I get out of it?

My son Mazaryk and I
My son Mazaryk and I

The primary reason I did the PMP was so I can have it on my resume and not get it thrown in the trash before a potential employer even talks to me.  The PMBoK is a standard, not best practices.  It’s a framework, not a methodology for how you should actually manage a project.  I know some have said that some firms actually screen out people if they have a PMP certification.  That is a very small number indeed, and truthfully I wouldn’t want to work with them anyway.  If someone ASSUMES incompetence on the basis of having earned a certification, then they are more consumed with their own ideological stance on the matter than hiring a qualified candidate.

No, the majority of employers who know anything about what the PMP is are screening for it, not against it.  Therefore, it is important to me from a pragmatic standpoint that I put myself in a position to best support my family with the value I bring to the firms I work with.  The PMP is but one of many things I’ve done and continue to do in order to market my skills and value effectively.  I understand that this certification does not certify me as a project manager, nor does it certify any level of competency.  I think it’s a signal that I have a minimum level of knowledge about project management and have some familiarity with formal practices laid out in the PMBoK standard.

Now, the primary benefit I’ve received was NOT as a result of earning the certification.  It was during the process of studying for it and applying the concepts in my day job, alongside other frameworks and methodologies and specific processes necessary for my project’s situation.  When I wrote a management plan that was not in line with the PMBoK, I understood exactly how and why, and that there’s nothing wrong with that.  I can’t stress enough the value I received from the PM Prepcast.  I paid less than $50 for it, and it was worth at least $500 to me.  It was so much better than any boot camp, training class, or prep book.  Those things mostly focus on memorization or take a lot of time and money.  I studied while I was driving and got lots of real-world examples to bring the concepts to life.  I’m confident that if I took the PMP exam again a year from now, I’d pass it with no problem because I know this stuff, I didn’t just memorize it.

Next up, the IPMA/asapm certification?


7 thoughts on “How and Why I Passed the PMP Exam”

  1. Sorry Alan, I can see why that’s confusing.

    I didn’t create the PM Prepcast, but since passing the exam with it and using it myself, I now am an affiliate for it which means a % of sales through go towards keeping the lights on over there.

    The link in the post goes to my free PMP Guide newsletter. In that newsletter, I sometimes talk about the training material I used to pass the exam.

    This is a page I reference in the newsletter:
    Project Manager Certification Resources

    Sorry for the confusion!!

    Josh Nankivel

    1. Thank you for the clarification, Josh.

      Transparency of relationships is important. In this case, I no longer doubt your sincerity toward the value of PM Prepcast. I’m glad it worked for you.

  2. I was following a link from an post about agile development and clicked through to here. As a proponent of agile development methods, I’m interested to learn more about PMI to better understand all project management techniques. Interesting post.

    I am confused by the references to PM Prepcast. The author of this post refers to PM Prepcast as some intersting, 3rd party tool. For example:

    “I listened to the PM Prepcast on drives to and from work, and because he gives so many examples…”

    “he” gives examples. But when clicking through the PM Prepcast link, it appears that it is published or at least promoted by this article’s author. Is Josh referring to himself as “he”?

    “I can’t stress enough the value I received from the PM Prepcast. I paid less than $50 for it, and it was worth at least $500 to me.”

    So, he paid himself $50 for his own product? This whole interesting post appears twisted into a sales pitch for his own product while trying to appear objective.

    I guess I am confused.

  3. It is amazing how much emphasis they put on the PMP over a graduate degree/ graduate certificate in Project Management. I passed my PMP last night (yay!). I’ve been saying for 3 year now that I will go for it, and finally did.

    To be honest, I never completely read the PMBOK(r) Guide. I did read the Head First PMP 1 time around. I read Rita’s book 1 time around also. I took about 8 practice exams from various locations (including 4 at which I paid about $50 total for, but well worth it.) Then, looked at the areas in need of improvement, and re-read those. Two areas on the practice exams where I needed help were Risk and Procurement. Guess what? I bet a HUGE percentage of my questions on the real exam were on those two topics.

    I took the final 4 days off of work and crammed for the exam.

    I think one of the MOST valuable things of all was that I am from a fairly mature organization who practices a lot of what is in the PMBOK guide. This helped me visualize my real world situations with the questions being asked. I think it is a rarity that one could say “Yeah, that’s how we do it.”

  4. Josh, I enjoyed reading your post. I passed my PMP exam about two years ago. My wife couldn’t understand why I would go for a certification rather then a graduate degree. I tried to explain that employers would be screening for it. Fast forward two years. After being laid off, I had to put my resume out there with the countless droves looking for work in a spiraling economy. What got me in the door for interviews time and time again was that PMP on my resume. How do I know? I asked!

    I did get a job in a PMO for a Federal Agency. Since being hired, each time a new candidate list arrives for open positions, the resumes of PMPs go right to the top. It’s not that there is a belief they will be better project managers. It’s understood we all had to pass the same test. We all use the same PMBoK standards and terminology.


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