The story so far… I decided to change my career to become a Professional PM and to seek PM certification… (read last week’s blog for full details)…now read on…

I attended a 3 day Project Management Practical training course with Aspira. It was an excellent, highly participative course which left lasting memories. I was actually surprised at just how much I learned about project management in 3 days and wished that I had attended the course years earlier as some of the projects I had worked on would have benefited greatly.

After a few months, I also attended a PMP® Exam Bootcamp course with Aspira. I learned during the training that in order to be eligible for the PMP® Exam, I needed a minimum of 3 years project management experience, as well as 35 project management training hours.  I met both requirements, and I left the course determined to attain my certification.

I applied for my exam – the application form in itself is a lengthy process but thankfully the Aspira Exam Prep training helped me to complete this and my application was accepted a week later. I signed up to sit my exam in a Prometric centre in Dublin in Feb (there are Prometric centres available in Cork and Belfast also).

The next step was to plan my study.  A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) 5th edition is a 589 page book which contains a lot, but not all, the theory you need to know to pass the exam. My plan was to study the PMBOK® manual, study some supplementary research papers and complete lots of practical exams.

I made good use of my commute by train to and from Dublin – scrolling through Facebook and Snapchat was abandoned in favor of reading my study materials. With one week to go, I concentrated mostly on practice exams. There are free exam simulators available in the App Store, and whilst some were better than others, overall they were great for highlighting specific areas I needed to focus on, and preparing me for the real exam.

The exam itself is made up of 200 multiple choice questions which need to be answered in 4 hours. Don’t let the multiple choice element of the exam fool you into thinking this will make it easy. In my experience, there were very few questions where I could instantly say at least two of those answers are obviously wrong. In many questions, each answer seemed correct and you really needed to know your stuff to know the most correct answer.

When a particularly difficult question arose in the exam, I marked it for later review. You can revisit the marked questions at any stage, but I felt it was best to go through all questions first, answering where I could, before re-visiting the more difficult ones. Time management is important – too much time spent on a difficult question could result in running out of time to answer easier questions.

Another obvious tip is to read the questions carefully. With 200 questions x 4 options to read, it is important to remember this and maintain concentration throughout the exam.  I have a tendency to cram a lot of study in the night before exams, but for this exam, I took the recommendation of others on board and I ensured I got a good night sleep the night before. I was so glad I did this, as concentration is key in reading and understanding all 200 questions.

Finally, yes the exam is tough, but there are some high points, the first one being your results are instantaneous! OK – there is a 30 second delay while your results are computed, which feels a whole lot longer as you watch a blank screen. The biggest highlight of course is in seeing the “Congratulations, You Passed” message appear on screen! I felt on top of the world as I left the Test Center and felt I was capable of taking on any project in any industry.

Because the beauty of gaining industry certification is not that it suddenly makes you a great Project Manager – it’s that it validates your knowledge and experience and gives you the confidence to take on new challenges. I can heartily recommend it!

Author: Gillian Whelan, Project Manager, Aspira.

The Project Management Professional (PMP®) and PMBOK®, are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

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