The goal of obtaining the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is a worthwhile, yet challenging pursuit each project manager must decide on obtaining. You might wonder, “What’s the point of getting the PMP? I’m already working in the field? Why go through the effort?” My answer to those questions can best be addressed with an illustration. Suppose you need to go to the doctor’s office. You schedule an appointment with a receptionist and she asks if you’d like to see either the doctor or a board-certified doctor? Without hesitation, you would most likely select the board-certified doctor. Why? Being certified implies one is more official, has sought industry training, and has the expertise in the field. It is for those reasons why the PMP certification is so important for project managers to obtain.
The lesson you should know is obtaining your certification is key to differentiating yourself from others ensuring relevance in a changing economy.
My journey began when I took the 5 day PMP training course back in 2013. During the next year, I had many setbacks that prevented me from giving the test. As I took on more senior roles as a project manager within organizations I became complacent towards certification. As months progressed I began to reason, “Why bother? Why go through the effort?” However, that line of reasoning was short-sighted because change is inevitable in any industry and job market. In surveying the job market several of the more reputable companies either stated that certification was required, or that it would be needed within 6 months of employment. After giving a half-hearted approach to studying for the exam for several months, I asked a professor what recommendation she would give to getting me focused on the exam. She said to schedule the exam in a couple of months. By doing it would bring things into focus. How true she was with that advice!
The lesson you should gather from my experience is to set a date for the exam and don’t procrastinate taking the exam.
I scheduled my exam in October 2016 and several weeks prior I purchased a PMP prep exam book to study out of. During the next few weeks I realized that there were several gaps in my project management knowledge that I needed to brush up on. Leading up to the exam I spent about 10 hours each week studying and preparing. The day of the exam arrived and I felt as prepared and confident as ever. However, my confidence was shattered when I failed. Being frustrated by this setback, in retrospect I slowly began to see why I failed. First, I relied too heavily on my background and experience as to how I should answer questions. Simply relying on my experience would not be sufficient to passing. Second, I did not take seriously the recommendation to take several practice exams.
The lesson you shouldn’t repeat from my experience is not to rely simply on your experience or education to preparing for the test. Be open to different formats to learn and be prepared to take practice exams.
Having failed the first time, I was more determined than ever to passing the exam. I purchased a more reputable study exam prep book, began taking the practice exams, and started working on the book exercises. I allocated about 20 hours each week to studying and preparing. Another recommendation from the study exam prep book was to read the book twice, which I’m thankful I did. I’m not a good test taker to begin with so I knew how important it was to fully understand and apply the material. While not making this specific recommendation for others, I took a week off from work and studied 6 hours each day leading up to the exam. With this extensive studying period completed I felt more confident and prepared, so I rescheduled the exam in December 2016 and passed!
The lesson you should take from my experience is investing in a a reputable prep book to study, and follow the recommendations from the book. Don’t study the day of the exam and make sure you get sufficient sleep the night before.
I hope my experience will not only encourage those sitting on the fence to take the exam, but also provide some helpful and practical suggestions on taking and then passing the exam. All the best!
Shannon Pettiford, PMP, CSM
Note: The views expressed in this paper/website/weblog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.