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Sunday, July 10, 2011

PMP Test Taking Tips

When you sit for the PMP certification examination, there will be 200 multiple-choice questions and you will have up to four hours to complete the examination. This breaks down to exactly 50 questions per hour and a little more than one minute per question. Not all questions require equal time. Don’t agonize over every question. Read the question and each possible answer in its entirety prior to selecting an answer. Select the best answer to each question based on the response that seems to adhere to the PMBOK and PMI.

More than one answer might seem plausible and correct. Select the best answer from those provided rather than aiming for the “correct” answer. In some cases, multiple choices among the available answers might seem equally valid, so it is important to rule out obviously incorrect choices to narrow down your options.

If more than one answer seems logical, look for an answer that includes both responses. Some of your choices include “Both X and Y”, “Neither X nor Y,” “All of the above,” or “None of the above.” The inclusion of a choice that includes multiple answers does not mean it is the correct answer. Some of the choices can be tricky and aimed at throwing you off track from the correct answer.

Likewise, many of the available choices include terminology, concepts, and processes endorsed by the PMBOK and PMI. Just because you recognize the term does not mean this is the correct answer. The exam uses terms in similar contexts to assure you thoroughly understand and can apply the material. Be sure to read each question carefully to avoid any confusion among terminology or process names.

In your response to every test question, you should strive to select the best answer based on how you believe PMI and the PMBOK would respond given the question and not necessarily from your own project management experience. The best answer as determined by PMI is always provided as one of the four possible responses.

Be suspicious of answers offering definitive responses such as never and always. Some answers might tout non-PMI methods and reflect common project management misconceptions. Some answers might offer correct information but the information is not pertinent to the question at hand and is simply included to confuse you. Similarly, some questions might contain factually correct information that has no bearing to the possible answers. If you do not have a firm grasp of the material and immediately know the best answer, you can waste valuable test time trying to figure out a way to use and apply irrelevant information. This is particularly tricky when mathematical calculations are requested in response to an examination question. Remember that the purpose of this exam is to measure your ability to understand and apply the PMI methodology, not your past experiences as a project manager. Whenever there is a discrepancy between your experience and the PMBOK, go with the PMBOK answer.

I Repeat – When you feel an answer is right based on your project management experience and another answer is right based on the PMBOK – The PMBOK answer will be the correct choice. The PMBOK is always right, at least from the exam perspective.

Whenever you are taking test or mock exams, make sure you set yourself the same time conditions like the original exam. This will give you a fair idea of how quickly you are able to complete the exam. Remember that there are 200 questions and you have approximately 1 minute per question and hence, practice is extremely important. Be aware of your time to avoid having to rush at the end to complete the exam.

You should leave adequate time to review any responses you are unsure of and/or to return to unanswered questions. If you are spending more than one minute on a question, it is better to skip the question and mark it for review later than to waste your time over that question. The logic is simple, the 5 or 10 minutes you waste on figuring out the answer of a question you do not know, can be used to answer a number of questions to which you may know the answer. You may not be able to reach those questions, if you are stuck to one complicated question.

During the actual computerized exam, you can mark questions for later review and/or make multiple passes through the exam. Mark every question you are unsure of even if you have selected an answer. This approach saves you time when you review your responses because you do not need to review any unmarked questions. If on a second review you determine an answer, unmark the question. Continue this process of going through all the marked questions until they all have answers or you are nearing the end of the allotted time period.

Save the last 20 minutes or so of the test to finalize any unmarked answers and assure you have provided an answer to each question. For the practice test, if you adhere to the suggested one minute per question rule of thumb, you have 10 minutes to review your answers and respond to any marked questions. On the actual exam day, try to make a best guess by ruling out definitely wrong answers as discussed earlier. Select an answer for each question even if you have to guess.

The best part about the PMP Exam is the fact that there is no negative marking or penalty for choosing an incorrect answer. So in all probabilities, there is a 25% chance that the answer you choose is correct. Don't let this chance slip bye. If you don't know the answer to a question, make sure you select an answer and if that is your lucky day, you may even choose the right answer.

Almost all of us have the habit of second guessing ourselves. You may choose an answer to a question and during review another answer might seem appropriate. Don't give in to such impulses. Never change your initial answer unless you are 100% sure that the answer you have already selected is wrong. The human mind can be a little bit unstable at times and the nervousness of taking such a long exam can cost you if you toggle between answers. In most cases, the first answer you select will be the right answer and by changing the answer during review, you are in actuality damaging your chances of passing the exam.

All said and done, preparation is the key input to passing any certification. Make sure you read the PMBOK Guide once and any other good material like “PMP Exam Prep by Rita Mulcahy”. In my experience, this is one of the best PMP Exam prep books. The “Head First PMP” book too is a wonderful knowledgebase that has a strange way of explaining things, but it works.

Prepare well, use the material in my blog, leave comments where you need help and you will be able to Crack the Exam in your first try.

All the very best in getting your PMP Certification!!!

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