14 de septiembre de 2014

One strategy to face the PMP Exam

Do you want to take the PMP® exam easily and confident? Then you have to practice a lot of tests. Practicing tests is good to keep on learning (you learn much by knowing why the good answer is the good one and the others are wrong) but also to get the mark of one minute per question (in the PMP® exam you have to answer 200 questions in 4 hours). There are no shortcuts here: to pass the PMP® exam, once you have the fundamentals and every concept is clear, then you have to get into the habit of practicing a lot of tests, the more the better. This is a matter of practice. You have to practice, practice and practice again. Practice until you get exhausted! There are lots of tests available: complete exams or part of them, free and for payment, interactive or in books, etc. Before the day of the exam, you have to plan a constant effort to do tests, more intense as the exam is coming closer. Common advice is more than 2 hours a day practicing tests during the 2 weeks before the exam.

Only after felling confident by practicing tests, this is the moment to schedule the date of the exam. If you are not a native English speaker, you can request the translation aid to read quickly the long text introducing the question, in order to separate the relevant information and recognize which of the 47 processes is the one you need to focus on.

The biggest challenge for the PMP® candidate is the limited time. You have 4 hours to answer 200 questions and you always need more time. People failing the exam always complain about the insufficient time. When they have only one our left, they realize they have more than 60 questions to answer, for instance, and they get into panic. To get the average pace of one minute per question you have to do the homework: learn the fundamentals, practice many tests, sleep well the previous day, etc. All this done, however, does not guarantee passing the exam.

In order to have a good performance during the computer based testing, my advice is to follow a certain strategy. I will appreciate any of your comments with your thoughts on this. Thank you very much for continue reading.

When you sit down at the computer, you will have 15 minutes to study a tutorial to learn how to use the application. You probably know that already, but you are refreshed on how to answer the questions, how to mark them for review, how to go to the summary, etc. Many candidates prefer to use the keyboard, better than the mouse. They press key [P] to go to the previous question, key [N] to go to the next one, key [M] to mark for review, key [A] to check answer a), and so on. They get faster this way. The screen with the questions is more or less like this:

Chances are you will not need 15 minutes to watch this tutorial. With the time left, the advice is to do what is called the brain-dump. This consists of writing down in a piece of paper certain useful information you know by heart. When you are into the exam, you don't want to stop just to recall the formulas, the percentages of 1-2-3 sigma, the 47 processes table, the 7 models of contracts, the 5 Maslow's pyramid levels, the 5 Tuckman's team building stages, the 5 conflict resolution methods, etc., etc.

Once you start the 4 hours countdown timer, my advice is to follow a strategy, for this will keep you focused and it will give you better performance. The best strategy is your strategy, the one you have practiced previously. In order to design your own strategy, maybe this points will help:

  1. First iteration answering only those questions you know for certain (you mark the rest for review). When you enter the exam, you are cold and nervous. The first questions may seem quite simple and you get encouraged, but suddenly the next question is a very tough one, you stuck into it and lose about 5 minutes or more, because you want to go in sequence. This is a common mistake. Mi advice here is that you go through the 200 questions answering only the easy ones. It is known that the exam has 1/3 of easy questions. Well, let's start with them: Find them and answer them. When you go back to the difficult questions later on, you will discover that they don't seem so difficult now, simply because you are not cold. If you have good fundamentals on project management, this first group of easy and secure questions will include those about ROI, EVM and CPM. The goal for this first iteration is to finish in 50 minutes with 50 no-doubt questions answered. The rest that you don't know for certain you maybe have answered them as well, but it is important to mark them for review. If you have answered 50 no-doubt questions, you will have 150 questions marked for review. If you use 50 minutes and get less than 50 no-doubt answers, don't worry: mark the rest for review and go to step #2. If you get 50 no-doubt answers before 50 minutes, you don't need to follow neither: mark the rest for review and go to step #2.
  2. During the next iterations, you forget about these no-doubt answered questions. Make the application show you only the marked for review. Make sure that you answer each and every question. Unmark those questions you are not interested in reviewing again. Goal: 25 questions marked for review before the 40 minutes.
  3. Then, spend 30 minutes in solving all of marked for review, answering them definitively (unmark them all).
  4. Finally, spend the last 10 minutes in reviewing the whole exam. Please make sure that all questions are answered, since fails don't penalize.

If you like this iterative strategy, you may also like to be able to monitor at any time how many questions you are supposed to have been marked for review to finish on time. There is no control without measurement. If we represent the number of questions marked for review, according the strategy above, the chart will be like this:

For instance, when there are 100 minutes remaining, you shoud have (100-10)*5/6=75 questions marked for review. The goal of getting down the number of questions marked for review may help you to keep focused and confident during the exam. Before starting the exam, when you do your brain-dump, you could draw this chart, as well. During the exam you could update it with your actual performance. When you get to a check point (every half an hour? every hour?) you can draw the point indicating how many questions are still marked for review at that time, like in a burndown chart

Could be this a good recipe to avoid the panic in the end?

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