July 30, 2015

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Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

7 Myths about PMP Exam for First Time Takers

By Alan Tay

PMP Exam myths
The PMP certification is one of the most recognized certifications for project managers globally. Many job advertisements list a PMP certification as a mandatory requirement for certain positions. Therefore, if you are serious about your career path as a project manager, nothing should stop you from getting the PMP certification. Fortunately I passed the PMP examination on my very first try, but I became aware of myths about the PMP exam that I would like to address here.

#1: Pick the correct answer

Beware of choosing the correct answer. The PMP exam is a multiple choice question type of exam and out of the 4 answers, you need to choose the BEST (not correct) out of it. This means that you could have four correct answers.

What I did for most of my questions where I really have difficulty answering them is to eliminate the weakest answer and work towards the best one.

#2: You need to be the Jack of All Trades

This is for exam takers who had read too much about PMP tips. You will come to realize that the PMP exam does not have a fixed passing rate and it pretty much covers every process group and knowledge area. Does this mean that you will not pass if you are weak at certain areas? The answer is: “No.”

When I received my PMP exam result, I noticed that I had two areas which are below proficient. This means that even if you are not proficient in a certain area, you can still make it through, but it’s surely not worth to risk, because if you are planning to pass this examination, you should be well prepared.

#3: Four hours is long

The examination lasts for four hours, but for a professional certification like PMP, it is never too much. In fact, I had to miss my last 10 questions, even though I timed myself very well that I must finish at least 50 questions in every hour. The reason for this is that you become tired towards the end of the exam. Therefore, having a good rest the night before is very important.

#4: Finishing the PMBOK is a MUST

Honestly, I had never flipped through more than 50 pages of the PMBOK. The PMBOK is an important piece of document for your reference, but it is not your only source for the PMP exam because the book contains hundreds of pages taking a long time to finish. As a result, I trusted the educational materials from my PMP exam preparation course instead.

This is not a shortcut to success because the materials basically tell me what I need to focus on the 10 knowledge areas of project management and I should refer to the PMBOK on the key areas that I need to focus. Therefore, I still used the PMBOK but most of the time as a reference only.

#5: Practice makes perfect

I can see that many PMP exam takers look around for sample questions for PMP exam and I have to say that it is important but not necessary. Personally, I had never bought or attempt any sample questions of the PMP exam apart from the ones that provided by my PMP exam preparation education. Therefore, you don’t have to buy thousands of questions from the internet just to give you more practice.

It is more important for you to know the project management concepts and framework introduced by PMI. In fact, you only need few sample questions just to familiarize yourself.

#6: Experience matters

Regardless of how many years of experience you have in project management, if you don’t answer the question according to the PMI project management framework, you will fail.

Your experience is not what matters most. Instead, it is your knowledge that determines whether you will pass or not. However, having project management experience does give you an advantage if you put the PMI knowledge first before yours.

#7: Exam tips

Don’t believe all the tips on the internet about PMP exam. Focus on reading the materials that will help you pass your PMP exam.

There is no shortcut to success because:

“Success is a journey, not a destination”

– Arthur Ashe

Can’t agree with me? Drop your feedback in the comment area below.  Don’t forget to check out the FAQ of PMP exam.

 

About the author: Alan Tay is a project manager who runs IT security projects and the owner of PMPCode, a project management blog, where he often publish tips on project management and PMP exam preparation tips. Visit his blog for more information.

Project Managers – Are you Preparing for your PMP Exams?

By Cornelius Fichtner and Dan Ryan

Preparing for PMP exams?In the previous article, 7 questions that Project Management Professional (PMP) exam candidates frequently ask, were covered. Here are 7 more questions that PMP students typically want answers for.

 

Question and Answers

  1. What’s the most important brain dump or diagram to learn?

An easy question – it’s Table 3-1 in the PMBOK® Guide. This covers the Project Management Process Group and Knowledge Area Mapping. It’s a complicated matrix and a very important visual representation of Project Management Body of Knowledge and Project Management framework. It is very much a guiding tool for approaching the PMP exam and one of the most important brain dumps that you could have in the testing center to help you.

  1. What formulas do I need to know for the PMP exam?

There are many formulas in the PMBOK® Guide; upwards of 20 or 30 that could be referenced in the PMP exam. You will probably only see somewhere in a range of around 15 formulas on the exam itself.

If time is short and you want to focus your learning on what will really make a difference to your success in the exam, identify the formulas that are most likely to come up and make sure you fully understand those. A formulas study guide, coach or PMP exam tutor will be able to pinpoint the most important formulas for you. Start by memorizing those to maximize your learning time.

  1. What are these Inputs, Outputs, Tools and Techniques (ITTOs)?

ITTOs tend to scare a lot of PMP students and some exam candidates have confided that they didn’t understand or know about them before they took the exam! They are very important for understanding how project management concepts and processes fit together, both for the exam and also for managing projects in ‘real life’ after the exam.

Make sure you spend enough time learning about their structure, and how you are likely to encounter them on the PMP exam. You can do this through studying the PMBOK® Guide, and using other study guides and flashcards. Taking practice PMP exams is another good way of testing your knowledge of ITTOs as you will get to see how the questions are framed on the exam and learn how best to respond to them.

  1. What are some tricks to answering these long scenario-based questions on the PMP exam?

Students want to know how to deal with the long paragraphs that they see on the PMP exam. These long questions are often a source of great difficulty for many students. The content of the question is often in a strange order and there are facts that are added in simply to distract you. The answers are also often longer than normal, so scanning through and making a quick judgment about how to answer is tricky. So how can you deal with these scenario-based questions?

Something that works well for many exam candidates is to read the last part of the question first. You can also use a process of elimination on certain answers by referring to your brain dump of Table 3-1, the Project Management Process Group and Knowledge Area Mapping, or your formula sheet.

Practicing with an exam simulator and talking to your colleagues will help you understand and practice these long scenario-based questions.

  1. How can I manage my time on the exam day?

Four hours seems like a very long time and in the past students were often able to complete the exam comfortably within this time. Some students reported that the test seems to be taking longer. You can still complete it within the 4 hour window allocated, but it is taking the full allocation of time.

This could be for any number of reasons, including that students are now better prepared and are marking more questions for review. It could also be that earned value calculations are playing a great part in the exam and add additional time.  You do need to manage your time carefully on the day to ensure that you have enough time to finish without being rushed.

Once you get on top of your time management you have a much better chance of passing the PMP exam.

  1. What’s the best approach for learning all the content?

The best approach for learning all the content (and there is a lot of it!) depends on your learning style. Some people learn best by reading and absorbing information in their own time. This allows them to make notes and create their own flashcards, for example. If that sounds like you, a PMP study guide would be a good starting point.

Other people learn best through visual means. If that sounds like your preferred learning style then find yourself a world class set of video learning lessons which will provide you with all of the content on all of the processes, the framework, and the body of knowledge in a visual way.

Others learn best in an environment with other people. A classroom course or PMP exam tutoring in a group can be a good solution if you prefer to learn in the company of others. Or learn one-on-one with a study buddy (a peer who is studying for the PMP exam at the same time as you), a mentor or PMP coach. There are online options that also give you the personal touch such as coaching via Skype.

Use a combined approach to suit your situation so mix and match your learning options until you feel comfortable that you have a study plan that meets your personal needs and preferences.

  1. How many practice exams should I take and what score should I score?

How many exams you take depends on how much time you have! It’s more important to make sure that you have access to practice exams that provide you with questions that are known to be almost exactly like the ones on the real test. Try to find a source of questions that are highly regarded to be very realistic. When you get to a point where you are repeatedly doing simulated exams at scores of 80% or better you know you are ready to pass that exam.

Do you feel better prepared for your PMP exam knowing the answers to these questions? We hope so! Every student is different. Take from this advice what will work for you and all the best for your exam!

About the authors:
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP is a noted PMP expert. He has helped over 30,000 students prepare for the PMP Exam with The Project Management PrepCast.
Dan Ryan, MBA, PMP is a global leader in PMP Exam coaching having helped hundreds of students to the PMP pass finish line.

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Are you an aspiring Project Management Professional (PMP)?

 

By Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM

Preparing for PMP examHave you invested heavily in preparing for your PMP exam without positive results? Or are you keen to study for PMP, but don’t know where to start? How much time should you spend in preparing for the exam and working through Prep Questions?

Here are 7 questions people in your situation keep asking and the answers will help you get started more quickly with your own exam preparations.

Questions and Answers

  1. Why did I fail the PMP exam when I studied so long and so hard?

Everyone is different, but you probably became overwhelmed during the exam as you didn’t approach it with the proper preparation and mechanics for taking the test. It’s not enough to go online and gather tidbits from other people about how to study.

The scenario-based questions you faced in the exam are in depth and difficult, and you also need to be able to manage your time during the 4 hour exam. It’s hard and when you see the nature of the exam and the nerves kick in… all that leads to sub-optimal performance on the day.

Using a range of resources like videos, practice questions, flashcards, study guides and PMP tutoring can all help boost your chances of passing next time, if you combine them with practical preparations and test-taking strategies.

  1. I am terrible at mathematics and at formulas. How will I ever be able to do all these earned value questions?

Have confidence! If you’ve had an exposure to something like high school level math then you have the skills to do the math questions. It is just a matter of approaching these math questions in a formulaic kind of way.

First, memorize the formulas that are most likely to show up on the PMP exam – a PMP exam coach can help you identify which ones those are. When you have a theoretical understanding of these formulas and can see whether they are talking about planned vs. actual, variances or forecasts, you will be able to understand the logic behind the math. At that point, practice, practice, practice! This is rote learning and with enough practical exercises and repetition you will achieve an “AHA” moment! Once you have done them often enough you’ll see the math is no longer a problem for you.

  1. I took a few practice tests and I did OK with them so why I did I fail the PMP exam?

You probably weren’t using a very good set of practice questions. Make sure you are using the best quality question banks you can and take plenty of practice tests. Some practice tests aren’t the full length of the 4 hour exam, so be sure to attempt a few full length practice exams too. This will help you plan your time and develop test-taking strategies.

You really need to be dealing with practice PMP tests of 200 multiple choice questions and scoring 80% or more. The reason for that is because there will most likely be a number of factors that could cause your score on the real test date to drop below what it was in your practice exams. If you are only just above the passing threshold or achieving mediocre scores on your practice exams then you may drop below the success mark on the actual day.

  1. Can you help me with Risk and Quality please?

Yes! These topics must be mastered for the PMP exam. Review all those little things like the 7 basic quality tools and the difference between quality assurance and quality control. Go through all of those risk processes and make sure you understand the whole sequence from planning risk all the way down to creating risk responses and the differences between qualitative and quantitative risk analysis.

Start there and drill down deeper, making sure that you understand all the concepts of risk and quality because they are going to make up a good percentage of the questions that you see on the exam.

  1. What do I have to score in order to pass the exam? And can I get below proficient in more than one category and still pass?

The actual score to pass the exam isn’t made public and any passing percentages anyone mentions are just their best guess.

You should be aiming to score Moderately Proficient or Proficient in all process groups and an excellent PMP exam simulator will provide you with those scores. However, it is believed to be possible to pass the exam even if you are below proficient in more than one category.

  1. How long should it take me to study effectively and pass the exam?

It depends! Everyone has different things going on in their lives from work, family and other commitments, so the time available to you to study is personal depending on your circumstances. This will influence the length of your study schedule.

We see good results from students who can attack their studies aggressively and spend around 1-2 hours per day studying for the exam over a 1-2 month period. Students who put together long study plans of 4-6 months tend to see diminishing returns on their ability to pass. It’s recommended to put together a personalized schedule that is realistic for you.

  1. Do I really have to read the PMBOK® Guide twice like everyone says?

No, you do not, but it may help! The PMBOK® Guide is a useful reference guide and every good project manager should have one. You can also use a PMP prep book, a dedicated series of learning videos or the skills of a PMP tutor and have the PMBOK® Guide on hand to clarify further any concepts that you might not understand fully.

Asking the right questions helps you prepare more effectively so if you are struggling with something related to your PMP exam prep, ask a colleague, a professional PMP tutor or another trusted individual for their advice. Knowing the answers will make you feel more confident and ready to face the exam and in turn, increase your chance of success on the day.

 

About the author: Cornelius Fichtner, is a noted PMP expert. He has helped over 26,000 students prepare for the PMP Exam with The Project Management PrepCast at  and The PMP Exam Simulator 

PMI Announcement for Certified Professionals – Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) Program Update

Project Management Professionals

PMI has announced changes in the Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) Program from 1 Dec 2015. This is to answer the demands of the Profession based on the latest research findings in Pulse of the Profession and Project Management Talent Gap.

Employers need project practitioners with leadership and business intelligence skills to support strategic objectives that contribute to the bottom line.

The ideal skill set — the PMI Talent Triangle — is a combination of technical, leadership, and strategic and business management expertise. Aligning with this will ensure that you can develop your career in a more consistent, actionable and meaningful way.

Effective 1 December 2015 the CCR program will be aligned with the employer-identified skills depicted in the PMI Talent Triangle to ensure Project Management Professionals (PMP’s) are equipped to remain relevant in a continually changing business environment and to keep certification holders focused on the needs of the profession.

Please have a look at the Infographic below for a complete break-down of how Professional Development Units (PDU’s) will be maintained as per the update.

Also visit the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for an explanation of the reasons the CCR program is being updated, what the updates are, when the updates will go into effect, for which activities you can claim PDU’s and how you are impacted.

Update to CCR pogram

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Three important project management tools and techniques

By Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM

Whether you’re an experienced project manager, or a project manager preparing to take the Project Management Professional (PMP®) Exam, here are three tools and techniques you will be using on all your projects.

They are the following:

  1. Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM)
  2. Roles and Responsibilities
  3. Resource Breakdown Structure (RBS)

Roles and ResponsibilitiesEach of these tools and techniques are discussed within A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition, Project Management Institute, Inc., 2013, the globally recognized standard and guide for the project management profession. Let’s look at each of these tools and techniques individually, but also how they interact with each other.

Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM)

RAM is a tool used as part of the Plan Human Resource Management process that relates the organizational breakdown structure (OBS) to the work breakdown structure (WBS) and is used to ensure each project activity is assigned a specific resource. A RAM can be used at a high level, a low level, or a combination of both depending on the size and complexity of the project.

One of the most widely known and used type of RAM is the RACI chart. RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consult, and Inform. A RACI chart is simply a table with project activities listed along the left and specific individuals or groups identified across the top. This creates a grid where each activity and individual or group intersect. An R, A, C, or I can be placed in each of the intersecting boxes and at least one accountable individual or group is assigned to each project activity. For large activities there may need to be more than one individual responsible for completing the work. There can be multiple individuals or groups who need to be consulted or informed, but be careful to make sure that each is identified correctly so that not too many unnecessary individuals or groups are being consulted when they may just want to be informed.

Roles and Responsibilities

They are used to define the project role, authority, responsibilities, and competencies required for the role. Clearly defining and documenting the specific Roles and Responsibilities necessary for each project resource are essential ingredients of an effective Human Resource Management Plan. The best way to determine the specific responsibilities required of each role on a project is to document these roles in the form of specific job descriptions that must be matched with specific project team members in order to properly execute the role’s responsibilities.

The four key items to be addressed when developing Roles and Responsibilities are role, authority, responsibility, and competency. Role is the function an assigned person would take on such as designer, engineer, or tester. As part of a role it is also important to define the authority, responsibilities, and boundaries of the role.

Authority is the right to make decisions, sign approvals, apply resources, accept deliverables, and influence others to complete project activities.

Responsibility is the assigned tasks and work the individual is expected to complete. When developing roles and responsibilities it is important that the authority and responsibility match. For example, if an engineer is responsible for making technical decisions it is important they have the authority to implement those decisions.

Competency is the skill set and experience required to complete assigned project activities. If the wrong competency is assigned to a role project progress can be hindered by some activities not being performed.

Resource Breakdown Structure (RBS)

The RBS is a graphical representation of the hierarchical structure of resources by category and resource type where each level is broken down until it is small enough to be used in conjunction with the work breakdown structure (WBS). The goal is to have all resources on a project, not only human resources, linked to specific activities in the WBS in order to plan, monitor, and control the project work. Being able to link resources back to the WBS is essential in ensuring that each activity will be successfully performed.

One thing to remember when taking the PMP Exam is that the acronym RBS has two meanings in the world of project management; Resource Breakdown Structure and Risk Breakdown Structure. If you read the questions carefully and understand the context of the question context (i.e., are they asking about resources or risks?) you should not encounter any problems.

Three R’s on projects

How do the Responsibility Assignment Matrix, Roles and Responsibilities, and Resource Breakdown Structure interact?

The RBS will provide the project manager with information concerning the resources required to complete the project work. Once the RBS is decomposed to the same level as the WBS then identified resources can be linked to specific activities.

A RACI chart can then be developed based on the identified resources in the RBS and the activities that need to be completed in the WBS.

The documented Roles and Responsibilities provides the project manager with specific information such as the responsibility, authority, and competency level of the role that each human resource is assigned to. This also helps the Project Manager complete the RACI chart because it provides them with important information such as making someone responsible or accountable for an activity fitting within the role they fill.

In conclusion, a popular RAM, the RACI chart, is an extremely useful tool used to identify who is accountable or responsible for or needs to be consulted or informed with regard to specific project activities.

Roles and Responsibilities can be thought of as job descriptions that define the role itself along with the authority needed to perform the role, the responsibilities of the role, and the competencies required by the role.

The RBS graphically displays what resources are necessary for successful completion of the project, broken down by both resource category and resource type. For the exam, it is important that you understand not only how and when to use each of these tools and techniques, but also how they interact with each other.

Please visit The PM Prepcast for a very mobile video workshop that will help you prepare for your PMP exam.

Virtual Project Management Conference on-demand from IIL

This is a reminder that it’s the last week to watch the free presentations from the Virtual Project Management Conference hosted by International Institute for Learning (IIL) on International Project Management Day: Power of the Profession 2014 on 6 November.

The speakers cover topics like Leadership, PMO, Productivity, complex project management, Portfolio Management and many more.

It is highly recommended and existing PMP’s can use the opportunity to claim PDU’s.

Register and attend the on-demand sessions until 30 November 2014.

The on-demand period ends November 30. Pre-order the IPMDAY 2014 DVD for permanent access to standout presentations long after the event has closed.

Planning for Project Success

When looking at Project Planning, an important output of the planning process, is the Project Management Plan. This article will discuss what the Project Management Plan is, why fully understanding the Project Management Plan is essential to both project success and PMP Exam success,  what subsidiary plans and documents are, and once approved how changes are made to the Project Management Plan.

What is the Project Management Plan?

project planningAccording to the PMBOK® Guide, the Project Management Plan is “the document that describes how the project will be executed, monitored, and controlled.” Objectives of the Project Management Plan include documenting assumptions and decisions, communicating how the project will be executed, and documenting high level goals, costs, and milestones. The Project Management Plan is much more than a single document that is created and set aside. It integrates subsidiary plans and documents, it is created during the Planning Process Group and is expected to be updated as the project progresses. It is a living document.

Why the Project Management Plan is essential to both project success and PMP Exam success?

That is because it is the “go to” document used to answer questions during the project, and understanding what kinds of questions it may answer is vital to both project and PMP Exam success.

The Project Management Plan should be able to answer why a project was sponsored and what problem it is expected to resolve or what value the project is expected to add. It should describe the work to be performed and what the major deliverables or products are. It should identify who is involved in the project and what their responsibilities are and how they are organized. It should define how the work is to be executed in order to meet project objectives and how any changes will be monitored and controlled. If all of these are included in the Project Management Plan, then you will be able to answer the why, what, who, when, and how type questions that may arise during a project.

What are subsidiary plans and documents?

These are most often outputs of the other Planning Processes. For example, the Cost Management Plan is an output of the Plan Cost Management Process. It describes how project costs will be planned, structured, and controlled. It is considered a “subsidiary plan” to the overall Project Management Plan. Subsidiary plans are all of the “plan” outputs from the Planning Processes that include Scope Management, Requirements Management, Schedule Management, Quality Management, Process Improvement, Human Resource Management, Communications Management, Procurement Management, and Stakeholder Management. The subsidiary plans may be defined at a high or detailed level depending on the type of plan, the specific needs of the project and the requirements of the performing organization.

Subsidiary documents are the baselines developed as part of the Planning Processes. They include the schedule baseline, cost performance baseline, and scope baseline. Don’t forget that the scope baseline also includes the scope statement, WBS, and WBS dictionary.

How are changes made to the Project Management Plan?

Changes to the Project Management Plan are made through a Change Control System. This system consists of methods to request, review, and approve changes. When Requests are done, they are reviewed by the project manager, project sponsor, select set of stakeholders, or change control board. Once a change is approved the Project Management Plan is updated. Changes that are not requested through the Change Control System or approved should not be implemented. Including unapproved changes will let the project go out of control.

The Project Management Plan is a vast topic. There are many other facets such as the other inputs besides subsidiary plans and documents, how it is used to communicate how the project will be executed and controlled, the importance and usage of a Project Management Information System, and the formality of the Project Management Plan all of which are vital to know and understand for the PMP Exam.

A few additional aspects to keep in mind when studying the Project Management Plan are that it is typically a formal written document, that it guides project execution and control, that it is approved by the project stakeholders, and that the project cannot start until the Project Management Plan is approved.

In order to understand this topic completely read the Develop Project Management Plan section in the PMBOK® Guide. Then explain what a Project Management Plan is, how it is developed, and how it is changed to a friend who is not a project manager. Because if you can explain it clearly to them, then you fully understand it yourself; and use a Project Management Plan for your projects because practice makes perfect when it comes to the PMP Exam.

How Project Management Professionals help overcome problems on projects

We all know the challenges that projects face on a daily basis. They present themselves as problems that cause projects to fail,  or go over budget, over time or fail to achieve benefits.

This Infographic, kindly provided by Villanova University, looks at how Project Management Professionals (PMP) can help address the typical problems on projects and how to enhance their chances to be a success.

Looking to become a PMP, please visit the Resources Page for many products and training to help you with your preparations for the PMP exam.

Looking to employ new project managers, look at the advantages of using certified project professionals.

Why do projects fail and how PMPs can help
Infographic by Villanova University Online, your source for PMP certification resources.