PMP in First Attempt: Lessons Learnt

On Sept 25th 2014 I cleared my PMP certification. I was happy at the biggest & valuable education milestone for me since I completed my graduation in 2000.

The first time I thought about getting certified was in Nov 2010 when I enrolled myself to get 35 PDU from the PMBOK 4th Edition preparation workshop. It took 4 years & self-study on PMBOK 5th edition for me to achieve the milestone.

In terms of timelines I was disappointed however after closely evaluating lessons learnt I am happy. During these 4 years,

Worked on multiple customer projects

Fundamental requirement to apply & be eligible for the PMP certification

Worked as Process Lead

Enhanced my planning skills, stakeholder management skills, team management skills and performance evaluation and reporting skills

Worked as full time pre-sales SME

Improved my understanding on estimation & importance of having right assumptions and estimates in place. PMP exam do check understanding on estimation and tool & techniques for estimation.

Volunteered as Project Manager for Community Project

Project didn’t succeed as expected however I had hands on experience in driving Idea to Reality and understood my areas for improvement. Also helped me understand how project management fundamentals could have increased the success of the project.

All the experiences helped me understand PMBOK 5th Edition concepts well enough to clear the exam.

My initial scope/target was to get the certification as soon as possible. However in those 4 years, in kind of rolling wave learning (like rolling wave planning) the certification became only the milestone.

Knowing & Mastering Project Management become the target by understanding PMBOK.

Here is my attempt to share the lessons learnt. I tried putting in 9Ws to understand easily,


Do you need certification

Is it Certification Or do you want to enhance your knowledge supported by certification. The choice is personal and I don’t want to make any recommendations. Whatever is applicable in your case try be clear. Seek mentor if you are unsure.


Drives your decision to take PMP exam.

A mandate from work policies, A personal goal for career enhancement, and Its company sponsored certifications etc. This will help you stay motivated when stuck with obstacles during preparation.


Do you want to complete it?

In my case it was June to Sept 2014.Target will help focus your energies to prepare well. At high level you need to target following targets,

  • Taking PMI Membership
  • Gathering Data Point for Application
  • Submitting Application
  • Scheduling Exam
  • Preparing for exam
  • Testing with Mock Exams
  • Attempting Actual Exam


Areas of project management interests you.

All the areas are important however knowing your own strength will help you accelerate learning in some of the knowledge areas. Remember your school days, you would have tried to score the most in favorite subject right.


You can find help

If you have taken PMI membership required help is already available for members. Also a lot of help is available on internet however knowing your sources of help will reduce time in struggling to find right help when you are stuck with understanding particular knowledge area, tools & techniques. Find a mentor if available, If you have buddy utilize it as collaborative learning can give mutual benefits.


Book to refer

I referred only following books,

PMBOK 5th Edition.

PMI Members get to download soft copy as part of membership. Make sure you read it at least once very thoroughly. I was told by people to read at least twice. Honestly I could not complete second round for all topics. I read topics which were not clear to me like Time, Risk & Procurement Management.


PMP® Exam Prep Products – Eighth Edition Published by RMC Publications, Inc.

Personal opinion this book has more than sufficient knowledge about project management. I personally felt overdose in the first reading. Don’t lose patience while reading long chapters else there is danger to get defocused/interested. Based on your convenience read it with decent breaks to ensure you remain interested. This book can be your ultimate source to get clarity on most critical concepts for the exam preparation.


The PMP® Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try
Published by VELOCITEACH, INC.

Personally I loved this book. While walking through the office library I came across this one. Found very interesting for the cover page. I was able to finish this book in close to 2 week. Completing this book was the turning point to my preparation. Easy and small chapters helped me understand required content well. The tests after the chapters helped gauge my strengths and weaknesses. After completing this book I read the above to resources to work on weak knowledge areas. It helped me immensely to grasp the content.


Tests to try

Work Out


Plan daily, weekly & weekend study hours according to your workload and work-life balance. For 2 months, I studied at least 3-4 hours a day 8 hours on weekend. Of course I had to stretch to meet work-life however it was worth by planning time well.

What Next

After you are certified

Have a plan to retain the PMP credentials. You will find guidance on how to retain it by submitting required PDUs in 3 year cycle.

Most importantly, BE COOL, CALM & COMPOSED. There are so many things we can’t control.

I was struck with severe backache. I was forced by doctor to take complete rest over the only weekend just before my exam. For a moment I was panic. Doctor helped with medicines & my lovely wife helped me defocused from stress and worries about the preparation time lost.

Please drop your comments if you find this post helpful to begin your exam preparation. If it works I will be glad to know about it.

All the best.