What is the Best Way to Prepare for PMP Certification?

OK, if you’re studying for Project Management Professional certification, (or PMP), what is the best way to prepare? Are there shortcuts you could take? There might be – but then again there may not be!

A site called WisdomPearls.com shares 10 tips for passing the PMP exam. The first piece of advice it offers? Join the Project Management Institute. Sure, you gain access to its reams of project management knowledge but you also get all types of member discounts. So, not only are you prepared but you’re a little bit better off financially.

The post’s author, Samkit Shah, says “Diving right into the crux of how one should approach the PMP exam I will highlight a few important guidelines on how I prepared myself.

Time commitment – I took a total of 3 months to prepare for the PMP. I work full-time and so I used to study approximately 2-3 hours every day. During my last 3-4 weeks I bumped it up to 4-5 hours a day. During my last few days I went on to read at-least 6-8 hours a day.

Initial Approach – I used to read one chapter every day, attempt a few questions on that chapter and write down my notes from that chapter. I would highlight a few points which I feel were important for that chapter and make a quick reference guide.

Final Approach – As I moved closer to my exam date, I would review my notes, dump sheets that I created during my initial reading, and attempt full set of 100-200 questions per chapter available online.”

Shah’s advice seems strong for preparation. But so are the 10 specific tips featured at the bottom of the blog post.

PMChamp.com, which focuses on helping folks pass the PMP exam, offers a free Step-by-Step PMP Study Plan to prepare for the exam. Vinai Prakash, PMP, founder of PMChamp.com, says in that blog post, “Preparing for the PMP exam is quite unlike what you did in school and college. Here the focus is not on memorization, but understanding the concepts, best practices, guidelines, and project management framework, as per PMI’s PMBOK Guide (currently Fifth Edition).”

It says, “… when it comes to preparing for the PMP Exam, you need to have a plan that is specific, practical, time-bound and achievable. Without a good game plan, you may simply be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work, or just run out of steam mid-way…”

The site offer a good study plan for PMP:

Quickly enroll in a PMP Exam Preparation Workshop in your city.
Assess the gap in your knowledge
Filling up the PMP Certification Application Form
Firm up Your Study Plan in earnest
Suggested PMP Exam Study Plan:

Assuming that you have at least 6 weeks before the exam, spend the time as follows

First Round of Basic Study – Rita’s PMP Exam Prep Book

2 Days for Project Management Framework

20 Days for the 10 Knowledge Areas (2 days each)

Of course there is one thing to keep in mind. Is it worth getting your PMP certification? Brian tackled that at his blog Entangled.com. He lists these pros for the certification:

Many companies will not hire a non-certified project manager
You will make more money
Certification proves you have experience
Great networking opportunities among your PMP peers
He list these cons for certification:

It’s an expensive process
Preparing for the test is time consuming
Certification is time consuming to keep
Certification doesn’t make you a good project manager.
With regards to the last one, Crawford says, “Passing the PMP exam means that you’ve indicated that you have a certain amount of project management experience and education, and that you’ve passed a difficult test – that’s all. It doesn’t mean that you’re a good project manager, or that the projects that you’ve managed have been successful.”

My Stakeholders Aren’t Involved – How Do I Change That?

It can be easy to lose sight of things and take the view that the most important people in your project are those who make up your team. However, that’s not the case. While you and your team are certainly central to the success of the project, there are many others that need to be involved. These are your stakeholders. If they’re not involved, you can face many different issues, and run the risk of your project falling flat on its face. What should you do if your stakeholders aren’t involved?
Include Them
A lack of stakeholder involvement might have nothing to do with a lack of interest on their part. It might be something as simple as you not including them in your communications. Actively involving your stakeholders in regular communications not only shows them that they are vital to the project, but that their input is valued. Of course, communicating with stakeholders can be time consuming, particularly if you’re using outmoded methods (like actually calling them on the phone or speaking in person). To foster the best engagement with them, make sure you have project management software that offers collaborative capabilities, and then engage your stakeholders though that medium.
Foster Trust
Project managers should not find this surprising, but many stakeholders don’t trust them or their teams. This is because traditional project management hasn’t always provided good results (failure is all too common). However, you can foster better trust with your stakeholders in a number of ways, including implementing Agile concepts in your project, providing better functionality, and actively including them in conversation, decisions and other project areas (such as using software as mentioned previously).
Outflank Dissenters
It’s natural to have at least one stakeholder that you simply cannot engage, that resolutely refuses to come around. When this occurs, it’s important that you find a workaround. You can do this easily by ensuring that the other stakeholders involved with the project are in agreement and on the same page as you. In most instances, the dissenting stakeholder will be forced to go along with the general consensus.
Define Your Stakeholders at the Outset
In order to ensure that you are doing your job and engaging your stakeholders, you obviously have to know who they are. You need to determine this from the very outset of your project. Stakeholders come in all types, but you’ll find that these are all individuals who have an interest in the project, have ownership in or of it, or who exert influence over part of or the entire project. They can be within your own company, within a client company, or they can even be end consumers or product testers.
With the information above, you should find engaging your stakeholders and keeping them interested and involved in your project a simpler process. However, it is vital that you take active steps to engage your stakeholders from the beginning of the project to avoid serious problems down the road.

What Information Should You Share with Project Champions?

A broad range of people are required to take a project from inception to a successful conclusion. You, the project manager, are vital. Your team members are also important. Your stakeholders are of obvious importance as well. However, the project champion is perhaps the most important individual in the mix. In order to ensure that the champion can do his or her job correctly, you have to share information with him or her throughout the duration of the project. What information do you have to share, though?
The Champion’s Role
In order to fully understand the breadth and depth of information that you’ll need to share with the champion, you have to understand his or her role. Essentially, a champion is exactly what it sounds like. They’re your advocates, your supporters and your problem solvers (on a high level, of course). Often, champions are the people who first determine that there’s even a need for a specific project, and are integral parts of the planning and organization process. They can also play a role in forming your team.
Obstacles and Hurdles
Part of the champion’s responsibilities include helping you and your team overcome hurdles and obstacles that you’ll encounter. As such, you need to share information that pertains to those problems or potential problems. You need to alert your champion when you expect a problem to crop up, as well as when those problems are fully handled and no longer pose a threat. This information might be the quantity of components shipped versus what was ordered, or it might have to do with freight charges rising unexpectedly. Any data that pertains to a problem or potential problem must be shared immediately.
Help with Resistance
You’re going to meet resistance during your project. Many executives still aren’t completely sold on the idea that they even need projects or project managers. You don’t have to face that resistance alone, though. Part of your champion’s duties involve running interference for you between your team and the executives higher up the ladder. When you meet resistance, you need to alert your champion. Provide as much detail as possible, including what incited the issue. Your champion will then go to bat on your behalf.
Communication with Management
Within large organizations, champions take on the role of messengers. You might never have to deal with an executive or manager during your project (this is particularly true with very large firms). However, you will have to communicate with them. If you don’t know these people, your communication can easily go off track. This is where your champion comes in. They’ll take your message to the manager and vice versa, working as a go between.
You need to provide enough information that your champion can perform his or her various functions, but not so much that you drown them in needless details. When in doubt, sit down and work out with your champion what information they want delivered, when they want it and how they want it sent to them.