How To Study & Use The PMBOK Guide For The PMP Exam Preparation?

I have written a multi-part post to share the PMP exam prep and study experience of Brad Ferrell. In the first part of this post he talks about the importance of the PMBOK Guide for the PMP exam preparation. He talks about how he used & referred to the PMBOK Guide while preparing to improve his scores in the practice exams.

Brad Ferrell is part of the PMP prep Linked group that I moderate. He shared his PMP experience notes on the group. I requested him if I can share his notes with the blog readers. He kindly acceded to my request. I wish him good luck for the future. Here is Brad’s experience in his own words.

PMP Exam Preparation Using The PMBOK Guide

To my pleasant surprise, I recently received the news that after several months of diligent preparation, my hard work had paid off in passing the PMP exam. I had my doubts along the way due to the intimidating PMP boot camp, the under performing pre-exam scores, and the balance to study between work, family, and other personal demands (Admittedly it was difficult to control my will power for going to the gym after work, playing fantasy football, and watching Netflix).

Starting From Scratch

So my prep started back in February 2017 when I enrolled in a week long boot camp which counted towards my 35 hours of project management education. Allegedly I was told you should schedule your PMP exam shortly after completing the course, but it seemed as though the instructor was breezing through the course material at warp speed while my brain was trying to keep up. I recall our class covering around a thousand slides in five days! Feeling overwhelmed, I thought no way was I ready to conquer this exam. However, as it’s pertinent in all project management activities, I needed to develop a game plan in studying for the exam. Fortunately, time was on my side in my preparation. My employer offered me a year to take a the exam since they were footing the bill.

Not knowing how to plan my strategy for studying, I decided to summarize all the slides that were given to me by hand writing all the important concepts, terms, and processes on notebook paper. At the time, I was making notes on about one knowledge area per week, and after several weeks my notepad was filled from front to back. Looking back at my notes just recently, these were brutal to comprehend and learn off of. How am I going to digest this material? I had received the PMBOK 5th edition, but was overconfident to think my notes and power point slides were enough to take me across the finish line. Not knowing what to do next, I decided to dedicate a month’s worth of taking practice exams that were given to me during my boot camp. This would serve as my baseline to give me an understanding of where I stand score-wise, in addition to know which processes and knowledge areas I need to focus my attention towards. The exams were tough. I believe after taking all of the exams given to me during the boot camp, it was estimated that my average exam score was around 50%.

Now what do I do? Admitting that my hand written notes was not going to cut it, I was better off typing my notes in MS Word. Rather than typing out my old notes verbatim, I decided to focus on the detailed answer sheets that were handed to me during the boot camp. These explanations were crafted in a way which would make it easy to learn and could referenced at any point. I felt these notes would benefit me over the long run. But there was still plenty of work for me to do to reach a comfort level where I can walk into the PMP exam and pass with flying colors. A recent PMP examiner at my company suggested to read the PMBOK from cover to cover to give me a taste of all the terminology and processes in a comprehensive fashion. Though I didn’t think this was a bad idea, this would mean pushing back my original hopes of taking the exam by the end of Summer. As mentioned a few paragraphs ago, time was on my side and my thoughts at this point were to consider all sources available that I could get my hands on. After speaking with educators in the field and reading numerous blog posts, you simply can’t just show up to the exam and pass with ease. Even though I didn’t exactly have the exact exam date planned out, there were certain requirements that I set for myself:

  1. Read the PMBOK 5TH Edition entirely.
  2. Take numerous practice exams.
  3. Go back and review the knowledge areas that are giving me the most trouble in the PMBOK, as well as my notes.
  4. Retake any practice exams that I had previous scored low on.

Study Material Used


Over To You

How are you preparing for the exam? What is your preparation strategy? Are you using The PMBOK Guide? Do you find it difficult to read?

Please leave a comment.

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