PM Guest Article November 2020

Grit, Focus, and Logic: Essential ingredients to complete PMP Certification

Elizabeth Chen

Elizabeth is a PMP Certified Strategic Communications Lead and Program Manager in Cisco Customer Experience (CX) Centers. She possesses over fifteen years of experience in Public Relations, Brand Building, and Media Relations, spanning leading brands in the IT/Telecom, Consumer Technology, and FinTech space. 

PMP is considered one of the most challenging certifications in the world. Two important reasons being that it aims to test an individual’s logical thinking and encourages practical application. As established professionals and a student with a distinction scorecard, not clearing the PMP in the first attempt can be a significant blow for many. In this interview, we hear from Ashok about his endearing five-year journey of clearing the exam in the fourth attempt.

Hi, could you please introduce yourself?

My name is Ashok Choudhury, and I am a Manager, Customer Support in the telecom division of Arvind Ltd. I am also responsible for managing projects operations in the South India Region. As per KRA I work as the Regional Service/support Manager.

Why did you want to pursue PMP Certification?

I hold an MBA degree in Operational Management, and I knew that PMP was the springboard to golden opportunities to accelerate my professional aspirations. My PMP Certification story is that of resilience and commitment.

You received your PMP Certification on the fourth attempt; share your journey with us…

My PMP Certification journey started in 2015 during the PMBOK 5th Edition. I was unfamiliar with PMI hosted classes and completed by 35PDUs from MSME. While I was mentally gearing myself to start the preparations, I heard about the soon to launch PMBOK VI. This also meant that PMBOK 5th Edition was no longer enough. I figured it would be more beneficial to start my preparation with PMBOK VI. During this time, my organization acquired three companies, and as one of the most tenured employee, I was tasked to lead the transition and seamless merger of the companies.

When it was time to give the test,  I couldn’t dedicate as much study time as required having to balance my professional and personal commitments. I lagged on my study plan and struggled with insufficient time to amply prepare on formula-based questions despite referring to other available study resources and mock tests. My weakness was comprehending the long-winding situation based questions within a short period.

I faced similar time-related challenges in subsequent attempts. Each time I would apply for the test, my professional responsibilities would increase, or some other commitments would emerge, demanding my fixated focus and time.

However, with the onset of this global pandemic leading to the need for working remotely and zero commuting hours, it offered a few hours to invest in my study time. In March this year, PMI connected with me to communicate that my application still stood valid, and I could attempt for the fourth time. Considering this as a positive sign, I enrolled myself for my fourth attempt. To refresh my understanding and basics, I signed up again for the PMP Quest. This was one of the best decisions as I received immense guidance and tips from the PMI trainers.

Quoting Paulo Coelho, “when you really want something, the whole universe conspires in helping you achieve it,” and indeed, I experienced the power of such a deeprooted desire.

As luck would have it, on the exam date, there was a broadband connectivity issue. I notified Pearson and rescheduled my test date, which came with additional costs due to the applied conditions. On the rescheduled date, I again faced a broadband connectivity issue due to which I lost 45minutes of my four hours. I was resolute, and despite the time lost, I appeared for my test, and I cleared with above target scores in two Knowledge Areas – Monitoring & Controlling and Execution.

How did you learn about PMI Bangalore Chapter?

While applying for the membership, the PMI website offered the option of registering either as a chapter member or without it, clearly listing the various advantages and perks of Chapter Membership. With a minimal chapter fee, the advantages and benefits seemed multifold. I am an active chapter member and would attend the weekend sessions or meetups unless I am traveling. I am thankful for the Project Management Institute and Bangalore Chapter Team’s valuable support to help me achieve this aspirational goal for myself!

Which Knowledge Area did you find the most challenging? Can you share any tips or best practices with other aspirants facing similar issues?

I focused more on Monitoring and Controlling as I read somewhere that was the most challenging segment, and at the same time, it holds maximum scores and questions. Therefore, unlike my previous attempts, I dedicated more preparatory time to this Knowledge Area.

Secondly, it can be overwhelming being in the exam center and under pressure, which makes even the formula-based questions appear challenging. It is crucial to maintain the cool and approach these questions smartly.

What did you do differently to prepare for this fourth attempt?

I read extensively between Rita Mulchay and the PMBOK VIth edition. I would read a chapter from Rita Mulchay, answer the Q&A and then follow it up with the revision from the PMBOK. I dedicated Sundays to mock tests and other research materials. My planned target was to complete two chapters in a week, studying almost 5-6 hours every day. To break the monotony of reading, I would watch short YouTube tutorials and sometimes even Udemy courses.

You mentioned PMP’s fundamental essence is the application of its knowledge. How did you apply that knowledge in your exams?

In my understanding, comprehending the question is critical. In this attempt, I read the question and all its four options thoroughly before answering. I read the ending of the question and applied the answer option to a specific situation to identify the ideal response. There were 40-50 questions that I read three to four times before answering. Furthermore, some questions would have either have irrelevant information or difficult synonyms of a simple word to test an individual’s comprehension. Thus, it is crucial to possess excellent language skills and equally strong knowledge of PMI’s terminologies. A Project Manager’s critical role is effective communication, and I applied the same principle to my approach. On a scale of importance, comprehension scores, 50% followed by PMI terminologies, and understanding a situation or a project’s situation with 25% each.

My learnings from the entire journey:

  1. Devise a study plan and adhere to it
  2. Practice, Practice, and Practice
  3. PMP exam is situation-based and tests your logic and rationality
  4. Read the question thoroughly, understand the contextual vocabulary, read the four options, and then attempt your response. Don’t jump to answer without reading all the options
  5. Believe in yourself, in your capability, and your dreams

 

I wish the aspirants preparing for their PMP Certification all the very best!

Thanks for the interview!