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Project Management Professional Series Part 2: 24 Hours Before My PMP® Exam

This four-part series gives insight into the Project Management Professional certification exam. Last week, I shared helpful study tips. This week, I explain what I did the day before and day of my exam.

The Day Before

I strongly suggest taking the day off before your exam to complete your final preparations. This approach allowed me to focus on final studies without any interruption.

I studied nonstop for approximately seven and a half hours from 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Time flies when you are engrossed in your studies. My attention was geared towards identifying and reviewing questions that I answered wrong on my last practice test. I also spent time repeating the data dump I referenced in part one.

At some point, you will hit a wall. This is the point when you can no longer study one more second or take another four-hour practice test. It’s important to realize when you have reached this milestone. This is when you STOP. Don’t force yourself because you will become counterproductive and stressed.

Once I realized that I had indeed “hit the wall,” I took a much needed break until about 9 p.m. This too is a critical milestone. You must RELAX. Spend several hours laughing out loud, eat a good meal and just genuinely enjoy yourself.

After my break, for no more than one hour, I reviewed my notes and data dump materials one last time. Then, around 10 p.m. I called it quits. The third and final milestone is SLEEP. Get a good night’s sleep before your exam. If you have followed your study plan and truly put in the hours to study and take practice exams, you will be fine. Knowing that you have done all that you possibly can do to prepare is solace for your state of mind.

Exam Day

Always, always plan to leave earlier than you normally would. This allows you to keep your nerves intact. You are already nervous, don’t add stress by being late. On the day of my exam, there was a horrible accident and the main road in my neighborhood was closed. I still made it to my exam location a little more than an hour before my exam.

I normally would have visited the test site a day or two before the exam, however, this particular time was overshadowed by winter storms in spring. Because of the weather, my office was closed the day before my test. Additionally, the weather preceding that day was a rainy, sleeting wintery mess. So, arriving early the day of my test gave me the opportunity to identify the building ahead of time.

My test was scheduled in the afternoon. I made a conscious decision not to review any notes or prep materials. Instead, I took my time eating lunch and enjoying my coffee. My positive mantra (mentioned in part one) was also repeated a few times to keep me focused.

Screening Process

When you arrive to the testing center, you will be asked your name and to show your ID. You will be assigned a locker to store all of your belongings. Before you are assigned a computer, you will undergo a screening. You will have to empty your pockets. If you are wearing glasses, they will be inspected. In a log, you will sign in and out every time you enter or leave your computer.

Taking the Exam

Again, I emphasize the importance of taking practice tests. Because I completed two practice tests, I determined my plan of attack: take the time needed to read and answer the question the first time. You are provided with enough time to take the exam. With that being said, you will use every minute allotted. If you need to read the question two or three times to make sure you understand, do that.

Some people like to put a time limit of no more than 60 seconds on each question. If more time is needed, they will mark the question, and come back to it later. I disagree with this method. You will likely have to reread the question one or more times again to reorient yourself to what’s being asked. This is a time killer.

My advice: answer the question the first time around and move on. It’s also important to note that wrong answers don’t count against you. So, your strategy needs to include answering all the questions. You will also make up time spent on harder questions with easier questions that may take as few as 30 seconds to answer. In the end, you will have to discover the method that works best for you.

Getting Your Results

Results are provided immediately. At the end of your exam, you will take a survey about your experience at the testing center. Once you hit the submit button for the survey, your results will display on your computer screen. If you pass, you will receive a congratulatory message. The test administrator will give you a notarized printout. Then, you will sign the log for the final time. You can use the PMP® badge or letters immediately. Your certificate will be mailed to you within two months.

Next week, meet two additional certified project management professionals.

Kandace Foreman is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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Jon Haverly

Great tips Kandace!

I found that when stuck on a question do not keep re-reading the answer choices but keep re-reading the question. I also agree that it is best to select an answer the first time through – sometimes it is best to trust your gut and not over think questions.

How about a Part 5 on tips for acquiring CCRs to maintain a PMP? I just finished the process and have some to share!