Category: General Ramblings

Passing the PMP exam in 27 days – The method to my madness

Last couple of months have been excruciatingly painful. After about 2.5 yrs of hibernation, I decided to finally wake up and update my certifications and get some new ones as well. It all started with the process of updating my Citrix certifications, but sometime in July, I realized that the PMP examination is changing by the end of August. So I decided I am going to try to get that out of the way as well (STUPID ME!) So I completed the application (which needs to be approved and in some cases also gets audited) and signed up for the exam (against my wife’s recommendation as she felt I did not have enough time to prepare). Just for the record, I think it was one of the dumbest decisions I made, but since I made it, I had to make sure I passed the exam and not lose face in front of my wife (who by the way is always right when it comes to such things).

So it was August 1st. I had two Citrix exams still pending and the PMP. Not to mention regular work from 8-5 and be on call, the baby, and a million other things. I started looking through the course contents for the exam and it was obvious that this is not like the technical certifications that I am used to where by experience, you can still get through with some preparation. The PMP requires a LOT (and I mean a LOT) of hardwork. There is quite a bit to memorize, there is some math, the questions are very wordy, tricky and confusing. Not to mention the exam is also a test of endurance considering you have to attempt 200 questions . I realized that there is no way in hell I am going to achieve this without a gameplan. In order to have a fair shot at passing this exam, I needed to prepare for the exam in a systematic fashion and make a schedule. Somewhere along the way, I made a decision that if I were to pass the exam with my model, I will blog about it and hopefully help others in the process.

The Material

I primarily relied on one book for the entire preparation (partly because I did not have time to read a gazillion books) – Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep, Sixth Edition. This book is one of the best exam prep books I have read and has a wealth of information. Even if you do not plan to do the exam, I would recommend every professional who is involved in projects on a regular basis to read this book. There is a lot to gain and I assure you that the way you think about a project lifecycle will change.

In addition to the book, I had some cheat sheets with formulas and key theories (points that are  hard to remember) and a lot of mock questions. PM FastTrack is something you should consider as far as mock questions go. I probably attempted around 3500 questions in 27 days.

The Strategy

The basis of my gameplan was to have milestones for each day to keep monitoring my progress and adjust the schedule accordingly  and also a checkpoint to decide whether I should carry through with this exam or not. My goal for each day was to do a minimum of 100 mock questions, revise my cheat sheets, complete one module of Rita’s book and review questions at the back of the chapter and make condensed notes for the chapter.  I decided that my checkpoint was going to be Aug 22nd, which is when I would decide if I was going ahead with the exam or cancelling it. The way I would decided was based on my mock test scores. If by that point, I was scoring 70% or higher, I felt I had a good chance of passing the test and would go through with it. If not, I would cancel it. I also wanted to develop my schedule such that I had one week to revise. I only wanted to review my condensed notes, mock questions and cheat sheets the last week.

The Execution

Believe me when I tell you that it looks easy when you develop the schedule, but actually executing this schedule was one of the hardest things I have done. My wife had to make a lot of sacrifices to make this work and I hardly got to see my baby. Without their support, there is no chance in hell I could have done this. My preparation would start around 7:40am in the train, when I would try to do 50 mock questions. I would typically find time to do another 30-50 during the day and another 50 on my way back from work on the train. I would get home, and try to sit to study by 8:30pm, finish one module, including notes. (typically 2.5 hrs) and do the questions related to that module. So overall, I would do around 150 questions a day. After having done the test, I feel that the mock tests helped me a great deal in training my brain to see through all the clutter and filter out only the relevant information. I also felt that the notes that I made helped me immensely the last week of preparation and I would urge everyone who takes this test to do the same. Prior to August 6th, my studying was more ad-hoc, reviewing PMP forums on the internet, doing mock tests, watching training videos etc.

My Tips for the Exam

So this section is a summary of the lessons learned (a project close process in PMI language, and since this is the project close process in my PMP ordeal, I decided to use this term):

  • Spend plenty of time doing mock tests. I would recommend doing 50-100 questions every day. Do not do questions just from one chapter. Try to attempt all knowledge areas. By the time you sit for the exam, you should have attempted at least 2000 questions.
  • Try to read Rita’s book at least twice before attempting the exam.
  • Make condensed notes for each of the chapters. Try to focus on just the points while making the notes and not wordy explanations as the whole idea of the notes is revision prior to the exam and trying to recollect the details in your head.
  • Review key concepts that you find hard to remember on a daily or weekly basis.
  • Spend most time on the Execution and Monitoring and Controlling phases  as that is where a majority of the questions come from.
  • Dont get too paranoid over the Earned Value Analysis calculations. They are actually quite simple and hardly 6 questions show up in the exam.
  • MEMORIZE the inputs and outputs to each of the processes. I found this very hard to do.
  • Have a process in place for your preparation and try to make a schedule. Please allow plenty of time for revision. I would recommend at least a week.
  • I attempted the exam after a full day of work (from 5 to 9:30pm). I would strongly recommend that you attempt the exam with a clear head, first thing in the morning if possible.

Final Thoughts

All in all, I would not recommend trying to attempt the PMP in 27 days. The amount of prep time totally depends on your experience, but I think you need a minimum of 2 months to have a good chance of passing. With that said, if you have no choice but to attempt the exam the way I did, the above strategy should help 🙂 Regardless of how long you take to prepare, I hope this post provides some general guidelines and helps you when you take the exam. Good luck!
PS: I have some notes that I prepared for this exam. I would be happy to share it with anyone who’s interested. Please leave a comment with your email address and I’ll shoot it over to you.
George

Why do people of faith suffer?

My friends Nithya and Prateek informed me about Ben Larson. He was a seminary student from the US who went to Haiti with his wife and cousin to serve in the Lutheran Church there and died in the earthquake. I really want all of you to check out his music as he was extremely talented. You can find more about Ben Larson here.

I often wonder why people of faith who set out to do good deeds and help always seem to suffer the most. Most of them lead good lives, follow God’s directions and yet suffer. For people who dont share the same religious views, this might seem funny as its only natural to wonder why God would punish his own children. Personally, my family has had to deal with quite a few challenges and have often wondered why God is not listening to our prayers. I still dont have a complete understanding as I dont know the bible nearly as well as I should, but believe that suffering is basically God’s way of testing our faith. When everything is going well, it is easy for us to say that we are Christians and that we believe in God. But when we are tested, how do we react? That is the true test. Do we ridicule God then and forget the countless times he has come to our rescue? We have to keep our faith strong and believe that God always has a purpose for his actions. In my case, I believe that the incidents in my life are merely opportunities for me to witness God’s unfailing love. It really tests me at times, and I dont understand it short term. But when I look back at my life and how things have progressed, I have no doubt that God did everything for a reason. I am sure that there are many right now who are suffering and wondering why God is letting it happen. Dont let your faith be broken. Be strong! In due time, God will reveal to you why he did what he did. BELIEVE that God is in total control of your lfie.

Social Networking – The Endless conversation

Have you ever thought about how your life was 3 years back. I for one see a lot of difference. I used to call and talk to people on the phone as opposed to texting/emailing/tweeting and messaging over facebook, my life was much more private and I was happy like that, I used a phone as a PHONE, I used to meet people in person more often, spend more time with family and look outwards for entertainment (movies/shows etc).

In the past couple of yrs, that has all changed. Social networking has redefined our lives and most of us dont even realize it. Now I wake up and the first thing I do is check my iphone for facebook/twitter/orkut updates. I am perpetually connected – right from when I wake up to when I go to bed. Sometimes I am even woken up from sleep 🙂 I am even connected while I take the train to work, while I am at work, on my way back home, when I go to shop.. You get the idea. My life is much more open now. Everyone knows what I am upto and I know what everyone else is upto. I dont like talking on the phone anymore as I’d much rather message them on facebook/orkut, tweet them or email them. This way the conversation is much more controlled 🙂 I dont really like hanging out much (I was never a very social person, but now I am worse ), I am constantly entertained by my friends posts (whether it be some funny status message, pictures, videos, youtube links etc) and no longer find the need to watch tv or other things.

Social networking has redefined everything. It has helped some of us rekindle old friendships and build new friends, made us more aware (sometimes too aware) about the latest news and what everyone is upto, it has given some of us a platform to showcase our talent and get a wider audience, find jobs,find solutions to problems, share our happiness and sorrows with others, help and be helped. Overall I think its fair to say that it has improved our quality of life for the most part and keeps us engaged in an endless conversation.

Social networking is here to stay and the sooner we jump on the bandwagon, the better. However like everything else we need to learn to draw the limits. While being so involved in the virtual world, we should be careful not to forget the real world and the people that make us who we are. We should not forget the old fashioned gestures like calling and talking to people over the phone or meeting them in person. Let us all make the most of this phenomenon and try to strike a balance between reality and the virtual world 🙂

Whats your story?

 

Looking back at my life, particularly the last 5 yrs or so, I have been obsessed with my career and have led a very routine life for the most part. Its been about my life, my goals, my family etc. Sometimes I sit back and think what my end goal is and what kind of a legacy I am leaving behind. How am I going to be remembered when I die? What sort of an impact am I making in the lives of people I interact with? I would think people would say “Aah George, well he was good at his job and sang really well!” Is that how I’d like to remembered? I dont think so!

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A brief introduction

Hi everyone,
I’m pretty excited to be finally blogging. I’ve had an account setup for over a year now and been procrastinating since. Lately I have gone back to my true passion – Music and I thought the blog is a good way to spread my music. I am part of the Muziboo community and collaborate with a number of people there. Some of my collaborations will be posted here.

For those of you who dont know me, I am currently based out of Chicago, but hail from Changanacherry, which is a small town in Kerala, India. Although I am from Kerala, I spent most of my teenagehood in Dubai, United Arab Emirates before heading to Birla Institute of Technology (BIT), Ranchi, India to pursue my Bachelors in Electrical Engineering. It is here that I met my better half, Roshan James. Some of the best years of my life were spent here. From BIT, I headed to New York to complete my Masters in Electrical Engineering at Columbia University in New York. After my MS, I moved to Chicago to work with Denmac Systems as a Nework Consultant. I’ve been in Chicago for the past 4.5 years. You can find more about my career here.

So, I hope you will join me in my musical journey and post your honest feedback regarding my music. I would also be happy to hear from you about songs you would like to hear me sing. Stay tuned 🙂

-George