In my journey to conquer the Project Management Institute Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP) exam, the first thing I did was search on both Google and Microsoft Bing for preparation guides. Amazingly, I came up empty handed. The only study materials I found were books from PMI. In the hopes of finding someone else who had passed the exam, I posted “looking for study buddies” on my Western Michigan’s PMI chapter forum site. As it turned out, several people wanted to know more about the exam, so I initiated an email study group. I also added a few people whom I had run across at the last PMI conference.
After months of searching for anyone who had taken the test before, I received responses from a few people who had tackled the beta version of the exam. Their suggestions were to study the PMBOK Guide, which turned out to be an excellent tip. I had a few things going for me regarding preparation: I teach a class related to Microsoft Project every week, and I had already memorized anything related to this software.
To identify any scheduling software gaps, I went through Chapter 4 of PMI’s Practice Standard for Scheduling and made sure I knew all the components and that I could define them in my own words. I didn’t memorize every detail, but I did focus a lot of time on anything related to the Critical Path Method. In terms of the Practice Standard for Scheduling, I read everything and memorized as many lists and definitions that I had time for. As it turned out, I ran short on time beginning with Chapter 4 on and that didn’t really seem to hurt me.
Since I knew the PMBOK Guide was important, I decided to focus a lot of time on learning inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs. Back when I took the PMP exam, this was something I didn’t spend a lot of time on, and I thought it hurt me. I tried very hard to memorize those items for time, cost, and communication and it really did help. However, I forgot to thoroughly read and memorize all the definitions, which left gaps in my test-taking preparations. Luckily, I read through other sections of the PMBOK Guide and there seemed to be a random scattering of questions through many other knowledge areas. Having passed the PMP exam before, this test was definitely a blessing, because I didn’t have to learn every concept from scratch.
The only other book I spent a lot of time studying was PMP: Project Management Professional Study Guide by Kim Heldman. I spent countless hours calculating manual critical paths and doing forward/backward passes. This proved to be helpful during exam time.
Test-taking Tips for the Scheduling Professional Exam
By Raul A. Rmer
1. Know the PMBOK 4th edition. You’ll definitely need it, since questions may come from every angle.
2. Applicants without a good planning background should purchase the PMI-SP, the Practice Standard for Scheduling.
3. Understand activity sequencing in network diagrams as the precedence diagramming method (PDM).
4. Understand the calculation of the critical path method (CPM), free float, etc.
5. Understand the tools and techniques of time management.
6. Understand the earned value technique (EVT) as schedule variance (SV), cost variance (CV), schedule performance indicator (SPI), cost performance index (CPI), estimate to complete (ETC), and estimate at completion (EAC) concepts, and when to apply them, including what SPI and CPI indicate when they’re less than one or greater than one.
Raul A. Rmer, PMP, PMI-SP, is Senior Consultant Planner at the Decommissioning Services Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant in Visaginas, Lithuania. He has vast experience in estimating, planning, and scheduling projects using multiple tools. Contact him at email@example.com.
PMI’s suggested reading included the PMI-Scheduling Professional Examinations Specification guide. Because — as I reported in part two of this series — that guide was all of 15 pages long. How important could it really be? I gave it a quick glance. Bad idea. The specification guide provided both the structure for the exam and an explanation of what a scheduler does in each domain. During the exam I could have used this information to figure out what did or didn’t belong in the multiple choice options. My advice would be to invest your money and then scrutinize what the guide states.
All I can say is that I’m glad the exam is over. Now I’m working with my employer to develop a preparation course for the certification. If you’ve read through this series and you’re still interested in tackling the exam, we’re seeking individuals for upcoming webinars and courses. Send me an email to be added to the list.
In the meantime, good luck with your own study efforts!