Author: Cornelius Fichtner

Cornelius Fichtner, PMP is a noted PMP expert. He has helped over 47,000 students prepare for the PMP Exam with The Project Management PrepCast and The PM Exam Simulator.

The 7 Questions Every PMP Exam Student Asks Their Coach

When students start their Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam prep (for the first time, or again after having failed the exam), there are a number of questions that come up time and time again. In this article we share the top 7 questions that every student asks us in our role as their PMP® exam coach. Whether you have a coach or not, knowing the answers will help you get started more quickly with your own exam preparations. Let’s dive straight in with the first question 1. Why did I fail the PMP exam when I studied so long and so hard? Everyone is different, but you probably became overwhelmed during the exam as you didn’t approach it with the proper preparation and mechanics for taking the test. It’s not enough to go online and gather tidbits from other people about how to study. A Google search for “How should I study for the exam?” may tell you what to memorize and you’ll find some tips that have worked for other people. Reading the PMBOK® Guide really isn’t even mandatory for the exam, let alone reading it two or three times! The scenario-based questions you faced in the exam are in depth and difficult, and you also need to be able to manage your time during the 4 hour exam. It’s hard and when you see the nature of the exam and the nerves kick in… all that leads to sub-optimal performance on the day. Using a range of resources like videos, practice questions, flashcards, study guides and PMP tutoring can all help boost your chances of passing next time, if you combine them with practical preparations and test-taking strategies. 2. I am terrible at mathematics and at formulas. How will I ever be able to do all these earned value questions? Have confidence! It’s not rocket science. If you’ve had an exposure to something like high school level math then you have the skills to do the math questions. It is just a matter of approaching these math questions in a formulaic kind of way. First, memorize the formulas that are most likely to show up on the PMP exam – a PMP exam coach can help you identify which ones those are. When you have a theoretical understanding of these formulas and can see whether they are talking about planned vs. actual, variances or forecasts — you will be able to understand the logic behind the math. At that point, practice, practice, practice! This is rote learning and with enough practical exercises and repetition you will achieve an “AHA” moment! Once you have done them often enough you’ll see the math is no longer a problem for you. 3. I took a few practice tests and I did OK with them so why I did I fail the PMP exam? You probably weren’t using a very good set of practice questions. Make sure you are using the best quality question banks you can and take plenty of practice tests. Some practice tests aren’t the full length of the 4 hour exam, so be sure to attempt a few full length practice exams too. This will help you plan your time and develop test-taking strategies. You really need to be dealing with practice PMP tests of 200 multiple choice questions and scoring 80 per cent or more. The reason for that is because there will most likely be a number of factors that could cause your score on the real test date to drop below what it was in your practice exams. Don’t forget that you might be nervous and you will be in an environment that is not comfortable to you because it is not where you did your studying. If you are only just above the passing threshold or achieving mediocre scores on your practice exams then you may drop below the success mark on the actual day. PMP exam tutoring can help you identify the most realistic sets of PMP-style practice questions and with preparing for the rigors of the test environment. 4. Can you help me with Risk and Quality please? Yes! These topics must be mastered for the PMP exam. Review all those little things like the 7 basic quality tools and the difference between quality assurance and quality control. Go through all of those risk processes and make sure you understand the whole sequence from planning risk all the way down to creating risk responses and the differences between qualitative and quantitative risk analysis. Start there and drill down deeper, making sure that you understand all the concepts of risk and quality because they are going to make up a good percentage of the questions that you see on the exam. 5. What do I have to score in order to pass the exam? And can I get below proficient in more than one category and still pass? The actual score to pass the exam isn’t made public and any passing percentages anyone mentions are just their best guess. You should be aiming to score Moderately Proficient or Proficient in all process groups and an excellent PMP exam simulator will provide you with those scores. However, it is believed to be possible to pass the exam even if you are below proficient in more than one category. 6. How long should it take me to study effectively and pass the exam? It depends! Everyone has different things going on in their lives from work, family and other commitments, so the time available to you to study is going to be personal depending on your circumstances. This will influence the length of your study schedule. We see good results from students who can attack their studies aggressively and spend around 1-2 hours per day studying for the exam over a 1-2 month period. Students who put together long study plans of 4-6 months tend to see diminishing returns on their ability to pass. But remember that everyone is different. Working with a colleague who is already a PMP, a fellow student or a professional PMP coach can help you put together a personalized schedule that is realistic for you. 7. Do I really have to read the PMBOK® Guide twice like everyone says? No, you do not, but it may help! The PMBOK® Guide is a useful reference guide and every good project manager should have one. You can also use a PMP prep book, a dedicated series of learning videos or the skills of a PMP tutor and have the PMBOK® Guide on hand to clarify further any concepts that you might not understand fully. There you have it. These 7 questions are the most common questions that students ask their PMP coach when they start out with the PMP exam studies. Asking the right questions helps you prepare more effectively so if you are struggling with something related to your PMP exam prep, ask a colleague, a professional PMP tutor or another trusted individual for their advice. Knowing the answers will make you feel more confident and ready to face the exam and in turn, increase your chance of success on the day.

Flow for Project Managers: A Podcast Interview with Andrew Kallman

Last week, I must have missed the start of at least three scheduled meetings. In each case, I saw on my calendar that the meetings would start in an hour or less, which meant that I could probably start and finish another task before I had to be at those meetings. And each time, I got so involved in the task I was working on that I lost track of everything around me and the meetings started without me. In positive psychology, this is called a flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone. This is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting transformation in one’s sense of time. Wouldn’t it be great, if we could apply this to all our projects and everyone working on them? I believe it’s possible, and to learn more about how flow could be applied to project management, I recently welcomed Andrew Kallman to my podcast. He and his brother, Ted Kallman, wrote the book Flow: Get Everyone Moving in the Right Direction…And Loving It. We learned that one way to look at flow is this: you know where you are headed, know what your goal is, and know the steps necessary to get there. It’s like running a race. You don’t plan each step along the way, but you keep your eyes on the finish line, and everything you do moves you toward it thanks to your training. Listen now and leave your feedback below.  

Updates to the CAPM® Exam

Are you by any chance thinking about becoming a Certified Associate in Project Management? Well then you are in for a treat because the Project Management Institute (PMI)® the PMI is currently in the process of making a number of exciting changes to this exam. I’d like to invite you to review them with me by listening in on listen in, and comment below with your thoughts or feedback on these changes.  

Taking the PMP® Exam? A Sample Question

Question Your company has just been awarded the contract for a research project. The CEO of your company has asked you, as the project manager, to create the project charter and send it to her so that she can review and approve it. To create the project charter, you need the project’s statement of work (SOW). What should you do? A.) Create the SOW yourself since you are the project manager B.) Look for the SOW in your organizational process assets (OPAs) C.) Ask your customer to provide you with the SOW D.) Ask your CEO to provide you with the SOW   Hint: Part of a project manager’s role is to collaborate with the customer and understand the details of the project.   Answer and Explanation The correct answer is C, Ask your customer to provide you with the SOW. As the project manager, you should request the project’s procurement SOW directly from the buyer (i.e., your customer) to ensure you have the agreed upon SOW. Also, requesting the SOW from your customer demonstrates that you are proactive and encourages collaboration.   Reference: A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge – Sixth Edition, Project Management Institute Inc., 2017, Page(s) 77, 477 This sample question was provided by The PM Exam Simulator. All questions are updated to the latest A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) standard.     Disclaimer and Copyright Statement PMI, PMP, CAPM, PgMP, PMI-ACP, PMI-SP, PMI-RMP and PMBOK are trademarks of the Project Management Institute, Inc. PMI has not endorsed and did not participate in the development of this publication. PMI does not sponsor this publication and makes no warranty, guarantee or representation, expressed or implied as to the accuracy or content. Every attempt has been made by OSP International LLC to ensure that the information presented in this publication is accurate and can serve as preparation for the PMP certification exam. However, OSP International LLC accepts no legal responsibility for the content herein. This document should be used only as a reference and not as a replacement for officially published material. Using the information from this document does not guarantee that the reader will pass the PMP certification exam. No such guarantees or warranties are implied or expressed by OSP International LLC.

Is a Change Request Required for Defect Repair?

As you study for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam or even during your practice as a PMP® credentials holder, you may end up questioning if a change request is required when a defect is found in a project. That seems like a complex question but has a very simple answer – Yes. You may be wondering if that still holds true if it is a minor fix? For something that would be a small quick repair? Something you are not even sure needs to be fixed or even impacts the project? How about if the defect repair would take less time than filling out the change request form? The answer is still…Yes. How do we get to a yes, each time? Let’s take a look at a few definitions within A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition. First, as you probably know, it is the Perform Integrated Change Control process that governs everything concerning changes on a project. Per the PMBOK® Guide, “Perform Integrated Change Control is the process of reviewing all change requests; approving changes to deliverables, project documents, and the project management plan; and communicating the decisions.” (pg. 113).   What is a change request? A change request is a formal proposal to make a change on the project, and per the PMBOK® Guide “may be a corrective action, a preventive action, or a defect repair” (pg. 93). Defect repair, in turn, is “an intentional activity to modify a nonconforming product or product component” (pg. 96). Lastly, depending on the policies and procedures of your organization, you may need to gain approval for change requests from a change control board (CCB) which is defined by the PMBOK® Guide “as a formally chartered group responsible for reviewing, evaluating, approving, deferring, or rejecting changes to the project and recording and communicating such decisions” (pg. 115). Ideally, projects would be completed without any defect repairs being needed, but since that is fairly unrealistic, projects typically build in some time, funding, and resources to deal with repairs that are needed as the project progresses and at the end once final testing has been completed. Let’s take a look at a practical example. You are leading a software development project. One of its deliverables is a web interface where users can fill out a form and submit it using the “Submit” button. According to the specifications, the “Submit” button should be green. A tester finds the button is red. Is this a bug, or using formal language, a defect? Yes. Should it be repaired? Likely yes. One may argue it depends. But for the sake of simplicity, let’s assume the color of the button is one of the acceptance criteria. If the deliverable is not accepted, the defect should be repaired. First things first – how should the tester notify the developer there is a defect? It depends on the organization’s policies and culture. The tester could send an email, make a phone call, or even visit the developer to discuss what they have found. How are defects typically reported and tracked? Through the use of defect tracking tools such as Bugzilla, JIRA, Plutora, etc. Once the developer is made aware of the bug (aka defect) they then can analyze it. Hopefully, they are able to identify the root cause, can provide options to fix it (such as using configuration or hard coding) to make the button green, and are also able to provide an estimate on how long it will take to correct the defect. When the developer has completed their analysis, what happens next? The basic process calls for a bug (defect) review meeting to be held where each bug is discussed along with their suggested repairs, impact on the deliverable and other factors, and a decision is made to approve, reject or defer the suggested repairs. Assuming the repair is approved, the developer will implement the fix, and the deliverable of a green “Submit” button will be accepted. Everyone is happy with the end result.   Does every defect repair require a change request? Let’s take a look again at what has just happened here in the context of the primary question: Does every defect repair require a change request? The tester has filled out the defect report in the bug tracking tool. That report was a formal proposal to modify the deliverable (the web interface). A formal proposal to modify a deliverable is the definition of a change request. A change request does not have to be a fancy 10-page document, it can be a napkin if that is what your organization accepts. A bug tracking tool described in the scenario was just an example of what could be utilized to submit a change request in instances when a defect is found. The change request in our example documented the expected result (green button), the actual result (red button), provided a unique ID number for the defect, and any other details an organization wishes to track. Whatever tool is used, we hope it is clear now that a change request should be submitted each time a defect repair is required on a project.   Does every change request require approval of the change control board (CCB)? Another related question is: Does every change request require approval of the change control board (CCB)? This answer is not so simple, as it depends. A defect repair requires resources and often impacts a project schedule, each of which can add costs to the project. When those costs require funds beyond what was established for the project, or if allotted funds for defect repairs have been exhausted, then a CCB is often consulted for approval. Some organizations require the involvement of the CCB for all change requests. Others do not have CCB at all, and in that case, often additional approval beyond the project manager’s one will likely be needed if the change request to repair a defect will require additional funding. In some cases, the change management plan may specify that changes of up to a specific amount of money (for example, $10,000) can be approved by the project manager alone, otherwise, the change request would need to be submitted to the CCB for approval.   Does every change request trigger the Perform Integrated Change Control (PICC) process? Finally, does every change request trigger the Perform Integrated Change Control (PICC) process? Yes, it does. In the example above, the tester reported the defect, the developer analyzed the defect and provided a suggested correction with estimated time to repair. A defect review meeting then took place to decide if the suggestion would be accepted. What has just been described matches the definition of the PICC process where changes are submitted, reviewed, and decisions made. Like with the change request that can be submitted using a fancy tool or just a simple napkin, the PICC process does not have to be extremely formal and involve the CEO and all project stakeholders. The way the process is implemented depends on a variety of factors such as the organization itself, the change management plan, and even the specific project.   Conclusion The thing to remember is every defect repair, no matter how small or inconsequential it may seem, requires a change request. Completing a change request triggers the Perform Integrated Change Control process, and depending on the organization, the change request may or may not require to be submitted to a change control board for approval.   This article originally appeared on The PM PrepCast and is reprinted by permission of the author.  

Essential Business Management Skills: A Podcast “Mashup”

Last year at the Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Congress in Chicago, Illinois, I recorded about a dozen interviews. They have all been published over the past year and you may have heard some or all of them as part of my Project Management Podacst. What you may not know is what happened once each interview was complete. Well, I pressed the recording button one more time and asked each of my guests the following question:   What business management skills are essential for today’s project manager if they want to become more and more involved in strategic projects for their organizations? Spoiler alert… the answer that I received most often was “flexibility.” Now, I want to share all the answers…in one nice “mashup.” Here are my guests in the order you will hear them respond. Andy Kaufmann Betsy Stockdale Laszlo Retfalvi Justin Fraser Jen Pfaff Sarah Gallagher Kim Wasson Darryl Hahn Jeff Kissinger Niraj Kumar Please click here to listen to the interview now…  

Taking the PMP® Exam Soon? A Sample Question

  As we discussed a few weeks ago, planning for, taking, and passing the Project Management Professional (PMP®) exam can stressful. We hope you enjoyed the article on How to Avoid the Seven Most Common PMP Exam Mistakes, and learned something, too. Now, let’s consider the sample question below:     Question You are assigned to manage a project to build five bridges in a metropolitan city. The project is divided into five sequential phases, with each phase representing the construction of one bridge. You have just finished the first phase of your project, and you are about to start your second phase. Which project management process should begin the second phase of the project? Develop Project Charter Develop Project Management Plan Direct and Manage Project Work Monitor and Control Project Work HINT: Which process group is performed at the beginning of a new project or a new phase of an existing project?   Answer and Explanation The Initiating Process Group is made up of two project management processes, Develop Project Charter and Identify Stakeholders. The Initiating Process Group is performed to define a new project or a new phase of an existing project by obtaining authorization to start the project or phase. So, the correct answer is A. Is this the answer you would have given? This sample question was provided by The PM Exam Simulator. All our questions are updated to the latest A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) standard.     Disclaimer and Copyright Statement PMI, PMP, CAPM, PgMP, PMI-ACP, PMI-SP, PMI-RMP and PMBOK are trademarks of the Project Management Institute, Inc. PMI has not endorsed and did not participate in the development of this publication. PMI does not sponsor this publication and makes no warranty, guarantee or representation, expressed or implied as to the accuracy or content. Every attempt has been made by OSP International LLC to ensure that the information presented in this publication is accurate and can serve as preparation for the PMP certification exam. However, OSP International LLC accepts no legal responsibility for the content herein. This document should be used only as a reference and not as a replacement for officially published material. Using the information from this document does not guarantee that the reader will pass the PMP certification exam. No such guarantees or warranties are implied or expressed by OSP International LLC.

How to Avoid the Seven Most Common PMP® Exam Mistakes

Planning for, taking, and passing the Project Management Professional (PMP®) exam can be a loProject Management Professional (PMP) Certificationng and stressful journey. What better way is there to take a little stress off and help yourself prepare than to learn from those who have gone before you? Here we will look at seven of the most common mistakes identified by those who did not pass the PMP® the first time, but ultimately learned from that and made adjustments to pass on their second try. If you would also like to learn from their mistakes, keep reading. Mistake 1: Not planning an adequate path to PMP success Believing you can walk in on exam day without studying just because you have been a project manager for years is not an adequate plan for PMP success. If you don’t know where to start, go ahead and take a full-length exam without worrying about the time limit. From that first trial run you can identify your gaps in knowledge. Did you do really well on questions for one or more of the knowledge areas and poorly on a few others? If so, then that is a hint on how to plan your path to success. You will learn what knowledge areas you are strong in and which you are not. From this information, you can develop your study plan. Mistake 2: Not having the “right” amount of confidence The “right” amount of confidence can be difficult to achieve. Too much and you don’t feel like you need to study, and too little you may not believe you can pass the exam. If you have many years of project management experience and think the PMP exam will be easy because you have all of this experience, please ask yourself if your experience covers all ten of the current knowledge areas and all of the 49 processes within. If the answer is yes, then you have a great head start. If it is no, then you need to develop a plan to learn the knowledge areas and processes as defined in the A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). Having too little confidence can also be a roadblock to passing. If you have read the PMBOK® Guide a couple of times, understand the ITTOs and formulas, have taken several quality, full-length practice exams and passed with an 80% or greater, and have utilized a learning tool such as The Project Management PrepCast, then chances are, you are ready. Take a deep breath, and tell yourself you can do this. Mistake 3: Relying solely on free questions to study Free questions can be great, and who wants to spend more than is necessary, right? Sometimes you get what you pay for when it comes to free. Free questions may not do any more than tell you an answer was wrong. Many paid for questions and exams will provide you with an explanation for the correct answer. This allows you to learn from your mistakes and to understand the rationale behind the correct answer. The PMP Exam Simulator provides over 1,600 realistic exam sample questions and access for 90 days so you can practice full-length exams. Mistake 4: Not taking full-length practice exams As you probably know, the PMP exam is four hours in length and consists of 200 questions. Not to scare you, but looking at the math, that is 1.2 minutes per question. If you are like many who are working towards their PMP certification, it may have been some time since you have had to sit for a four-hour exam. Practicing taking full-length exams will benefit you in more than one way. One is to simply by getting you used to sitting for four hours and answering questions on a computer. Another is to help you to understand how to manage your time. During the PMP exam, if you do not know the answer to a question, you can mark it and move on. When you have completed all of the answers, you can go back and answer those you had marked. By taking full-length practice exams, you will understand how it feels to take a four-hour exam and how to manage your time best while taking the exam, hence removing one of the common stressors about the exam. Mistake 5: Not fully understanding the ITTOs Just memorizing the processes and their associated Inputs, Tools and Techniques, and Outputs (ITTOs) will not be enough to pass the PMP exam. Your actual PMP exam will have fewer than a handful of questions that have you identify the missing ITTO for a process, which memorization is good for. But, most of the questions will be scenario-based questions that require you to fully understand the ITTOs of a process and how they interact with other processes and their ITTOs. You will not be able to get by with just memorization, and not fully understanding the ITTOs will only lead to stress which will lead to taking longer on questions which will just lead to more stress. Plus, fully understanding the ITTOs will be beneficial to your project management career as a whole. Mistake 6: Not fully understanding the formulas Formulas are a large part of project management, as well as the PMP exam. For the PMP exam, you will need to know and understand some of the more commonly used formulas such as “cost variance” and “schedule variance” as well as some of the lesser known formulas such as the “to complete performance index”. If remembering formulas is something you struggle with then as soon as you receive your blank sheet of paper at the test site complete a brain dump of the formulas. As you go through the exam, you can refer to your list and add to it as you need to. Mistake 7: Not properly preparing for exam day Several ways some have not prepared well for exam day include: Not knowing exactly where the exam site was located Not giving themselves enough time to travel to the exam site Not eating before the exam Not planning for and practicing breaks Knowing where your exam site is, how long it takes to travel to the site, eating before the exam, and planning for, practicing, and taking breaks during the exam are all little things you can do to help ensure your success on exam day. A part of project management is gathering learning from both project successes and mistakes. Here we have seven important lessons learned from those who have failed the PMP exam on their first try. They then, more often than not, learned from their mistakes and passed on the second try, but hopefully, you can learn from their mistakes, reduce your stress, and pass the PMP exam on your first try. This article originally appeared on The PM PrepCast and is reprinted by permission of the author. With thanks to Swapnil Khole, PMP for his input.

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