I kept feeling that I didn’t study enough. After 3mos of toiling with my review, reading Rita* once, reading Heldman** twice, reading PMBOK*** once, being top2 in our Rita training class, memorizing most processes sequence and some of the tools and techniques, believe it or not I still felt not ready. Most of the recent PMP passers I asked in the office said the exam was as hard if not harder than they imagined. Nowhere to draw confidence from. Nada.
Several weeks ago
Weeks before the exam, my officemates kept on asking when I would take the exam. I said I’ll target before the end of the fiscal year. Internally I aimed to be a PMP before PMI changes the exam to be for 4th edition, that means before June 30. I can’t imagine lengthening my ordeal anymore, I’ve invested a huge amount of time and resources (~$600) for this so I dared not chicken out. It is actually Philippine office culture to not announce when you’re taking the exam lest you fail. The world would know exactly when you failed the PMP exam which will go to the annals of office gossip history. No way! Too much suffering/risk on my end. I used the best technique I know to handle those questions, evasion. Not lying, just not telling, plain and simple.
I also took extra effort to hide my encyclopedic thick Heldman book just so no one in the office knows I’ve been seriously studying for the exam. I think I’ve actually grown arm muscles and permanent shoulder damage from carrying the book every single day, wherever I go. Bringing the book, even though I don’t get to read it all the time I carried it sort of served as a security blanket. Part of me hoping the content of the book would permeate thru my skin just by physical contact. Haha. Anything just to pass.
There’s also something about the impression that you passed the exam without trying that hard. It’s like trying to be humble and bashful at the same time. I think it’s aptly termed “smug”. While that may have worked in college, I highly doubt it applies in the PMP world. I call that the height of my secrecy and hypocrisy.
Two weeks before
Two weeks before my exam, I bought a book stand to help with my neck strain, always reading face down. Also bought study lamp so that I can still read late at night without the kids having to endure the bright white light.
Unbelievable, I actually survived college in UP sans a so-called study lamp and yet I was all out in getting a hold of all the possible accessories to reviewing as if they’d guarantee my passing the exam. Me and my big excuses. I did all sorts of tricks I know like using index cards to take down notes so that I won’t need to carry that humongous book and just the notes. I soon learned though that 10+ years in IT made my hands lose its stamina for loads of writing. After 4-5 chapters of note taking, I ended that momentary madness and reverted back to my old fashioned and heavy book with all my highlighted marks on it.
A week prior
A week before the exam and I was already restless. I started feeling irritable, tense, pressured, yep, literally near the edge of losing my mind. It doesn’t help that all of the people I know who took the PMP exam passed. I started cramming, reading again, memorizing, staying up late to catch up. And each time I took a quiz, I felt I can’t remember anything I just studied. I was in panic. Around three days before the day of reckoning and I was vomiting at every negative thought about my PMP exam. It was my sister who snapped me back. My very wise teacher sister said, “What are you afraid of? You’ve studied everyday, how could you still fail? Just focus on thinking that you already passed.” Ah, the classic, tried and tested positive thinking. How could I have been so stupid to forget about that highly effective technique of visualization? I’m so blessed to have my family to support me in this major endeavor and occasionally knock some sense into me.
Exam day’s eve
My PMP cousin advised me to rest on the day before the exam. But I can’t let an opportunity to still review pass by just like that. I was thinking, what if I missed anything? I wasted that free moment to still stuff my already full head with additional data. Yeah, call me hard headed. By doing that I have actually put myself in more strain. It fed my panic even more and was so afraid by the time I stopped (because I was so exhausted already). At that point, I just succumbed to God’s guidance. I’ve done all that I humanly can. The rest as they say is up to God.
This is it!
Exam day, I woke up early. For lack of anything else to do, I once again, hay, grabbed my notes and browsed thru the processes, the inputs, tools & techniques, and output. My tension was more subdued. Prayers can really do wonders. It was a windy Thursday. I took the train, rode FX (form of public commute), then walked the rest of the way to Ateneo school (test center location). The walking helped keep my spirits up. I kept muttering to myself, as if a mantra, “I’m already PMP certified, I’m already PMP certified.” By the time I reached the test room, I’m already excited with anticipation, because by 5pm, I’ll be the newest PMP certified person.
The height of my faith plummeted when I saw the first half of the questions as I mark a lot of them with uncertainty. But I stuck to my strategy, I went back to my mantra as I answered each question, “I’m a PMP, what should a PMP like me do in this question?”. Sometimes I would motivate myself further and say in my mind, “I’m doing this for my son, for my family, for my country. Dear God, thank you for this wonderful opportunity.” Amazingly, questions 101-200 though were largely easier.
I was given three hours to complete the exam and I finished answering the first pass in 2hrs. I read all the marked questions and was done with them in an hour. I still have 30min left. I then reread the other questions and still had 15min to spare. The last 10min, I closed my eyes. bowed my head and just prayed. I thanked God for making it easy for me, for my supportive family and for giving me the strength and motivation in the last three months.
Five minutes left, I ended the exam. Blank white screen appeared. I was breathless as I wait for the verdict. And ta-daah! The screen showed a survey. I blinked twice and it’s indeed a survey for the exam. O-M-G! I released out a deep sigh and answered the survey. Then another blank white screen . Hayayay! I closed my eyes, suddenly feeling tired. When I opened my eyes, ta-daah! “Congratulations!”. I imagined doing a cartwheel then. Haha. I was happy, but not ecstatic because I’ve already conditioned myself that I’ll pass the exam. The proctor handed me the ordinary looking bond paper with the printed texts that would change my career. It felt similar to receiving your diploma. Haha. Happy times. Good times.
Looking back, I realized that you’ll never feel ready enough. So might as well stop thinking and just do it. Set the date, pay the exam and commit to doing all the preparations you can for the exam. The rest you can leave to God (if you believe in one).
**Kim Heldman, author of the book, “PMP® Project Management Professional Exam Study Guide Fourth Edition
***PMBOK – stands for Project Management Body of Knowledge.