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How much time do I need to prepare for the PMP exam?

I had experience with projects in different industries from IT, academic world to a big engineering project but I had no formal project qualification. PMP seemed like a viable option and I got genuinely interested in the subject. I simply wanted to know more. First I only considered CAPM. I took the online course (Essentials of Project Management)  before it occurred to me that I had enough experience to go for PMP. Nevertheless I don't regret taking that course because it gave me solid basic knowledge (it is hard to read PMBOK® like beletry). Some of the questions in that online course were no less challenging than those in the actual PMP exam. The difference is that CAPM exam would take 3 instead of 4 hours and it probably goes into slightly less detail. Nevertheless, if you're new to PMI, I consider this to be a very good start. Don't feel embarrased if you feel more 'experienced'. It's no shame. It's worth it. I spent about 2 months doing it.

Once I was past that (having done all the simulator questions there), I read the entire Rita Book:
PMP Exam Prep, Eighth Edition: Rita's Course in a Book for Passing the PMP Exam

Rita is good because she gives you that different perspective. It is not just about processes and ITTOs, there is more of that 'humane' touch and you learn to read between the lines for the first time. Plus, some of the questions really humbled me. You simply start to learn the tricks and get acquianted with the PMI way of thinking. This took me about 1.5 months of serious work.

I took PMP Prepcast by Cornelius Fichtner as part of the 30 contact hours requirement to take PMP exam. I knew I was running out of time and so I knew I wouldn't be able to listen to all the prepcasts before the exam but I must say I was very pleasantly surprised. Not only I liked the guy's style very much (including his nice 'foreign' but very clear accent), it also gave me opportunity to uncover the gaps - and whatever I hadn't got so far.

There is no better way to study than by a simulated exam. (The books and courses might not motivate enough but seeing improving results is very empowering)
Record what you've done wrong and have some kind of search functionality so you can search for terms. Things repeat and sometimes you need to have a few goes at it to remember it.
If you don't want to invest in it, at least get a free 3-day trial. It really pays off.

I used a database as a notepad. I was writing down all questions I didn't pass, in all three courses to identify my weak spots. Whenever I got a question wrong, I noted why and searched for previous instances of it. When wanting to clarify something I searched for the term and found the answer, possibly in all three courses. It is always good to have more points of view than just one.

3 and a half months into hard study and my results were NOT fantastic. I was not excelling.
I was achieving about 65% to 76% score, occasionaly getting slightly more in some areas but nothing that would give me confidence. At first I was scared of the formulas only to find out later that questions with formulas were actually my friends and I started to wish for more of those at the exam. The formulas are easy. The hard part is the interpretation but even that can be learned. Not wanting to leave anything to chance I included the PMP® Exam Formula Study Guide™ in it too. Again, no regrets. It greatly helped me solidify my knowledge.

But I felt I really needed to wrap my effort into some kind of a schedule just like the PMI preaches. I planned to do all 9 simulator exams provided in the course. Because of other committments it was not always easy to find a four-hour time slot so I figured I would need about a month to do that. The practice exams were very solid and very well made. I was thrilled and pissed off at myself at the same time (forgive me that word) because in every knew exam there was something I still hadn't uncovered or fully understood. It's like - after each one you're trying your to plug all holes and leaks only to find out later that you're still leaky. So yes, I was a bit frustrated with myself. There is one more important aspect of preparation here. When you go through the simulator, you get the 'feel of time'. The clock is unforgiving and you simply don't have time to check seconds during the exam (well, maybe just 'milestones' with every hour). You need to cultivate a kind of an inner time clock - something that will tell you: "Tha't it, you need to move on now, man, otherwise you're done!" Think about it this way. Are you a perfectionist? Well, here you had better not, or you won't get very far.
My initial self-assessment results in Fichtner's course weren't that great either. These are the results I got after 3.5 months of relatively hard study. By knowledge area:
1 - 100% (good start you might say, but wait :), 2 - 66.7%, 3 - 93%, 4 - 80%, 5 - 66.7%, 6 - 66.7%, 7 - 60%, 8 - 80%, 9 - 66.7%, 10 - 80%; with some additional intro, life cycle and processes preparation of no more than 70%.

I knew I needed more. Luckily, I already knew by weknesses by now and I concentrated on those. I was even sort of hooked on the simulator because it felt a bit like a game. I guessed this was time I had the biggest "momentum" and this was when I booked the exam with Prometric.

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