This is my first blog post and it is about my most recent experience – writing the new CAPM exam for PMI, based on PMBOK Guide 6th Edition.
I registered to write the pilot exam, which means there was very little practice material. I focused on reading and re-reading the PMBOK guide and “know the material”. The reason I say “know” and not just understand is because although most of the material needs to be understood, some of it needs to be memorized. PMBOK 6th Edition book has about 550 pages of traditional project management material, about 100 pages of the Agile Practice Guide and about 200 pages of other relevant material such as further explanations on topics and concepts. In short, very long!
The blog is divided into three parts. The idea was to break down my studying method in order to make it manageable and comprehensive. Hence, the three parts to this blog.
Part 1: Book Reading, Note Taking, Focusing on Ideas
Part 2: Diagrams, Formulas, Processes and Knowledge Area Grouping
Part 3: Agile Concepts
- First attempt at reading the book – it took me about a month and a half. Why so long? Because I didn’t just skim over the material or glance at a chapter. I actually read it (not saying completely understood it, but read it), made notes for every single chapter and all the sections within the chapter.
- See below sample of my notes for Chapter 1
- See below, sample of my notes for Chapter 4. Here I have written notes for Develop Project Charter. I start with a brief one line introduction about what Develop Project Charter means, and then write details about its ITTOs (in the screenshot only part of the Inputs are shown). I followed this approach for all the ITTOs in all the chapters in this book.
- At the end, my notes came to a total of 275 pages!
- This was my way of extracting the most useful information from the book and make it more streamlined
- Read the notes and highlighted the most important concepts. I alternated color to have a clear break in ideas/concepts. I did this for all the chapters.
- This helped me in focusing on the key concepts and prepared me for my next review process
After finishing my second review, I had started to get a fair idea of the key concepts and my understanding and challenges that went with it. Also, I started to take notes of which points I need to memorize and which points I could afford to forget (yes.. not everything from the notes needs to be remembered for the exam). Also, as I continued reading/reviewing, I started to notice similarities in ITTOs for different processes. I saw that there is overlapping, redundant material that is approached from different vantage points. This was a key revelation for me! After this, a lot of the understanding became common sense for me.
This was the hardest and the most challenging, because at this point I was neck deep into studying and focused on “really learning” everything that there is to learn from the book. So, I started making handwritten notes for the ITTOs. Again, this was a subset from the previous review. Essentially, the highlighted portions were jotted down on paper. A big advantage of doing this is that you tend to remember things better when they are hand written. Once I finished writing my notes, I again highlighted the main ideas that need to be remembered. Those were the points that I focused on for my exam.
After three reviews, this behemoth of a book started to look easy and manageable. I noticed that as I highlighted the notes, I found several commonalities and recurring points in multiple ITTOs.
For example: For Estimate Costs, I really only needed to know:
- Inputs – Project Management Plan, Project Documents, EEFs and OPAs
- Tools and Techniques – Expert Judgement, Analogous Estimation, Parametric Estimation, Three Point Estimation, Data Analysis, Project Management Information System (PMIS) and Decision Making
- Outputs – Cost Estimate, Basis of Estimate, Project Document Updates
Note: During the first two reviews I made sure to understand what each of the above concepts meant – their definitions and applications
I was narrowing and funneling information with each subsequent review. I was able to take an overwhelming amount of information and organize it, eliminate it and absorb it!
“Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration” – Thomas Edison