Our Guest This Episode: Andy Crowe, Bill Yates, and Louis Alderman
The 6th Edition Exam change is just around the corner and the Manage This Cast is here to give insight on what to expect with the changes and how to best approach the new exam.
Nervous about the 6th Edition PMP Exam? On this episode of Manage This we have brought in the content experts! Andy Crowe, Bill Yates, and Louis Alderman sit down to discuss the significant changes coming to the PMP Exam and how to best prepare for the exam itself. Learn how to help cope with test anxiety, how to approach the exam, and key tips that help you with answering questions. This is one podcast you do not want to miss!
Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:
"It’s bigger. It’s significantly bigger. It’s about 30 percent bigger. So the Fifth Edition, just page count, had 589 pages. The Sixth Edition, a whopping 756 pages."
"One of the things that I don’t want people to underestimate, the application takes a little bit of time; right? You have to apply for this exam. And in my case I think it took maybe, I don’t know, two to four hours of accumulating the right information to put in the form and submit to PMI. So make sure that you’ve got some of the logistics taken care of. Don’t underestimate the application and wait till after you’ve fully prepared and then go, oh, yeah, I need to apply for this thing."
"You have to decide in that scenario what answer to choose. And the one that you would have chosen may not be in that list. So you really need to look for the best answer that best represents PMI’s approach."
NICK WALKER: Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers. Every two weeks we meet up to talk about what really matters to you as a professional project manager. We’re dedicated to helping you grow, to help you get better at your job. And we do that in several ways. We interview guests who are managing challenging projects in the real world, and we learn from their real-life experiences. We share tips and tools and trends from authors and experts in the field of project management and program management. We want to help you reach that next step.
I’m your host, Nick Walker, and with me are two guys who have enough real-life experience that we could spend hours picking their brains, Andy Crowe and Bill Yates. And Andy, we’re always on the lookout to help project managers improve, and we’re devoting today’s podcast to the subject of certifications.
ANDY CROWE: Yeah, the credential, the PMP Exam. And you know what, Nick, it’s fun because this really does impact people’s lives in some significant and measurable ways.
NICK WALKER: Now, the Project Management Institute released a Sixth Edition of the PMBOK Guide in September of 2017. The PMP Exam changes on March 26, 2018. So today we’re going to focus on two main topics: an update on the changes found in the Sixth Edition, and some practical advice and tips for those who want to pass the exam.
And to do that, to help us out today we have another expert joining us, Louis Alderman. He has a lot of letters after his name: MBA, PMP, PMI-ACP, and CSM. He’s the Manager of Curriculum Development at Velociteach. Louis, thanks so much for joining us today.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: Thank you, Nick. It’s a pleasure to be here.
NICK WALKER: Now, before we dive in, I’m just wondering if you can talk a little bit more about your role at Velociteach.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: Well, you mentioned my title is Manager of Curriculum Development. My role is to do anything and everything that it takes to accomplish that that is not illegal or immoral.
NICK WALKER: Good, good.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: My background is engineering and project management, and I’ve enjoyed bringing all of those skills and abilities to Velociteach. I’ve been here since 2005 developing curriculum. And it’s a lot of fun.
NICK WALKER: Well, we’re so glad you’re with us today. And so let’s dive right in. Let’s talk about the new and much bigger PMBOK Guide. Bill?
ANDY CROWE: Holding it in my hands here right now, Nick.
BILL YATES: It’s big.
NICK WALKER: Okay, guys. How much bigger are we talking about?
ANDY CROWE: It’s bigger. It’s significantly bigger. It’s about 30 percent bigger. So the Fifth Edition, just page count, had 589 pages. The Sixth Edition, a whopping 756 pages. And Louis did some analysis on the inputs, tools, techniques, and outputs.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: I did, Andy. You know, officially there are 665 instances of inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs. But some of those tools are groups of tools. If you include all of the sub-tools in those categories, the total actually goes up to a whopping 1,444.
BILL YATES: Whoa.
ANDY CROWE: It is whopping, and I don’t think you can really do an honest analysis without counting them that way. I mean, we’ve looked at it and sliced it and diced it a number of ways. Fourteen hundred and forty-four, it’s incredible.
BILL YATES: You know, a quick example of that, like you look at data analysis, that’s one of the top levels. But then underneath that you’ve got all these other types of analysis.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: Okay. Let me be the engineer here. Twenty-seven different types of analysis in that category.
ANDY CROWE: Twenty-seven types. So that’s how you get to 1,444.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: It really mushrooms.
BILL YATES: Man, that’s a lot.
NICK WALKER: So let’s get started. We’ve got a long way to go, 1,444 items to talk about. Let’s take them one by one. No, where do we start with all this?
BILL YATES: Yeah, one of the things that is new for the Sixth Edition is Agile. Agile and iterative concepts have been introduced into this Sixth Edition of the PMBOK Guide.
ANDY CROWE: It’s a big philosophy shift, isn’t it.
BILL YATES: It really is. I mean, traditional, waterfall…
ANDY CROWE: Predictive.
BILL YATES: Yeah, predictive. That was the flavor of the day for the first five editions really.
ANDY CROWE: Right.
BILL YATES: We talked about the word “iterative” here and there, and “progressive elaboration.” But now in the Sixth Edition there is a notable shift with this idea of introducing Agile concepts. We see a few of them sprinkled in, but you see them even in every knowledge area.
ANDY CROWE: Well, you do. It’s kind of unusual the way it’s done at the end of each knowledge area. Now, the PMBOK Guide is shipped with an Agile Practice Guide. So this comes with it. And then at the end of each knowledge area you get a perspective. So say on communications. They give the Agile perspective on communications, say on scope. You get the Agile perspective on scope. That part doesn’t work so well for me because it comes across as an afterthought. And when you read it, you look at it, and it’s almost like someone got to the end of the chapter and thought, eh, now what do I do with it? So I’m not crazy about the way that’s done.
And by the way, you know, people do listen to this podcast who are involved with this project. I kind of got a kick out of the fact that the Fifth Edition, the Fourth and Fifth Edition PMBOK Guides, on the back they said “The essential tool for every project manager.” The Sixth Edition comes, and it took our tagline of “By project managers for project managers.” I absolutely don’t believe that’s a coincidence.
NICK WALKER: Should have trademarked that.
ANDY CROWE: We should have. What were we thinking? But that’s okay. I think people do listen to this podcast, and we hear from some of them from time to time, people who are influential in the industry. So what I would say is decide what you want to do with Agile. Get really deliberate and really clear for the Seventh Edition. Put the PMBOK Guide on a diet. Trim it down, maybe reduce some of these 1,444 down to a little bit bigger topics, and then decide what you want to do with Agile and be more deliberate because right now it’s coming across a little bit strange in the PMBOK Guide itself. That’s my take.
BILL YATES: So another higher level kind of looking down at the forest. We’ve got 49 processes, so we went from 47 to 49.
ANDY CROWE: Right. That’s not such a big jump.
BILL YATES: Yeah, that’s not a big – that sounds pretty tame there. We did, you know, there’s some nice changes. The renaming the sixth chapter from Time Management to Schedule Management, that felt appropriate.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: A lot more appropriate.
ANDY CROWE: Yeah, and resource management now changes from human resource management.
BILL YATES: Yeah, so there’s some clarity.
ANDY CROWE: Yeah, it’s a little bit clearer.
BILL YATES: When you look at the process groups – initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, controlling, and closing, the numbers there shifted slightly. There’s still a big emphasis on planning. So, you know, there are some consistencies there that we see. But, yeah, so Sixth Edition PMBOK Guide is a big deal.
ANDY CROWE: I agree. So for the most part the only surprises came in as to how much it grew. And you have to ask yourself, at the end of that looking back, okay, did the profession grow that much? Is this a reflection of what happened in the profession? Or is it everybody’s got a new idea that they kind of bring to the table? So all I’m hoping for is that Seventh, Eighth, Ninth editions, looking out into the future, don’t continue that trajectory because at some point it becomes difficult to work with.
BILL YATES: There was a point where Tom Clancy decided, if I’m going to write a book, it’s got to be over a thousand pages. And that was annoying.
ANDY CROWE: Right? You’re making a big commitment. Now, here is my take, though, Nick. And this is some good news. The PMBOK Guide’s changed, and some of those changes are really good, and some of them are a little bit tougher to work with.
But I don’t believe the March 26th exam is going to be reflective of that big of a change. Here’s why. What we see is that, when the PMBOK Guide comes out, the exam gets realigned to that guide. What that means is, if a process name changed in the PMBOK Guide, it changes on the exam. If an input tool or technique changed in the PMBOK Guide, it gets changed on the exam. But there’s not a lot of new content coming into it. Just a few questions might be trimmed and replaced with other ones that were already vetted. So what we’ll see right now is a smaller realignment. We don’t expect it to be earth-shattering.
Now, there’s a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the project management community about it. But I don’t think it’s going to be so bad. When we’ll see a bigger change is after the next role delineation study. And that’s when we all need to be watching to see what we learn.
NICK WALKER: I’m sure a lot of people are pleased to hear you say that there’s not going to be a major change because I sort of get the impression with this Sixth Edition that you kind of have to maybe even look at it through sort of a different filter, with this Agile stuff coming in. So do you have to, at any time, in any way, look at the exam through different filters?
BILL YATES: You know, it’s a good point that it raises awareness.
ANDY CROWE: Yeah.
BILL YATES: We have this – we know the Sixth Edition PMBOK Guide is one of the reference books or materials that those that are writing the test questions will reference. That’s something they’ll look at. So we do have to raise our awareness of these Agile terms, if they’re new to us as an exam taker.
But, you know, that’s a good segue into what we really want to focus on in this conversation. Standardized tests present their own challenges; right? And we have an accumulation of exam tips that we’re excited to share with those who are preparing for these exams, that when you’re taking a standardized test, this is just good advice. Whether it’s Fourth Edition, Fifth Edition, Sixth Edition of some standard, man, this is just good stuff to know. So I think that’s where we’ll focus next.
ANDY CROWE: And fine-tuned for the PMP exam, which is something we’ve been working with, and we understand pretty well.
NICK WALKER: All right. Let’s talk about some of those tips. What is first and foremost most important when getting into this exam, Louis?
LOUIS ALDERMAN: The most important thing to me is anxiety and stress. And, you know, if you’ve never taken this exam or one like it before, you go in with a lot of uncertainty, a lot of risk. And you’re going to be confronted with things that may be new to you. So my advice is reduce the number of new experiences as much as possible. Take some practice exams so that you’re used to the mechanism of taking the exam. Prepare yourself. You know, there’s going to be some knowledge to understand, some facts, and then there’s going to be some understanding, some wisdom to apply on the exam. So to me, do everything you can do to reduce your anxiety and stress going in. To me, those are points, pure and simple.
BILL YATES: Right. Yeah, Louis, I’ve heard you say before with students and with others, if you can build a solid foundation, then you’re going to be ready when those curve balls are thrown to you; when you’re standing at the plate, and you think it’s a fast ball, but it’s a curve ball, and you recognize that. So building that solid foundation of information, knowing the foundation, then you’re prepared to handle those scenario-based questions.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: Right. And the best way to prepare that foundation, go to a reputable boot camp. You know, it’s almost like immersion. Really focus on the material. You need quality instructors. You need quality materials. For example, Andy’s book.
BILL YATES: Hey, there’s one on my desk here.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: “The PMP Exam.” You know what, it’s called “How to Pass on the First Try.” That means a lot.
NICK WALKER: Do people normally pass on the first try? I mean, I love the title of that, by the way.
ANDY CROWE: People who read my book do.
BILL YATES: If they attend our class, yes.
NICK WALKER: Obviously there’s a need for that because that implies that there’s a whole bunch of people who aren’t going to pass the first try.
ANDY CROWE: Well, You know what, nick? You know what, Louis’s point, you don’t underestimate the exam. To me there is an optimal amount of anxiety. So I see the world in terms of bell curves. And if anxiety is really low, a lot of times your motivation and performance will be low. But you want a certain amount of butterflies walking in there. And so you want to be on your “A” game at that optimal level. Now, if anxiety keeps increasing, your performance is going to start to drop, and you’ll see it. It kind of follows that typical bell curve. So anxiety is not all bad. But too much anxiety can really work against you.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: Maybe at the right level to say let’s respect the exam.
ANDY CROWE: Absolutely, absolutely.
BILL YATES: You know, another – this is a very practical tip. But one of the things that I don’t want people to underestimate, the application takes a little bit of time; right? You have to apply for this exam. And in my case I think it took maybe, I don’t know, two to four hours of accumulating the right information to put in the form and submit to PMI. So make sure that you’ve got some of the logistics taken care of. Don’t underestimate the application and wait till after you’ve fully prepared and then go, oh, yeah, I need to apply for this thing.
ANDY CROWE: And fill it out truthfully because we have known people who have falsified information who have been banned from taking the exam.
BILL YATES: Yeah, that’s true.
ANDY CROWE: Not a good situation. You know what another thing is, don’t put off taking the exam too long. I ran into a guy on the street this weekend who had read my book months ago, studied, and just put off taking the test. And I said, “You know what, it’s going to change on this date.” And he got really motivated. So it was an interesting thing. You don’t put it off.
BILL YATES: Yeah. That’s good advice. So much of the information that we have to know for the exam does not exactly align with our real-world experience.
ANDY CROWE: Right.
BILL YATES: Their terms there. Their practices that are followed. You know, we’ve talked before about a project charter, things like that. Got to have a project charter when you’re taking the exam. I may not have to have one if I’m doing a project at my company.
ANDY CROWE: That’s – that’s heresy. Don’t say anything like that.
BILL YATES: Louis, talk to us about the idea of doing a brain dump.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: Well, you know, the concept is there are things that you need to stay fresh. We have short-term memory. So as you prepare, you go to your boot camp, you’re going to collect some formulas, some equations that will really benefit you on the exam. Now, you can prepare this before you sit in the exam room. You can practice writing out the list of formulas.
ANDY CROWE: Right.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: And the key is you want to practice it so that, when you get into the exam, and your exam time starts, it’s a good investment to take the first five minutes, seven minutes – now, don’t take 10 and 15 minutes. Take a few minutes upfront. Dump those formulas to your scratch paper. Now, you may never look at them during the exam. But you have the security of knowing they are there.
ANDY CROWE: You will look at them.
BILL YATES: Yes, you will.
ANDY CROWE: And they’re there. You don’t have to – I have messed up before. I think when I took my exam there was one formula, the formula for communication channels I forgot to dump out, forgot to write down. I got to it on the exam, I could not remember. And so I’m drawing a crazy diagram on my page to count the number of communication channels, just to figure it out, because I had not done that.
BILL YATES: The big spider web.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: So the concept is you reduce your stress because you know this material going in. You reduce your stress because you’ve got that formula sheet on your scratch paper. Whether you need to look at it or not, it’s a security blanket. It’s there.
ANDY CROWE: Yeah.
NICK WALKER: Do all testing centers allow that?
ANDY CROWE: Yes. Yeah. And so that’s a – the way in which that’s happened has changed over time, and so now it can eat into your test time. But it’s still very worth doing it, Nick. You know, one of the things after taking this test you’ll realize is that you’re going to have to guess on some questions. And what I mean by “guess,” I don’t mean just close your eyes and throw a dart. Hopefully that doesn’t happen. But you are going to need to narrow it down.
And so one of the things that I recommend is try and eliminate any wrong answers that you see. So some students say, hey, you know what, when I’m studying for this exam I can eliminate a couple of wrong answers. And then you’ve got probably a better than 50/50 shot, really. You’ve got two to pick from, but you can gravitate toward one.
Another way when you’re guessing is to look for answers that sound like proactive leadership and to make the project manager accountable and in charge. Project managers are not in a weak state here. So you’re trying to eliminate any wrong answers that do that. But you know what, after reading this book, your instincts are going to be really good about what a right answer looks like.
BILL YATES: Yeah, the material – Andy’s book puts you in the right mindset. So much of this, as I explain to people that are preparing for the exam, so much of this is putting on the hat, putting on the PMI hat, getting in their brain, so to speak, for this.
ANDY CROWE: Right. It’s not how you would solve a problem.
BILL YATES: Yeah, not necessarily, yeah. Remember PMI’s test tricks, as well. You know, you may have questions that seem to ramble on and on, and they’re confusing. You’ve got to kind of cut through it all to get to what are they actually asking me. You may have answers on the exam that you’re looking at, and you’re going, wow, sounds like they kind of skip a process here. I’d like to do that. That sounds good. No, again, for the exam, never skip a formal process; right? You want to play by the rules that you studied up. Don’t take the easy way out. If there’s a problem, act directly. Confront issues.
ANDY CROWE: Right.
BILL YATES: Confrontation, collaboration, those are favored responses. Face-to-face communications.
ANDY CROWE: Problem-solving is a favored approach.
BILL YATES: Yeah, problem-solving, yeah, yeah. And then, you know, another piece of advice. Andy, you described the different roles related to projects, different roles that people play, really well in the book. Know those roles very clearly.
ANDY CROWE: Right.
BILL YATES: Be able to distinguish one from the other.
ANDY CROWE: Project manager, project controller – coordinator, rather. Project expediter, sponsor, senior management, functional manager, project management office, all of these you’re going to need to know.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: Exactly.
BILL YATES: Nick, I see your head going, yeah, yeah, yeah, I got that.
NICK WALKER: Yeah, well, I was just thinking, you know, I’ve taken tests similar to this before. It seems like no matter how people work so hard to word the questions, there’s always some sort of trick question…
ANDY CROWE: Yeah.
BILL YATES: Yeah.
NICK WALKER: …that comes up.
ANDY CROWE: And that’s about eight out of 10 in this test. They do a lot of scenario-based questions. And you’ll get to the end of it and not be even sure what’s being asked. So the rationale behind this, whether or not you agree with it, the thought process is, look, our job is not linear, and our job is not direct. And the solutions are not right in front of us, they’re on the periphery. And they require you to sift through all of these facts to get down to the relevant facts. So that’s the thought here.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: You know, and you have to decide in that scenario what answer to choose. And the one that you would have chosen may not be in that list. So you really need to look for the best answer that best represents PMI’s approach. Now, I’ll tell you, whenever you’re asked to make a decision in one of these scenarios as project manager, any time you need to make a decision, one of the tricks, one of the keys is always do your homework before you make a decision. And so there are some trigger words that are talking about doing your homework. And so I like to use the mnemonic “Fear DUI.” Okay?
ANDY CROWE: Yes, I do.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: So whether you do or not, let me say what this – if you take those letters: Find out, Evaluate, Assess, Research, Determine, Understand, Investigate,” each of these verbs really is a synonym for doing your homework before you make a decision. And many times you’re asked what’s the next thing you should do in this scenario. Well, before you decide and jump to contusions, as I like to say, you should do your homework. And if you see one of these words, it should trigger that response.
ANDY CROWE: You know what, what we were talking about earlier with being proactive and things like that, that’s very true. But you don’t ever run off half-cocked. So if you see an example, a question here with one of those trigger words, what I would do is I would make that the last answer that I struck off. It may not be the right answer, but it’s going to be the last one that I eliminate.
BILL YATES: That’s good. Louis, I’ve heard you use the analogy before that these are multiple-choice questions, and you have A, B, C, and D. And only one of those is going to be the best choice. It’s like a beauty contest. You have four contestants, and you’re looking – you may not really think any of them are that attractive. But you’ve got to pick one of them.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: Well, you’ve got to wait for the talent event before you decide. Okay.
BILL YATES: That’s it.
NICK WALKER: So is there a certain process that you ought to go through for each question that you come upon?
ANDY CROWE: You know what, the first thing I’m going to do is ask did I read the question correctly. Now, I’m a big fan of looking at the last sentence first, especially on these longer scenario-based questions. Sometimes you really don’t even have to read the rest of the – I guess I jumped ahead. Is that what you all are talking about?
ANDY CROWE: Yeah, you know what, I want to make sure I read the question correctly. So that’s a big part of it. And then to look and say the answer that I picked, did it match what was being asked? And then also, you know, there are questions with math and logic. And I want to review those and make sure that I answered it, did the math right.
NICK WALKER: Okay. What about when you get to – there’s always this self-doubt when I take a test. You know, it’s like I pick a question, and then I – maybe I go down and answer a few other questions, and then something pops into my head, I go, huh, maybe I didn’t answer that other question back up here correctly based upon what they’re asking me here. How do you deal with that?
BILL YATES: Yeah, that’s good. And that’s a good piece of advice because that really – that happened to me on the exam, for sure. I encountered a question. I was a little vague on it. And then a follow-up question, a question that came later triggered, oh, yeah, whoa, whoa, whoa. I’ve got clarity now on that one before. So I mark that one for review. You know, first of all, when I’m taking that first question, I can mark it for review. Now I go back, and I look at it. Here’s the word of caution. Don’t change all your answers. Right? You have to be very careful with that.
ANDY CROWE: You need to mark the ones you change.
BILL YATES: Yeah, you do.
ANDY CROWE: Because in my case I changed too many when I was studying for the exam. And I started – what I realized, what I learned is that, A, I can talk myself out of any correct answer if you give me enough time; and, B, you know what, my instincts for my first guess are really good. So I need to trust those. And so I really did have to limit the percentage that I changed unless I had a really good reason.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: You know, Andy, was it Aristotle that said, “Know thyself?”
ANDY CROWE: That was the Oracle at Delphi.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: Okay. Okay. But know thyself is the point here.
ANDY CROWE: Right.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: So as you go into the exam, that’s not the time to determine, number one, am I a good guesser; and, number two, is my first instinct usually correct?
ANDY CROWE: Right.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: That’s something that you learn about yourself taking practice exams, keeping track, and marking it.
ANDY CROWE: Yeah. Mark it.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: Know yourself.
ANDY CROWE: That’s an easy way to do it.
BILL YATES: That’s good. Guys, I want to go negative for a minute. If I’m listening to this, I may be thinking, okay, this is good, good, good. What about those people that fail? What happens there?
ANDY CROWE: Let’s just say they don’t pass.
BILL YATES: Okay, that’s better. Yeah, they don’t pass.
ANDY CROWE: You know what, they get a participation trophy.
BILL YATES: See, I feel better already. But for me, you know, there’s so much great literature out there in the business world about learning from failure. So we can learn a lot from those who did not pass the exam on their first try. You know, we’ve heard from students, you know what, I just underestimated this thing.
ANDY CROWE: Yeah.
BILL YATES: Or I’ve got 20 years of experience as a PM. I don’t need to really study for this. Yeah, I can just go in there and knock it out. You know, one of the other common things that we heard of was running out of time.
ANDY CROWE: Yeah. That’s not the most common thing. But some people can do it. They freeze up with that clock, and that’s all they can really focus on.
BILL YATES: Well, did you notice when you took the exam the clock got bigger and bigger and louder?
ANDY CROWE: And the background music – da da da da da da.
BILL YATES: Yeah, it can be intimidating. So just, again, back to Louis’s point about taking practice test questions, that way you get a sense for how much time you’re taking. That’s good.
NICK WALKER: Whenever I’m running out of time on a test, you know, my anxiety increases, oh, exponentially with each second.
ANDY CROWE: Sure.
NICK WALKER: Is there a point where you need to say, okay, I just need to breathe and concentrate and focus? And how do you do that when the clock is ticking?
BILL YATES: Yeah, yeah.
ANDY CROWE: You just do.
BILL YATES: Just do it, Nick.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: It’s a little bit of willpower to control that anxiety. And that’ll happen, not on the first question necessarily that you didn’t know the answer to, but consecutively. You get several questions in a row, you’re thinking, which exam am I sitting in? But, you know, if you pace things properly, you might have time to take a quick break. But if you feel your anxiety rising, look away from the screen. Stop and take a deep breath. Hold it for five to six seconds. Let it out slowly. Take another deep breath. There are some breathing techniques to work against that anxiety.
ANDY CROWE: Yeah, deep breaths do counter anxiety in that case. And Louis, you said if you pace yourself you might be able to take a quick break? Look, I’m a fan. Take breaks. I need to take a break. I need to walk away from the monitor. I need to stretch. I need to breathe deeply. And I need to come back. And I do it over and over and over again. And it bugs the proctor, and they can just deal with it. All right? It’s their job to deal with that.
BILL YATES: Yeah, this is not a sprint. This is a marathon. This is four hours, 200 questions. So, yeah, I definitely needed a break when I was taking it.
ANDY CROWE: I guarantee you the proctor doesn’t lie awake at night thinking about that guy who took several breaks.
NICK WALKER: All right. Whenever I come across a question that says “the best answer,” you mentioned that before. It’s not the answer I would have chosen, but the best answer. What are some of the key words we need to kind of put our red flag up for?
ANDY CROWE: Here’s what makes me laugh about that. You know, Louis talked about a beauty contest. To me, this is almost like an ugly baby contest. And so sometimes you have four answers, and none of them are the one you would pick.
BILL YATES: They’re all crying and have dirty diapers.
ANDY CROWE: Right. So I’m thinking about that Seinfeld episode now. Baby’s stunning.
BILL YATES: I’m speechless.
ANDY CROWE: The only way to answer these questions is to really learn the processes, learn the inputs, learn the tools and techniques and outputs. And you sometimes have to pick the least ugly answer; okay? It’s a reality. Every one of us has had that on this exam, though. You have to say none of these is really a great answer, so I’m going to pick the one that works the closest.
BILL YATES: Louis, you had so many years of experience with really a very mature company and doing project management in so many different roles. How did you put that stuff on the shelf and put on the hat of PMI when you went and took the exam?
LOUIS ALDERMAN: You know, that’s the hardest thing for the experienced project manager, and that just takes discipline. When you’re taking your boot camp, when you’re reading Andy’s book, when you’re taking practice exams, you’ve got to take off that company hat, and you’ve got to put on the PMI hat.
Now, I’ll tell you a tip that I feel is really helpful. You’ve got to understand PMI’s philosophy. And I tell you what, there are paragraphs dedicated to that in each chapter in Andy’s book that help you understand this – what’s the PMI philosophy here? You know, I talk about the golden rule. Well, in this exam, PMI has the gold. It’s their [crosstalk].
ANDY CROWE: And they make the rules.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: They make the rules. It’s their test. It’s their correct answers. You’ve got to use their philosophy in answering.
ANDY CROWE: You know what, Louis, when you look at this, going through the vocabulary matters a lot, too, because what you regularly see, you’ll see somebody who’s spent their work in the military. And they may – what we call a “project” they may refer to as a “program.” You’ll find people who have done procurement in a highly formal way, that they may get frustrated when they come up against the procurement section in the PMBOK Guide or in my book because it’s different than the way they’ve done it and the way they’ve had to.
BILL YATES: Andy, I’m so glad you mentioned that. There’s one point that to me is a very important tip that we can share. You’ve got a – I can’t remember how many pages it is. But in the back of the book there’s a glossary of terms. And that is so valuable. Many times I’ll tell students, “Hey, all I want you to do the night before the exam is just go back and leaf through that glossary. Just, again, immerse yourself in the words, the terms, the phrases that you’ll see on the exam.”
ANDY CROWE: I would do that a couple hours before the exam, sit down with a cup of coffee, go over those terms in the glossary. You’re right. It gets you in the mindset.
BILL YATES: I’ve got another just kind of a, speaking of mindset in this exam, Louis, can I guess at questions? Should I leave them blank? Give me some advice on that.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: Okay. If you’ve got 10 minutes left, and the exam is about to be timed out, hit the Review button, look at all the questions. Make sure you’ve got an answer.
BILL YATES: Right, answer them all.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: You never get a point for a blank answer.
BILL YATES: Okay.
LOUIS ALDERMAN: Now, the ones you’ve already answered, and maybe you don’t have time to review, you’ve got a pretty good chance that you did it correctly the first time. But the ones you’ve not answered, guess. If you’re running out of time, now, I won’t say answer Question C to every one, you know, Answer C. There’s really no logic in that. But answer something because there are no points for a blank answer.
ANDY CROWE: Well, you don’t leave them blank. And you can mark a question for review. And that’s important, too, because my strategy is, almost without exception, I would pick the best answer I thought at that moment. If I didn’t know, and I wanted to come back, I’d mark it for review. I’m not going to leave anything blank unless there’s some extraordinary reason to at that point. And certainly not when I ended.
NICK WALKER: I don’t want to point any fingers here, but I know a lot of people who make tests end up throwing something in to just kind of throw you off, to try to distract you. Are we going to find this on this exam?
ANDY CROWE: Yes. In short. Here’s where you start. Nick, when I get to a long question, the first thing I do is think this is a scenario-based question. And then my eye will go directly to the very last sentence because it may ask you what is the first process you would perform in this situation, or what process contains this tool or something. You almost don’t even need to read the rest of the scenario. It’s full of distracting information and red herrings. Now, I’m not really advocating that you don’t read the question. But I am saying it’ll give you a good idea a lot of times. Probably four times out of five it’ll give you a really good idea.
NICK WALKER: What about if you come to an answer, you read the question, you see an answer, oh, that’s it?
ANDY CROWE: Yeah, I would say…
BILL YATES: Are you sure about that, Nick?
NICK WALKER: Yeah, yeah, that’s the thing.
ANDY CROWE: Yeah, and I’ve done that before. No, you read all the answers before making your selection. Every time.
BILL YATES: Andy’s advice about doing that review and making sure that you’ve read the question correctly is so true. If I see something that I think is familiar, I tend to jump right down to an answer. And I need to slow down.
NICK WALKER: All right. Any other general advice that we could give our listeners who are preparing for this exam?
ANDY CROWE: We certainly have a lot of resources that we would direct them to. Also, if you use the book, it’s got over 450 practice questions. They’re going to get you very ready for the way the exam is going to approach these questions and answers and the way they’re going to be oriented.
NICK WALKER: Good stuff. Well, we want to say a special thanks to Louis for joining us today.
ANDY CROWE: Thanks, Louis.
NICK WALKER: And Andy and Bill, we always appreciate your perspective and advice.
ANDY CROWE: Thank you, Nick.
NICK WALKER: And in appreciation to our listeners, we always try to give you something extra. We know you’re always on the lookout for ways to earn PDUs, Professional Development Units, toward your recertifications. And we make it easy and free. Just go to Velociteach.com and select Manage This Podcast from the top of the page. Click the button that says Claim PDUs, and just click through the steps.
That’s it for us here on Manage This. We hope you’ll tune back in on March 6th for our next podcast. In the meantime, you can visit us at Velociteach.com/managethis to subscribe to this podcast, to see a transcript of the show, or to contact us. And tweet us at @manage_this if you have any questions about our podcasts or about project management certifications. We are here for you.
That’s all for this episode. Thanks for joining us. Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.