In March, I earned my PMP.
For the final push, I took advantage of an opportunity to take a test prep bootcamp through Cheetah Learning. The bootcamp came highly regarded by our project managers – so my management was kind enough to spring the money for me to take it before the exam.
Cheetah’s PMP Bootcamp has some really interesting features that I have not seen in other bootcamps of this sort.
1) Single-minded focus. You are there to pass the test.
You are NOT there to learn project management. You are NOT there to learn project management tools and techniques. You are NOT there to have discussions of project management practices and what each of you do in your own environments. You are there to focus on passing the test. PERIOD.
What this means? It means you do not question the PMI. At least – not for the next week.
2) Your heavy lifting occurs before the class. Memorizing the mind map.
Before you show up, you are expected to memorize a mind map and be able to draw it on demand day 1 of the bootcamp. The mind map will serve as a tool during the exam – drawn during the 15 minutes you have prior to the test as you run the Prometrics tutorial.
The act of memorizing that mind map helped to organize what I learned in the previous 35 hours of course work I needed to perform before I submitted for exam eligibility (PMP eligibility is 3 years, 4500 hours, and 35 hours of coursework). I also tended to look in the PMBOK if something in the mind map didn’t make sense. That helped ground the week a bit.
By the way – memorizing someone else’s mind map stinks.
I would have liked to been able to make adjustments to the mind map on the Tuesday of the bootcamp rather than waiting until late Wednesday afternoon – if only so I could incorporate my newer thoughts (particularly regarding contract types and some trickier quality management concepts) and draw them out more quickly. I spent more time drawing the mind map during the actual exam than I would have liked – taking about 18 minutes vs the 15 allotted.
3) They control as much as they can control – your food, your breaks, your focus, your time.
Unlike other courses of this type, Cheetah did a few things I have never seen before.
- Food. No caffeine. No sugar. High protein.
- Breaks. No time to pee until the designated break. Really. It was that intense.
- Focus. They provided “meditation tapes”. 3 voices with random project management definitions on top of a delta wave soundtrack. You were to listen to this at designated times during the bootcamp and at night.
- Time. I typically appeared at the hotel at 6:30am (DC traffic). Class started at 8am. We went until at least 6pm. I then spent another hour or two doing homework. Unlike many of my classmates, I prioritized sleep – which helped. The only person who heard from me or saw me that week was the man I live with. And that – barely. No email. No voice mail. Nothing.
The days fell into a rhythm pretty quickly.
- Recreate the mind map
- Take a test for the day
- Notecards on the chapter – each section timed
- Workbook / mind map on the chapter – each section read
- Test on the chapter
- Notecards / Workbook / Test – repeat until finished with each chapter for the day
- Oh yeah…and there was lunch somewhere in there…..
- Go home. Study hard sections. Retake at least 1 test from the day. Fall asleep to the “meditation tapes”
It’s been a long time since I’ve been through an experience quite that intense. But damn if it didn’t work.
As with most of these certification tests, the trick is to get into the mind of the test authors.
The PMP is notoriously hard because they occasionally enjoy testing whether you have fully read the question (attention to detail). They also write questions using a wide array of unpredictable source materials – not just the PMBOK.
I got the feeling that they wrote the test in a way to encourage / force people to take a test prep class.
So now what? The next round is likely going to be Agile courses and methodology.
Beyond the task of trying to push my phone number off my business card with letters behind my name – I find that going through these certification efforts provide me with some tools I can use in my own work.
Building the toolbox.
Having something for the resume / LinkedIn profile to show for my efforts is a bonus.