by Darrell G. Stiffler, PMP:

If you are preparing to take the Project Management Professional (PMP) examination, I have an idea I would like to share.

You have probably been told the best way to prepare for the exam is to take as many practice exams as possible. I could not agree more. Because of the nature of the PMP examine, the wording of the questions can be very confusing. The Project Management Institute (PMI) also includes wordy questions; correct answers, but to another question; impossible questions, etc. The exam is a challenge even if you know all the material. It is as if you have to know the material AND understand how to read the questions and decipher the code.

I have taught PMP Exam preparation courses for some years now. I recently had a student who had an approach to taking the test that I thought was very creative. It could be that this idea has been around for some time and I have never heard of it. If so, I guess I’m the last one to hear about it, part of the 10% that never gets the word and when they do hear about it, they feel like they need a dunce hat. If this tip is not widely known and I come across as a genius, I’ll never tell that Bryan in my Washington, DC class, came up with the idea.

Here is the deal: when I take a multiple choice test, I do a certain amount of cogitation and guessing. When I’m done with the test and look over the answers, if I get the question correct, I breeze quickly past that question and focus on the questions that I answered incorrectly. Well folks, I’m here to tell you that not all the questions I got correct were because I knew the correct answers. Yes, I guessed. However, because I got the question correct on the practice test, I never reviewed the material that the question was referring to. We both know that this is a recepe for disaster later on. Therefore, the approach I suggest to the small minority of those who guess on questions is as follows. Take paper and write down the number of questions that you have on the test. At the top of the paper, write this scale:

Confidence Level
  1 = Don’t have a clue what the answers is.
2 = Kind-of think I might have heard the terms before somewhere.
3 = Know most of the words and definitions of the terms.
4 = Pretty sure I know what they are asking about and think I know the answer.
5 = Nailed that one, piece of cake, I wish they were all this easy.

As you answer the questions and write down the alpha character that is associated with the answer you have chosen, also write down the confidence level number associated with the above description.

As you go back through and grade your answers you will now be reminded if you guessed or knew the answer to the question. If you got the answer correct but guessed at the answer, you will know to brush up on the subject. Additionally, you could add up the values of all the questions and divide by the number of questions and get a good idea how confident you were taking the test.

Let me hear from you. If you try this approach and it works for you, let me know, it will make me feel good and feel like I contributed to my profession, which by-the-way is part of the Code of Ethics. If you have already heard of this approach, let me know and I’ll not mention it again and embarrass myself.

Good Luck!