When I first took my PMP exam in 2001, the PMP certification preparation materials and PMP Exam simulator tools were LIMITED! For my PMP Exam Prep, I picked up a copy of the PMBOK, a 1200 page Project Management book by Harold Kerzner, and purchased exams on CD.
Notice I said CD…not DVD…no digital download…no streaming video…a CD!
At the time, the Kerzner book was the best PMP exam prep book on the market and the software was cutting edge back in 2001.
Fast forward 17 years later, the PMP exam prep resources have significantly improved. I had the opportunity to review PMP Master Prep’s book and exam software. In this article, I’ve included my review as well as a brief Q&A from Scott Payne – Author of PMP Exam Master Prep.
You’ll find (thankfully) training software has significantly improved as well as PMP certification books!
Meet the PMP Exam Master Prep Book
Writing about project management theory is hard, but reading a PMP certification book can be even more difficult if it isn’t engaging to read. The PMP Exam Master Prep book is organized differently from the PMBOK and other PMP prep books. It is interesting to read and doesn’t put you to sleep like most PMP certification books.
One key reason is the book is organized like a normal project!
A PMP certification book organized like a normal project
The text is written so you can make connections between the process groups rather than rote memorization. The book is written from point of view of starting a project rather than reviewing each process group and knowledge area individually.
This approach helps the reader understand the intent of each process as well as the important inputs and outputs in the context of an actual project! In a real project, the project manager executes the processes and knowledge areas across the project lifecycle. The project managers start with the Initiating process and travel vertically across the PMBOK process and knowledge areas.
The Initiating process group covers developing the project charter and identifying stakeholders. Other PMP certification books start by explaining integration management and the processes found across the initiating, planning, execution, monitor/controlling and closing rather than discussing Integration management.
As a PM preparing for the PMP exam, I never understood why they started with discussing the Integration Management knowledge area first. I understood creating the project charter, but I didn’t understand why the project close phase was being discussed so early in the PMBOK Standard. The author’s approach gets it right by starting with the project lifecycle, focusing on the first process group and traveling vertically across the PMBOK knowledge areas. The reader can make better connections across the knowledge areas rather than attempting to memorize every knowledge area and its related process group.
Prepare for PMP Certification with 25 Real Life Case Studies
The book also include 25 real-life case studies that help with PMP certification preparation.
Each case study provides a vignette into the project life as John – the project manager tackles the day to day activities while working with Sara, the program manager, and Lloyd, the PMO manager.
The case studies are amusing and reinforce the PMBOK concepts while paying homage to the real-life events we see in our daily project delivery life. Each of the case studies has follow up questions that reinforce the material covered in each chapter.
The online PMP Exam Simulator edition also contains 25 animation videos that present each of the case studies. Project managers prepare for PMP certification using different study methods and the video case studies help tell the “story”.
200 PMP Exam Questions
If you are looking for PMP exam questions, you’ll find 200 exam questions in the textbook with supporting answers and rationale for each answer. I found myself flipping back and forth between each chapter and the exam questions to test my knowledge.
(I’ll admit I flipped more to the answer section to verify if my interpretation was correct!)
Overall, I found the book to be a refreshing change from other PMP certification books. The approach, case studies, and exam questions will help any project manager seeking PMP certification!
The PMP Exam Simulator
The PMP Master Prep book is a useful resource but I found the PMP exam simulator to be a required resource in a student’s PMP certification preparation. This exam simulator is so much better than the CD I used to simulate the PMP exam seventeen years ago!
The online exam provides over 1400 questions and allows unlimited retakes. In addition to providing the PMP exam simulation, you can also test your knowledge individually by process group or knowledge area.
In my experience, I knew the earned value calculations were going to be a “sticky point” in my test. I studied the schedule management knowledge area multiple times so I fully understood earned value management. With the PM Master Prep, I can take multiple tests by process group or knowledge area multiple times. Using the practice tests by knowledge area enabled a quick brush up on material versus taking a longer test.
There are two versions of including:
Basic PMP Preparation Exam
- 1,400 Questions
- Updated based on PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition
- Unlimited Account Access and Unlimited Exam Retakes!
- 15 Other Practice Tests by Knowledge Area and by Process Group
PMP Super Simulator
- PMP Exam Simulator Plus
- PM One-View
- I.T.T.O. Inspector
- Formulas & Calculations
- EVM Calculator
- 25 Case Study Videos
- Glossary, Forum, and Group & Private Chat
The simulator is an excellent resource to simulate the exam. However, I found the PMP Super Simulator to be an excellent upgrade. In addition to the exam questions and the 25 case study videos, I found the PM One-View, I.T.T.O Inspector, and the Earned Value Formulas and Calculations section to be very useful for PMP exam preparation as well as navigating the PMBOK!
PM One-View is a web-enabled version of the PMBOK in bite-size pieces. You don’t get the entire PMBOK but it provides the process definition, inputs, tools, techniques, and outputs for every process and knowledge area. All of this is accessible by one click!
I’ve seen other tools that create a PMBOK mind map, but the PM One-View provides everything within one view and one click to navigating the PMBOK. Using traditional methods or an online PDF, I would have to scroll through 500+ pages to determine the inputs for the Define Activities process. With the PM One-View tool, I can quickly navigate the PMBOK to understand the process definitions and the related terms.
For PMO managers building PM methodologies, the PM One-View tool is also useful solution. I’ve used it several times to confirm the process steps I built for the organization was still founded in PMBOK theory. For the student preparing for the PMP exam, the tool is a welcome addition to the study tool kit.
PMP Certification Preparation with ITTO Inspector
The ITTO Inspector is similar to the PM One-View but it displays all the Input, Output, Tools and Techniques by process group and knowledge area. These tools are an online index to the PMBOK and the student will save time and eliminate searching through online PDFs or thumbing through the text.
Earned Value Management Calculations
When I prepared for the PMP exam, I received a small booklet on all the mathematical calculations found in the PMP exam. You can imagine how much fun that was trying to memorize the BAC formula or let alone understand how PV differed from EV and that was when the PMBOK referred to BCWS and BCWP!
With the PMP Super Exam Simulator, there is online support for earned value definitions, examples and earned value calculations.
If you need an example or a definition of any of the formulas, simply click on the button and the appropriate dialogue will be displayed.
There is also built-in support for earned value management calculations. If you enter the four key earned value data points, all the earned value calculations will be quickly calculated.
One-click and lots of results!
Students will find this calculation feature useful as the PMP exam always features earned value calculations. You don’t want to wait until the test date to know if you can calculate TCPI correctly.
Below is a snapshot of my recent test on the Schedule Management knowledge area.
Achieving an 80% after 17 years isn’t too shabby!
The results are also emailed to you so you can archive your progress. If there is a specific question that needs further review, there is a “Flag for Review” option for post-exam follow up.
Overall, I highly recommend the PMP Master Prep PMP materials. If I would have had this resource 17 years ago, it would have made my PMP exam preparation so much easier. The book and the materials also help reinforce the PMBOK versus just memorizing the PMBOK.
As a special bonus to this blog post, I included my interview with the author, Scott Payne, on his background and several key PMP exam test taking tips.
Scott Payne PMP Master Prep Interview
Question 1: What is your background in project management and PMP Exam Preparation?
I thrust myself into the project management world as soon as I started working after college. I had a job in manufacturing and when I walked around and talked to the craftsmen in the plants, problems and opportunities jumped out at me. I learned quickly that the best way to get problems solved at their root was to lead projects. In that first position, I started experimenting with projects. Trying and failing often, but always refining. That is how I found the PMP. I was looking for better ways to run projects that delivered the results I knew were possible.
Once I committed myself to studying for the PMP I bought the PMBOK and an online course. I loved the PMBOK but was unsatisfied with the online course. I abandoned the online course and focused my efforts on teaching myself through using the PMBOK.
I spent months grinding through the PMBOK material, flipping back and forth between processes, and creating my own study guides and templates that helped me remember key concepts. As I started to get a deeper understanding of the PMBOK processes a story started to play in my head. I was able to literally see a project leader complete each process. I started to document this project story as I finished my study and passed the PMP.
I knew that thinking of the PMP processes as a story is what cemented the PMP information in my head. For that reason, that same story is the foundation of my current PMP Exam Preparation course. My story-based PMP training course teaches the exact story that I used to teach myself to pass the PMP exam.
Following my exam, I doubled down on my understanding of what problems other students had in studying for the PMP exam. I isolated these issues and designed a complete PMP exam prep system that I now successfully use to helps students learn faster, retain more, and pass the PMP exam.
Question 2: What are your top 3 tips to help a student successfully prepare and pass the PMP?
Preparing for the PMP is a difficult journey. Most students make the mistake of focusing their time on blind memorization. This is the wrong way to prepare.
Grinding yourself to the bone memorizing every detail in the PMBOK will not help you pass the PMP exam. You may feel as though you are “working hard” to prepare, but all you are really doing is extending the amount of time it takes you to prepare and increasing your risk of not passing the exam.
In comparison, I recommend following a simple three step approach to help shorten your study time and drastically increase your PMP exam score. The approach requires discipline and consistency, but when followed delivers results.
- Set a study plan and follow it
- Study the processes in the order of a real project
- Use a simulator to find and eliminate your weaknesses
The importance of a good study plan
Define the date you want to take the test and work backward to define the amount of material that you must master each week to be prepared to sit for the PMP exam. Most students can comfortably cover 3-6 processes per week. Be realistic and conservative in how long it will take, I guarantee you that it will take longer than you expect. Set a weekly schedule of the topics to read and review and track your progress daily using a simple planner. Combine this step with the use of a simulator (step 3) to truly evaluate your success weekly in learning the PMP material.
Study in the order of a real project
The PMBOK is composed of forty-nine processes spread across five Process Groups and ten knowledge areas. The issue is that the PMBOK organizes the processes by the knowledge area. This means that they include all the processes related to scope, then schedule, then cost, and so on. Reading the PMBOK from the front to back forces you to do unnecessary mental gymnastics as the process that you are learning about constantly jump around the project life cycle.
Remove this unnecessary burden by studying each process following the order of a real project. To do this follow the order defined in the Process Group / Knowledge Area table. This simple adjustment in the order you study processes helps you better understand the general flow of the processes within the PMBOK framework. Understanding the flow will help you better retain the details of the process, thereby eliminating your need to memorize.
Use a simulator to find and eliminate your weaknesses
As you study you should frequently test your true understanding of the material and your ability to answer the difficult situational questions poised on the PMP exam. You should not wait until the end of your studying to start this process. Schedule regular mock test days throughout your study plan. Each mock test should be focused on a specific process group or knowledge area. These focused tests will help you quickly identify your areas of need and provide you sufficient time to adjust your study schedule to place more time on the areas of need.
Question 3: PMP Exam preparation seems to be a commodity today where I can attend a bootcamp and pass the PMP in 3 days. How is PMP Master Prep different?
The growth in the number of PMP courses is an indication of the value of the PMP certification to students and the industry. While there are more options now I must impress that not all classes are equal. The PMP exam is difficult and despite others claims mastery of the material sufficient to pass the exam requires more than a 3-day boot camp course.
To guarantee that that pass the PMP exam the first time, you must be prepared with a deeper understanding of the material and an ability to answer the difficult situational questions presented on the exam. PMP Master Prep has designed both a course, book, and online system that provides students with the knowledge, practice, and support they need to learn faster, retain more, and pass the PMP.
PMP Master Prep makes the content easier to learn by teaching it in the order of a real project (other courses don’t) and by weaving a complete real-life case study through the entire course. Additionally, PMP Master Prep teaches students to understand the why behind each process, not just the how. Students also learn a custom method that ensures that they get every EVM question correct and have unlimited access to a 1400+ question simulator that will ensure that they build their exam-taking muscles.
Those serious about ensuring that they pass the exam on the first try should not be drawn in by the allure of fast quick learnings but understand that true PMP exam expertise is best obtained through the disciplined, engaging, and support system that PMP Master Prep provides.
Question 4: How do the case studies help a student prepare for the PMP exam?
Stories are extremely powerful ways to learn complex materials, the PMP exam is no exception. The power of the PMP case studies is they allow students to get a “real-life” perspective on how each process is conducted and how it interacts with other processes.
The story unfolds in 25 short case studies spread throughout the entire course. It follows a young project manager, John, as he learns to use PMP concepts to complete a project. Following John through his struggles to complete the project helps students understand the PMP processes, why they are used, and what they are intended to accomplish.
Additionally, each case study is followed by questions that challenge you to interpret the story. This strengthens your learning and your ability to answer the long-form situational PMP questions that you will face on the exam.
Question 5: I remember the Earned Value calculations and PMBOK math formulas being a pain. How does PMP Master Prep help the student with all the EVM calculations?
EVM questions bring the most stress and fear of PMP students. Student’s often feel overwhelmed and intimidated with the task of memorizing every earned value management equation and regurgitating on the exam. Worst of all, the stress of correctly remembering and using the exact equation causes students to miss other questions that they normally would have gotten correct.
PMP Master Prep solves this problem by teaching students a simple custom method and template to easily remember and organize the equations to answer any EVM question on the exam. Utilizing this method eliminates students’ fear of EVM questions, and instead masks them wish they were the only questions on the exam.
Question 6: What are the differences in simulator versions?
To truly master the PMP exam you must build your exam question taking muscles. The only way to do that is to repeatedly practice PMP exam questions. The simulator compiles 1400+ questions that match the structure, content, and complexity that students will face on the PMP exam.
Our software is designed to help students find and eliminate their weaknesses
Additionally, the problem with normal practice exams is that they do not allow the flexibility to take small focused exams. Everyone taking the exam is busy. We recognized this and designed our simulator to allow students to take short focused ten and twenty question exams by both Knowledge Area and Process Group.
The PMP Super Simulator supercharges a student’s study process by providing study tools specifically designed to help speed up the study process and cement their understanding of every process and earned value management.
The Super Simulator cuts hours out of every student’s study time by giving one-touch access to every key definition in the PMBOK through the PM One View and ITTO Inspector tools.
For the visual learner, there is a 25 video series that teaches the key PMP processes in the form of a story. These videos bring the PMBOK alive, helping the student see how processes interact as the stories hero, John, struggles to complete his PMP focused project.
The EVM Calculator is a crystal ball teaching you to solve any earned value management problem. It allows the student to enter any EVM question values and the program instantly produces the correct answer with a detailed description. This is the ideal tool to use to test and refine one’s EVM skills.
For further support, the Formulas and Calculation tool provides detailed definitions, interpretations, and examples for every calculation-based question on the PMP exam.
Used together the Simulator and Study tools contained in the PMP Super Simulator allow students to quickly strengthen their PMP skills to ensure they are prepared to pass the exam.
Question 7: What is the PM One View and the ITTO Inspector?
We are fanatical about creating tools that streamline our PMP student’s study process.
The PM One View and ITTO Inspector eliminate the mountains of time students spend searching through the PMBOK to find definitions and descriptions. It does this by giving instant one-touch access to the key definitions in the PMBOK. Our students love that the tools are designed to follow the same format of the Project Management Process Group / Knowledge Area table that defines the PMBOK and the input-output-tools and technique table for every process.
Most people don’t realize how time they waste searching in the PMBOK for information.
Think about it; the PMBOK Is X pages long and it contains tons of valuable information. While you study you need to access that information and refresh on key points. The problem is that flipping through the book to find the exact passage and description that you need is cumbersome and takes time. That time adds up and the time you spend searching slows you down from actually learning.
By using the PM One View and ITTO Inspector you eliminate the waste of searching. The impact of this effortless access is huge, it helps students learn faster and get more questions right on the exam.
If you followed along throughout this 3500-word post, then you know I’m excited to see quality PMP exam preparation and PM exam simulator materials being produced in the market. There are a lot of different PMP exam preparation resources available on the Internet and some have not been implemented as well as others. I was happy to review PMP Master Prep’s PM Exam simulator and the related PMP exam book materials.
Scott offers a 7 day free trial of the PMP Super Simulator. I highly recommend you give it a try!