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CAPM preparation: A quick guide

October 4, 2009 Leave a comment

While PMP (Project Management Professional) certification, sponsored by the Project Management Institute (PMI), is the most recognized and respected certification credential in the field of project management, CAPM credential recognizes a demonstrated understanding of the fundamental knowledge, processes and terminology as defined in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOKĀ® Guide) that are needed for effective project management performance. To achieve CAPM credential, each candidate must satisfy a set of educational and experiential requirements established by PMI, agree to adhere to a code of professional conduct, and must demonstrate an acceptable and valid level of understanding and knowledge of project management. For more information, check the certification page on the PMI Web site. The next section describes easy steps to prepare for CAPM based on my personal experiences. (I was certified last month after preparing for about a month at my own relaxed pace.

Before I start on the 3 easy steps, let me emphasise that the most important help in your preparation will be your prior hands-on project management experience. I found it very easy to relate the course material to the practical cases I have witnessed in my 7 years of career in the IT industry. That knowledge gained on the job floor is the most valuable tool. So, if you think you lack that experience, at the same time feel confident of tackling the exam purely on the basis of reading literature, think again. Take a practice test (there are few available online for free), if you score below 50%, you will need a lot of time for preparation.

So, here are the 3 easy steps:

1) Read the PMBOK guide

2) Take a prep course

3) Practise tests before the actual exam

Now the details.

A few successful candidates in their post-exam retrospective analyses recommend reading the PMBOK guide 4-5 times. How do they manage to do that is beyond my understanding. I found the guide to be informative, but poorly organised with no element of humour or any intention of the writer(s) toward making the content interesting. With previous on-the-job experiences, you may know most of the stuff. After going through the first couple of chapters, I had to toil and drag with extra doses of caffiene to keep myself awake and pretend to read. Still, there is no escape. Every serious candidate must read it at least once to know the exact syllabus.

Fortunately for me, my online course prep material came to my rescue. I had taken Rita Mulcahy‘s PMP course material for preparation, intented for preparing candidates for PMP over 6 months period. The course is consice, lucidly written (and shown as videos) and to-the-point, no-nonsense prep material. Its an excellent material to fill gaps in your knowledge. More importantly, it keeps you interested in the subject. I went through the whole material once and partially revised at least twice. Again, I don’t like re-reading anything and so, I must give credit to Rita and team for coming up with this interesting course.

Practice tests – I took 2 of those from Rita’s course and a couple more from online sources. I wish, I had some more. I would advice anybody to take tests till he/she is comfortable taking long tests, its not easy concentrating for long hours.

Tips for exam day: You will get all your accessories during the exam – pencils, earplugs, sheets of paper to sketch anything you want. There is enough time, move at a constant pace. Go for breaks after every hour or take more if you like. I had no trouble concentrating and with sufficient time, was never stressed. Do not get bogged down on a question for which you may not be sure of the answer, just mark it and move ahead. You can get back at the marked questions later.

A disappointment for me was the absence of situational questions. I find those very easy and I hope, I’ll find more of those in the PMP exam. Taking cues from your actual PM experiences, its easy to tackle such questions. However, a careful reading of Rita’s course can also help you understand the PM perspective and a PM’s methods of responding to management problems.

If you have any specific questions, drop me a line. Good luck for your exam!

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