SMALL-TOWN SECRETS: 3 Case Studies to Pass PMP Exam in 1st Attempt

SMALL-TOWN SECRETS: 3 Case Studies to Pass PMP Exam in 1st Attempt

It is cliché to mention that PMP is the most dominant and appreciated certification in the project management domain. It is also cliché to say that PMP is a tough nut to crack. Taking it a step further, it will be a cliché to say that training is an essential part of PMP exam preparation. However, what will you do if your PMP training did not go as you would have expected, or if you do not have a training provider in your location that provides the quality that you need? How should you prepare so that you could still clear the PMP certification in the first attempt? To answer the question, we present to you three case studies for passing the PMP exam in the 1st attempt.


Case Study 1

Christopher Webb: A Test Oriented Preparation

Base scenario

Christopher Webb took the PMP certification examination in mid-2018. He was working full time at the moment and preparing for the examination while working was a challenge for him. He figured that he could dedicate a maximum of 2 hours a day for preparation which he believed was not enough. The very first question was to decide on a training model. This was actually not a difficult decision for Christopher. He knew he had limited time and in no way could have dedicated 4 complete days. So, Christopher chose a self-study module.


Christopher spread his preparation over 5 months though he believed that if one dedicates a little more than 3 -4 hours in a day one would be in a position to take the test in 3 to 4 months. The first phase was learning, where he majorly synced learning from three sources.

i. PMBOK guide

ii. PMP Exam Prep by Rita

iii. Certification Planner’s study material.

He moved iteratively with each lesson and took any chapter end quiz or exercise that he could get his hands on. Christopher mentions that he ended up reading PMBOK twice before he felt confident about taking up simulation exams.

In the second phase of his preparation, Christopher paid more attention to taking up simulation exams. He started with the practice exams provided by CP. Did all the 5 five of them. He also took Dan Ryan 200, Oliver Lehmann 200 along with a bunch of others.

His strategy was simple; pay attention to the incorrect answers. Christopher mentions that his notes came handy in doing so. While his score was relatively low in the first couple of simulation examinations, it improved over time.

The Exam:

Christopher mentions that during his examinations he got a lot of scenario-based questions and a lot of them were from change management, conflict management, resource management, etc. With ample simulation practice, he was able to complete the exam in roughly 3 hours and had time to review his answers.


He suggests that exam takers should read PMBOK first and prepare summaries or notes.

Clearing the PMP exam required a lot of efforts but he believes it was worth.


Case Study 2

Tamara Whitney: A Target Based Learning

Base scenario

Tamara had been planning to take up the PMP certification exam for some time when a unique opportunity presented itself: an internal opening in a project in her organization. However, the position was open for employees who were holding PMP credentials. In Tamara’s case, time was of the essence.


In the words of Tamara, “I treated the PMP exam as a project. I figured out the resources I needed, I figured out the environment I needed, I figured out which study materials I will refer to. I even created study plans and assigned deadlines to each chapter”. Tamara had planned to study for at least 3 hours a day from Monday to Friday and 10 hours on weekends post completion of her Live online training, a training model that did not require her to go to the venue.

She started with ‘The PMP Exam’ by Andy Crowe. The second book that she referred to was, ‘Head First PMP’ and finally PMBOK Guide. Each book was completed according to the plan, supplementing additional working hours on Sundays in case of delays in completing the book. There was not even a single cheat day. Once the initial understanding was developed, it was time to go through the notes and Certification Planner’s course material to cover any gap in knowledge. The last week of preparation was dedicated to simulation exams to work on managing time and gauging the preparation. The result was good. Finally, she took the PMP certification examination and cleared it. All this was done in 30 days.

The Exam

Tamara mentions that the examination was tough and working through them without any simulation test practice would be difficult. Tamara tried to solve at least 50 questions per hour.


If you are working professional planning to take the PMP exam, getting deviated during preparation is very common. Make a plan and stick to the plan without any major deviation. According to Tamara, the preparation strategy that worked for her war:

Step 1: Start with “THE PMP Exam”

Step 2: The second book to refer would be ‘Headfirst PMP’. Both these books will develop an understanding of PMBOK

Step 3: Study PMBOK at least 2 times

Step 4: Refer to the PMP exam outline to see if you have missed any portion

Step 5: Mock, Mock, Mock! Try to solve as many simulation exams as possible.



Case study 3:

Nate Gracey: Extensive Preparation

Base scenario

Nate was suggested to take PMP certification by his manager. After some elementary research, Nate found out that taking up PMP certification would be beneficial. Nat had all the time he needed and prepared an exhaustive plan. While there was no time constraint, Nate was determined to clear the certification exam in the first attempt.


Nate made use of physical books as well as the soft copy of the study material. He started with the physical copy of the handbooks and used the soft copy for the revision. Nate explains the preparation process in various steps.

Step 1:

Read PMBOK, one chapter at a time. Underline or make note of what you find important.


Step 2:

The second book to read is of Rita Mulcahy. This book is much easier to understand and explains everything in PMBOK in much simpler language. Again underline or make note of everything that you find important.


Step 3:

Go through all the definitions from PMBOK once again (Page 689). Also, read articles, participate in forum discussions. This will help you in clearing any doubt. Create an excel that contains all your notes. You could use other methods to collate the information as well.


Step 4:

Re-read Rita Mulchy’s book to refresh learning.


Step 5:

Start taking mock tests. Start with 30 questions per knowledge area. Nate mentions that he started with chapter-end quizzes from Certification Planner. Once completed, start taking 50 questions per knowledge area. Once this is done, start process area wise quizzes and follow the same format.


Step 6:

When you are confident start taking time-based simulations. Such simulation tests are very important as they will give you real practice for the actual PMP exam. Pay attention to the incorrect answers. Use your notes to find the correct answer before looking at the answer.


Step 7:

In the last week read through your notes at least 2 to 3 times.



According to Nate, controlling your nerve and managing time are the two most important aspects. Try to spend only 90 seconds on a question. If you are not sure by that time, move on to the next question.


So this was it, three different methods of preparing for the PMP certification exam. If you are preparing for the PMP certification exam you can choose any of these methods based on how much time you have, how long can you dedicate for studying and what are the different learning resources you have.

If you require any additional help, you can always reach out to us. Certification Planner organizes several PMP certification Bookcamp across the USA and Canada every month. We deliver three models of training, In-person classroom, Live Online Training, and Self- Study model and with each learning model you will receive PMBOK V6 guide, chapter-end quizzes, and exercises, Practice papers. Now you have all the means to prepare for the PMP certification exam. Visite us at www.certificationplanner to know more or drop an email at All the best for your PMP certification preparation! Happy learning!

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