What if I Miss My PMP Exam?

There are two types of reasons where an applicant would miss the PMP exam: voluntarily and involuntarily.

Voluntarily reasons are those reasons that are under the applicant’s control such:

  • Traveling for leisure/business
  • Overload at work
  • Marriage

Involuntary reasons are those reasons that are beyond the applicant’s control, such as:

  • Urgent medial issues
  • Family illness
  • Death of a close relative
  • Accidents
  • etc…

In either case, informing PMI in advance (48 hours in case of a Computer Based Test, 35 days in case of a Paper Based Test) will allow the person to either reschedule the PMP exam for free or cancel the PMP exam and get a refund.

Informing PMI after the PMP test should happen within 72 hours of the test day by contacting the PMI customer care department, failure to do so will result in paying the full reexamination fee. Even when the applicant informs PMI within the 72 hours after the test, it is at PMI’s discretion to whether accept the applicant’s excuse or not. Naturally, it is very hard for PMI to accept any “voluntarily reason” as an excuse for missing the test. In case of an “involuntarily reason”, PMI may request related documents to the applicant’s case, such as death certificate, accident report, doctor/hospital report.

In case the PMP applicant elects to proceed with a reexamination (instead of canceling the exam), the PMP exam should be scheduled within 1 year from the date the PMP application was approved.

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What Is the Difference Between Positive and Negative Risks?

Risks to many Project Managers strictly mean “bad news”, however, some risks can be positive, so what are the differences between positive and negative risks? Here’s a list highlighting those differences:

  • Negative risks are unwanted and potentially can cause serious problems and derail the project, positive risks, on the other hand, are opportunities and are desired by both the Project Manager and the stakeholders, and may positively affect the project, such as increasing the ROI or finishing the project ahead of time.
  • Known negative risks have to be managed and accounted for in the risk management plan, this is the same for positive risks. However, positive risks are managed in order to take advantage of them and “tame them”.

Examples of Negative Risks

  • The main programmer on the project quitting the job.
  • Lack of construction material (such as concrete) because of political issues (such as hostile relations between 2 bordering countries) in case of a construction project.

Examples of Positive Risks

  • Receiving much more than the expected number of subscribers on the launch date of the service (for example a new telecommunications service).
  • Finishing a part of the project way before schedule and creating a lot of slack, as other resources are not scheduled to work on the project until much later.
  • Note that positive risks can easily create negative risks, for example, in the case above where the telecom service gets a lot of subscribers on its launch date, then negative risks may possibly ensue, such as the inability of the switches to handle the load, the inability of the billing system to process all the calls, the clogging of the text messaging system, etc… These negative risks combined, can cause the whole service to fail, as people will be completely dissatisfied with the service. In short, positive risks are good but need to be accounted for and taken seriously.

    © 2010 Project Management Learning – Reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited without the written consent of Project Management Learning.


How Much Time Do You Need to Study for the PMP?

A common question on every non-certified Project Manager’s mind, is how much time do you need to study for the PMP exam.

The answer, of course, depends on the Project Manager. In case the Project Manager is junior, with very little experience (unfortunately some PMP applicants inflate their project management experience in order to be eligible to take the PMP exam), then a couple of months of very hard studying is the norm. In case the Project Manager is experienced, then a month of concentrated studying would be enough.

Note that before, it was easier to pass the exam for inexperienced Project Managers as a lot of questions were formula-based (such as the EVM formulas). Lately, however, it seems that PMI dramatically reduced the number of questions requiring the memorization of formulas and the use of a calculator (some recent PMP applicants have reported to have only seen a couple of such questions in their exam). On the other hand, PMI has substantially increased the focus on complex situational questions, for example: “Two excellent resources resent working with each other, and you need them on the same team, what will you do?” or “A functional manager is interfering with the normal flow of the project by removing resources off their scheduled tasks and giving them other, unrelated tasks. The functional manager “owns” the resources and has seniority over you, how will you handle the situation?”.

Now what makes the whole thing more complicated is that most of the times all the answers make sense in one way or another, but there’ll be one answer that will stand out. The correct answer is always based on PMI’s view of an ideal project management environment, which means that Project Managers are always able to say “No” to anyone and to prioritize the project over the stakeholders’ personal interests without getting fired. The knowledge of the latter concept alone will help Project Mangers a lot in passing their PMP exam. As mentioned before, it’s a good idea to answer questions you’re not sure as you will not be penalized for giving the wrong answers.

Now here’s a quick table explaining, based on the compilation of data from many sources, the time needed to study for the PMP. Note that the table only accounts for those who passed the PMP exam. The number of days has been rounded.

Percentage of PMP applicants Number of study days Time spent studying for the PMP per day
21% Over 90 days 2 hours
58% 60 days 3 hours
13% 30 days 6 hours
8% 15 days 10 hours

The “number of study days” does not include breaks, for example, in the last case, the total number of hours spent studying for the PMP exam is 150. The last case is very concentrated and is not recommended as the PMP applicant has to absorb too much information in too little time.

© 2010 Project Management Learning – Reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited without the written consent of Project Management Learning.


How to Become a PMO?

Much has been said and written about becoming a Project Manager, but almost nothing is mentioned on how to become a PMO. A PMO is an executive position, which makes it even harder for anyone trying to become one.

Although the career path to become a PMO is not as clear and defined as the one for the Project Manager, the following can be noted:

  • PMOs come from a Project Management background. PMOs were usually outstanding Project Managers and were promoted into this position based on a decision from upper management. Note that sometimes the promotion is only political and independent of the actual proficiency of the Project Manager, this usually happens when a senior executive pushes a “favorite” project manager into the position, regardless of the latter’s worthiness worthiness. Nevertheless, provided no one is pulling the strings for the promotion, the following should hold true in order for someone to become a PMO:
    • Outstanding organizational skills
    • Shrewd conflict management techniques
    • Accurate estimates
    • Brilliant risk management

    In general the person should have already mastered all areas of Project Management. Note that if you remove the first word of any item in the above list you will end up with the skillset of an average Project Manager.

  • A potential PMO is a respected Project Manager. He is respected by his team, his colleagues, and more importantly, upper management. Support and respect of upper management is very critical since it is (usually) the only authority for promoting someone into this position, often regardless of what others think about that person.
  • The person has to have the years of experience. A minimum of 4 years of Project Management experience is required to become a PMO. The number of years is proportional to the size of the organization (bigger organizations will require more years).
  • It is easier to be become a PMO in your current organization and nearly impossible to get hired by another company immediately as a PMO. Getting hired for a PMO position is like getting hired for a Project Management position, no one will give you a chance if you don’t have the necessary hands-on experience. Hence, it is much easier to search for PMO positions in your organization, which will be more comfortable hiring you for an executive position. Once you’re already a PMO and have the hands-on experience, it will become easier for you to get a PMO job somewhere else.

Due to the exponential increase in Project Management jobs across the world (even in today’s economy) as well as the fact that many Project Managers nowadays are not-that-much-experienced and in need for proper guidance themselves, there will be definitely a boom in the PMO job market in the coming years.

© 2010 Project Management Learning – Reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited without the written consent of Project Management Learning.


How Much Does the PMP Certification Cost in 2010?

The cost of the PMP certification in 2010 differs if the PMP applicant is a PMI member or not, and on whether the test is paper-based or computer-based:

If the Applicant Is a PMI Member:

  • $405 (€340) for a computer-based test OR
  • $250 (€205) for a paper-based test

If the Applicant Is Not a PMI Member:

  • $555 (€465) for a computer-based test OR
  • $400 (€335) for a paper-based test

Note that the paper-based test (PBT) costs between 30% – 40% less than the computer-based test (CBT), which is a bit odd, considering that paper-based tests require manual intervention (albeit minimal) to be scored, not to mention the printing costs.

© 2010 Project Management Learning – Reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited without the written consent of Project Management Learning.


What Are the Characteristics of a Project?

The characteristics of a project are:

  • Uniqueness: Projects are unique, there are no 2 projects that are exactly the same. Even if 2 projects have the same goals, many aspects can be different, for example, the project plan can be different, the project team can be different, even the resulting product and service can never be exactly the same.
  • Temporary: Projects are never permanent (as opposed to processes/operations, which are permanent), they are temporary, with a defined start date and end date.
  • Goal Oriented: A project revolves around the primary goal and is considered done when that primary goal is achieved.
  • Satisfying Stakeholders: Projects must meet or exceed the stakeholders expectations in order to survive.
  • Risky: Projects are often risky with lots of uncertainties, hence the importance of Risk Management when managing projects.

There are other characteristics of a project but of lesser importance such as being instruments of change in the organization, and executed by people that don’t usually work together, and consisting of inter-dependencies (tasks that depend on each other).

© 2010 Project Management Learning – Reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited without the written consent of Project Management Learning.


What Is the Difference Between Project Manager and Project Leader?

Quite often, the terms Project Manager and Project Leader are confused, and are thought to refer to the Project Manager. In reality, there are some differences between the Project Manager and the Project Leader:

  • The Project Leader is heavily involved technically in the project by coaching the project team, the Project Manager is involved in the project at a higher level, by giving directions (assigning tasks….).
  • The Project Leader is usually only responsible for one project (hence the time for dedicated attention and technical focus), the Project Manager can be responsible for many.
  • The Project Leader usually reports to the Project Manager, the Project Manager reports to upper management.

Note that in rare cases (e.g. very small companies) the Project Manager and the Project Leader can be the same person.

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Is It Worth It to Become a PMP?

Quite a few Project Managers are hesitant to get the PMP certification because they don’t it will add value to their career. Since studying for the PMP and passing the test is usually hard, one has to be sure if the invested efforts are actually worth it. So, is it worth it or not to become a PMP?

To answer this question, we need to examine the following:

  • Salary: The PMP certification has a positive effect on the Project Manager’s salary, as the average salary for PMP certified Project Managers is currently above the $100k mark in the United States (2009 statistics). Thus, PMPs enjoy one of the highest salaries with respect to the necessary education and experience to reach this salary, considering that a Project Manager can pass the PMP exam by studying hard for only a few months.
  • Market Demand: The demand for the PMP is big, and it’s growing every day, and there is no sign that this demand will lessen in time. In fact the demand has actually increased even with the the 2008-2009 recession.
  • Prestige and Recognition: The PMP is still a prestigious certification, with difficult eligibility criteria, a hard test, as well as requiring constant maintenance (e.g. acquiring PDUs). The PMP certification is highly regarded both in the United States and internationally.
  • Increased Project Management Knowledge: This is the last point in this list because, ironically, it is the least important for applicants, and rightly so: Real and solid Project Management knowledge is acquired by experience, and there’s no substitute for that. However, studying for the PMP will often help the applicant learn new Project Management concepts, or understand a few concepts that were a bit ambiguous. Again, it is worthy to stress that this factor is of the least importance, especially for seasoned Project Managers.

Conclusion

There’s no denying, it’s not that easy to become a PMP, but the good news is that it doesn’t take a lot of time (the monetary investment to become a PMP is trivial and is usually paid by the company): a few months of concentrated studies are sufficient for most people to pass the exam. The positive results will be harvested both financially and professionally for many years to come. Is the PMP worth it? Definitely!

© 2009 Project Management Learning – Reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited without the written consent of Project Management Learning.


How to Schedule Your CAPM Exam?

Provided you meet the CAPM Eligibility Criteria, here’s how to schedule your CAPM exam:

  1. First you have to pay the CAPM fees. You can pay the CAPM fees either on the PMI website using a major credit card, or by sending a check or a money order to PMI Global Operations center.
  2. Once the payment is cleared, you might be randomly selected for an application audit (note that only a small percentage of CAPM applications get audited). This process can take several weeks. If your application doesn’t pass the PMI audit, then your payment will be refunded and you will not be able to take the test.
  3. Assuming the above steps are completed successfully, PMI will then approve your application and email you the exam scheduling instructions, where you are guided on how to select your examination date and location on the Prometric website.

    Note that you have a year from the date where your application got approved to take the CAPM exam. If you fail to take the exam during that year (also referred as “Eligibility Period”) then you will have to re-submit your application and payment.

    © 2009 Project Management Learning – Reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited without the written consent of Project Management Learning.


What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Excel for Project Management?

There are several advantages and disadvantages of using Microsoft Excel for Project Management.

The advantages of using Excel to manage projects are:

  • No learning curve: Almost any Project Manager is familiar with Excel and can easily create a reliable project schedule using this tool.
  • Document compatibility: Most people have Excel installed on their PC, so a schedule made in Excel can easily be read and updated by the project team members.
  • Simplicity: Excel spreadsheets are very easy to read and understand by anyone.

The disadvantages of using Excel to manage projects are:

  • Excel was never meant to be a Project Management tool, and thus lacks some very basic features such as Gantt charts and task dependencies.
  • To account for the lack of task dependencies and other Project Management activities in Excel, some considerable (usually complicated) scripting is often needed and/or 3rd party component installation.
  • Even in small projects, change requests do come in, and Excel has a notorious reputation when it comes to accommodating change requests in the already approved schedule.
  • Excel is a decentralized desktop application, team members and stakeholders have always to ask for the latest copy of the project schedule from the Project Manager whenever they want to consult it (which can create an extra burden on the Project Manager, not to mention the time wasted for people waiting for that document to initiate an activity or take a decision) as opposed to viewing the latest schedule on the local intranet or online in specialized PM tools.
  • Again, since Excel is a desktop application, it is completely out of touch with where Project Management is currently heading: more and more collaboration and transparency.

Conclusion

One could go with the mentality of using Excel to manage small to medium projects in order to produce a fast and easy project schedule (while it’s really not slower in specialized tools; the Project Manager just needs to learn to how to use these tools), however, once the Project Manager starts working on dependencies, and starts seeing those changes creeping in, and, of course, witnessing how the Excel sheet is changing from a project schedule to an unreadable document full of notes, the obvious fact will prevail: Excel is just not made for Project Management, and thus, should not be used to manage projects, no matter how small they are.

© 2009 Project Management Learning – Reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited without the written consent of Project Management Learning.