Project Management is not a new field. With the proliferation of IT-centered companies and IT services though, the profession has reached ultimate heights. The CAPM or Certified Associate in Project Management is an entry level certification for those interested in practicing or are just starting out as project managers. If you are keen on passing the exam, here are some tips. If you are looking for guidance on preparing for the CAPM certification exam, also read our another article on how to prepare for the CAPM certification exam?.
Please note that, CAPM is for the entry level project managers and PMP is for the experienced project managers. Compared to PMP exam, CAPM is relatively easier for the preparation.
Here is the requirements to apply for the CAPM exam.
1. Keep yourself from procrastinating
In my experience, my biggest problem was procrastination. I already started studying for the exam before I even applied for it just to give myself a head start. The end result? Studying without a purpose. So what I did was applied, paid for the exam so that I had a concrete date. What did it do? It gave me a purpose. Nothing was vague anymore. There was a date I had to take the exam by and I needed to get the studying done before then. That alone was enough motivation already to keep me from procrastinating.
2. Decipher your Ideal Study Habits
Studying hard isn’t the only requirement in passing the exam with flying colors. Not everyone can absorb the same amounts of information and we all have our unique studying quirks to factor in. That’s why it is important to find yours out.
Guided vs Self-directed
According to the CAPM handbook, there is a possibility for your credentials to be subjected to an audit process. While not all applicants are audited, it helps to be prepared for one of the items of the audit which is the project management education validation. This usually requires certificates or letters of accomplishment from Registered Education Providers signifying that you’ve undergone valid training. Now why is this being brought up in the study habits section? This is because people tend to be caught in a dilemma between guided and self-directed courses. Whichever option is chosen, however, be sure the end result is you getting a certificate of completion or similar to prove you’ve finished the course.
Lots of Registered Education Providers offer classroom courses and even online courses that are attended to by a facilitator. Guided courses are usually pricey but are jam packed with information that is organized in a fashionable and worthy manner. Plus, these establishments usually have “cheat sheets” that they’ve honed over their years of operation. These are shared with their students in the hopes of the students passing and giving the school or establishment a good name.
There are also course providers that offer PMI training at a self-paced rate. This is via humongous video libraries, flash slideshows, audio books and other means. It is well-acknowledged that not everyone has the time to simply drop everything and go attend a class. That is why self-directed courses are also acknowledged by PMI. A good thing about self-directed courses is that subscriptions usually last a long time which means you can go back to things you’ve forgotten and refresh yourself as needed. Plus, some of these courses already incorporate practice exams.
Time Management vs Cramming
During the CAPM application stage, you have the option to either encode Project Management experience or education. After you’ve applied, PMI will review your application within 24 hours. Once your requirements have been deemed complete, your 1-year eligibility for the exam starts. This means you need to take the exam within a year. During that time, be sure you schedule your time well. If you are fully employed or are still in school, studying on the side for CAPM can prove daunting. Try to get in at least 1 hour of study daily if you feel that you are prone to slip ups along the way. Doing so will keep you on track even if your pace is slow. This is opposed to reserving a set period, say 2 months, before you take the exam for dedicated studying. If some emergency arises or you don’t manage your time well, you’d end up lacking time causing you undue stress.
Cramming isn’t necessarily bad too. In fact, some people thrive when cramming. If you feel that you’re the same, it still won’t do to rely on it too much. Allocate enough time for studying beforehand. Go over your review material or instructional materials twice or thrice. Even if that won’t give you an in-depth understanding, it should be enough foundation for you to supplement with your learnings from cramming.
3. Use the latest materials
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is getting the wrong materials. The PMBOK or Project Management Book of Knowledge is currently in its 5th edition with a 6th edition slated to be released this coming Q3, 2017. As such, your study material should reference only the latest edition. Keep an eye out for this information in the foreword, acknowledgment or introduction section in books and during the initial chapters of audio books and instructional videos.
4. Have more than 1 reference material
Please don’t say you are only going to study the PMBOK guide period. There are definitely big name publishers out there that churn out physical and electronic books like crazy and for good reason. They have tons of good and knowledgeable writers in their arsenal. However, note that it is always good to have more than one reference material. It can be even beneficial on your part as you get to see the same thing from different perspectives. For example, one book may focus on knowledge areas and how process groups interact with them whereas another book may focus on process groups and how knowledge areas interact with them. While it may seem redundant, it helps you understand and retain information at a better level.
5. Go over the CAPM Exam Outline
The exam content outline shows exactly how the exam will be broken down. For example, an 11% weight in Project Scope Management would be tantamount to 16.5 or 17 questions around that subject. Keep the exam outline close at hand as it will prove useful for when you are reviewing. By going over the sections in sequential and random order, you would be more adept at figuring out where your gaps are.
6. Get “real world experience”
Real world experience is extremely important as there will be situational questions in the exam. You’ll come across questions like, “if the programmer backed out during the training phase, what would be your next course of action”
- Hire a programmer directly
- Consult the HR management plan
- Up-train a junior programmer
- Delegate the responsibility to idle encoders
You need to have “been there” to answer questions similar to that. This might not be applicable for everyone especially if you are currently a student but it is vital. If you are already a professional, try to find out if your company is one that would have a PMO or a Project Management Office. If there isn’t any, there might just be a designated Project Management department that you can inquire in. If you’re lucky, there might be one that can take you in as an intern or expose you to some of their practices. That would also make a great stepping point for when you pass the exam.
If you’re company isn’t yet a “projectized” or matrix one or you are still studying, don’t fret. Real world experience may be out of your physical grasp but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a virtual understanding of it. Most e-books and self-paced videos give concrete examples of projects that occur in real life. They may also give an example at the start and use the same example as the project transpires from start to finish. This makes it seem as if you were the actual PM of the project. Be sure you go along with the example and keep it close to mind for the exam.
7. Take practice exams
The CAPM exam has 150 multiple choice questions and you are allotted 3 hours to complete it. That’s 180 minutes to cover 150 questions which gives you exactly 1.2 minutes or 72 seconds per question. For those that’ve come across the same type of exam before, don’t be complacent. PMI is not your everyday college or university. Sure, there is a 25% chance to get the right answer but you’ll be sweating your palms off just figuring out the correct one. This is because the answers they provide are so tricky that you are, more or less, left with 2 really good answers and only minor wording practically separates the two.
It is worth noting that the 150 item exam is comprised of 15 “unscored or experimental questions”. These questions are randomly spread out throughout the exam. There is really no telling when one question belongs to this category as they are extremely relevant to CAPM. Now, you might wonder why PMI would even bother to do such. This is actually one way for them to validate if such questions are valid for inclusion in future exams. As such, your score is actually dependent on the other 135 questions. However, as there is no way to pinpoint which one is scored vs unscored, keep a mindset that there are 150 scored questions.
8. Stop memorizing
The CAPM is only a little bit about memorizing. In fact, I can confidently say that there are only 2 benefits of memorizing. First, you need to memorize the formulas for questions requiring calculation but they are only a handful. Second, it is good to know the exact wording used by the PMBOK guide as there are indeed questions that use made-up terms. By knowing if it is made up or not, you are already increasing your chances of getting the right answer by eliminating faulty choices.
Besides those 2 reasons, the fact that PMI is confident enough to keep the entire exam totally multiple choice should already give you pause. They are that confident in their ability to go beyond terminologies, concepts and diagrams that they’ll give you 4 choices and that’s that. However, nothing will be by the book. You need to analyze and understand the question well so you can decipher the answer. Now pile on that the 72 second per question limit and you’re in for the time of your life.
Be prepared to take on calculations, situational questions, identification of tools and techniques as well as knowledge areas and process groups. Majority of the questions will have 2 or more right answers and also a good number of them will have extraneous information. This means that while there may be many “givens” they are not needed to determine a solution.
PMI will test you on application, knowledge and analysis so be forewarned. Still, just know that it’s nothing that prior studying and preparation can take care of.
9. Communicate with other learners
There are numerous online communities out there for pretty much anything you fancy. Online forums and study groups are perfect places for one to get queries answered, raise concerns, seek mentorship and more. Plus, there will undoubtedly be a couple of folks out there who’d be willing to point you to additional resources that you’d have otherwise ignored or share tips to make your studying even easier.
10. Consider a PMI chapter
You can take the exam without being a PMI member. However, it comes at a higher price and you miss out on all the benefits. If you are planning on taking the exam and joined PMI to avail of the discount, consider also the local chapter. Local chapters meet up and have regular sessions, workshops, activities and events. These chapters are great ways to build your network and also find study groups. Plus, you can also find mentors here who can give you tips on how to successfully pass the exam. Best of all, a wealth of project managers are at your disposal. Take the opportunity to ask their real-world experience and get any of your CAPM questions answered by professionals in the actual PM field.
The CAPM exam is indeed challenging and worthwhile to pursue. Many people who attempt to take the exam fail only because they did not prepare sufficiently. We hope that with these tips, you are empowered to tackle this entry-level exam and join the project management profession with credentials that back your knowledge.
I hope this article would have helped you to prepare for the CAPM certification exam. We are happy to receive your feedback and your preparation experience. There is a increased demand for the CAPM certification exams these days and it would add value to your profile in the job market if you have the CAPM certification in your profile.
Good luck for your preparation!!
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