If you’re preparing to take the Project Management Professional (PMP) examination or any other multiple choice certification test, I have an idea I’d like to share. You’ve probably been told the best way to prepare for the exam is “take as many practice exams as possible.” I couldn’t agree more. The Project Management Institute (PMI) uses several techniques to make its exam questions a bit tricky, resulting in an exam that is a challenge even if you know all the material. It is as if you have to know the material AND understand how to read the questions and decipher the code.
I’ve taught PMP Exam preparation courses for some years now. I recently came up with, what I think, is a unique approach to taking the test. It’s an expansion on an approach I heard from one of my student. (Note: If it’s an approach that’s been around for some time, I’ve never heard of it. If this tip is not widely known, I‘ll come across as a genius.)
Here is the deal: when I take a multiple choice test, I do a certain amount of guessing. When I’m done with the practice test and check the answers, I breeze quickly past the questions I got correct and focus on the questions I answered incorrectly. Well folks, I’m here to tell you, that I didn’t actually know the answers to all of the questions I got correct. When I came to a question I was unsure of, instead of leaving it blank, I guessed – sometimes this resulted in a correct answer.
However, because I got the question correct on the practice test I never went back to review the material that the question referred to. We both know that this is a recipe for disaster later on. Therefore, the approach I suggest to the small minority of you who guess on questions is this: take a piece of paper and write down the number of questions contained on the test. Next to each question, leave space for two columns labeled “Answer” and “Confidence level.” At the top of the paper, write this scale:
1 = I don’t have a clue what the answers is
2 = Think I heard the terms before somewhere
3 = Know most of the words and definitions of the terms
4 = I’m pretty sure I know what they are asking about and think I know the answer
5 = Nailed that one, piece of cake, I wish they were all this easy
As you answer the questions under the Answer Column, also write your level of confidence in your given answer (using the confidence level scale) in the Confidence Level column.
If you get the answer correct but guessed at the answer, you know to brush up on the subject. Additionally, you can add up the values of all the confidence level scores, divide the total confidence level score by the number of questions, and get a good idea how confident you were taking the test.
I used this approach in a couple of PMP Prep classes that I taught, and most students responded very positively. Let me hear from you. If you try this approach and it works for you, let me know. It’ll make me feel like I contributed to my profession, which, by the way is part of the Code of Ethics. If you already heard of this approach, let me know and I’ll give credit to the originator. My objective is not to get famous, but contribute to the success of PMPs to be.