Saturday, April 27, 2013

I Passed The CAPM Exam and You Can Too... (What the Heck is a CAPM?)



I was fortunate enough to be allowed to speak to a class of Cal State Dominguez Hills students today about how to study for and pass the CAPM (Certified Associate In Project Management) exam. I promised that I would document the information I was sharing so that's what I'll attempt to do in this post. Dr. Kamal Inamdar, MBA, EdD who is affectionately known by his students as "Dr. K" was my coach and mentor throughout this process and I am eternally grateful for his selflessness and going the extra mile for "this" student.

Why Project Management?
Project management is a big deal nowadays and there is even a controversial rumor floating (articulated by a brilliant PMI colleague, click here for his website) around that it could actually be better to obtain a certification in Project Management than get an MBA. I'm not saying that I agree (maybe I do, maybe I don't), but that is a game changing concept (if it holds any water) that gives significance to the rising importance of this certification. When I speak of project management certification, I'm referring to the full gamut of those offered by PMI (Project Management Institute). Businesses, Non-Profit Organizations, and other random entities are becoming increasingly more project based. As many of us know, the days of fat penchants, gold watches given at retirement, and staying 30 years with the same company are over! Therefore, almost every person in the workforce may eventually have to develop the mindset (and skill set) of a project manger in order to thrive in this ever changing global marketplace.

Studying For and Passing the Exam
Anyhoo, for those interested in passing the exam, here are the measures/steps that I took to ensure success. The exam is a beast, but your worst enemy is yourself (or should I say the part of us that likes to procrastinate and not study). You almost have to treat the study process like a game of golf and compete against yourself.

10 Success Rules (at least what worked for me):
 1) Take Project Management Courses, such as those offered at Cal State Dominguez Hills. It may be a little pricey, but it was well worth the investment. There are just some extra things that you are able to get in a classroom setting than being a lone ranger. CAPM even requires a certain amount of classroom hours before you are able to take the exam.
2) Join a study group outside of the PM classes you are taking that focus solely on passing the exam. This builds camaraderie and it was a great source of motivation and accountability for me.
3) Read the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) guide cover to cover. This is what the test is based on. So it is wise to be very familiar with it, make it your friend, sleep with it, and don't let it out of your sight! It's can be a little boring sometimes, so whip out the Starbucks when you start dozing off.
4) Use flashcards. You don't have to write them out like I did. There are great Project Management Apps such as PM Study and Flashcardexchange.com that I utilized about halfway through my study process.
5) Dedicate about 60-80 hrs for study time before taking the exam. This was Dr. K's rule, and it was my guiding light. I actually did about 90 hrs for safe measure. I know it sounds like a lot, but that's only 1 hour a day for about 3 months. Cut the TV off and do it!
6) Know the ITTO's (Inputs, Tools and Techniques, and Outputs) like you know your last name. The CAPM exam centers heavily on these guys.
7) Use a great exam prep book. From what I hear, Rita McCauley's books are the cream of the crop. I used the CAPM/PMP Certification All In One Exam Guide by Joseph Phillips. It was actually a great read and he cracks jokes throughout which make it entertaining. He also provides practice-exam test questions at the end of each chapter which are really helpful to further cement the information into the brain.
8) On the day of the exam (If you're doing the computer based test or CBT), be sure to do the exam tutorial before actually taking the exam. This allows you to get a feel for how the exam is laid out and it is kind of like warm ups before playing in the big game.
9) Breath and Relax. It is normal to be a little anxious when taking the exam. I answered all the questions that I  knew first and came back to the ones that I didn't.
10) Utilize all of the time the exam gives you. The exam is 3 hours, it probably takes about half of that to answer every question some what proficiently. But recheck your answers by going over all of them again because I found that there was a better answer than the one I previously gave.

What's Next for Me?
A student in the class today asked me what my plans were next in the aftermath of passing the exam and obtaining CAPM status. My wife and I have an event management company (click here for more info on that) that will benefit greatly from this certification. I also plan to utilize it in the organization I'm currently with. This certification opens up a new world of opportunities, so I guess I'll just do a little exploring and see how this thing works. Best of luck to those embarking on the CAPM/PMP journey! Better yet, create your own luck.


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