Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My Lessons Learned for (PfMP)® Exam

This post is for sharing my lessons learned while successfully obtaining Project Management Institute (PMI)’s most recent and coveted Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)® credential.

Journey To Obtain PfMP® Credential 
#1. Submitted PfMP® application on 06/16 and got a mail next day from PMI stating that my (PfMP)® application has been accepted and asked me to proceed to make the payment
---Will be sharing tips on filling PfMP application in a later post---


#2. Made the payment same day and immediately was notified that my application was selected for auditing

 #3. Got the audit package endorsed by one of my portfolio sponsor & supervisor (COO) and Fedex'ed it to PMI on 06/19. Package reached PMI on 06/24 and same day got the mail stating that i have cleared the audit process and moved to first evaluation, the Panel review

#4. In the handbook it is stated that Panel review takes 10 working days and I was getting impatient as the days passed because it actually took more than 10 working days when finally got the mail on 07/11 stating that I have passed the first Panel review evaluation


#5. Referred my PfMP notes, below reference materials and sample exam references and scheduled for taking the exam on 07/16 (exactly one month after applying), obtaining PfMP® credential. 


Exam Tips
#1. Exam is 4 1/2 hours long so make sure you are mentally preparing yourself to sit for that long and devoting with full concentration. Even though this seems very obvious but professionals who have been managing portfolios would have empathy that in our professional daily life, which is packed with meetings, presentations, submitting/reviewing proposals, training & mentoring resources, one seldom gets an opportunity to sit in front of system for that long and not to mention answering bunch (read 170) of questions while concentrating on which answer(s) to eliminate as more often than not, more than one answer can be applicable. 

#2. One can answer some questions based on their practical Portfolio experience but since not all Portfolios are managed ideally the way it is described in the The Standard for Portfolio Management, its important to think from what is described in the The Standard for Portfolio Management while answering the questions in the exam  

#3. Its important to understand all process groups, knowledge areas, processes & their respective ITTOs (Input, Tools & Techniques and Outputs). Expect some direct questions and some indirect questions on ITTOs. 
---Will be sharing my Study Aid on ITTOs in a separate post---

#4. Expect few questions that are related to analyzing which Portfolio component to select or not to select (NPV, IRR, Weighted Ranking & Scoring, etc.) 

#5. Personally I did not get many questions from A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) or The Standard for Program Management but understand from other's experiences that folks did see questions referred from the two standards. 

#6. As stated in #1 there are few questions for which more than one answer could be applicable so key is to eliminate the least applicable (or select the most applicable). In my case, answering first few questions made me feel uncomfortable as I was not 100% sure of which is most applicable answer so 'marked' the questions. After marking initial questions, I got into the mode and was able to answer subsequent questions with more ease. Having said that, I did continue marking questions and would have marked ~35% (~60) of my questions.  

#7. Personally I always recommend taking a break to rejuvenate, so after finishing answering 170 questions while marking ~60 of them, I took a break. It took me little less than 2 hours to finish answering 170 questions so i could afford a break. After the break, I went through all 'marked' questions and now could think more clearly. It helped me to change answers to almost ~10 questions and feeling more confident on the answers. This time I took more time to go over 'marked' questions and finally finished my exam in 3 hours time. 

#8. To keep things simple for me, I always rely on notes and tend to joggle down points so that I do not need to strain myself while trying to remember. So in the first 10 minutes, while tutorial was running, used scribbling pad provided to me in prometric center to joggle down all ITTOs mapped with processes & respective KA's

#9.  Its important to understand the difference between Strategic Plan, Portfolio Charter, Portfolio Roadmap, Portfolio Management Plan, Portfolio and Portfolio Process Assets. In practical we do use in our Portfolios all of them in some form but sometimes there are overlaps, so its important to understand how The Standard for Portfolio Management clearly segregates their respective inputs, contents and timing of updates. 

#10. My personal experience about PfMP® exam was that I found it easier than any of my previous exam. This was maybe because I now have a sense of understanding of what PMI recommends in terms of standards and how the layout of questions would be. 

Reference Materials
1. Pfmp® Handbook
2. The Standard for Portfolio Management, Third Edition
3. The Standard for Program Management, Third Edition
4. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, Fifth Edition
5. PfMP Examination Content Outline
6. PfMP® Exam Practice Tests and Study Guide 
7. Managing Change In Organizations
8. Business Driven Project Portfolio Management: Conquering the Top 10 Risks
9. Mastering Project Portfolio Management
10. Managing Change in Organizations (PMI Article)
11. Portfolio Risk Management (PMI Article)
12. Agile Processes A Unifying Approach for the Future of Projects (PMI Article)
13. Do's and Don'ts for Portfolio Managers (PMI Article)
14. The Power of Portfolio Management (PMI Article) 
15. Strategic Portfolio Management Governance Financial Discipline
16. Unified Portfolio Management Model Paper
17. Use PfM to maximize IT spending
18. PfM keeps IT aligned with business strategy
19. Portfolio Kanban
20. Priority Systems Glossary 
21. Efficient Frontier 
22. Using project portfolio management to improve business value (IBM Article)
23. Project Selection and Portfolio Management
24. Enterprise Risk Management
25. Project Portfolio Risk Management 

Sample Exam References 
1. PfMP® Exam Practice Tests and Study Guide


  1. Thank you so much Sridhar for your nice lessons learnt. It would be very useful for PfMP aspirants like me. Thinking of scheduling my exam during October.

  2. All the best Surya. Let me know if you need any help


  3. Congrats Sridhar for you certification.
    A quick question:
    Out of above reading material, which ones would you suggest as 'must read' and which ones would be optional?
    I am planning to write the exam, but don't have time to go through a lot of reading material, and want to pick up only a couple of books if possible.

  4. Jatin,
    If your intent is to just pass the exam, then IMHO must reads would be "The Standard for Portfolio Management, Third Edition", "PfMP Examination Content Outline" and "PfMP® Exam Practice Tests and Study Guide". Having said that, relying on practical experience in portfolio management alone would not help you pass the exam as the PMI's standard is not necessarily applicable in all environments. Since PMI's standard is a guideline on how portfolio should be managed, its important that you read as many references as possible to get a better handle on the expectations.
    All the best for your endeavor

  5. Congrats Sridhar. Can u plz let us know which is better certification : Stanford adv pm or PMI pfmp? And why ?

  6. Sridhar

    I am Planning to Write PgMP.My application got approved just couple of days back.
    I am in US . Could you let me know approximate Salary range for PgMP in india for a 12 + years experience Guy in IT Companies (like satyam , Wipro, TCS etc.)

  7. Dear Sridhar

    Thank you for your valueable material.
    Can you please give some tips to fill the application? I mean the contents size, language/style etc to be used to fill the application. And if you can share some filled sample, it will be a gr8 help.