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Project Management for Beginners and Experts

Episode 360: PMP® Sample Questions: How to Find the Correct Answer (Free)

Cornelius says "welcome to episode 359" at the beginning of this audio even though this is in fact episode 360.

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This episode is sponsored by the PMP Exam Simulator:
PMP Exam Simulator

Julie DeSot
Dr. Julie DeSot, PMP

If you are preparing for your PMP Exam then you know that one of the most important activities is to take many PMP sample exams and answer as many PMP sample questions as you can.

But as a general rule, it is not always easy to identify the correct PMP exam answers.

Those who pass the PMP exam often report back that PMP answers are ambiguous, sometimes more than one looks right and sometimes you may even have to choose the one that is least wrong. So what are you to do?

One solution is that you can work with a PMP Trainer who guides you and works with you on those pesky questions. And this is of course exactly why I have invited Dr. Julie DeSot (https://www.linkedin.com/in/juliedesot) for an interview. As a PMP coach she has helped many people successfully prepare for their PMP exam and get to the bottom of those questions.

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #360. This is The Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I'm Cornelius Fichtner. Before we start, please don’t forget we are a listener-supported podcast, so if you enjoy our interviews then please visit www.pm-podcast.com/premium. Your subscription will help keep us going.

If you are preparing for your Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam then you know that one of the most important activities is to take many PMP sample exams and answer as many sample PMP questions as you can. But as a general rule, it’s not always easy to identify the correct PMP® exam answers. Those who pass the PMP® exam often report back that the answers are ambiguous, sometimes more than one look right, and sometimes you may even have to choose that looks least wrong. So… what are you to do?

One answer is that you can work with a PMP trainer who guides you and works with you on those pesky questions. This is of course exactly why I have invited Dr. Julie DeSot for an interview. As a PMP coach she has helped many people successfully prepare for their PMP® exam and get to the bottom of those questions.

So, if you have questions then Julie knows how to find the answers.

Enjoy the interview.

Podcast Interview

Female Voice: The Project Management Podcast's feature interview:

Today with Dr. Julie DeSot, consultant, project manager, and PMP trainer.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello, Julie! Welcome to the Project Management Podcast.

Dr. Julie DeSot: Well thank you, Cornelius. I’m super happy to be here!

Cornelius Fichtner: So we are going to talk about how to find the correct or best answer on the PMP® exam, but I know that while some of our listeners are indeed preparing for their PMP® exam, others are probably not. Is our discussion going to be valuable for those who are not preparing for their exam? What do you think?

Dr. Julie DeSot: I think it will be because even though, yes, a lot of our discussion will be about here’s how to decipher questions, I think it’s also going to be very interesting and helpful for those to say here’s how I can apply PMP methodology for the real world.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay, so how long have you personally been coaching PMP® exam students?

Dr. Julie DeSot:  Oh my goodness, I think about six years now.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay. And how did you yourself study and prepare for your own PMP® exam. When was that, and what was your approach?

Dr. Julie DeSot: Wow, well that was way back in 2003 is when I started studying. I took the test in 2004 right before they switched from version two of the A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) to version three.

I was very lucky to have a coach, mentor and manager that was very, very passionate about the PMP® examination, the certification, and the fact that he also was very helpful in saying, “You know what, Julie, you’re coming from a marketing background going into consulting and all of that good stuff.” He goes, “I think that would be the perfect mixture to be a good project manager.”

And, in fact, the manager that I say “made me”, which not quite the right words, but I do use it now and again with the quotes around it, he actually was one of the editors and the main reviewers in the fifth version of the PMBOK® Guide. And so he really helped push me to it. He pushed it within the organization that I worked in. I did have some classes at night at the end of all of our workdays. Then I also did a lot of self-studying with different books, different exam preps, and definitely with a lot of different practice questions.

Cornelius Fichtner: What is the format of these questions? What do they look like?

Dr. Julie DeSot: Well, all the formats of the questions are going to be multiple choice, so that’s nice. So we know everything is multiple choice. Every question has four-choice answers, or at least four possible answers.

Now, that being said, with every question when you read through it, my personal opinion and professional opinion, I believe you can eliminate at least two of the four right off the bat. Yes, there are going to be more than one correct answer, but you always have to look at it to say what is the most PMI-correct answer and what is the most correct answer overall. Not just the PMI-ish, but the most correct completely. What is the, as I like to call it, what’s the fullest answer?

Cornelius Fichtner: Have the questions style and format and the way they are written and what exactly they are asking—has that changed over the years?

Dr. Julie DeSot: Honestly, yes.

Cornelius Fichtner: How so?

Dr. Julie DeSot: So the way I see it is that the way that they’ve kind of matured the questions is the way the whole industry has matured. Back in the day, like when I took my exam way back in 2004 is it was much more straightforward, much more definition. Nowadays they say, “Okay, we still want the definition, but how do you apply it?”

And a lot of that goes to the fact that project management, in and of itself, the industry is more mature. Not just all these teaching. Okay, is teaching more mature as far as like teaching all the exam prep? Of course it is! The only reason it is though is because project management, as in the discipline, is also more mature. And PMI’s looking at it to say, “Okay, if you’re learning from all the previous people that have come up before you, of course we’re going to be a little bit more mature. Of course the industry is, so of course the exam has to be as well.” So I do find that there are more and more situational-based type of questions nowadays than there was let’s say five, ten, fifteen years ago.

Cornelius Fichtner: And when I read lessons learned that successful candidates post on the Internet then the word ambiguous often comes up in their lessons learned. The questions were ambiguous or rather the answers were ambiguous. Why is that? Why do they give us the impression that things are ambiguous?

Dr. Julie DeSot: I think part of that is to the fact that PMI® wants you to be able to look at the questions, say what words do I need to pull out, what words do I need to ignore. Because in real life situations, you are going to get all kinds of stuff thrown at you, and you need to figure out what makes sense. What is the information that you need to pull out to actually make a decision?

But also with the ambiguous part of it, sometimes it feels like it is, but it really isn’t. For example, I get a lot of students that say, “Well, when we have questions that talk about for example closing a project, or closing a phase.” And they say, “Of course the first thing I would do is stop work. Release my resources. XYZ. Why would I choose the answer that says ‘close project or phase’?” Well, I’m always like well why wouldn’t you close out the project or phase? Because part of closing out a project or a phase is stopping work, releasing your resources, figuring out what happened, what went right, what went wrong, what were the decisions that were made, what really happened, what didn’t happen? So sometimes it feels ambiguous, but it really isn’t when you start looking at the bigger picture of it. What’s the bigger picture of the process versus the activities that are within the process?

Cornelius Fichtner: There are different types of questions on the exam. Some are definitions. Some are formula-based. Some are situational. I’d like to go through a few of those question types and hear your thoughts about how to approach these question types, then maybe also you could elaborate and say how do you help a student who has problems in this type of question through your coaching.

Let’s maybe start with something relatively straightforward. Let’s go to a formula-based question. How during the exam should you approach a formula-based question and how do you help a student who has problems with the formula as you are coaching?

Dr. Julie DeSot: First and foremost, most important thing, have all of the important formulas on your brain dump. That way you can go to them, you don’t have to think about them conscientiously. You can just go to them.

The second part: use the calculator. I had a couple of questions on my PMP® exam, and I did the questions, I did the answer, I put it on paper, and said, “Okay, I think that is right.” Went through my whole exam, went back to it, because I had extra time. I said let me double-check it. I used my calculator. Oh my goodness, my math was wrong. So definitely double-check your math with the calculator.

Have all of your formulas, like your earned value management, your communication channels. You know those are going to be the most popular ones. Also your PERT. Have all of those on your brain dump. Use those. Even if you are great at math, use the calculator. That would be my biggest thing about formula-based questions.

Cornelius Fichtner: How do you help students during coaching sessions? Let’s say somebody comes to you and says, “You know what, the TCPI formula, the To Complete Performance Index formula, it baffles me. I have no idea what it is, how to use this.” How do you take them through the process of understanding and learning this formula?

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.

Tags: PMP, PDUs: Not Applicable, PMP Exam Sample Questions, PMP Training, PMP Coaching

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