Prepare for the CAPM exam
Understand the exam structure and content
To understand the structure of the exam would be the very first step as part of CAPM exam preparation and learn what the content of the exam is and what weightage is given to various chapters of the PMBOK course content. The outline of the exam content is given in the following table, taken from the PMI site (www.pmi.org) A certain weight is given to each chapter of the PMBOK qualification and this is given as shown below:
|PMBOK Guide 6th Edition Chapter
|Introduction to Project Management
|Role of the Project Manager
|Project Integration Management
|Project Scope Management
|Project Schedule Management
|Project Cost Management
|Project Quality Management
|Project Resource Management
|Project Communication Management
|Project Risk Management
|Project Procurement Management
|Project Stakeholder Management
As the table suggests, all the areas are covered by the questions henceforth, it is important to study all the areas. The main aim of the test is to provide the opportunity in all the areas within the course outline and that the Project Management areas are all integrated. So, the examinee needs to plan a strategy for the CAPM exam preparation and allocate time for learning all the areas.
PMBOK 6th edition is nearly 700 pages long and for beginners, this huge amount of information may appear intimidating. Though, through a methodical approach, you can attain good overview knowledge which is required to pass the exam.
Note that PMBOK and Agile Practice Guide have been combined into one document with separate sections for each in the pdf version of PMBOK 6th edition. While the Agile Practice Guide is not entirely necessary for the CAPM exam, you will be examined on very basic agile concepts in the CAPM exam therefore, it is necessary to understand many concepts of agile.
Plan for Preparation
Once you’re familiar with the course content and structure of the exam the next most important aspect would be to create a personal plan for the CAPM exam preparation. So, in a way, you are learning how to apply project management for your own very important personal project – passing the CAPM exam in the very first attempt. You should estimate how much time you have available to allocate for studies for the CAPM exam on a weekly basis, based on your work schedule and time available at the weekends. Initially, you may not be in a position to estimate how much time you need to cover the portion at the beginning of the CAPM exam prep. Therefore, try to read more sample books randomly and along with it check on your comfort level with the subject and also make an estimate of the overall time required.
Schedule the exam carefully
It may be risky to schedule the exam and to book a slot without a baseline plan. Therefore, it is important to assess where you stand and establish what effort needs to be put in before an exam date is decided, especially since everyone wishes to pass the exam in the first attempt.
Spending a few initial hours of preparation in understanding the exam is always a good idea, estimating the available time for study, knowing your own knowledge level, before scheduling the date for the exam. This initial planning will add to your chances of passing the exam in the very first attempt.
Understand the exam layout
The exam consists of 150 questions which need to be completed within three hours’ duration. 15 questions out of the 150 questions are pre-test questions which are randomly spread in the test and are not scored. There might be some confusion about this aspect of the exam as no examinee will know which question is scored and which is not out of those 150. Therefore, going with the thought that a particular question might be a pre-test question can be distracting and can cause wastage of valuable time.
Therefore, you need to ignore this aspect and treat each question as if it will be scored. A CAPM exam preparation tip is to note if a particular question is confusing and instead of lingering on it, you need to answer your best guess and move onto the next question, as you need be aware that there is a 10% chance that it could be a pre-test question.
Read ALL questions carefully
Anecdotal evidence suggests that many candidates lose valuable scores when they tend to rush and answer questions. What appears to be straightforward questions can be especially tricky. Read each question twice and read all choices carefully before answering even a simple and straightforward question, as there is plenty of time available, i.e. you have three hours to complete the exam. Watch out for questions with qualifiers such as “MOST correct”, “NOT”, “EXCEPT”, “BEST possible” etc. To ensure scoring on such questions, more careful deliberate approach is needed. During the CAPM exam preparation stage, it is important to cultivate good practice right from the practice exams.
Know your strengths
Considering your abilities, background, experience, and learning, we tend to be relatively stronger in certain areas. Thus, organise your answering in such a way so that you answer the questions of your strength at the beginning and gain confidence. For example, it may be a good idea to answer any questions involving the use of formulas, if you are good at math, early in the exam. Make a note of the areas of your strengths and weaknesses, during the practice exams. Identifying your strong areas to ensure good scoring on the test is important and it is also important to identify your weaker areas, so you can work harder on these topics on the test.
Keep notes for each module/chapter and equations
Before the test begins it’s helpful to jot down formulas as Earned Value related and other useful formulas you learned on the course. The examination centre will provide you with either a paper and pencil or an electronic whiteboard for your test.
Read the PMI CAPM handbook available at pmi.org for free
It is very important to read the CAPM handbook as a part of the CAPM exam preparation. It helps to understand the various rules and policies.
Where to after CAPM?
Once you have built up enough experience in projects and you are considering a career as a project manager, you can start to think about the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam. You can find information on this at www.pmi.org.