Overcoming PMP® Exam Test Fear and Worry

Are you losing sleep worrying about taking the PMP exam? Is your mind flooded with all sorts of “what-ifs” related to possible exam catastrophes? Well, did you know that thoughts like these can hinder your exam performance and can cause you to waste exam prep time. Many of the fears you might be having are unrealistic and can be relieved through positive thinking and practicing your test-taking skills with an exam simulator. Consider these 5 tips to help alleviate your fear to achieve your goal of passing the exam.

1. Remember Your PMP Exam Test Taking Strategies

If you’ve used RMC exam prep products, or other study tools, you’ve developed test taking skills to boost your confidence. Focus on the test taking strategies you’ve learned, including:

  • Control the exam; do not let it control you.
  • Read the question and all four answer choices.
  • Watch for choices that are true statements but do not answer the question.
  • Be prepared for more than one “correct” answer, but there is only one “best” answer
  • Control frustration and maintain focus on each question.
  • Use the Mark for Review function on questions you struggle to answer. Return to marked questions later.

2. Keep a Positive Attitude

If you worry, you are spending time on the negative and will, in all likelihood, have a terrible experience. What can you do to change your view? Ask yourself what’s going on in your head? When taking practice exams, are you saying things to yourself like the phrases listed below?

  • I’m not fast enough
  • I will never get this
  • I will fail
  • Oh no, a formula question
  • I am sure I got that question wrong

Thoughts like these waste brain power and actually hurt you on the exam! Your strategy needs to include what you will do to stay positive before and during the exam.

Try using deep breathing techniques to help you relax and focus. Breathing techniques can be as simple as breathing deeply five times. If you have read a question more than three times, try taking a few deep breaths.

3. Dispel Common Unrealistic Fears

Your mind is a powerful tool. It can conjure up common fears or misconceptions that may not be realistic. For example:

  • Running out of time. Almost no one runs out of time. Practice your timing using PM FASTrack®.
  • Having test anxiety. Panic is a personal issue. If you think panic is a concern for you, make exam simulation core to your prep strategy. Practice taking exams in a situation similar to the actual testing environment.
  • Misunderstand PMI’s Perspective. Answer questions by applying good practices of project management from PMI’s perspective.  During the exam, rely on your exam prep training then your own project experience.
  • Remembering the formulas. Formulas may appear on the test. Thus far, test takers have not had to perform calculations during the exam.  However, you will need to know how to correctly identify key formulas.

4. Understand What to Expect

Though many fears you may have about taking the PMP exam are unrealistic, there are some things you should be prepared to expect. Doing so will also reduce your worry.

  • Follow your study plan. It is your road map and will serve you well.
  • Use exam simulation more than twice before taking the exam and achieve a score 75% or higher.
  • Use your project management knowledge — but be prepared to separate your experience from PMI’s perspective.
  • Understand your own test-taking tendencies. Pay attention to these during your prep class and practice tests.
  • Know what a project manager should do for each process. Practice Rita’s Process Chart game Track your score until you achieve 80% or higher.

5. Know Your PMP Exam Test Environment

You have the option to take your test online or in person. For in person testing, each center is different.  You will not have the exact same experience as someone else who has taken the exam before. Even in the same test center, you may experience differences. You need to eliminate as many distractions on the day of the test as possible. Read up on the test center process and their policies. PMI and your test center also have video tutorials that walk you through the experience. Consider some of these questions to reduce the unknowns about the test environment:

  • What can you bring into the test?
  • How many breaks do I get and what is the best way to use my breaks?
  • Where can I put my snacks so I can get to them when I need to?
  • What happens if the test crashes while I am taking it?”

Answers to these types of questions will give you a sense of control over the unknown. Know the process for signing in, taking the exam, and the post-test processes. Anything that might worry you, get the answers now.

For online testing, there can be a lot of technical elements to plan in advance to reduce stress and worry. Consider some of the following to set you mind at ease:

  • Make sure you are well versed in the rules of the online proctored format. Pearson Vue and PMI do a nice job provided the details of what to expect.
  • Find a quiet place away from the delivery people, pets and children. If you cannot be assured you will not be interrupted, consider scheduling a conference room at the office.
  • You will be asked to perform a system check. Try to do this beforehand so you don’t experience delays once the exam starts. This will also help you make sure your anti-virus and firewalls allow access.

Trust Your PMP Exam Testing Skills

Don’t underestimate the power of your test prep training. Studying and taking practice tests have honed your test-taking skills. You’ve tweaked your strategy until it works for you. Now you just need to follow it. Don’t do things differently when you sit for the real exam. Remember to bring a positive attitude

So, stop losing sleep and use these tips to help reduce or eliminate your worries about the exam. Good luck on your exam!  And remember if you have any questions, just contact us.  We’re here to help.

Cate Curry
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