Earning the PMP: Memorizing the 47

One piece of conventional wisdom is that the PMP-applicant needs to memorize the 47 project management processes and their relationship within the structure of the 5 project management process groups and the 10 knowledge areas.  That conventional wisdom goes on to say that one should take a few minutes at the beginning of the exam to do a “memory dump” and diagram out the 47 processes on one of the scratch pieces of paper to use as a “cheat sheet.”

Following that received wisdom, I spent a fair amount of study time preparing to quickly map out the 47 process “cheat sheet.”  I ended up so fully memorizing the chart that I didn’t need to waste time or effort drawing it out during the test.

If you are interested, here is the method I used to completely memorize the structure of the 47.  It begins with a simple plan to spend a few minutes every weekday between now and your test day practicing writing the chart.

Phase I  (About one week)

Every weekday, spend a few minutes copying the chart (as seen on page 61 of the PMBOK Fifth Edition) onto a blank piece of paper.

Take note of the cues:

  • There are only two processes in the outer columns, almost one in each of the four corners.
  • Every Execution cell has a Plan process.
  • Every M&C cell has a Control process, except one (the HR cell.)

Establish your personal mnemonic for the 10 knowledge areas.

I S T C Q HR C R P S

There are several suggested mnemonics available on the web.  My own was too nasty to repeat, but it worked well.

Establish and memorize the checksum sequences for the 5 columns and the 10 rows.  The checksums protect you from accidentally missing a process when you complete the chart from memory.

YouTube has dozens of videos showing a way to remember the checksums and the 10 knowledge areas.  Some of the column checksums look like parts of a Social Security number, if that helps you.

Phase II  (Two full weeks exactly)

From now on, you start with only a blank piece of paper and writing tool, and only look at the official chart to check your work after you are completely done with the day’s practice.  During Phase II, take note of the inconsistent use of creation verbs in the process names.  (“Develop” versus “Determine” or “Perform,” etc.)  You don’t need to be obsessive about these verbs, but they might help you remember a specific process name or purpose.

Monday:  Write out the Integration row ten times.  (All 6 processes in the 5 process groups.)  

Tuesday:  Write out the Scope row ten times, with all 6 processes in the proper groups.  This means writing out the whole row from left to right.  Then write it again and repeat until you have done the whole row of 6 processes ten times.

Wednesday:  Write out the Time row ten times.

Thursday:  Write out the Cost row ten times.

Friday:  Write out the Quality row ten times.

Take a break over the weekend, and then the next week complete the above process to practice a row per weekday for the remaining 5 processes (Quality through Stakeholders.)  As before, write each row ten times.

Phase III  (At least one full week)

Monday:  Write out the Planning column 5 times, with all 24 processes in their proper knowledge areas (row.)  This means writing the whole column from top to bottom.  Then write it again and repeat until you have done the complete column 5 times.

Tuesday:  Draw out the complete chart one time as you would doing the “memory dump” during the test.  Include all 15 checksums, and count the processes in each row and column to confirm that you didn’t miss any.

Wednesday:  Write out the Executing column 10 times, with all 8 processes in their proper knowledge areas (row.)  This means writing the whole column from top to bottom.  Then write it again and repeat until you have done the complete column 10 times.

Thursday:  As on Tuesday, draw out the complete chart one time exactly as you would want to on test day, including checking for omissions or errors (before you compare your work to the official chart.)

Friday:  Write out the M&C column 10 times, with all 11 processes in their proper knowledge areas (row.)  This means writing the whole column from top to bottom.  Then write it again and repeat until you have done the complete column 10 times.

By the end of Phase III, you will know the chart.  Performing the following additional phase will give you confidence that you will be protected from a “brain freeze” memory choke if you choose to actually draw the “cheat sheet” on test day.  It should also give you the confidence that you don’t really need to take the time on test day to draw the chart at all.

Phase IV (At least one full week.  Continue to perform until Test Day)

Monday:  Write out the Planning column 5 times, as in Phase III.

Tuesday:  The 47 processes are not evenly distributed across the 5 cell table, but you would want to build an easily readable table on Test Day.  Some rows should be deeper than others.  Some columns wider than others.  Draw out the complete chart one time as you would doing the “memory dump” during the test.  Concentrate on how to space the rows and columns.  Keep this Tuesday chart to help improve your next Tuesday’s repeat.  

Wednesday:  Write out the Executing column 10 times, as in Phase III.

Thursday:  You will want to be confident that you can quickly and smoothly produce the chart during Test Day.  Time how long it takes you to draw out the complete chart one time.  Record your time and save it to compare with next Thursday’s repeat.

Friday:  Write out the M&C column 10 times, as in Phase III.

Good luck!


(Image copyright Universal Pictures.  All rights reserved.)

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One thought on “Earning the PMP: Memorizing the 47

  1. Pingback: Earning the PMP: Reading the PMBOK | Carl Gusler

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