Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sunday, Sunday Rolls Around

I wanted to first begin with comments on my progress in my studying for my PMP.  If you didn’t read the previous blog this part won’t make much sense so you might want to read that first.

Having said that, I must make a slight detour in order to explain that life time learning is something I take to heart.    I will leave the discussion of my varied careers and the timelines associated to that to another time, however I need to interject that studying is not new to me.  Nearly 10 years ago I went back to school for a year.   In that time, I found that the habits of my youth and the drive to do well (i.e. get high marks) had not left me.  In that year I got really efficient at the skill of studying.    I had 5 teens/pre-teens at home to deal with, so time was limited.  I had to figure out how to make each hour spent studying count.

It also helps that I spent 4 years teaching at a community college.  This gives me a different perspective on exam questions and understanding how a teacher can give 25% of the mark to 5 pages that you need to know in detail but only 5% to another 50 pages which are not important.

It is really a skill in organization, which because I have a very good memory means that I get excellent results for each hour spent.  Bottom line is if you don’t have a study plan you are really travelling in the dark.  If you put in the enough time you may well pass, but maybe you could have spent less time by being more effective with each hour or have got a better result if you planned your time.   It has never been good enough for me to “scrape along” with the minimum needed for a pass, and of course this PMP exam is no exception.  So I spent an hour or so putting together a study plan.

I am going to digress at this point.  I will put the "Peggy Lecture - Study Skills - 101: How to Create an Exam Study Plan" at the end of this blog.   I am guessing that this is only going to be of interest to a few of you.  I will tag it with a label if you want to come back to this in April when you are starting to think of your final exams.  

So I will skip to the bottom line.  I did spend 6 hours yesterday studying and I did cover Chapters 1 through 3 of the book.  Then I went out to the REX to listen to some jazz and have a few beers with my date.  A good way to reward myself for a hard day hitting the books!   

The Rex serves a great burger and fries, but they don't have my preferred beer - either Rickard's White or Hoegaarden.  To my taste buds, a wheat beer and a chunk of orange floating in it is not a beer but something else much nicer!  A 5 piece band ,The Jazz Navigators, started the 9:45 set and they were really tight.  The Band Leader, Pat Carey was on Sax and he was joined for part of the performance by a female singer (sorry, no name listed in the REX site and I don't recall it) who was great with a throaty alto voice and a wonderful scat technique.   There was also a  tenor sax  who joined for a number, who I thought it said was a student of Pat's.

We stayed for only a set and a bit as both myself and my date were not too healthy....  Both of us had colds and were leaking fluids at an unpleasant rate.  But it was a nice respite none the less.

Pictures from My Past
The following picture was taken at a house I owned in the Beaches area of Toronto.  The place had a wicked authentic pub style bar, which I could have done without, but the teenagers in the house and Basile, the guy I was hooked up with at the time, absolutely loved.  I must admit we had quite a few parties with hordes of people hanging off the bar and having a great social time!   Ryan, my son who is shown standing behind the bar, is in his element.

Now for a completely different topic:

Lecture - Study Skills - 101: How to Create an Exam Study Plan

The first step in getting a good grade is to understand how many hours you need/have to study and to make sure each hour spent in study is spent well.  No good spending 50% of your time studying something that will only be worth 5% of the mark or represents only 10% of the material.   Time to spend on each topic is a juggling act between importance and amount of stuff to be learned.  So a study plan is important.

How did I do this?  First I looked at my calendar and identified the days and number of hours per day I could study.  Then I decided how much time should be spent for a 1st run through of the material and how much I wanted to reserve for review/extra study (harder topics) at the end.  I decided on 40 hours over 6 days (6 hours per day) and to leave 3 days for review.  That seemed a reasonable maximum, since the original course I took in November took 35 hours to cover all the material.   It makes sense that it will take me  at least the same amount of time again to memorize at least 75% of that content.

Two of those last 3 Review days are days I will need to take off work (without pay), so if I can do well with the initial effort I may not need to take both of those days off.  It always helps to have bit of a motivator to use your study days effectively.

Then I looked at the material to figure out how much time to allocate on each topic.  I did a simple distribution of the # pages per chapter as a % of the available time (40 hours)  to come up with an initial feel for how much time to spend if all sections were weighted equally in importance.  

Then I had to decide how to adjust this based on the importance.   It isn’t always the case that you can find out how each much of a % each topic (or how many questions relate to) each topic area.  At minimum, you need to look at each topic and decide for yourself how important each topic is to the course, and hopefully to the exam.   In my case, the PMI – the PMP exam administrators provide the number of questions per “topic” area, but these topics are not the same topics as the study book I was using.   PMI says that the Planning Processes will have 46 questions of the 200 – so that is 9.2% of the mark.  Unfortunately, there are planning sections in 9 of the 13 topic areas.  So I had to spend a few minutes trying to understand the subtopics and how they were important and just juggled the time around to reflect that.

And this is a few rows of the topic plan I put togethert:

Topic                                    # Pages             Hours
1. Overview                              20  –     5%           .5
2. Foundations                      20  –     5%       1.5
3. Process Groups...            21   –     5%             2
4. Integration                      56   –  10%        6
13. Social Responsibility     11    –    2%        3

You will note that Chapter 13 only has 11 pages but I am spending 3 hours on this.  This is because there are 17 of the 200 questions on this topic which is nearly 9% of the total mark even though only 11 pages of the 414 page book covers this topic!

The last step is to map out the hours on a calendar.   Mine is as follows:

Date              -> Chapters
Sat Feb 28 ->1, 2, 3
Sun Mar 1  -> 4
Sat Mar 7  -> 5, 6
Sun Mar 8  -  7, 8
Mon Mar 9 * ->  9, 10
Fri Mar 13 *  -> 11, 12
Sat Mar 14  -> 13, 14
Sun Mar 15  -> Review (or contingency if unable to get 13th off)
Thur Mar 19 *  -> Review
Fri Mar 20 *  -> Review

The asterisked days are those I need to take off work.  I know for sure I will need the 9th and the 20th off work, but maybe I can get away without the 13th and the 19th depending on how things go.

So there is my study plan and I can track it and “tick off” chapters as I get the work done and get a feeling of accomplishment and know that I am on track.

Last night I marked Chapters 1, 2 and 3 completed and I am right on target and starting Chapter 4 today.  I have allocated 6 hours for this chapter.   If I find that I get through the material in less time I can get ahead and start chapter 5 or stop and give myself a break.  If I find it is harder than expected and I am behind, the 6 hour per day plan can grow to an 8 hour day.  So I am covered in any event.

I was hoping that those of you reading my blog who are maybe at school (or thinking of going back) might find my little lecture on “how to create an exam study plan” to be useful.   The other point is that having laid out my plan to you guys I now have another motivator.  If I fall behind I am going to have to tell you – remember I promised to report on how well I was doing each day on my studies?  That is another useful motivator.  Publish your study plan to friends/family and let them help to keep you focused on being on track.  

So with that said, it is on to Chapter 4 for me!


  1. Hi mom! This is Eric, posting from my blogger account (I have a blog documenting my Warhammer painting, though I haven't updated it recently). That comic at the bottom of your post looks like the state of our kitchen when I go to do the dishes.

    It's funny, because cleaning is something I only get really motivated to do once the house reaches a certain 'critical mess mass', also known as the Cleaning Event Horizon. At that point I tell myself, "I can't stand it any more, I want a clean kitchen/living room/etc," and then I run amok and get every single last bit of my cleaning done.

    I tend to be more of a completionist rather than a motivator, so while I may not be able to motivate myself to do something immediately, when I do manage to, I do *everything*. At the end it's really rewarding to see the difference... until it gets messy again. ;)

    Anyway, back on topic - I have a nasty cold too, despite the fact that the temperature here is starting to average 25-28 degrees!

  2. Hey, Eric, nice to hear from you!!!!!! Nice to see that you read my blog - it is a nice way to keep in touch with a bunch of folks and at the same time leave a permanent "footprint in the sand". Sorry to hear that you have a cold also - I guess really the weather makes no difference, it is the cold virus - seems nicer to be able to blame the weather, though.

    Can you let me know what the url for your blog account is? Would like to look at some of your Warhammer stuff.

    Also, do you happen to know how to have the comments appear inline after the blog entry? I have been trying to find out for some time, but can't figure that out.


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