PMP Exam Prep Strategy: Learn By Distinction

Oct 9 08:09 2009 John Reiling Print This Article

There are lots of strategies for preparing for exams,Guest Posting and PMP exam prep is not exception.  However, more often than not, the strategy stressed is to learn prepare for the PMP exam by looking at the subject from different angles.  However, another approach is to learn by seeing contrasts, or learn by distinction.  Here is a look at these 2 similar yet different strategies for PMP exam prep, or preparation for any exam.  The best best idea is actually combine both strategies!
#1 - The "Multiple Sources" strategy
When preparing for the PMP exam, a favored and highly recommended approach is to study project management from multiple perspectives.  Usually that means identifying multiple sources of training, mixed into various possible combinations, such as:
1. classroom training, online training, and book
2. online training, podcast, and book
3. study group, classroom training, and book
4. others, depending upon your budget, time, and learning style
The "multiple sources strategy" is a very logical and valid to approach to PMP exam prep.  Personally,  this is the approach I took a few years ago when I was preparing for the PMP exam.  It enabled me to see the same material from several viewpoints, often clarifying in some lesser understood areas when I could see it from a different angle.I bought 2 books and went to a 2 day review class.  Looking back upon it, I could have saved myself some time and felt a bit more comfortable if I had also included a full blown PMP exam simulation in the mix, but the approach I took still worked for me.
# 2 – The "Compare & Contrast" Strategy
A different strategy is to study different approaches to the problem problem space or subject matter - in this case, how to manage projects effectively - and to learn more thoroughly and deeply by comparing and contrasting different approaches.  This approach tends to heighten awareness in one's mind, where noticing the distinctions between two approaches enables one to clearly focus on what each is really all about.  Identifying the distinctions allows us the opportunity to articulate those differences and develop a deeper understanding of the material.

As an example for PMP exam prep, this can be implemented in a counter-intuitive approach.  Instead of getting more PMP exam training, as would be the case in the multiple sources strategy, the idea would be to seek out materials related to the project management space but that are not related specifically to the PMP.  So, to complement PMP exam prep materials – those related to the PMBOK, or Project Management Institutes's (PMI) Project Management Body of Knowledge – materials for another approach, such as PRINCE2, a very popular in Europe, could be studied.  The idea would be to start with one's current knowledge, study the PMI's PMBOK framework, and then compare and contrast it with the more prescriptive PRINCE2 approach.  This exercise surely deepens understanding of the PMBOK, not to mention PRINCE2!
Using Both the "Compare and contrast" and "Alternative Sources" Approaches
Both "Compare and contrast" and "Alternative Sources" approaches are valid, and both have their place.  Both approaches can help one to pass the PMP  exam, and both will help any professional to advance his or her career by being a more dynamic and insightful project manager.  The prospect of using both approaches is complementary and deepens understanding overall!

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John Reiling
John Reiling

John Reiling, PMP, PE, MBA is an experienced Project Manager and certified Project Management Professional. John's web site,, provides online project management training for PMP exam prep and PDUs. John also writes regularly in his blog, (

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