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Program Management certification - Think strategy, not tactics!

#1 What's in it for me?

My personal motivation comes from playing the game I love and I love leading projects. After years of experience in project management and as PMI-PMP® cetificate holder I wanted a new challenge and a milestone in my career path.

Now at the end of the journey, I said to myself: „If I knew this was difficult .... I would have done it sooner :)“

So, my advice is to find motivation for this step because the feeling after achieving this goal is extraordinary.

I also encourage you to find a mentor or trainer to help you plan your pace and focus, to support and lead you through all the steps in the process or enroll in a formal study course.

The Program Management Professional (PgMP)® is a visible sign of your advanced experience and skill and gives you a distinct advantage in employment and promotion and of course personal satisfaction of achievieng this difficult goal.

#2 Worthiness doesn't have prerequsites

You need to have experience in both project and program management, as well as a high school diploma or a four-year Degree (Bachelor's or Global equivalent), with project management of 4 years and 4 or 7 years of experience in program management (depends on your formal education). All project and program management experience must have been earned over the last 15 consecutive years.

As I already have PMI-PMP® certificate it was easier to prepare project and program experience because I already had enough information from previous exam application and I also used application form in Excel to prepare application for this exam.

#3 Program journey starts with experience

Candidates must pass two evaluations to obtain the PgMP credential.

Evaluation 1—Panel Review: In this first step a panel of credentialed program managers will conduct an extensive assessment of your professional experience based on your responses to the Program Management Experience Summaries provided on the application.

For Panel review you will have to prepare following :

  1. Project Experience: basic project information as Title, Start/Finish dates, Project Role and Organisation Reference Name).

  2. Program Experience: for each program comprehensive infomations as Title, Budget, Stategic goals, Program hours spent in each program domain, Associated projects within the program with basic information for each project and Organisational Reference Name.

  3. Program summaries: experience summaries short essays of how you applied program management experience for you programs trough 5 program management domains (Strategy Alignment, Benefits Realization, Stakeholders Management, Governance and Program Life Cycle). For each there are 2 topics and you can choose one topic for essay.

This first step is most important in the process and my advise is to have mentor help you to prepare this application because it will save you time and worries.

I had mentor for this step and my application was evaluated fast and successful form the first time.

After you pass Panel Review you can schedule your exam in Pearson Vue center. In Croatia, only center for this type of certification during my examination process was Institute for the Development of Education.

Evaluation 2—Multiple-Choice Examination: The second step is a 170 multiple-choice questions, and you have 4 hours to complete it. You are not allowed to bring anything with you in the examination room.

My experience in this section is that most of the questions were long and situational and a good portion of the questions are more oriented towards real-life experience rather than vanilla program management and as such the more you actually worked as program manager the easier it will be to answer correctly those questions. Some of the questions required knowledge of topis from PMBOK Guide (as NPV, EVM, risk, communication,..) so it's important to read latest version of PMBOK Guide during studing.

It was also hard to concentrate because the questions were extensive so I marked those I was not sure about. I completed 170 questions in 3 hours and 10 minutes so last 50 minutes I had time to review marked questions.

So, don't worry, you will have enough time also for reviewal.

Credential Maintenance – after gaining PMI-PgMP® certificate you need to collect 60 PDUs within 3 year period for certificate renewal.

#4 Get your head in the game

In order to pass the exam, it is not enough to read The Standard for Program Management, but a number of different books and instructions, and what helped me was following:

A reference to practice exam questions I can recommend:

  • PgMP® Exam Test Preparation: Test Questions, Practice Tests, and Simulated Exams (Best Practices and Advances in Program Management) (Best Practices in Portfolio, Program, and Project Management) – Ginger Levin

  • PgMP® Exam Preparation Study Guide and 440 Questions & Answers – Jean Gouix & Martial Bellec

  • Turlon and associates Program Management Professional (PgMP)® Exam Simulation

  • PgMP Program Management Professional Real Practice Exams simulator form Udemy

I started learning with SPM and ECO. I didn't need to read PMBOK Guide beacause I conduct trainings from this domain and my knowledge of content is very well but I recommend to you also to read at least once PMBOK and repeat formulas (especially EVM). It was also helpful to prepare flashcards for life cycle activities and artefacts and short summaries for each program management domain with important terms and topics.

So if you have mentor or are enrolled in study course you will probably get this already prepared.

Simulators with exam questions I found and bought online are not so good so the main materials I was using are those mentioned above, most of them from books and Turlon's simulator was very useful.

My advise is to practise only 2 times with same questions material/simulator because you will learn answers and passing score is not relevant any more.

The percentage of questions in each of the five performance domains that are included in the examination are:

  • Strategic Program Management - 15%

  • Program Life Cycle - 44 %

  • Benefits Management - 11%

  • Stakeholders Management - 16%

  • Governance - 14%

There are no official statistics for score you need to pass the exam, but unofficial says you need 65%.

For most of performance domains I was above target so it means my study plan worked :)

#5 Don't wait! Time will never be just right.

So, how long it takes to prepare the exam?

If you are focused and disciplined you can reach this goal in 3 to 6 months.

On the other hand, I had a goal myself, but I was in no hurry so my preparation for Panel Review lasted for 6 months and prepartion for test lasted for 1,5 month (1 month learning and 2 weeks simulators).

My advise is to prepare Panel Review application and program summaries first (for example in Excel) and when you are finished submit application on PMI.

PMIs timeline from submission till examination is as follows:

  • Application submisson – 90 days to complete application once you started it.

  • Application Completness Review – 10 days.

  • Audit process – 90 days (if you are selected for audit).

  • Payment – price is US$800 (€655) for PMI members nad US$1000 (€815) for Non-members. Payment must be submitted before Panel Review.

  • Panel Review – approximatelly 4 weeks.

  • Multiple choice examination eligibility – 1 year from the date you pass Panel Review. You can take exam up to 3 times in 1 year.

  • Credential Maintenance – you need to collect 60 PDUs within 3 year period for certificate renewal.

#6 Think strategy, not tactis

I hope my advices will help and motive you to encourage yourself on this journey. Some golden tips for the end:

  1. Think strategy, not tactics

  2. Be prepared to see a broader perspective

  3. Gain support from your family, colleagues and boss

  4. Find a mentor who will guide you trough process

  5. Follow. One. Course. Untill. Successful.

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