Several weeks ago I was teaching a PMP Exam prep class when one of the students, clearly frustrated at the sheer volume of material being covered, objected to the topic of Monte Carlo. For the uninitiated, the technique is essentially a way of analyzing “what-if” scenarios while estimating things such as time, cost, and risk. “This is ridiculous! When in the world would I ever have time to do something like this? I’m barely keeping my head above water as it is, and you are asking me to be building Excel models? What is the point?!”
It was a fair enough question, deserving of a straight-forward answer. My reply was that I was not asking anyone to build a Monte Carlo simulation. I was explaining the method because it is sometimes asked about on the PMP examination. You must have some basic understanding of what Monte Carlo is in order to get the question right, and that is about as straight-forward a justification as I can think of for studying the subject. Unfortunately, what I left out of my answer was what should have been the actual focus of my reply – her level of frustration.
Everyone, at one time or another, becomes frustrated during a PMP Examination Boot Camp. It is inevitable. “Why are they doing that?” “I would never do that particular process like that!” “All this memorization is ridiculous!” And those are just my reactions. I recall one student from my early days of teaching, sitting in the back of the classroom for four straight days shaking his head in disagreement every time I presented a new process. “That’s not the way it is done!” he would announce to the class. Arms crossed, he took no notes nor made any annotations to his materials. Apparently he was smarter than PMI, smarter than the PMBOK and, undoubtedly, smarter than his instructor. And of course he failed.
You need to understand that the frustration in studying for this exam is real, that everyone experiences it, and that failing to control it will work mightily against you on the exam. Studying becomes harder when your frustration does not allow you to understand why a topic is important. Learning new concepts becomes difficult when your frustration prevents you from seeing how those concepts even matter. Memorization becomes pointless when you are frustrated by the volume of what it is necessary to memorize. But worst of all, frustration that leads to a student’s “arguing” with PMI is about as counterproductive as it comes. To put it bluntly, it is never a good idea to get into an argument with the entity that is writing the test.
1) You are in class to pass the test.
2) You are in the class to learn the best practices for studying for the test.
3) You are in the class in order to recognize that the world of project management is a lot broader than you probably ever imagined.
4) You are not in the class to be told you need to change the way you do a project. Maybe you’ll see something interesting during the week, but remember point 1) above.