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Do I still need to memorize ITTOs on the PMP Exam?

acp itto pmp pmp exam Nov 03, 2021

I've noticed that 3 students that I've been working with recently, even though they appeared ‘ready’ to take the PMP exam, still seemed hesitant to schedule the actual exam date. In collaborating with them in the coaching sessions I came to realize the thing that was holding them back was this idea that they had to still master the dreaded ITTOs. You might remember these if you studied for the PMP Exam prior to 2021. 

Well, that was then, and this is now. The new exam doesn’t work this way anymore. So, give up the whole idea of needing to do that despite WHO might have told you.  Five thousand students later and I can assure you I know from feedback what’s on the exam and what will help you and what will hurt you.

So, this may have been an approach that was a clever idea for the old exam but in terms of the new exam, it is not! In fact, it’s detrimental because the new exam seems to be comprised more of scenario-based questions focusing on people and methods while highlighting the project manager's ability to do conflict management and stakeholder engagement seamlessly!

So, simply knowing that the risk register is an ‘output’ of the IDENTIFY RISK process doesn't help you on this new exam. Now, if you're studying and practicing and taking mock exams and you see that the simulator you are using has lots of ITTO questions, then you have a problem. Your simulator source has not been updated for the exam for 2021 and beyond. 

I took great pains to update my simulator to make sure it had all the latest agile content, contemporary style questions, etc., but I also scaled back on the inputs and outputs questions and replaced them with more agile and more scenario-based questions centering on people, communications, stakeholder management, resource management and the like. People trying my free simulator are saying it’s a dead ringer for the new exam.

Back to my 3 students. We were finally able to determine that when they focused on NON ITTO questions, they were scoring very well up to 80% per quiz. This then led us to believe that it was the right time for them to schedule their exams. So, they schedule their exams, and they did pass their exams above targets in all categories, I am glad to report.

Now, there will be a few critical inputs or outputs or artifacts or whatever you want to call them that will still be fundamental to the PMP exam. Let’s start with the inputs/outputs:

  • The project charters
  • The business cases
  • The benefits management plan
  • The risk registers
  • The assumption logs
  • The lessons learned register
  • The requirements document
  • Scope, Schedule, Cost baselines
  • Etc.

And in terms of tools and techniques:

  • Meetings
  • Expert Judgement
  • Alternatives Analysis
  • PMIS
  • Variance Analysis

But even though I list these I would say that in terms of learning about them we are not talking rote memorization here with flashcards. The idea is to understand what these artifacts and understand why they're important to the scenario question you are answering. This is how you will be interrogated about these concepts on exam day, for example consider a mock question I wrote that typifies it:

The project manager is faced with planning an extraordinarily complex software development project with a team of twenty-five developers. There are many interested stakeholders, and everybody has an idea of what the project management plan and scope of work should contain. To make sure the scope of work is planned correctly, the most important thing for the servant leader to consider is:

  • The risk appetite of the stakeholders
  • The approved Project Charter
  • The approved budget
  • The direction of the sponsor

Let’s explain this question. We know that the charter has the approved high-level scope. So, is this an input or output question? Well, the answer is BOTH. It’s not a strict memory question, right? Nobody asked you “what is the output of the develop project charter process” – but -- to understand how to do the scope right on the project the servant leader needs to look at that charter document.  Again the charter has the high-level scope and it came from the initiation of the project having been formally authorized by management. 

So, now that we're in planning we can detail (input) that charter further and decompose it more collaborating with the stakeholders until the planning is complete. So, a strict memorization of the inputs and outputs, tools, and techniques is a worthless endeavor, and you shouldn’t do it. Instead, just understand the critical ITTOs, or artifacts and you should be fine on the new PMP exam. Don’t get me wrong, there are still wonderful concepts to be learned from ITTOs, just not the benefit for studying for the exam that it USED to be. If you have read all this and you are still curious to play around with an ITTO widget I created, you can get it HERE.

Good luck on your PMP studies!

Coach Dan.

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