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How to Reduce Project Complexity with Management Principles

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Can you remember a time before PMI offered online, proctored exams for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification? It seems like we’ve had that option for ages although it was only as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that exams moved online using the Pearson VUE software.

An online proctored exam is more convenient for many people, not only for health reasons but also in terms of being able to choose a more flexible time and not having to travel to the test center. However, some students have told us that the experience has not been smooth for them, so we decided to put together this complete guide for you. If you are planning on taking the proctored test, then let’s make sure you’re fully prepared for the PMP online exam experience.

Guide to Taking the Proctored Online PMP Exam

  1. Submit your application for the exam
  2. Login to Pearson VUE
  3. Schedule your test
  4. Choose a space to work
  5. Run the system test

Let’s look at each of those steps in more detail.

1. Submit your application for the exam

The first step is to apply to take the PMP certification exam. Read our complete guide to applying for the PMP exam for more information on that process. If your application is accepted, you will be invited to book your test. Navigate to the Pearson VUE website with the link you receive.

2. Login to Pearson VUE

Login to the Pearson VUE website using your PMI username and password. The system will check that you are a candidate and you’ll be able to move one step closer to taking the PMP exam online.

3. Schedule your test

Once you are logged in, you will be able to select a date for your test and book the slot. Make sure you choose the option to use OnVUE, the online proctored system. Now your test is booked, all you have to do is get ready for the PMP online proctored exam experience!

4. Choose a space to work

You need to take the online PMP test in a private workspace area because under test conditions you are not allowed to receive help from anyone. The proctor won’t be able to tell if someone coming up to you is offering you a cup of coffee or giving you the answers, so make sure you have somewhere ‘safe’ to go. An office with a lockable door is perfect, or schedule the examination for a time when you know that everyone else will be out of the house.

5. Run the system test

Follow the instructions to run the system test. You need to confirm that on exam day you will be using the same testing space, computer and internet connection so the system test is as representative of your real experience as possible.

Copy the access code and then use it during the set up process for the OnVUE software. You’ll be prompted to download the software and then run it to start the test.

Once your system test is complete, you’ll be confident that the tech should all work as expected on the day.

On Exam Day

The day has come! Here are the things you need to do to get ready for your online PMP exam.

Get your ID ready

Your ID must show your name to be the same as the name you used when you registered. It needs to have a photo of you on it, so your driving license, national identity card or passport is perfect.

“Cooperate with the proctor as much as possible during the exam,” says Angie Tang, PMP. “You don't want him/her to take your exam time.”

Tidy your workspace

You won’t be allowed to have clutter in your workspace. Tidy up, removing all books, papers, notes and anything else that might make the proctor think you are distracted.

You must not be within arm’s reach of any books, notebooks or writing materials such as pens or pencils, and you mustn’t have a calculator in reach either. While you might not think of those things as clutter, they aren’t allowed to be nearby for the examination, so you create the right ‘test ready’ environment.

You’ll also need to take down any posters or notes that are up on the walls. Anything on the walls with writing on will be inspected, so the easiest way to pass the workspace scan is to get rid of anything on the walls. Then you don’t have to worry about whether the proctor will consider your calendar or whiteboard to contain any secret clues for the test.

Get your computer ready

If you use more than one monitor, unplug your system. The test software needs just the one monitor. Close any other applications that are running - that includes virus scanning, so if you have scheduled scans programmed, make sure they are disabled for test day.

“I completed the exam online with Pearson VUE and the only hiccup was with the One VUE software detecting processes open in the background that had to be shut before exam could be released,” said Steve, who used the proctored process to take his agile certification and passed with Above Target in seven domains. “This caused my stress levels to rise as I ran the system test multiple times prior to the exam to make sure One VUE would work and never encountered this error.”

Past students have said that turning off notifications in apps like Slack also helps: sometimes applications run in the background and even though they look closed, they still send you pop ups when people message you. You’ll want to avoid that!

Check in for the exam 30 minutes beforehand

You don’t have to check in exactly 30 minutes before the test is due to start, but project managers tend to be organized people and we like to be on time if not early! If you are feeling anxious about being ready and ‘approved’ by the proctor, then block out those 30 minutes to do the test check in.

The check in process covers:

  • A system check
  • Seeing your picture
  • Sharing your valid photo identification with the proctor, such as a driving license or passport which must have the name you registered with
  • Scanning the workspace: this is where you show your workspace to the proctor so they are confident it’s a secure environment for the test
  • Closing other applications (but you did that already, right?).

Check in takes about 15 minutes. Candidates say that it’s best to be prepared to show the proctor your workspace by using the camera on your phone and then uploading the photos. You can use the webcam on your laptop but moving the computer around to get all the angles could be difficult. “The verification process was smooth,” says Sumeet Rajan, who took the PMP online test in 2021. “I received a link to send photos of the surrounding + ID proof. The proctor also checked my room.”

Once you’ve loaded your photos, the proctor will check them and that can take a couple of minutes. Don’t panic! Everything is happening as it should. You’ll see a green light when the process has been completed, but if there are any problems you’ll be contacted by the proctor. The proctor will get in touch either through the online chat or by phone, so make sure your phone is in reach, although you won’t be allowed to have it near you for the test itself.

Keep everyone out!

Your session could be terminated if someone else enters the room or walks behind you, as no one else is allowed to see the exam questions. You can find a work zone that has a wall behind it to make that less likely to happen, but you’ll feel more confident about not breaking this rule if there is no one else in the house. If you have to do your test while there are other people around, put up a big sign so they know to stay out of the room.

Tips For Taking A Proctored Online Exam

The assessment process itself might feel extra stressful because you not only have to answer the questions but also have to deal with the online environment which will feel new to you. Below are some tips for taking a proctored online exam so you can feel confident on test day.

  • Don’t have snacks
  • Take off your watch
  • Don’t use earbuds
  • Use the on-screen calculator
  • Stay on screen
  • Don’t talk to yourself
  • Have a stable internet connection
  • Practice with a simulator.

That’s a lot of things to think about, so let’s review those tips to help you get prepared for your proctored PMP test.

Don’t have snacks!

Don’t eat, chew gum or use tobacco products during the test. You are allowed a drink, but it needs to be in a clear container like a glass.

“My desk was sparkling, says Daniele Bettoni, PMP, who passed with scores Above Target. “I made sure there was nothing they could ask to remove or complain about. I wore very comfortable clothes and I had a big transparent bottle of water. I learnt not to mumble while practicing on the simulator.”

The best PMP exam simulator is one that is going to help you build confidence and get used to the test environment - if that means only drinking water for the duration, then queue up some full practice exams and get used to what that feels like!

Take off your watch

During your exam prep, get used to using the online clock as a way of timing your progress because you won’t be allowed to wear a watch during the test itself. You can take it off and leave it out of sight for the duration of the assessment.

Don’t use earbuds

You won’t be able to use headphones or earbuds during the test. That means listening to music is off limits, so if you normally have background music during your study time, the silence is going to be hard! Make the most of your study time by taking your practice exams using a PMP exam simulator without any background noise so you get used to it.

Use the on-screen calculator

You are not allowed to use scratch paper or notebooks during the test, and calculators are off-limits too. While you are taking practice questions in an exam simulator, get used to using the online calculator so you feel comfortable with that.

There is a digital whiteboard built into the system so you will be able to make notes if you want to. The notes you make on that will stay there until you wipe it off, so you are able to navigate through the questions and come back to your notes later.

Stay on screen

Be prepared to stay on the screen the whole time: don’t lean out of the webcam area, even to stretch. It’s a long time to stay at your screen following these instructions, so try to get a few full practice exams in before your testing day. That will at least help you feel more used to staying in one place for so long -- even if it is pretty uncomfortable.

During the PMI-ACP® or CAPM® exams you are not allowed to take a break or leave the screen. There are two 10-minute breaks with the PMP and PBA® exams. You’ll be prompted about when to take a break, but you won’t be able to go back to the earlier questions once you leave your seat and come back.

It’s important to follow all the rules and behave in ‘exam mode’ even at the end of your test. Sumit Kale, PMP said that once the screen showed ‘Exam finished’ and the results popped up, he stayed in place until the proctor told him the final steps. “Don’t grab your mobile or leave your place until all steps are done and your exam software is closed,” he recommends.

Don’t talk to yourself!

Pearson VUE say that ‘for security reasons’ you are not allowed to read the questions out loud. If you routinely practice test questions and read them out loud to yourself to help you understand them, that behavior could cause your session to be terminated. Try to get into the habit of keeping your mouth closed while you do practice tests. You shouldn’t cover your mouth or face while you are on screen either.

Have a stable internet connection

You’ll have to reschedule (there shouldn’t be a cost for this) if your computer crashes for any reason. The most common reason for a computer crash is losing the internet for some reason. Try to use a cabled internet connection instead of wifi for a more stable service.

“When I was about half way, in pressing the "next" button the system crashed,” says Silvia Frigo, PMP, who passed on the first attempt. “I was pretty sure it wasn't my internet as I was using a wired connection. I could still see myself recording in the top bar, so I just chose not to move from the camera. I tried to contact a proctor but no one answered. After a couple of minutes the system went back on track to the question I was answering. I had to choose the answer again though.”

Practice with a simulator

Why use a PMP simulator? The interface is very similar to what you will see on test day, whether you turn up to an assessment center or take the assessment from home and that can help you prepare mentally for the kind of questions and the software you’ll be using during the real thing.

However, there are extra benefits for using a simulator for your PMP exam prep as a proctored candidate. The biggest advantage is that you can take practice questions in a realistic environment. Tidy your desk, walk yourself through the ID check and system check and mentally prepare for what it’s going to be like answering questions for several hours without letting your eyes leave the screen or mumbling to yourself. It’s tough! Students report that a PM Exam Simulator is a great tool to help them get used to what is expected of them during the test.

What to do if your exam is terminated

Hopefully you’ll be able to get through the test without any problems, but sometimes students report that exams are stopped or revoked by the proctor. It may not be clear why that has happened, although a common reason is the proctor saying you were off camera.

If that happens to you, try to stay calm! It’s a stressful experience as you’ve invested time and energy into preparing for the test. “Your first step should be to raise a case or report the issue to both Pearson VUE and PMI,” says Kyle Kilbride, PMP. “It is certainly a frustrating process, but most people find they are able to write again. Once you have raised the issue the action is with Pearson VUE and/or PMI to provide you with the next steps (usually rescheduling).” Kyle goes on to say that if you had issues with the online exam, he recommends traveling to an in-person location for your next attempt.

Conclusion

It’s a lot to remember! However, the benefits of the online PMP test are significant, as you can take the examination from the comfort of your home, using equipment you are familiar with. The proctor is there to help you.

Don’t let your studying and preparation go to waste! Make sure to follow all the steps and guidelines to successfully take the test and get your certification.

Training for Project Management Professional (PMP)®, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®, and Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®

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