Brian Robert Callahan

academic, developer, with an eye towards a brighter techno-social life



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2022-02-05
I took the CompTIA Project+ PK1-005 beta exam for fun

This afternoon, I took the CompTIA Project+ PK1-005 beta exam for fun. I am not a project manager, nor are there any expectations on me to act as a project manager for $DAYJOB. However, there are faculty in my department that hold active PMP certification. And some of the core courses (that I don't teach) do cover management and related topics. This occasionally translates to students talking to me about management issues. The beta exam seemed like an easy excuse to finally learn a little bit about project management.

To be clear: there is no professional benefit for me getting certified. I did it out of pure curiosity plus the fact that CompTIA is offering a public beta for $50. That's low enough that I don't mind taking the exam and not passing.

So I signed up for online/at-home exam taking. I did this when I took the Security+ exam, which I took prior to teaching a winter term course on the Security+ exam. So I was used to the online proctoring.

Since I knew nothing about project management, I used the following items to study:

That brings me to a grand total of $63 for the exam and all study materials. It would have been an additional $30 if I needed to purchase the study guide. Let's round to $100 total cost for the beta exam and the study materials. Even if I fail the exam, I am lucky enough to not be upset about the money spent on it. Of course, all these study materials are for the current PK0-004 version of the exam, not the beta PK1-005 version I took. But there are no formal study materials for a beta exam. All you get is the official objectives list from CompTIA. But it looked like the differences were not so great that I would be at a significant disadvantage if I only used exam study materials from the current exam.

Study time

I began by watching the Udemy course at 2x speed. The videos were well paced for 2x speed. I took three days to complete this video course. I will say that the host clearly enjoys his job as a project manager. The videos were easy to watch and easy to retain information from. It also came with end of section quizzes and a full 90 question practice exam at the end of the course, which I comfortably passed (much to my surprise). If someone was going to take the current version of the Project+ exam, I would easily recommend these videos as a study tool and practice exam.

I then read through the CompTIA Project+ Study Guide. It took me another several days to read through the book. It was not the most enthralling textbook I have ever read but it did cover a wide variety of material and came with a pre-test and end of chapter questions. I did not use the online supplemental practice exams. It seems like this book would be required reading if you intend to do well on the current exam.

Finally, I partially watched the Pluralsight course. The free weekend launched yesterday so I did not have enough time to watch the whole thing. I watched the pieces that the practice exam from the Udemy course identified as my areas of weakness. That seemed to make the most sense for getting the most out of the Pluralsight video course. I did not enjoy the Pluralsight course as much as I did the Udemy course and I would not consider the Pluralsight course at all if I had to pay for it.

There are so many excellent free resources for the core exams that CompTIA offers: A+, Network+, and Security+. Many of which can be found in the form of complete video courses on YouTube. Unfortunately, there are no such materials for the Project+ exam. Provided I pass the exam, I may consider creating such a video series once the beta exam becomes the current exam.

Exam day

My home office easily fits the bill for an acceptable space for the online proctors and as I mentioned I have used it without issue previously. That was the same for today's exam. For my exam, I had 113 questions and had over two hours to complete the exam. I ended up completing the exam in about an hour. All 113 questions were multiple choice. The vast majority were choose one and a small handful, maybe about 5% of all questions, were choose two.

The questions themselves would feel familiar to anyone who has taken a CompTIA exam before: find the key word in the question that effectively gives away the answer and choose that answer. Also remember that the exam is testing you on your knowledge of how to be a good project manager. Project managers do a lot of things, but many times what it is that they do is communicate. I found that remembering that and remembering how communication moves throughout all the different actors in a project handled most of the questions I encountered. I was, however, surprised at the extreme imbalance of questions covering all the subpoints of the five major objectives. While the five major objectives were balanced according to their weights, there was often extreme imbalance within the major objectives. For example, while Agile is explicitly mentioned in the headline of Objective 1.2 and even explicitly mentioned in the About the Exam opening paragraph to the objectives document, I received so few questions about Agile I would have been better off not learning Agile at all and just guessing on those questions.

It should be said this is only representative of my personal experience with the exam and the particular set of questions I got. You may get different questions on your exam.

Conclusion

I'm sure the first big question you have is whether or not I passed. And the honest answer to that question is a solid maybe. They don't give you your score at the end of the beta exam. If I remember correctly, they expect to have the results in October. I would be entirely unsurprised whether my score report in October says that I passed or failed. They don't know yet what the passing score is, so it's difficult to say where I might fall. If the passing score stays at 710/900 like it is with the current exam, I would feel relatively confident that I passed.

The second big question is if you should take the Project+ beta exam. Again, the honest answer to that question is a solid maybe. If the beta exam is still being offered when you read this, you are interested in learning basic project management skills, and $100 is a price you'd be comfortable paying for a certification exam and its study materials should you fail, then go for it. If you're like me where you absolutely do not and will never need to act as a project manager, and you're taking it because it helps you be an iota of a little bit better of a professor and resource for your undergraduate students, then go for it. If you enjoy taking IT certification exams, then go for it. As I am neither a project manager nor someone who hires project managers, I am not qualified to tell you if a Project+ certification will help you find a job. In all other cases, I would say the Project+ is probably not for you.

Overall, I think the Project+ is a helpful certification for someone new to project management as a first stepping stone when new to the discipline. Beta exams really do help lower the barrier to entry for those for whom parting with $400-$500 would be a burdensome out-of-pocket investment, especially if they do not pass the exam. If you can part with the $100 and you've been interested in learning the basics of project management, I would encourage you to go for it.

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