PMP Exam: Memorization vs Knowledge

Yesterday, I received an email asking about ITTOs (Inputs, Tools & Techniques, Outputs) in connection to preparing for PMP.
They were asking me a question that I get all the way from people who are worried about not being able to remember all of them. While your own lessons may be different from mine, here are my thoughts on the topic.

Real Knowledge
I didn’t worry about remembering. I actually tried to avoid memorization, as it can detract from actual knowledge.
I avoided mnemonic devices.
What about the planets of our solar system? What about the mnemonic devices that students and teachers use to remember their order from the sun? Is that a way to gain real knowledge about the solar system? What if students were able to learn more about each planet and its relationship to the whole solar system? I’m referring to planet formation, moons composition and density, temperatures, speeds and axis rotations, orbital cycle times, etc. Ask yourself why it was formed in this manner. It has so many moons! Are they captured asteroid fragments or impact ejecta? The distance from the sun and the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere are the main factors that make the planet so hot. Cool!? I wonder if it would feel like to stand on the surface ….
Is it longer to learn about a topic in this way? Absolutely!? Can you really say that students who have learned a mnemonic device so they can recall the order and planets on their own like Pavlovian responses, actually know anything about the solar system? Most likely not.
This is why I oppose “boot camps” in PMP’s study process. You can only create temporary memorization strategies in such a short time. The human brain requires more time to fully understand something like the PMBOK framework.
Maybe memorizing works for some people. But I focused on internalizing concepts and didn’t worry about being able to recall specific items by rote. I have a hard time memorizing anything by rote. It’s a multiple-choice exam and although it’s difficult, if you feel confident in the concepts and can understand the framework you’ll likely do well.
Learn to Understand Why
My main strategy was to ask “why” for almost everything I heard in the PMPrepcast. If I didn’t know the answer, the PMPrepcast was re-listened and/or I referenced the PMBOK guide to help me find it.
I don’t agree with many points of the PMBOK Guide. I would do it differently if it were me. This disagreement, with a focus on understanding rather than memorization, actually improved my ability to recall subtle points. Even though I didn’t agree to the answer I got when I asked “Why is the PMBOK guide telling me this?” It was still very clear to me.
Once I understood “why”, everything began to make intuitive sense. I no longer had to worry about memorization. It could be described as trying to understand the minds of the people who created and updated PMBOK Guide.
My $.02

Author: Kody