PMP Certification : Study plans & Lesson learnt

Since many of my friends have been asking me my study plan and how I went about getting certified in my first attempt thought of writing this post about it. 

Study time: 2 months  [Studies happened over 2 and half months. Out of those, 3 weeks were on a zero study break]


  • Rita Mulcahy (Twice)
  • PMBok (Once ) 
  • Head fast [Didn't read beyond the first 2 chapters since it was very basic. If you have experience in Project Management this isn't required to be read.]

References: PMP Books and references in PMI Knowledge center [Dry info but helpful to understand the tough topics]

Mock exams: 

Study groups:

  • Discussion with other PMP aspirants -  It helped me in discussing my understanding of concepts with others
  • Linkedin groups - I want to be a PMP® and other PMP groups - help us to see the exam questions and get a go at it before the exam.

I started off with a crazy frenzy to study in the 2nd week of May and give the exam by June end. I used to study for close to 4 hours after work on weekdays [Thanks to the US work culture for making that possible] and close to 10 hours on weekends. I had to take a break of 3 weeks due to some reasons. So almost after 3 weeks of break time I jumped back into studies in the last week of June. I had a week long vacation planned for the 4th Jul long weekend and made sure I had stuff to take with me to read while travelling in the train or in flight.

Yes my long weekend trip of 4th July was spent partly enjoying in NY and in reading study material be it in flight or while travelling to my friends place from airport in train. 
I wonder how they let me study while at their home :) 

During my long weekend vacation I got to know one of my friend who had exam on 4th did not clear the exam. This was a shock to me as I was expecting him to clear the exam. That kind of lit the fire that was required for me to give in my 200%. After that day the moment I got back home from my vacation I started studying like crazy. 

My schedule changed
  •  8:00 AM - 5:00 PM  - work
  • 5:00 PM - 12:00 AM - stay back at work and study [My office drawers were full of stuff I could eat :) I was practically living in my office and surviving on fast food, wraps, s/w. 
  • 12:00 AM - go back home and sleep [I stay 10 mins drive from work]
  • Repeat the cycle again. 
The unfortunate news of my friends exam result gave me the kick that was required for me to give in more than 200% to the studies. I would be listening to videos while commuting, reading books where ever I could

My weekend video calls of couple of hours with parents back home reduced to 10 mins normal calls while I was commuting to study. They always supported me in giving my all for the exam. They never complained that I was talking less with them :)

Questions were mostly in the areas of EVM calculations not simple but complex ones, also based on S Curves, risk management, time management, scope management, NPV calculations. 90% of the questions were complex and not straight forward. Fortunately having understanding of the concepts and using combination of knowledge, reasoning and logic got me through.

I did take a lot of time to complete my exams - I finished answering all 200 questions by 3:40 mins. It was much more than what I had anticipated based on my usual time of 3 hrs in mock exams. I reviewed the marked questions without worrying about completing all the questions, my goal was to make sure the ones I reviewed were correct than completing all the marked questions.

The result was 4 proficient and 1 moderately proficient score card barely after 3 weeks by end of July! I guess hard work really pays off :) Can't even pen down the feeling I had when I saw those magic words on the screen. Just could not stop smiling and giving myself a virtual pat on the back :) 

Score card image available at the below location

Have put in some Exam day tips in the following post.

Have decided to get back to blogging and write more posts on PMP and Project Management.

Will be writing a post on tips on studying from my point of view, if you are interested stay tuned!

PMP Certification Exam : - TIPS for the exam day

Listing down some tips for the exam day

  1. Get enough sleep the night before !! we already go through an intensive study routine for month, take the required rest so that our mind is ready to tackle those 4 crazy hours!!
  2. Calculate the number of questions you would be required to solve by 30 mins or 1 hour. This not only helps you keep a track of where you stand with respect to the exam hour but also helps keep you in charge of your speed.
  3. Make sure you reach the center at least 30 mins before your exam, it is always good to be at the place beforehand to avoid any last minute surprises and get into the exam in a composed state of mind.
  4. If you get stuck on a question for more than 4 -5 minutes better not waste more time on that, you could miss out on answering more questions if you continue on this one.
  5. DO NOT, I REPEAT - DO NOT assume you will get a lot of time to review the marked questions and solve them. Try to solve the question in one go only than waste time in reading n understanding it again at the end.
  6. Read the question at least twice! I had changed answers to at least 3 questions after reading the question the second time.
  7. Do not care about the exam result and get worried up. Just worry about answering the question in front of you. Take it one step at a time.
  8. If you do get time to review , don't rush through the review questions to complete all of them, instead concentrate on getting them right even if it means you tackle them slowly.
  9. Keep a lookout on questions that can provide answers to previous questions ! I had selected a wrong answer [made up PM term] to one of the questions. I had my doubts on it and had marked it when I moved a few questions ahead I cam across another question which had the correct PMism which helped me go back and correct the answer.
  10. Math is a great thing to know, EVM calculations can be done faster with usage of Math shortcuts and tricks and tips.
  11. None of the questions scream out which process group the answer is expected from - So if you get stuck , think of which process groups the problem is part of and it would be helpful to look at the scenario from that perspective while answering the question.
  12. I can't emphasize this enough!! create a brain dump. It helps to have the formulas and important points in front of one while giving the exam.
  13. Try to have a candy or something before you step in, Chocolate is a mood booster and it helps :)
  14. The Prometric center I had been to had temperature set very low in July hence it was pretty cold, thank god I had a pullover with me. So make sure you take a pullover or wear layers of clothes so that you can take them off if required during the exam. [This may seem like a senseless tip but believe me it was difficult to concentrate with it being so cold.]
  15. Be hydrated before the exam, but not as you approach the exam time. Nobody wants to keep visiting the restroom n wasting the checking up time [usually 5 mins ]while getting back into the room.
  16. Take a break in between, if you don't wish to step out to avoid the time wastage in checking. Sit at your place  and do deep breathing :))

Will add more as I recall it , if you have some more that needs to be added comment below!

Thank you !

Shounak S. Pandit

Zombies and PMP certification !!!

Zombies & PMP !!!  What is the correlation one may think 

Well after watching Zombie movies, I always wondered what would go on in a Zombie's mind if they were real. I mean all they did was run after a single goal by letting go of everything else around them the goal being killing the living for food [?] 

Well , I kind of found out, let me clarify I did not live a zombie's life :P. For the past 2 months I was metaphorically a zombie!!
After work, my life involved Reading 1873 pages out of 2 books, endless burning of the midnight oil, giving various online mock exams, having wraps & sandwiches for food & Starbucks coffees to keep me awake in the night for 60 days while running after just one single goal of clearing the exam in 1st attempt. I guess that should justify me saying it is an understatement to compare mylife with that of a Zombie - at least they got their food daily !

But yeah I guess when one finally sees the magic words "Congratulations you passed" on the screen those efforts are worth it ! 

Guess everyone else would be out celebrating, but no that wasn't my priority. Last weekend all I did was some catching up with my beauty sleep which I missed for these 2 months !! 

Well now that I am a PMI certified PMP would soon be getting back to blogging with posts on PMP certification, how to go about it and articles on Project Management. 

Stay tuned ! :) 

How to renew / reissue Indian passport after 10 years, in USA by post - BLS international

*** IMP Update:  Cox and Kings would be the knew service provider to Indian consulate after May 20th. If you can, wait for them to take over than submitting your application to BLS.

*** Update: 06/04 As per comments from many others it seems like BLS is still handling passport services so ignore the comment above

** Check the end of the post for issues related to BLS & USPS express packages

** Check comments for FAQ

 Have woken from my long siesta to share some info on the process of getting an Indian passport renewed while staying in USA.

Thought of writing this post to help others like me, who may want to get their Indian passports renewed while staying in USA and are faced with little or minimal how to on the Indian consulate site.

***As of May 2013   The Consulate General of India  outsourced the handling of Passport and related applications to M/s. BLS International Services Ltd [Earlier it was with Travisa]

Step 1: -  Visit the Indian consulate site at  [Check if another agency change has occured if not then the below is still valid info]

Step 2:- Visit the BLS International site at


Step 3:- Click on the Passport link / image.

Step 4:- Click on the Passport menu ->> Reissue of passport after 10 years


You will be re-directed to a page which has a lot of data about the process - general information, application centers, documents required etc etc.

Step 5:-Read through this page for an overview of the process then go to the Indian Passport application center section.

Indian consulate has divided various states into regions and they have 1 office catering to multiple states, please make sure you understand which application center you need to apply to as per the state / region you live in.  For me it was Chicago being in Indiana, click on the various application center's to understand which center you fall in.

Application centres as per regions

Step 6:-  Go through the entire page to make sure you understand the process and the documentations required. The details on this page are pretty straight forward and shouldn't be that hard to follow. I just had to get the passport reissued after 10 years hence my documentation requirement was pretty straight forward. Please check the page in detail as per your requirement.

Step 7: BLS needs you to fill an application form which can be found here

BLS Passport order form

In this form most of the fields are pretty self explanatory , will mention a few just for clarity

a) Location - This needs to be the passport application center and not the region you are located in.

b) Airway bill no : Provide the tracking number of your shipment, this is further used to track the package delivery on BLS website. This is provided in the receipt / slip that you will have from your shipping. Yeah its kind of confusing for some but basically we need to go and get the envelops from postal services [USPS / UPS / Fedex] prior to filling the forms.

[caption id="attachment_340" align="alignnone" width="300"]Shipping - Airway bill number Shipping - Airway bill number[/caption]

[Please read the section below on how to send the documents to BLS.]

c) Airway bill no [return envelope airway bill no] It is always a good idea to send BLS a self addressed return envelope. This provides 2 way tracking of the application. If your postal tracking shows dispatched that means BLS has processed your passport and its on the way. It sure helps to have a backup tracking mechanism.

BLS passport form 2d) Address to be printed on passport:- This should be the US address as you are living in US, some people have reported even if they entered their Indian address it went through on the passport. I had called BLS center to check on this , as per them it should be US address only, but many of my friends have also got their Indian addresses printed without providing any address proof.

e) Payment details:- Here we have to mention if its a demand draft / money order / cashiers check and the check number associated with it. Please note cashiers check is not same as the normal check we receive on opening the bank account

Once you save this form , you will get an email on the email address which was provided by you , that email contains 2 documents

1) BLS Form :- Take a print out of this form , it needs to be submitted along with your documents in the application envelope.

2) BLS shipping label:- This contains the mailing address for BLS and your application / case number - Make sure that you paste this label along with your shipping label on the form. This has a barcode which gets scanned on receipt at the BLS office and it updates the tracker.

Step 8:- Once you are done with the BLS Passport form, its time to fill another form :) The govt of India NRI passport application form located at

NRI Passport Application form

Before you start filling this form please note the following -

  • Once you submit this form, you cannot go back and edit the form, the only way to update the info on this form is to fill up another form.

  • If you are not sure of a few things in the form, do not submit. You can keep the form partially filled and fill later on based on the temporary application id received while filling the form. [check the image below for the location of temporary application id]

NRI passport application form

Select the appropriate Indian mission ie the application center and the type of service ie reissue of passport.

The only thing confusing in this form is "File number" required in the passport section. This information is available on the last page of your passport as shown in the image below.

Passport file number

Once done filling the rest of the information, click save and then print the form. In case you do not print the form, you can always go back and print the form with the web file number. Once you print the form, you will get a 3 page document which contains some of the fields pre- populated based on the info you just filled and some fields which you need to fill in now to complete the form.

Will mention some of the fields here for clarity.

  • Amount paid should match the total of the amount shown at the BLS passport form, you can combine the total amount ie passport service + BLS service + ICWF for me it was $91.20.

  • For delivery by mail ... should be NA since you are sending a self addressed envelope to BLS. In case you do not then you need to pay extra for them to ship the package to you.

  • Point # 10 : Education - People with Degree certificate etc fall under ECNR category. hence mention your education properly.

  • Point #11: When did the applicant first leave India - If you read the question properly it asks you the first time you left India not when did you leave india for this trip, hence in case, this is not your first trip out of India please mention the date of your first travel out side India. You can find the date on the passport pages stamped on the adjacent page by your visa.

  • Point #11: When was he / she last in India:- this should be the last time you left India if you haven't yet returned to India then this would be your departure date- check the passport again for the exact date.

  • Point #12: Total time outside India - This is the time from your last date in India till now.

  • Point#13: Present emigration status ie ECNR or ECR- this is available on the 2nd page of your passport.

  • Point #19: references - these can be anybody [other than family] even in India .

  • Point #22: No of lost/damaged passport:- Since this is reissue of passport only mention NA here. Mention NA in the next few points where appropriate.

  • Point #29: Sign in the boxes.

  • Passport photo needs to be attached to the form in the designated space, Along with this the "documents requirements" section on BLS site mentions send 2 more photos. When I had called the BLS helpline they asked me to staple an additional photo at the end of the form below the signatures. I stapled one there and added an additional one by attaching it to the form with a u-pin.

Step 9:-Nationality verification form  - Can be downloaded from

  • This form is pretty straightforward and doesn't require any clarification - Its the same information which we have filled in the earlier 2 forms.

  • The only confusing part here is in document requirements section they have mentioned take 3 copies of this form and in the checklist they have mentioned nationality form not forms. I got pretty confusing answers from people, after calling BLS they confirmed its 3 forms [no idea why] with 3 photos attached to them in the space provided.

**Tip: - We can either print this form and then write on it or we can type in the document and take a printout directly. I did the later, saved me time.

Step 10:- Documents required - what goes in the package 

  • BLS filled form print out.

  • NRI Passport Application form. [1 photo attached in the space on 1st page and 1 more at the end of the form below the signatures.]

  • 3 copies of national verification form [each form needs 1 photo attached to it in the designated space]

  • Photo copy of 1st 5 pages of passport. [Page numbers are mentioned on the passport in case you are confused.]

  • Photo copy of the last 2 pages of passport.

  • NOTARIZED Photocopy of the visa page in passport.

  • Notarized photocopy of address proof for USA - either of Electricity bill, Mobile bill, Gas bill , internet bill , driving license suffices here.

  • Optional: Photocopy of graduation / post graduation certificate Just to avoid any delays had attached photocopy of my Masters certificate.

  • Optional: Affidavit for change in appearance - I had got my passport in my college days and as I had my travel trip planned within a couple of months from application for renewal of passport, I didn't want to take the risk of any delays hence I had attached a change in appearance form along with the documents, its mentioned on the BLS site and can be located at the following location -

  • Passport [Don't forget this, its very easy to forget, also ensure you have removed the i94]

**** Tip: We can get the documents notarized at various locations in the city - banks, post office , mostly companies have a notary on their payroll too. Else the ones outside charge something around $7-$9 per document going up to a upper bar on the amount something like $20 irrespective of how many you notarize. If you have a bank account visit their branch they will do it for free.

Update 01/27: It seems Bank of America has stopped notarizing documents, PNC bank still continues to do so. Also read my comment below which has a link to diff places we can get notarization done.

**** TIPS ****

  1. Make a photocopy / scan important pages of your passport. Remember your passport identifies you as a valid Indian citizen.

  2. I have the habit of scanning any form I send, hence I have kept a scanned copy of all the forms , cashiers check etc sent for this application.

  3. Hand delivering the package doesn't add any value to the processing time, I had called and confirmed with BLS if it would help in speeding the processing time. Of course If you live in the same city might as well go and visit personally. For me it was a drive from Southern Indiana to Illinois and not worth the time.

  4. You have an option of sending the package via USPS / UPS / Fedex. I chose USPS as it was right next to my office and it provided Express overnight delivery at a good price $15 envelope and $19 for cardboard box as of 11 OCT 2013.

  5. Make sure while getting the envelope from post office , you take a printout of your document to make sure you can fit them in and don't have to fold them in.

  6. I took a cardboard envelope and a normal envelope for express shipping ie overnight shipping and put the self addressed shipping slip on the cardboard envelope and the TO BLS shipping slip on the normal envelope.

  7. While sending the documents , put them in the semi hard envelope [do not seal this] and then put the semi hard envelope inside the normal envelope which is addressed to BLS. [this gives your documents and passport the extra layer of protection].

  8. IMP info: I had shipped on Friday 11th and the package reached BLS office on 12th , as the office was closed on Saturday the delivery person took it back to the post office and left a notice for them. I had called USPS call center and then the local post office to make sure they redelivered to BLS. They had already planned to redeliver on 15th and the nice lady at the Chicago local post office went and checked to confirm if it had been sent out. I had explained the package contains imp documents ie passport etc to her.  Hence please time your package delivery accordingly, make sure it reaches them on a working day [Mon - Friday] and also take into account any holidays in the week to avoid wastage of days :)

  9. Photo --- Based on my friend's recommendations had visited CVS,  Wallgreens for getting a pic clicked, unfortunately I didn't find any of their service good. The camera used by them were old, i had my doubts it would work and also pics clicked by them sucked big time and did not follow the photo specifications specified by the consulate at all. [Remember its 2 X 2 like US pics and not the 3.5 or XXX we have back in India].

  10. I finally visited SAMS club and they had proper equipment and in the system they had a proper template which checked for the placement of eyes, chin, ear in the pic as per the specifications. The quality of the pics was too good. [This was in Columbus, Indiana maybe your luck might be better in your region]

  11. Passport photos can be clicked at post office too. [I found this out while finally sending the package, they charge a whopping $15 for 2 photos]

  12. Some people suggest online sites , which help you crop the photo in the passport photo specifications.-personally feel its nor worth the hassle and risk to save approximately $20 - $25 [unless you do not have a time constraint] but of course choice lies with you.

  13. Payment:- Payment modes allowed are Demand Draft, Money Order, Cashiers check. Cashiers check is usually free to bank's account holders check with your bank. Mine was PNC and they provided it free of cost to me.

  14. Copying and pasting from a reply to question as per suggestion by Keerti. 

BLS drops the packages in the drop box in their building. Unlike Fedex & UPS , USPS express packages need to be hand delivered in the post office to be considered as express mails [in spite of express mail packaging]. The express packages received via drop box get treated as normal mail and are processed as per the standard mail duration. I went through the same scenario during my application resulting in me running around USPS office and BLS/ consulate to track my missing passport.[BLS site claimed it was dispatched while USPS had no acknowledgement of receiving the parcel]

This was confirmed to me by USPS office / USPS pickup guy and they also told me they have repeatedly asked BLS not to drop express packages in drop box yet they do the same to save a few efforts [USPS office is 2 blocks away from BLS office]

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to track on USPS tracking site till it reaches a distribution center near your city. It took 3 days from Chicago to Columbus, IN. USPS showed no record of receipt of my passport till it reached Indy the reason being it gets acknowledged only at the distribution center, in my case Indy.BLS had dropped it on Monday and I collected it from Columbus USPS on Wednesday morning. Till Tuesday 8:00 PM USPS site showed no record of receiving the package.


Let me know if I missed adding any important info , would be happy to add more to this post.

**** Disclaimers ****

  • All the urls mentioned in the post are from BLS India website.

  • This is my understanding of the process and how I got my passport renewed, please make sure you visit their website and ensure the process has not changed since the date of this post.

Let me know your feedback on what is missing, what should be added etc

P.S: I had applied in the month of Oct 2013


Dejavu avec MOSS!!

I remember when i had first worked on MOSS in 2003 (I think!!) There was absolutely negligible help on MOSS.. Again am working on MOSS for a POC :) and as I see there is some help available online but to a certain extent its redundant and not in user friendly language hence the new category <MOSS> in the blog.I'll be sharing a lot of code, Howtos etc here soon...

Just a bit caught up in the POC deliverable as the deadline is middle of Jan (using the Sharepoint Designer), after a quick break will start posting on MOSS!!!

Humble recipe for Success : Nice one

Got a forward from a friend the subject stated "Recipe for Succes" the contents were even more thought provoking than the subject.
Pasting it here for benefit of others....
Setting Goals
but NOT in concrete

Staying Focused
but turning aside to Help someone

Following Plan
but remaining Flexible

Moving ahead
but not too fast to miss the smell of flowers

Climbing the Ladder
but not stepping on Toes

Fighting to Finish
but choosing your battles

Taking a Bow
but applauding those who had a part in your success

I came across this very thought provoking recipe Setting Goals but NOT in concrete Staying Focused but turning aside to Help someone Following Plan but remaining Flexible Moving aheadI came across this very thought provoking recipe Setting Goals but NOT in concrete Staying Focused but turning aside to Help someone Following Plan but remaining Flexible Moving ahead but not too fast to miss the smell of flowers Climbing the Ladder but not stepping on Toes Fighting to Finish but choosing your battles Taking a Bow but applauding those who a part in your success but not too fast to miss the smell of flowers Climbing the Ladder but not stepping on Toes Fighting to Finish but choosing your battles Taking a Bow but applauding those who a part in your success

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