Tuesday, April 13, 2010

When is a "Pass" not a "Pass"?


I know this looks like a posting about football And it is. A little. But it's really about the PMP(R) Exam. Let me explain.

In American or Canadian football, when a Quarterback (as in Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, above) throws the ball, it's a pass. Plain and simple. No controversy. Right?

Not exactly. There are all kinds of rules, it turns out. Did the arm move forward?

See this entry from Wikipedia:

In American and Canadian football, a forward pass—usually called simply a pass—consists of one offensive player throwing the football towards another downfield in the direction of the opponent's end line. This is permitted only once during a scrimmage down by the offensive team before team possession has changed, provided the pass is thrown from in or behind the neutral zone. An illegal forward pass incurs a 5 yard penalty and the loss of a down.

If an eligible receiver on the passing team legally catches the ball it is a complete pass and the receiver may attempt to advance the ball. If an opposing player legally catches the ball (all defensive players are eligible receivers) it is an interception. That player's team immediately gains possession of the ball and he may attempt to advance the ball toward his opponent's goal. If no player is able to legally catch the ball it is an incomplete pass and the ball becomes dead the moment it touches the ground. It will then be returned to the original line of scrimmage for the next down. If any player interferes with an eligible receiver's ability to catch the ball it is pass interference which is a foul.

The person passing the ball must be a member of the offensive team, and the recipient of the forward pass must be an eligible receiver and must touch the passed ball before any ineligible player.

The moment that a forward pass begins is important to the game. The pass begins the moment the passer's arm begins to move forward. If the passer drops the ball before this moment it is a fumble and therefore a loose ball. In this case anybody can gain possession of the ball before or after it touches the ground. In Canadian football, if the passer drops the ball while his arm is moving forward it is an incomplete pass (unless someone catches the ball before it hits the ground in which case it is a completed pass or an interception). Under American football's tuck rule, if the quarterback is attempting to bring the ball back to his body after starting a passing motion, a lost ball may be considered an incomplete pass even if the quarterback's arm is moving backward at the time.

The quarterback generally either starts a few paces behind the line of scrimmage or drops back a few paces as the ball is snapped. This places him in an area called the "pocket" which is a protective region formed by the offensive blockers up front and between the tackles on each side. A quarterback who runs out of this pocket is said to be scrambling. Under NFL and NCAA rules, once the quarterback moves out of the pocket, and there is no good option for a forward pass, the ball may be legally thrown away to prevent a sack. NFHS (High School) rules do not allow for a passer to intentionally throw an incomplete forward pass to save loss of yardage or conserve time, except for a spike to conserve time after a hand to hand snap. If he throws the ball away while still in the pocket then a foul called "grounding" is assessed. In Canadian football the passer must simply throw the ball across the line of scrimmage—whether he is inside or outside of the "pocket"-in order to avoid the foul of "intentionally grounding".

My point: what seems like a simple concept - throwing a ball - is not actually so simple. And learning how to throw the ball (in other words, to pass) is more complex than you'd think.

That's the connection to the PMP exam. You'd think that what it takes to pass the exam, even the percentage you must achieve to pass, would be simple to find out. In fact, PMI used to say that it was a 61%. But then all references to a passing score number were removed from PMI literature and we seem to be left to guess at the passing score.

A unique online journal (blog) has come up with some insight that I urge you to look through, if you are going for the PMP certification. In three postings they reveal what they think PMI is up to. The bottom line is this: each exam iteration is different. A unique set of questions is given to each student, so each exam is of VARIABLE difficulty and thus the passing score is adjusted commensurately. So each student really gets their own test with their own passing score!

Start by looking at these three postings from Deep Fried Brain (yes - that's the name of the blog). It's put together very well and may just help you understand how to prepare for passing the exam more effectively.

http://www.deepfriedbrainpmp.com/2009/12/popular-myths-pmp-exam-pass-score.html

http://www.deepfriedbrainpmp.com/2010/04/best-kept-secret-of-pmp-certification.html

http://www.deepfriedbrainpmp.com/2009/11/pmp-exam-passing-score-number-game.html

Enjoy your studying. And we hope you "touchdown" safely!

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