Project management is a career that involves a fair amount of formal study. You might be going for a certificate because it will increase your confidence, or because you think it will open the door to a new job opportunity. Or perhaps you love studying new techniques for personal satisfaction, or you’ve just applied for an exam because your employer offered to pay for it.

There are as many reasons for taking a certification in project management as there are individuals, but regardless of your motivation, your resume will look better with a list of professional certifications.

However, if you’ve been out of the classroom for some time, the idea of studying might not truly appeal. I mean – we all love the idea of a credential, but putting the work in to actually get it is something else!

First of all, don’t worry. Professional certification exams are nothing like what you took at school. They are challenging in their own way, but exam technology and techniques have most likely moved on a bit since you left school. Even so, it doesn’t hurt to have someone in your corner!

Here are 5 tips for studying for a project management certification in 2019.

Be clear on your motivation

Remind yourself regularly why you are doing this! If you are clear about the career and personal benefits from studying and taking a certification exam, then you’ll find it easier to get motivated. Write your goal somewhere you can see it every day. That could be a sticky note on your laptop monitor to remind you about the deadline for a job application, or your target salary once you are certified. Keep your motivation front and center to help you stay in the right frame of mind for studying.

Create a study plan

A study plan sets out what you will study and when. It’s basically a project plan for getting ready for an exam.

As a project manager, it shouldn’t be difficult to put together a study plan! You can prepare a timetable that works for you, around your resource constraints of family commitments and work engagements. Set yourself milestones. Make a task list and set yourself progress goals.

Your study plan might be substantial – going for PMP®, for example, can take several months of study and there is a lot of material to get through. However, if you are doing a short course, your plan might only be a couple of weeks. Block out time to do the pre-course reading and any assignments prior to starting the course, and then keep the time free to attend sessions and prep for the exam.

Study regularly

Next comes the part where you have to do the study! Your study plan should set out when you are available to study your course material. If you are working through a self-paced course, you’ll find it important to keep your motivational goal in mind to help you dedicate the time for study.

Stick to your plan. If you do happen to deviate for any reason, make the time up.

Prepare for the exam

You’ve studied the concepts that will be tested in the exam. But have you prepared for the exam experience too?

If you are writing long-hand for a couple of hours, that can be a challenge – we don’t all have the skill of handwriting for long periods anymore! Equally, sitting at a computer for 4 hours doing multiple choice questions using a software package that feels alien isn’t comfortable either.

Prepare for the experience of the exam by taking some practice papers in exam conditions, even if that means shutting yourself in a meeting room for a few hours to simulate what the test will be like.

Practice the timings for the exam, making sure you give yourself an amount of time per question that mimics what you will get in the exam itself. It’s all good practice for how you will feel and how you will need to respond on the day.

If you are allowed to take study materials into the exam room, then familiarise yourself with the books so you can easily find what you need. You don’t want to spend precious exam time flicking around the pages.

Rest before the exam

Stop studying the day before the exam – earlier if you have the confidence to stop earlier. It won’t help your brain to stay up late the night before, cramming a few extra reading sessions. You won’t learn anything new at that point. If you don’t know the course material already, it’s too late.

Get an early night, sleep well and arrive at the test center in plenty of time and well-rested. You’re more likely to have a successful exam session if you go in fully alert, rested and calm.

These 5 tips will help you prepare for the exam in good time. Soon you will be well on your way to adding that certification to your resume.

The article is written by Elizabeth Harrin.