PMP® Certification is the gold standard and every project manager has always aspired to acquire it. It is a proven record that PMPs speak and understand the global language of project management. The benefits that you would find in a PMP® Certification can range from career development to global recognition in the industry.
4 hours and 200 multiple-choice questions will determine if you are ready to hold the standard. The average time to prepare for the PMP® exam is 180 hours of study time (or, 22.5 days of studying if you study 8 hours a day). However, these numbers are the industry average, while the preparation time entirely depends on the individual. Nonetheless, you will first need to prove you have led projects for at least 3 years (if you hold a bachelor's degree) or at least 5 years (if you don’t hold a bachelor's degree).
I encourage you to prepare for the PMP® Exam with the following tips and tricks. At the end of this article, I will also share with you a PMP® exam question, chosen from one of the free PMP® exam questions we post at OpenPM each week.
Tips and Tricks: Preparation
PMBOK® stands for Project Management Body of Knowledge and it is the backbone of the PMP® exam.
However, it can be too dense and formal for many students. There are many good books based on the PMBOK® that offer excellent methodologies to help you pass the exam, such as the books written by Rita Mulcahy and Aileen Ellis. Always make sure to choose books based on the latest edition of the PMBOK® (currently in its 6th edition).
I recommend for you to organize your exam preparation materials by knowledge areas. This will get you to focus on sequences of related processes and there will be no need for you to jump from one area to another. You can then read and scheme Inputs, Tools and Techniques and Outputs (ITTOS) and do a self-test by focusing on exam questions taken from a particular knowledge area.
Understanding the material is the key! You do NOT need to memorize every tool and technique or every output in the PMBOK® to pass the exam. If you have an overall understanding, you will figure out even the trickiest questions.
Some PMP® Preparation Courses have unreasonably high prices. You don't have to pay a fortune to do a course in order to pass your PMP® exam. There a many online and free PMP resources out there. I recommend for you to follow guidelines (from a related book or PMBOK®) and create your schedule. Establish fixed dates for every knowledge area and for the PMP® exam (pay for it, that´s the way to follow the schedule). In the end, check each of them by focusing on the free PMP exam questions that are also organized by knowledge areas. Do not leave anything for the end, follow an order and prepare for it systematically.
I also recommend for you to take notes whenever you have an uncertainty or are not sure what the right answer is and search for them on the Internet. If you feel like you need help or guidance, you should know that many online PMP® instructors offer online and live preparatory courses.
Go through as many PMP exam questions as possible. It is best for you to first do an initial self-test, then review the results, and carefully read the given explanations. It would be best for you to do short exams, so that you will recall each question when you review the results. Check your results and analyze your progress if you want to know whether you need to pay a closer attention to a specific knowledge area; some websites offer this for free.
Find a study peer! Find someone you know that wants to take the PMP® exam as well. Tell the people that you study with that you are preparing for the exam and don't hesitate to ask them questions. Share study notes and compare your exam results with your study peers.
During breaks, try online PMP games. It is more effective to retain knowledge when you engage in a game. So do PMP flashcards, PMP crosswords, and other interesting and engaging tests.
Tips and Tricks: Questions
During the exam, read the questions carefully. I know that this may sound obvious, but most of the information is there, so try to find keywords or concepts that could relate to one answer or another.
Don't get frustrated. If you do not know one question at the first read (this will happen), do not struggle too long and mark the question so that you can return to it later on. The most important thing is to be calm!
Don´t always look for the right answer. If you are sure that one of the offered answers is not true, discard it. If you discard those answers that you are sure are not the right one, you can instead focus on those that really make a point.
Most PMP® exam takers believe that the exam is full of situational questions rather than theoretical. So, what should you do next? Try to understand the questions and go through the PMBOK® (or any other related book) and search for information related to it. On another note, real-life project management experiences will also help you deal with some of the PMP exam questions.
Tips and Tricks: Exam
Do not forget about the time! Check if you are answering the questions on time, because you do not want to run out of time during the exam. One way to keep track of the time is to set milestones; for example, by the time you get to the 50th question the remaining time should be 180 minutes, by the time you get to the 100th question there should be 120 minutes left until the exam is over, and so on. On average, the approximate time you have per question is 72 seconds.
Important: The PMP® Certification will go through some changes in December 2019, so if you are already preparing for it it is best for you to hurry up while the exam structure is still unchanged.
Switch everything off, you don´t want anyone to be calling you in the middle of the exam. You need to focus on your exam and have no outside distractions.
Ask for noise cancellation headphones; some exam centers have them. Consider the fact that you may be finishing your exam while others may be just starting with theirs. Some exam takers may need to go to the staff center to check their results or inquire in case of other possible issues and hold onto the headphones more than necessary. There may be a limited amount of headphones available, so make sure to always secure yours in advance.
Tips and Tricks: Exam Content
Project Integration Management is KEY since it can only be done by the project manager. Therefore, you are likely to find many questions about this knowledge area.
Each PMP® exam is compiled of unique questions. Not one question is the same. However, many exam takers have declared that most of the included questions are extracted from these knowledge areas: Project Communications Management and Project Stakeholder Management.
There are normally not many calculation questions, like for example Earned Value Management, included in the PMP® exam. So, do study them and make sure you understand them, but do not lose time memorizing formulas, because there are tons.
Integrated Change Control is one of the topics that most exam takers recommend to study in-depth for the exam. There will probably be a considerable amount of questions on this topic.
PMI does not want PMPs to blindly follow the PMBOK®. They have said that they want PMPs to understand project management, so not all PMP questions come from the PMBOK®. However, you can find online tests with several selected PMP questions that are not included in the PMBOK®.
Now, the question I would like to share with you is:
Jim is engaging stakeholders in the refurbishment of a villa in Miami. He realized that managing the needs and expectations of this project is key to achieve success. When should Jim be most active for that?
A. Initiating and Planning.
B. Planning and Executing.
C. Executing and Controlling.
D. Controlling and Closing.
The ability of stakeholders to influence the final characteristics of the project's product, without significantly affecting cost and schedule, is highest at the start of the project and decreases as the project progresses toward completion. The cost of making changes and correcting errors typically increases substantially as the project approaches completion. Therefore, it should be addressed as soon as possible and the solution to this question is A. [PMBOK® 6th edition, Page 549] [Project Stakeholder Management].
As a final note, good luck on your exam!
OpenPM Editors. Retrieved from https://www.openpm.org/
Project Management Institute Editors. Project Management Professional (PMP)®. Retrieved from https://www.pmi.org/certifications/types/project-management-PMP®
Chung, E. How Much Time, Effort and Money is Required for the PMP® Credential? Retreived from https://edward-designer.com/web/PMP®-certification-study-inputs/
And, many lessons learned from students who studied, prepared for and passed the PMP® exam.
Jaime Alonso Candau is the founder of OpenPM.org, which is one of the largest free PMP® Preparation Resources online, where visitors have access to PMP® Exam Simulators (organized by knowledge areas), Study Notes and Formula Lists. Jaime contributed with more than 600 PMP® Exam Questions, all of which are available for free at OpenPM.org.