By Vinai Prakash
“Help me – I’m very keen to get the PMP credential. But I am scared of the PMP exam!… Help me with some PMP Exam Preparation Tips, Advice and Resources to Get Started Please!”
It’s a question that’s been asked a few times in our forums over the last few months so as an active Project Manager, with the PMP Certification, I thought it was time to share a few tips on the topic of PMP Examination Preparation, and some Resources.
1. Check your PMP Exam Eligibility
Many people have years of experience, but they think they are not eligible for the PMP Exam, because their title/designation is not Project Manager. It is perfectly OK if you are not a Project Manager. Your title could be Project Engineer, Team Lead, Project Lead, PMO, Project Supervisor etc. What you should make sure is that you have experience in planning, executing tasks, monitoring and controlling. You should have some people responsibilities too. For a more detailed and in-depth eligibility requirements, check out PMP Eligibility Criteria & Tips about PMP Eligibility
2. Get the Required 35 Hours of Project Management Training
One of the Requirements for the PMP Exam is 35 hours (35 PDU) of formal Project Management Training. Formal training provides you with a holistic view of project management. Not everyone has experience in Risk Management, Quality Management, or Procurement. With a formal training, you can pick up areas where you lack actual experience, and learn the proper project management methodology.
You can attend a PMP Boot Camp in your city (check PMP Resources Directory for each country), or attend the 35 Hour PMP Training online, from anywhere. PMChamp also offers an online PMP Exam Preparation Coaching Program (see Sidebar for more information – Online Classes start each week.)
3. Fill Your PMP Exam Application
Finding out all about the PMP exam is not enough. If you are committed to attain your PMP certification, you need to take action. And demonstrate this by filling up your PMP Exam application form. You should go to PMI website, create a free login account for yourself, and get started with your PMP Exam application form. It is not difficult, and in a couple hours, you can have all the required information, experience, education etc. keyed into the PMP application.
If you are in doubt whether PMP is right for you, or should you get the CAPM certification, you can check if PMP or CAPM is Right For You.
Once you have done the necessary application form filling, PMI will usually approve it within 7 days. Once you application is approved, you have 1 full year to take the PMP Exam. Exam slots can be booked through Prometric website.
4. In PMP Examination, Preparation is the Key
The PMP Exam is unlike any other exam you would have taken during your academic study period. First of all, you have to sit for 4 hours, and it is all 200 multiple choice questions. The questions are quite lengthy in nature, and most choices are pretty confusing. This is what adds to the difficulty and the “dread factor” for the PMP exam.
You can’t have a casual approach for this exam. You need to prepare. Most people would study for 6-8 weeks, and then take 1-2 weeks leave just before the exam to study full time. Check out PMChamp Coaching Videos on Youtube.
5. Create a Study Corner
As working adults, and sometimes being parents, we may hardly find time at work, or at home to study. Worse, many people do not have a quiet area at home where they can study for a couple hours, uninterrupted.
It is extremely important that you tell your loved ones that you need to study for this important exam, and that you are not to be disturbed during this time. Then make an area where you can keep your study notes, books, Mind maps, Process Charts, etc. displayed for easy access.
This will save enormous time looking for things, or carrying bulky books and material from one place to another.
6. Setup a Daily Study Routine
Perseverance, Patience, and a Regular, Daily Routine will work wonders for you. It will give you the necessary structure, and daily studies will help you in remembering things, formulas, processes, ITTOs (Inputs, Tools and Techniques, Outputs) for each of the 42 processes.
It may be difficult in the beginning, but with determination, you will begin to enjoy your daily study routine. Your loved ones will also get used to this “study time”, and won’t bother you. Read this article I wrote earlier for more tips on creating a Study Plan for the PMP Exam.
7. Try your hand at as many PMP Exam Questions
You can read as many books on Project management, but nothing will prepare you more for the exam than doing mock PMP questions. The more the merrier. You must try your hand at as many questions as you can get. That’s because the actual PMP exam questions are pretty tricky, and it is important to get used to the pattern, and some common errors that can happen in the exam. Most of the time, people miss out simple things, that can change the meaning of the entire question. Read more about such qualifiers that change the meaning of PMP questions.
I have previously written about PMP Exam Questions Tips (Video), Calculating Float in PMP Questions, Answering Hard Questions with Soft Answers etc. You can also test your PMP Exam Preparation from the PMP mock questions here.
Some good PMP Exam Question Resources are
- 1800 Tough PMP Exam Questions
- Oliver Lehmann’s 175 Tough PMP Questions & 75 PMP Questions
8. Join a PMP Forum
There are dozens of PMP forums online. Some are very popular, and have a large community of thousands of members, and hundreds of lessons learnt. It is good to see what people are facing, and you will often be surprised to see that you are able to help other fellow PMP aspirants.If you have some doubts, you can post them online, and go to bed. By the time you wake up, you will find a few people have replied to your questions. This is a good way to get community support, and find some good samaritans, who are ready to help you with your doubts and PMP questions.
Some good PMP Forums are:
- Head First PMP Forum
- PMChamp PMP Forum
9. Form a Study Group
It can get quite boring to study alone night after night. It will be good if you can form a study group, where you can share your study notes, look at each other’s Mind Maps. It is best to liaise with your local PMI chapter to find out if there are existing study groups, or find one online. One of the greatest benefit of a study group is that when you share your notes, and discuss the different knowledge areas, you tend to gain from the insights gained by others, and it is much faster than reading on your own. Plus you get to network, and find some new friends, who are in the same boat.
10. Create a Process Map
There are a total of 42 processes in the 9 Knowledge Areas and 5 Process Groups. Going through them initially can be quite overwhelming. Once you understand how the processes fit with each other, how the output of one process become the inputs of another process, it all seems to make sense, and you are now able to understand them easily. This is something that I focus on heavily in my PMChamp Online PMP Coaching Workshop, because once the process flow is understood, you can easily answer 20-30 questions in the PMP exam, which can be answered readily based on this process map.
11. Get the PMBOK Guide & READ it
Don’t just get the PMBOK Guide. Read it also. You can now download a Soft copy from the PMI website (only for Members). Truth be told… this is quite a heavy reading. Without much pictures, this book can make you fall asleep, within a couple of pages… However, it is essential that you read it in small chunks, maybe one process at a time. Each sentence is loaded, and can be twisted into a PMP exam question. So read carefully, take ample notes, and prepare mind maps to better understand each process.
12. Study other Project Management Books too
There are many good PMP Exam Preparation books. Don’t just rely on the PMBOK guide. There are many topics that the PMBOK guide does not even refer to.
Some of the best PMP books are:
- PMP Exam Prep by Rita (You can read my review of this book here) – Now in its Seventh edition, it is written by Rita Mulchahy, a pioneer in PMP Education. Contains over 400 questions in this thick tome!
- Head First PMP by Andrew Stellman & Jennifer Greene – A very right brain approach, to easily understand stuff. Worth reading, and very good for complex topics. See my review here.
- PMP Exam Study Guide by Kim Heldman – A very comprehnive review guide, with lots of questions and detailed answers.
13. Take a complete 4 hour Mock PMP Test
This will be a good test to see if you can sit in one place for 4 hours, and do a complete 200 question test without losing your sanity. You should check your score. Most such tests provide you with a detailed analysis of your marks – by domain, and by knowledge area. Once you begin to score 80-85% in such mock tests, you can consider yourself ready to take the final PMP test.
Some good 4 hour mock tests are:
- Simpli Learn: 200 Questions Free PMP Test timed to 4 hours. Additional Paid Tests also available.
- Head First PMP Exam: 200 practice questions.
- PM Study: Free 200 practice questions PMP Simulation.
- PM Perfect: 200 Question PMP Test
14. Don’t Panic.
Many aspiring PMP candidates panic, and get too worried about the PMP exam. Don’t. It is just another exam, that you can pass, with preparation. Treat it like a project too. Plan for it, Do the required study, monitor your progress, and take action based on your results in the mock exams.
15. Help! The PMP exam has changed!
The PMP exam changed slightly since 31-August-2011. I wrote about it last year. Here is the post about the PMP exam change. Now, the Professional and Social Responsibility area is not assessed seperately. Such questions are not mixed with other domains. Other than that, there is not a major change, and the same study books, the same material, the same PMBOK Guide (4th edition) still applies. Continue to study as usual.
Well, I started with giving you 13 Tips & Resources, but ended up giving you 15. So enjoy these 2 bonus tips too. Isn’t getting more than what you thought feel good? Well, I like to give more, and help out project managers who are embarking on their journey to be a certified Project Manager.
Hope these tips and resources will help you get started on your journey to become a PMP certified Project Manager. If you come across any other useful resources, or tips, do share them with me.
All the Best!
Vinai Prakash, PMP