So, you want to pass your PMP exam? Here are my top tips to ace your Project Management Professional certification exam.
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Preparation to Pass Your PMP Exam
Read the PMP Handbook and the Examination Content Outline (ECO)
Don’t rush your preparation: you have a year. Set up your study space to suit you.
And equip yourself with the materials you need.
Use a spreadsheet to collect and document evidence of all your project work. And ask your boss to review the project hours you are claiming. Check with anyone you plan to name as a referee for hours you are claiming.
Take time to get the application process right.
Support to Pass Your PMP Exam
Make sure close family members know what you are doing. Let them know what you need in terms of support.
The extra money you pay for a good learning provider is well worth it. Don’t go cheap on a poor provider.
Your Study Plan to Pass Your PMP Exam
Make yourself a study plan. And Treat your study plan like a project plan.
Your study is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t aim to cover all the ground too quickly. Set out a plan. Little and often. Create opportunities to study as often as possible – even if they are short reviews of a single small topic. This avoids burnout and builds a routine.
Commit to your study plan. But don’t be afraid to review it.
A regular pattern that you stick to, is likely to work best for most people. Include days off, so you don’t get jaded and stale.
Track your progress as you go. And don’t be afraid to revise your plan, if it is not working for you. Celebrate milestones in your progress.
If you can, schedule big chunks of time in the run-up to your exam, for studying. If you work, try to get either:
study time from your employer (best)
unpaid study leave. If you can’t get either, consider
Plan to complete your learning around 2 weeks before your exam, so you can spend that time practicing questions and checking the details.
Studying to Pass Your PMP Exam
There are lots of learning materials. Your PMP is a big investment, so don’t stint on these if you can possibly afford it. Having a good Exam Prep book can help you get a different perspective on ideas you don’t understand. Having two doubles this.
Start your preparation by reviewing the PMBOK Guide – but not by reading it cover to cover. Then review the formal learning materials you have chosen.
Be realistic about which study methods work best for you and if you don’t know, experiment until you find one that works. Active studying is best. Aim to understand the content – Rote learning is not appropriate for the PMP exam. Don’t just listen to courses or read books. Actively take notes – and review them at the end of a session and at the start of the next.
Split your studying up into themes and study a small number of topics each session – 1 to 3, say – or one Knowledge are or major topic.
Carry out regular reviews of what you learned at the end of each week, and also do a regular full review of where you are. There is some good content on YouTube if you are struggling to understand an idea.
Prepare diagrams, mind maps, and flow charts to illustrate what you are learning. Put charts of key information on the walls in your study space.
Consider taking a structured course. The Primary choice is between:
PMI Accredited Training Provider (ATP) The advantage is a level of guarantee over content and quality. If this is the way you want to go, we recommend Grey Campus
Independent training provider The advantage is that PMI materials used by all ATP are restrictive and not great as learning resources. If this is the way you want to go, we recommend PM PrepCast
The Focus of Your Learning to Pass Your PMP Exam
The PMBOK Guide is a good source. But it is not the only source of knowledge for this exam. Review the PMBOK glossary. You don’t need to memorize it, but you do need to recognize the terms.
Understand the differences between Agile and Traditional predictive methodologies, and also how the predictive PM process groups relate to the Scrum Sprint Cycle.
Study the soft skills – things like: conflict, skills gaps, team management, leadership styles – Leadership skills feature highly in the new exam.
Learn the Scrum methodology. Around half of the Agile questions are about scrum, so you need to study the Scrum Guide.
There will be some questions on Kanban and other Agile content. Things like: retrospectives, MVP, DoD, roles and responsibilities, relationships between team and PO
Learn your formulas – and understand the principles, so they seem obvious (as much as possible). But don’t worry, not many calculations will come up (maybe none). Study and understand Table 7-1 in the PMBOK Guide 6th Edition – especially the ‘Interpretation of Result’ column.
Practice calculations like: network diagrams and critical path calculations, and EVM calculations.
Additional Resources: Exam Simulators and Sample Questions to help you to Pass Your PMP Exam
These are hugely valuable and a worthwhile investment
Do as many sample questions as you can. Recommendations range from 3 full exams (540 to 2,000 questions). Practice – Practice – Practice.
Do at least one full-length mock exam. Ideally, three or more. Doing more than one also starts to build your endurance. And aim to finish full practice exams in the 230 minutes to get used to the pace and rhythm.
Too mock exams is over-kill. You will get diminishing returns. How many is too many depends on you, but notice when you are good enough to feel ready.
Review your answers afterwards and make notes. Look at the questions you get wrong for areas of weakness to focus your revision and practice on:
Types of questions
Over the course of the week or two before exam, do one or two full simulated exams
Scheduling Your PMP Exam
Book far enough ahead to get a slot that suits you. Choose a time slot when you tend to be at your peak alertness and energy levels
Book a day off work for your exam day. Better still, also book a day off for the day before your exam.
When you book your exam, give yourself enough study time but make sure you have a date to work towards. Don’t postpone booking your exam but don’t do it too early, either.
Your PMP Exam – Logistics
Check and double-check the date, time, and place of your exam. Visit the premises (if using a center) a week or so ahead of your exam.
Make yourself a checklist well in advance for your exam day. And, if you are traveling, plan to arrive between 30 and 60 minutes early
Get an early night the night before your exam. Then, get up early on the day so you have plenty of time for your morning rituals.
Your PMP Exam
Move quickly and steadily through the questions – but do not rush
Read the questions carefully. Read what they say, not what you expect them to say. The same for the answer options. Answer the question PMI asks not the one you expected them to ask. One word can change the meaning and if you miss it, you’ll get the wrong answer.
Don’t panic if you get stuck on a question. Choose the best response and move on. You can always go back to it if you have time and other questions may remind you of something important that will help you with it.
The first questions will be the hardest. Not because they are harder, but because you will be edgy. The first 5 aren’t scored and this is why they are there.
If you have time after a sequence of questions, go back and review them – especially calculations: look for silly errors.
If what you do at work and what the PMBOK Guide says conflict – always answer according to PMBOK. PMI’s exam: PMI’s Body of Knowledge. Simple.
I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own.
Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.