Top 7 Tips for PMP Exam Preparation

Tips to Prepare for the PMP Exam

Avantika Monnappa

Last updated July 27, 2017


Studying for any exam requires tremendous effort, time and diligence. And the PMP® exam is tougher than most, requiring extensive preparation over months, to pass. If you are among those who are already well established in your career, it may have been years since you last studied for an exam, and your study skills may be a little rusty.

[Related Read: Benefits of PMP® Certifications]

In addition, as one of the fastest growing certifications worldwide, the number of PMP® exam-takers is on the rise, which means more competition for you!

Worry not!

You can still master the entire PMP® syllabus. All it takes is effort, dedication, and the right guidance. And to help you with this, we've prepared a systematic approach to tackle the PMP® certification exam. Read on for more!


PMP® Exam: The 4 Tips for Success - 

Survey: Before beginning your session, survey the material that you have planned to cover. Review all the charts, graphs and headings in both A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) and your prep book. Gaining familiarity with the topics that you wish to cover will give you a better understanding of where to find certain topics in the book, for your initial study and for your revision. This method also makes it easy for you to arrange information in a systematic and sensible order in your mind.

Motivation: Find your motivation! Before beginning your day’s work, figure out what it is that you want to learn from the given material. If your preparation material has certain study goals or recap questions, then read them first so you know where you are headed and what you need to accomplish by the end of the day.

Research: Before you begin your day’s learning, make a list of questions that you want answered and learn. Doing this will transform you from a passive reader to an active researcher, which may be very helpful when you study the PMBOK® Guide.

Disengage: Cognitive Psychology states that a person tends to remember the first and last elements of a study session best. Use this fact to your advantage. Break up your study sessions into smaller 'chunks'. For example, if your study session is planned for 3 hours, break it down into six 30 minute sessions, scheduling short breaks in between. Disengaging from studies makes it easier to recall what you previously studied.

PMP® Exam Tips - Conquering the PMBOK

The PMP® exam is largely based on the PMBOK® Guide. Use this to your advantage and make the Guide your roadmap of your studies.

Make a plan to study one Knowledge Area of the PMBOK® Guide every week. Begin with the Guide itself and then move on to other study material. This will help you improve your understanding of the topic since other study guides will often rehash the content and present the same topic from a different angle.

Further, break down the Knowledge Areas of the PMBOK® so you study one process a day. Doing this will help you prepare a clear plan of what you need to study daily and weekly.

It is not enough to just memorize everything. Put in the effort to understand concepts well, and study them with focus and concentration. This is critical, since the PMP® exam questions will test how well you can apply these concepts, principles and ideas. Many questions are situational descriptions of a problem. These situations contain enough information to arrive at the best answer, but they also include irrelevant information to deliberately throw you off course.

If the PMBOK® is not studied well, you will not be able to identify the concepts that are illustrated in the questions that are going to be asked. It will become difficult to determine what is being asked and what your answer needs to be.

After you finish a first read of the PMBOK® , take a break before rereading it twice, or even thrice. You will begin to understand it better with each revision. By the third read, it will become easier to read as the concepts are already registered in mind, while the ones you found hard will become easily understandable.

Study Materials to Use

1. Refer to the Latest Version of the PMBOK® Guide

Use the latest version of the PMBOK® guide that is released by PMI® (current version 5) to understand all the knowledge areas, processes, concepts and formulas of the PMP® .

You also need to stay current with the project management concepts and changes in the latest version of PMBOK® guide (version 5) over its previous version (PMBOK® guide version 4) to be in good shape for the exam. Appendix X1 in the PMBOK® guide, V5, has a detailed list of changes made to the PMBOK® guide V4. Some of these changes include an increase in the number of knowledge areas from 9 to 10 (including the addition of a new Knowledge Area called Project Stakeholder Management) and an increase in the number of processes from 42 to 47.


2. Refer to a Good PMP® Prep Book

A good PMP® textbook is a must. Top authors for PMP® aspirants are Rita Mulcahy and Andy Crowe. The PMP® certification is loaded with difficult question and answers (Here is the list of Q & As), which test your knowledge and your ability to apply your learning in difficult real-life scenarios. Studying for the exam could take up a significant amount of your time and requires a great deal of commitment .Therefore, it is important for you to know what to study and how to study for the exam. This is where good preparation material enters the picture.

For instance, one of the challenges that you face while studying for the exam is dealing with the inputs, tools and techniques and outputs (ITTOs) of each process. Many study materials recommend that PMP® aspirants work on the basics (such as why a process is used, what is the process all about and when is the process used) before preparing on the ITTOs . By working on the basics first, you will be able to see the connectivity between the processes and understand the processes better. You need not memorize the ITTOs .This reduces the time required to prepare for these topics.

3. PMP® Exam Prep Workshops

The PMP® Exam Prep workshops are a good choice if you prefer the classroom setting or need more one-on-one interactions. Apart from the PMI® membership, these are also a great way to network with the aspiring PMPs in your area.  Another benefit of these workshops is that they usually satisfy the 35 contact hours required to apply to take the PMP® exam.

4. Online PMP® Exam Prep Workshops

Several PMP® exam preparation courses are also available online. These online training courses tend to be less expensive than the in-person workshops. Choose the option that best suits your study style. Do lots of comparisons and read testimonials, before you commit to one.

5. Online PMP® Exam Simulators

PMP® simulators are practice PMP® exams hosted online. They test the applicant with questions at the same standard as the actual PMP® exam. They also aim to replicate the exam environment so you get used to and comfortable with the timing and the pressure. They are a great way to gauge your level of preparation.

6. Flash Cards

Paper or electronic, flash cards are cost effective, portable and a tried and tested way of studying for the PMP® exam. These downloadable flash-cards can be flipped through on the computers or smartphones, or they can be printed. Creating flash cards on your own can be immensely helpful during your preparation.

7. Participate in Study Groups and Discussion Forums

Study groups and discussion forums can help greatly as you prepare for your PMP® exam. As an active participant of study groups and discussion forums, you can help others pass the exam, get your own concerns and queries clarified, know more about several useful resources and thus, significantly reduce the time required to prepare well for the exam.

What to expect from the Questions asked

Once you are done studying the PMBOK® Guide, your next worry and most important activity will be the practice questions. The 200 multiple choice question paper will include question types like complex situation questions, short situational questions, formula based questions, knowledge based questions and interpretive questions. The practice test will help you understand how to approach each question. Knowing how to get the most out of each question is very crucial.

Situational questions:  are those that will test your ability in identifying the relevant content and ignoring the irrelevant. These tend to be lengthy questions so it is important to read the questions a couple of times, accurately identifying the actual question, leaving out the insignificant information, and then moving on to answering.

Formula based questions:  are not only about solving the median or calculating the earned value. There are a total of close to 49 PMP® formulas that you will have to know, ranging from the simple averages to the probability and depreciations. The formulas along with the calculation needs to be right in order to attain the required marks.

Knowledge based questions: are those which test you on the facts, usually on the PMBOK® Guide. They occasionally question on where processes belong in the Knowledge Area, or on which processes the Inputs, techniques and tools or the outputs, will go. At times you may be asked to identify a graph or an example chart, like recognizing the Pareto chart or the RACI.

Interpretational questions: are those that test your ability to deduce a condition or a situation.

Specific Technique questions: are those that contain tools or techniques like a network diagram and ask you to provide an element that's inherent in that diagram such as forward pass or backward pass.

How will you know that you are ready?

The PMI® does not tell you how many questions you must answer to pass the exam. People assume it to be 62%. 

To know whether you are ready or not, try to apply the 85% rule.

While doing your sample questions, continue to work hard until you can answer at least 85% of the questions correctly.  If you can do this at your first attempt itself, then you can probably consider yourself ready for the real exam.

However, do not stop revising until the final day!

[Preparing for PMP®? Take this test to know where you stand!]


It is not impossible to pass the PMP® exam. Just a little effort will get you across the finish line. Use the tried and tested practices that got your through your school and college as well. Carry your study materials wherever you go, so you can open them up at any opportunity. Join a PMP® exam study group, where you can push and be pushed to study harder. Focus on the trouble spots and spend time on them. Revise at least 5 to 6 times.

Remember: Once you have passed, the PMP® credential will not last a lifetime. You will have to keep renewing it.

Get a taste of our PMP® certification course. Here's 11 minutes of our Introduction To PMP® Certification Training video or simply download this Ebook (Click Here) to learn PMP® in 45 Days. 

Find our PMP® Certification Training Course at your nearby cities:

Bangalore  Chennai  Hyderabad  Pune  Mumbai  Delhi  Abu Dhabi  Manila  Riyadh  Dubai
Singapore  Kuala Lumpur  Jeddah  Jakarta  Noida

PMP, PMI and PMBOK are registered trademarks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

About the Author

A project management and digital marketing knowledge manager, Avantika’s area of interest is project design and analysis for digital marketing, data science, and analytics companies. With a degree in journalism, she also covers the latest trends in the industry, and is a passionate writer.


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