Top 7 Tips for PMP Exam Preparation

We all know that studying for an exam requires tremendous effort, time and diligence. The Project Management Professional (PMP®) exam is tougher than most, requiring extensive preparation over the course of many months to pass. In other words, your PMP exam prep is critical! There is a lot of material to absorb in the area of Project Management, and you will need to be able to master the practical applications of that information. 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, so your study skills may be a little rusty. That’s where these top PMP exam tips come in.

Want to become competent in core project management areas? Check out our PMP® Certification Course Preview here.

A Few Suggestions to Get You Started for Pmp Exam Prep

As one of the fastest-growing certifications worldwide (there are now more than 762,000 holders), the number of PMP exam takers is on the rise, which means more competition for you! But don’t worry—you can still master the entire PMP syllabus with the right combination of effort, dedication, and guidance. To help you with this, we offer a systematic approach to tackling the PMP certification exam.

Survey: Before beginning your study session, survey the material that you plan 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 brushing up. Starting with this kind of survey also makes it easy for you to arrange information in a systematic and sensible order in your mind.

PMP Sample Question

Motivation: Find your motivation! Before beginning your day’s work, figure out what you want to learn from the given material. If your preparation material has certain study goals or recap questions, 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 to be answered. This will transform you from a passive reader into an active researcher, which may be very helpful when you study the PMBOK® Guide.

Disengage: According to cognitive psychology research, a person tends to remember the first and last elements of a study session best. Use this tendency to your advantage and break up your study sessions into smaller chunks. For example, if your overall study session is going to be three hours, break it down into six 30-minute sessions, with short breaks in between. Disengaging from studies will make it easier to recall what you’ve previously studied.

Top PMP Exam Tips

  1. Conquer the PMBOK® Guide

    The PMP exam is based largely on the PMBOK® Guide. Use this to your advantage and make the guide the roadmap for your studies. 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 each topic, as other study guides often rehash the content and present the same topic from a different angle.

    PMP Sample Question

    Going further, break down the knowledge areas of the PMBOK® Guide and study one process each day. Doing this will help you prepare a clear plan for daily and weekly study milestones.

    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, as the PMP® exam questions will test how well you can apply these concepts, principles, and ideas. Many questions are situational descriptions of a problem. They contain enough information for you to arrive at the best answer, but they also include irrelevant information to deliberately throw you off course.

    After you finish a section of the PMBOK® Guide, take a break before rereading it. You will understand it better with each read. By the third time, the information will become easier to absorb, as the concepts will already be registered in your mind. Be sure to use the latest version of the PMBOK® Guide that is released by PMI® (current version is 5) to understand all the knowledge areas, processes, concepts and formulas involved in being a PMP.

    You will also need to stay current with project management concepts and changes that have been made since the previous version (PMBOK® Guide version 4). Appendix X1 in the PMBOK® Guide version 5 has a detailed list of changes made from the PMBOK® Guide version 4. Some of these changes include an increase in the number of knowledge areas from nine to 10 (including the addition of a knowledge area called Project Stakeholder Management) and an increase in the number of processes from 42 to 47

    PMP Sample Question

  2. Use 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 exam is loaded with difficult questions and answers (here is the list of PMP sample questions and answers) that 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 will require a great deal of commitment. Good preparation material will help you know what and ease your PMP exam prep.

    For instance, one of the challenges that you will face is dealing with the inputs, tools, 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 the process is all about and when the process is used) before delving into the ITTOs. By working on the basics first, you will be able to see the connections between the processes and understand them better. You need not memorize the ITTOs, which will reduce the time required to prepare for questions on these topics.

    PMP Sample Question

  3. Try PMP Exam Prep Workshops

    PMP exam prep workshops are a good choice if you prefer a classroom setting or need more one-on-one interaction. In addition to networking through a PMI® membership, these are a great way to meet other aspiring project management professionals in your area. Another benefit of these workshops is that they usually fulfill the 35-contact-hours requirement that’s a prerequisite for applying to take the PMP exam.

    PMP Sample Question

  4. Try Online PMP Exam Prep Workshops

    Several PMP exam prep courses are also available online. These online training courses tend to be less expensive than in-person workshops. Choose the option that best suits your study style. Do plenty ofF comparison shopping and read testimonials before you commit to one.

    PMP Sample Question

  5. Take Advantage of Online PMP Exam Simulators

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

    Get a taste of our PMP® certification course. Here are 40 minutes of our Project Management Exam Tips and Tricks!

  6. Remember Flash Cards

    Paper or electronic flashcards are a cost-effective, portable and tried-and-true way of studying for the PMP exam. Downloadable flashcards can be flipped through on a computer or smartphone, or they can be printed. Creating flashcards on your own also can be immensely helpful during your preparation.

  7. Participate in Study Groups and Discussion Forums

    Study groups and discussion forums can greatly help you prepare for your PMP® exam. As an active participant in study groups and discussion forums, you can help others pass the exam, get your own concerns addressed and queries answered, learn more about several useful resources and significantly reduce the time required to prepare for the exam.

PMP Sample Question

What to Expect from the Questions Asked

Once you are done studying the PMBOK® Guide, your next most important activity will be diving into the practice questions. The exam will include 200 multiple-choice questions, including complex situation questions, short situational questions, formula-based questions, knowledge-based questions, and interpretive questions. The PMP practice test will help you understand how to correctly answer each question.

The situational questions will test your ability to identify the relevant content and ignore the irrelevant. These tend to be lengthy, so it is important to read each question a couple of times so you can accurately identify the relevant information and leave out the insignificant information before answering.

PMP Sample Question

The formula-based questions are about more than calculating a median or an earned value. There are about 50 PMP formulas that you will have to know, ranging from simple averages to probabilities and depreciations. Your formulas and calculations will need to be right for you to attain the required marks.

The knowledge-based questions will test you on the facts—usually, those found in the PMBOK® Guide. Occasionally you might be asked where processes belong in the knowledge area, or in which processes the inputs, techniques, tools or outputs belong. At times you may be asked to identify a graph or chart, such as a Pareto chart or a RACI chart (also known as a responsibility assignment matrix).

The interpretational questions will test your ability to analyze a condition or a situation.

You will also be required to answer specific technique questions. For example, you will be asked to look at a network diagram and identify an element of it, such as a forward pass or backward pass.

PMP Sample Question

Related Read: Scope of PMP Certifications

How Will You Know That You Are Ready?

The PMI® does not specify how many questions must be answered correctly for someone to pass the exam. People assume that a passing score is 62 percent. To know whether you are ready or not, it is prudent to apply the 85 percent rule.

Continue to work on sample questions until you can answer at least 85 percent of them correctly. When you can do this, you can consider yourself ready to take the exam.

For best results, do not stop studying until the final day!

PMP Sample Question

You Are a Project Management Star in the Making

Passing the PMP exam isn’t easy, but with the right effort, study guides and motivation, you can achieve success. Use the tried-and-true best practices that got you through high 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 so you can be pushed to study harder. Focus on your trouble spots, spend time on them and be sure to revise your study plan at least five or six times.

After you pass your certification exam, you’re going to want to prepare for your interviews as well. While all job interviews are different, for those with their PMP certification, there are some key questions that will most likely be asked during your interview. We’ve prepared a list of common areas of PMP interview questions to help you ace it and obtain the Project Management job of your dreams! 

Note: Once you have passed the exam and attained your PMP® credential, the credential will need to be renewed periodically. See all the PMP certification maintenance requirements here.

PMP Sample Question

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

About the Author

Avantika MonnappaAvantika Monnappa

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.

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  • PMP, PMI, PMBOK, CAPM, PgMP, PfMP, ACP, PBA, RMP, SP, and OPM3 are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.