Preparing for the PMP Exam: Some hints and tips

If you are planning to take either the CAPM or the PMP exam, you may be wondering what is the best way to prepare for your upcoming exam? I have put together a few ideas and hints that might help you if you are currently preparing for the PMP exam.

The first thing that I would say for either exam is understand your motivation for wanting to have the certification. Is it mandatory from your employer? Is it to improve your marketability on the job market? Knowing and being honest with why you want to do the exam, can also help identify if you are already on the path to success or failure. I have seen very good Project Managers fail the exam because they did not effectively commit to the exam and everything that it entails to prepare for it.

  1. Understand the requirements
    1. Are you even able to take the exam? Firstly, you need to submit an application to the PMI which will show your eligibility for a certification. This form needs to be taken seriously and please note that you may be called in for audit /further questions if needed.
  2. Planning!
    1. I think this is critical for success in the exam. You need to plan how you are going to prepare for the exam, what modules need to be covered, where your weaknesses are and what is important for you. Try to not go on online ‘testimony’ which indicates radical things like: “The exam is 20% on each module and heavily focused on calculations”.
    2. How much time does it take?
      1. This is a really personal question. I’ve seen some Project Managers prepare intensively within 4-6 weeks and others that have taken 4-6 months to prepare. You need to know what your other commitments are and what is realistic for you based on your current level of knowledge.
  3. PMBOK and other preparation books
    1. The Project Management Body of Knowledge (affectionately called the PMBOK) is your basis of knowledge for the exam BUT it is really important to also know “real life” examples and scenarios as this is often used during the exam.
    2. Some other preparation books/ medias that I have used/recommend are:
      1. Rita Mulcahy: PMP Exam Prep. There is not just the book available but also flash cards/ Audio books etc. I found this to be a great resource and really utilised the flash cards when I was travelling as a quick way of preparing on the train/flight.
      2. Flash cards: As I mentioned above, utilise different ways to prepare/train as it’ll help you when you are trying to go through the intensive content. There’s a lot of different websites available offering different types of apps/paper options that might help you.
      3. Podcast/audio book: Whilst preparing for the PMP exam, I was travelling for roughly 30 hours a week and instead of listening to the radio, I would put on a podcast/audio book
  4. Do your research!
    1. This is really important for my own planning. I needed to know what I knew from the PMBOK, to what level and what areas I struggled with. I also utilised colleagues and online resources to understand:
      1. How the exam works (is it paper based? or computer? How long does it take?)
      2. What to expect in the exam room (Am I alone? Am I surrounded by people in a booth?)
      3. What I’d need during the exam (What form of ID is accepted? Do I even need ID? Can I bring in a coffee? Am I allowed to leave to use the bathroom? What happens when I finish early? What if I run out of time?)
      4. What would be important to ensure my success (Is there anything around the testing centre to be aware of e.g. bad parking, a lot of noise etc).
  5. Formal preparation training:
    1. Some training providers have “preparation bootcamps” where you can participate in an intensive preparation courses that can help reduce down the total time you need to prepare. This will be a personal decision to know if it works for you or not
    2. When looking at formal preparation training consider which format would work for you (online vs. physical) and make sure that you find a reputable provider to conduct the training with.
  6. Training:
    1. There are some great training providers out there that will not give you the required training hours but also valuable insights into the exam and what is likely to be covered. This can be really valuable as they may also offer access to online mock exams/ access to coaches who can help you with your planning.
    2. I’d recommend being very critical with your training providers and choosing a reputable provider. This can be done through word of mouth/advice from colleagues or alternatively you can search on the PMI website using their list.
  7. Utilise your network!
    1. If you are a member of a PMI Chapter then you can really get a lot of value from utilising this network. They may also provide PMP preparation classes/or groups to meet up so that you can prepare together
    2. Also consider online networks like: projectmanagement.com where you can find input from people in the same position as you.
  8. Online tests/simulations:
    1. Look out for some of the online tests that you can do for free/for a fee that might give you access to simulation questions that you might face during the exam itself.
    2. Word of warning: Be careful as some sites may not be as reflective of the actual exam questions as others so do not rely on one specific site
    3. Also, note that whenever the exam changes, the question format and way of phrasing may also change so it’s important to know this if the test that you are doing has not been updated for the new exam yet

However you choose to prepare for the exam, I really wish you the best of luck!

If you’ve done your PMP or CAPM, what items would you include in this list to prepare effectively?

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