PMP: My Certification Experience

My PMP Certification Experience

Project management demands are growing. A majority of project manager positions are looking for candidates who are PMP certified. This trend is going strong, especially in the construction and real estate management industry I am part of.

Project Management Professional (PMP) is offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI) to provide a globally recognized credential for project managers. The certification validates a professional’s experience and education in project management. Having your PMP certification demonstrates that you understand project management processes and methodologies required to run a successful project. PMP is a great option if you are looking to solidify your knowledge, build a stronger resume, and expand your marketability. The PMP credential may even help your company win businesses if you work as a consultant.

Having recently acquired my PMP credential, I found it to be a great learning experience. I have gained an in-depth understanding of project management processes along with specific tools & techniques to assist me in future project management activities.

The time it takes to prepare for the PMP certification depends on the candidate’s experience and prior knowledge. I spent approximately 250 to 300 hours, amounting to roughly 10 weeks of studying with a full-time job. This boils down to 2.5 hours on a typical weekday and 16 hours on weekends.

I am a firm believer in “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” – Gary Player


Although I started preparing for prequalification two years prior, it took me an entire week to finalize the application. Note that you must have your PMP application approved before scheduling the PMP exam. Many individuals will start studying while submitting their PMP application. I took the conservative approach by first putting in my application. I would like to believe that it had worked to my favour.

Prequalification: Submit a PMP Application

To become certified, candidates are required to first fulfill prerequisites stated by PMI.

A candidate must have either:

  1. A Post-Secondary Degree (High School Diploma, Associate’s Degree or the global equivalent)
  2. 7,500 hours leading and directing projects
  3. 35 hours of Project Management Education


  1. Four-Year Degree
  2. 4,500 hours leading and directing projects
  3. 35 hours of Project Management Education

Once candidates are deemed eligible by PMI, the next step is to successfully pass the PMP Exam. Note the prerequisite phase is free of charge. Once the PMP application is approved, the candidate will be required to pay a fee to write the exam. For more information, click here for PMI’s official website. The PMP Application process is a big undertaking in itself. I will be writing a separate post on this topic.

The PMP exam

The PMP exam is a 4-hour closed book exam with 200 multiple choice questions. Out of these, only 175 questions are counted towards the final score. The 25 questions are used as pilot questions to improve the exam standard. Candidates will not know which questions are pilot and which are not so it is advised that all questions be answered with the same level of attention and scrutiny. 

According to the PMP Examination Content Outline published in June 2015, the PMP exam tests the applicants on activities/tasks out of five performance domains:

  1. Initiating the project (13%)
  2. Planning the project (24%)
  3. Executing the project (31%)
  4. Monitoring and controlling the project (25%)
  5. Closing the project (7%)

These five performance domains are covered in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). The PMBOK is used as the base studying guide for the PMP exam. It provides guidelines for managing individual projects and defines project management related concept. PMBOK sixth edition was released in 2017 and will continue to be updated to keep up with the industry. PMP candidates are advised to read the PMP Handbook – Code of Ethics & Professional Conduct and the PMP Examination Content Outline.

I suggest to study several other guides, attend classes, join a study group, and write simulation exams as part of your preparation to increase your chances of success. There are numerous resources online to help with preparation.


The bulk of the content is covered in PMBOK, which I found to be a difficult read. I passed my PMP exam above target by reading the PMBOK with a supplementary study guide, taking a preparation course, and bench marking my comprehension through multiple exam simulations.

PMP Exam Preparation CourseSmartPM Self-Paced Videos -$699 USD

Writing the PMP Exam was part of my 2018 goals but I did not anticipate to have obtained it as early as March. I met Stan Harwood, the founder of SmartPM towards the end of 2017. He encouraged me to take the PMP exam prior to the PMBOK curriculum change on March 26, 2018. I had the necessary project management experience hours and 2.5 months of studying time. I was well positioned for the exam.

SmartPM offers different preparation options, ranging from Online Live Tutorials to Classroom to Self-Paced Videos. I took the Self-Paced Video option, which was the least expensive out of the three. The program offered the flexibility I needed while working full-time. The self-paced video program consists of a series of 30-minute to 90-minute video, assigned pre-readings, and tests throughout the course. I found the SmartPM methodology to be quite effective. Stan made himself available to answer any questions. 

PMP: Project Management Professional Exam Study Guide, Kim Heldman – $50 CAD

The Heldman study guide was part of the mandatory textbooks for the SmartPM Course. This book was the only other book I used to study for the PMP exam to supplement the PMBOK. The book was easy to follow along. Kim applies each chapter to a real-world scenario which helped keep things interesting and relevant. Each chapter ends with a chapter summary and 20-questions to help evaluate my level of comprehension.

4-Pack Exam Simulation Package from PMStudy * – $60 USD

The 4-Pack Exam Simulation is again recommended by SmartPM. The cost is not part of the preparation course but I found it to be extremely helpful in gaining an understanding of which areas to target during the final crunch. Each exam should be taken in a 4-hour span, similar to what is expected in the final PMP exam. My first 4-hour exam simulation was not great. By the end of it, I was physically and mentally exhausted. My experience improved as I proceeded to subsequent exams and by the fourth exam simulation, I was prepared. *Note that you have 60 days to use the simulation from the date of ordering so time your purchase accordingly.


As expensive and time consuming as it may be to acquire the PMP certification, I see it as a worthwhile investment. Are you interested in pursuing your PMP certification? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear about it.


Related Posts

PMP: My Certification Experience

PMP: Completing the PMP Application

PMP: 6 Tips on Studying for the PMP Exam

PMP: 8 Tips on Taking the PMP Exam

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