The Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification exam is not easy. Aspiring PMPs will undergo rigorous preparation over the course of several months. I am a firm believer in having a systematic approach. Having recently passed my PMP exam, I am here to share 6 personal tips.
#1: Book the PMP Exam Date Well in Advance
Time is of the essence when studying for the PMP exam. If you are into time management and productivity, you must have heard of the Parkinson’s Law. Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. We naturally pace ourselves to finish a task against a set deadline.
Setting your PMP Exam date well in advance forces you to effectively pace yourself. While some students will require more time to prepare than others, we often inflate the amount of time we require in our minds. Fix your exam date and work your way backwards.
#2 The PMBOK Structure
The PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition is organized into three parts.
- A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)
- The Standard for Project Management
- Appendices, Glossary, and Index
PMBOK Sixth Edition covers a total of 49 processes – the core concepts of PMP. These processes are mapped onto a matrix of 10 Knowledge Areas and 5 Process Groups. Knowledge Areas group together professional fields a project manager has to operate in such as scope, schedule, and cost. Process Groups help the project manager understand when to apply against the specific knowledge areas. The best practice is that you will be able to successfully manage a project by working through these 49 processes.
Expect to memorize the mapping by heart and understand the rationale behind it. Knowing all the processes, their sequence in execution and which process groups they fall into is a must for the exam. The 49 processes are explained in individual chapters of the PMBOK. See below for the Project Management Process Group and Knowledge Area Mapping.
#3 Reading the PMBOK
For each chapter in PMBOK, it is recommended that you first skim the chapter to gain a high level understanding of what the chapter contains then revisit the PMBOK in greater detail, placing emphasis on understanding the processes, their relationship with other processes, and all the related terms and concepts. It is helpful to read up corresponding material in a supplementary guidebook for further clarification.
Take notes and create a summary for every couple pages of reading. Jog down any questions during your study to ensure all questions are answered. Use the Project Management Process Group and Knowledge Area Mapping as a reference while studying. This will enforce and visualize the flow and integration of each Process Area.
#4 Get a Good Supplementary Guidebook
A good guidebook will help you a long way in knowing what and how to study for the exam. I have used the Project Management Professional Exam Study Guide, Kim Heldman – $50 CAD. Other top authors for PMP Exam Study Guides are Rita Mulcahy and Andy Crowe. What I find useful about guidebooks is that they often contain chapter tests to evaluate your comprehension during the studying process. Revisit the PMBOK chapter for any difficult subjects before moving on to the next chapter.
You should understand why a process is used, what is the process all about and when is the process used. This will help you see how the processes flow from one knowledge area to another and visualize how this process takes place on a real life project. Relating PMBOK concepts and processes to real-life examples that you have faced in your career increases comprehension. The more you focus on why the processes are placed on the chart, the easier it will be to recreate it during the exam. All the concepts, Knowledge Areas, and Process Groups are interrelated to one another.
#5 Emphasize on Tools & Techniques
Each process has inputs (prerequisites), tools & techniques (to act out the process), and outputs (result of conducting the process). You do not need to memorize all the inputs, tools & Techniques, and outputs. However, do give extra attention to the tools and techniques, especially tools which are used in multiple processes. Here is an example of a process below (4.1 Develop Project Charter, excerpted from the PMBOK Six Edition).
#6 Review Test Results
Taking chapter tests from the guidebooks and exam simulations will help you gauge your level of comprehension. Be sure to review all test results. Concentrate your effort on questions where you have answered incorrectly and revisit these concepts.
I suggest purchasing the 4-Pack Exam Simulation Package from PMStudy – $60 USD. The exam simulations result show percentage scores in the various Knowledge Areas. This helped me concentrate my time targeting lower scored Knowledge Areas to close the gap in my understanding.
According to the PMP Handbook, there are no universal passing score. The passing score is determined by psychometric analysis. Each exam is scored differently based on the difficulty of the specific exam. Exams with less difficulty will require a higher passing score as opposed to a higher difficulty exam. Questions also do not carry the same weight. Most exam simulations will encourage a score of over 85%.
There you have it. 6 Tips on studying for the PMP Exam.