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  Home > Workshops > Get Your PMP!

Get Your PMP Certification!

 
"I really appreciate all the help you provided. It has greatly improved my project management abilities and changed some of my philosophies. I've already incorporated a lot of what I learned at work. Your support and teaching has gone well above and beyond what I expected and I wanted to thank you. You're making a huge difference." Dan

"Just wanted to drop you a quick note that I have passed the PMP certification exam! Thanks for all the help and advice. The exam was more difficult than I anticipated but in the end I did well. I would suggest everything that you suggested. Thanks once again for your help and advice--it wouldn't have been easy without your guidance." Ashish

"I passed the exam! Thank you very much for all the help you provided. Your teaching and suggestions were right on target. I am very glad I signed up for your class! Thank you very much!" Barb

"I would like to inform you that I have passed the PMP exam and I am a PMP now! Thank you very much for your help & support!" Mark

"I passed! I am now PMP certified! Thanks for your help!" David

 

You Can Do It!

How to get Your PMP certificationCongratulations on starting your journey toward gaining the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification!  Certainly there is work ahead for you to attain this certification, but I can assure you that you will look back at this day with satisfaction that you invested the time and resources to make it happen.

You can do this!  This page is designed to help you take the next steps.

Starting with a Strong Why

So, why do you want to get your certification?  I've found that a strong why--a compelling motivation--can help fuel you for the work that is necessary to get certified.  Even if you are a highly seasoned project manager, you will need to invest time that you probably don't have using materials you likely don't own, keeping you from things you'd rather be doing!

So, what's your Why?

Maybe it's because you want to set yourself apart from the rest of the pack?  Sure, there are hundreds of thousands PMP's worldwide, but there are far more project managers that aren't certified.  Why not show you're one of the best?

How to get Your PMP certificationMaybe it's because you want to show your current employer that you're passionate about developing into a more effective leader.  You're not satisfied with status quo--you want to be and do more.  This certification can send that message.

Maybe you want to prove to yourself that you can face a challenge like this and complete it.  It's very satisfying to set a goal like this and then deliver on it.  Many desire to do so.  Few do it.  Why not you?

Whatever your motivation, I suggest you treat this certification as a project.  Your Strong Why is like the Business Needs that drive the project.  You'll want to identify stakeholders that will be actively involved in helping you succeed. Consider us as one of those stakeholders! Brainstorm constraints, assumptions, and objectives.  Indeed, you are embarking on a project--one that you will look back at with pride for the rest of your career.

Steps to Prepare For Your PMP or CAPM Certification

Here are the major phases for your certification project:

  • Preparation (reviewing requirements, getting the necessary education hours, etc.)

  • Application (filling out the PMI application, submitting payment, and receiving approval.  My opinion: this is the most difficult part of the entire journey.  You have to document the required training and project hours in your application.  Read the handbook mentioned below, then force yourself to get started. Check out our offer to the right to help you organize your hours!)

  • Studying (using preparation materials to prepare for the examination. See below for recommended resources.)

  • Examination (actually taking the test)

  • Celebration! (You did it!)

I suggest you start with the Credential Handbook, which is available from PMI.  Click here to download it from their site. (NOTE: If you're considering the Certified Associate in Project Management CAPM certification, here's a link to the respective handbook). In that handbook you will get a detailed overview of the requirements, process, and examination. 

Let me know what questions you have after reviewing the handbook. In addition, you might find it helpful to review PMI's FAQ regarding certification.

Want to see what the application looks like? Click the link below to see the paper-based application for the certification you are interested in pursuing:

Free Resources

 

We have a simple spreadsheet to help you document your hours. Would you like a free copy? Also, I'll include a mindmap I give my PMP prep students. It provides an overview of the PMP certification process. Just fill out the information below and I'll send this to you via e-mail:

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I strongly recommend you use the online application process but reviewing the paper-based on can give you a sense of the information you'll need.

Recommended PMP Certification Resources

Here are some examination preparation materials that I recommend:

PMP Exam Prep, 8th Edition: Rita's Course in a Book for Passing the PMP Exam is one of the best prep books out there, and it's updated for the most recent PMBOK Guide.  You might just learn some things about project management while you go through it, but you will definitely get the insights you need to pass the exam.  You'll find many other resources offered by the author to help you pass the examination.  If you're serious about passing the exam and want to use a prep book to do so, use the link on the right and get this book today.  The lowest price I know of for this book is here.

A must-have reference comes from PMI: A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge: PMBOK(R) Guide. If you join PMI (I recommend you do), you can get a free electronic version of the PMBOK Guide. If you prefer paper, get it for a great price at Amazon.

The PMBOK Guide doesn't read like a novel!  It's also not sufficient by itself to help you pass.  I know a good project manager that only used this document, reading and re-reading it multiple times, which would be enough to put the best of us to sleep.  Unfortunately, he didn't pass the examination.  You need this guide for reference but you'll need other prep material to supplement it.

I'm one of the reviewers on the Head First PMP: A Brain-Friendly Guide to Passing the Project Management Professional Exam book. I like the learning style of the book--particularly for those who don't like traditional textbooks. The test questions aren't as difficult as Rita's book but the content will help in your preparation.

A final book I recommend is Kim Heldman's exam prep book. My favorite part of Kim's book is that she includes a supplement that can be downloaded. The download has chapter summary audio, which you can listen to during your commutes. It also has flash cards that can be run from a computer or your mobile device. Finally, it has a test engine that allows you take a host of practice tests using your computer. Our exam prep students have found this is a great supplement to other exam prep materials.

Getting good practice exam questions is really important in your preparation. The PMP Exam Simulator is my favorite. It's very reasonably priced and you can get the first three days for free without a commitment. I highly recommend it.

Going For Your CAPM?

If you're going for your CAPM instead of the PMP, my favorite prep book is Rita Mulcahy's CAPM Exam Prep. The lowest price I've been able to find for this is here. You'll also want to make sure you have a copy of the PMBOK Guide.

Getting Your Training Hours

Both the PMP and CAPM certifications require that you complete a certain number of hours of project management training prior to applying for the certification exam.

Exam

Requirement

CAPM

Secondary diploma & 1500 hours of professional project experience

or

Secondary diploma & 23 contact hours of formal project management training

PMP

Required work experience (see below) plus

35 contact hours of formal project management training

When it comes to getting the necessary training hours to qualify for taking the PMP or CAPM examination, we have two options:

  • In-house at your company. Call us about our Project Management Series of workshops (more information below). Combined, they provide 35 hours of practical, focused, PMI-based training for you and others who are preparing for certification.

  • E-learning. You can start using these two e-learning workshops below today to start preparing for your certification!

  • Essentials of Project Management. This popular PMI-based workshop is deliverd in-house in 1 or 2 days (7 or 14 contact hours). Or you can get 15 contact hours toward certification (or 15 PDU's) with our e-learning version of the workshop. Click here to learn more about our in-house class. Or click here to learn about our e-learning version that you can start using today!

  • Advanced Project Management. This advanced workshop is also available in-house in a 2-day (14 contact hour) format. The e-learning version provides a full 20 contact hours! This workshop addresses some of the more challenging aspects of the PMBOK Guide such as Procurement Management, Earned Value, Quality Management, and project selection methods while balancing critical skills such as negotiation, managing conflict, and stakeholder analysis. Learn more about getting 20 contact hours toward certification (or 20 PDU's) by clicking here.

  • PMP Exam Preparation. This session, delivered in-house in either one or two days (7 or 14 contact hours), prepares you for the challenge of taking and passing the certification exam.

Another great way to get your contact hours is Cornelius Fichtner's PM PrepCast. I've had many people tell me they found it to be an excellent resource to helping them pass the exam, which is why I'm an affiliate of their products.

How About Some Free Training?

I've also made a series of project management training videos available for free! You can get 1.5 free PDUs by clicking here!

Getting Started with Your Certification Process

In my opinion, the most difficult part of the entire process is right now:

Getting started.

How to get Your CAPM and PMP certificationGoing through your project and training history to document the necessary hours is flat out not fun.  When you're tempted to just forget it, recall your Strong Why.  Remind yourself that, in the perspective of a career, this is short term pain for long term gain! 

Start telling people that you are pursuing it.  Giving public notice will build extra motivation to follow-up on it.

Do I Have Enough Experience?

You likely are aware that an important part of the application process for the PMP is to document your work experience. In short, PMI wants to verify that you're not just a smart college graduate who is good at taking tests! They want to make sure you've actually been doing project management work, regardless of whether that was your title or not.

How much experience do you need to document? Well, it depends if you have a Bachelor's or equivalent degree or not:

General Education Unique Months Total Hours
Bachelors (or equivalent) 36 4,500 hours
High school diploma 60 7,500 hours

 

Those hours need to have been accrued during the last eight consecutive years. You need experience with each of the five process groups, though not on every project.

Non-Overlapping Projects?

In addition, PMI is looking for experience that includes non-overlapping months. What does that mean? Here's a scenario to illustrate:

Let's assume someone has a Bachelor's degree. They need to demonstrate at least 36 unique months of working on projects and a total of at least 4,500 hours.

Let's say Project A went from January - October 2012, for a total of 1,200 hours. Project B went from July - December 2012 for a total of 800 hours. How does this get reported on an application?

Project A would count as 10 months toward the 36 unique months. The months of July-October cannot be double-counted so Project B does not get credit for those months.

However, the total hours for those two projects do count. So the totals for those two projects on the application are 12 unique months and 2,000 hours. They get to count the overlapping hours but not the months.

NOTE: PMI assumes a 40 hour week so someone could not be full-time on Project A during August and full-time on Project B at the same time.

Make sure to review the credential guide from PMI as it provides more details on how this works.

Do My Hours Count?

I'm often asked questions about if someone's project hours qualify or not. It's usually asked in the context of "I was more of a team member than a project manager."

So, do the hours count or not?

A recurring theme from PMI regarding qualification hours is that you need to have "led or directed project tasks". There is some gray area in the description as to how much you are leading and directing to sufficiently qualify.

Here's my bottom-line:

  • You need to have some responsibilities of "leading and directing" for each project you list on the experience verification form.
  • Your descriptions for each project need to be able to make it clear that you did some leading and directing. Be thorough in your application descriptions.
  • Make sure your descriptions and claims are truthful. Not only is it the right thing to do, your application may be audited (requiring a signature per project from a boss/sponsor/etc.).

How Much Will It Cost?

After you submit your application, PMI will review it for completeness. When you pass this review you will be notified so you can submit a payment.

If you are a member of PMI before submitting your application, you get a discount on the cost of the exam. Assuming you take the computer-based exam, here are the costs:

Exam Cost Re-Take
CAPM

PMI Member: US$225

Non-PMI Member: US$300

US$150

US$200

PMP

PMI Member: US$405

Non-PMI Member: US$555

US$275

US$375

The costs are high enough to be sufficient motivation for most of us to make sure we pass it the first time! See if your employer is willing to pay the exam costs.  Why pay for it yourself if your manager is able to do so?

You can spend under US$100 for prep materials if you get one book, such as those recommended above. The cost (and effectiveness) of PMP Exam Prep classes, if you decide to take one, can vary widely among providers.

Sometimes a less expensive option is to check your local community college to see what they offer. If you live in the Chicago area, I teach the series of prep classes at the following locations:

Location Contact
College of Lake County (847) 543-2615
College of DuPage (630) 942-2679
McHenry Community College (815) 479-7536
Kankakee Community College (815) 802-8202
Moraine Valley Community College (708) 974-5498
Harry S. Truman College (773) 902-4443

I've heard good reviews on PM FASTrack PMP Exam Simulation Software, which typically goes for under US$300.

The reality is you can spend thousands of dollars on prep classes and materials if you want. Diligently working through a good prep book and creating or joining a test prep group with one or more colleagues can save you a lot of money.

How Will I Know If I Get Audited?

When your application is accepted, you will receive an e-mail like the one in the image on the right (click on the image to see the content, as of September 2013). If you are not a member of PMI at this point in the process, I strongly recommend you join before submitting payment. The cost of the exam is reduced if you are a member.

A small percentage of applications get audited. According to PMI, audits are completely random. Once you submit payment, you'll then be notified if you have been randomly selected for an audit.

NOTE: There are some rumors that submitting your payment on a Saturday increases the likelihood of getting audited! I can assure this is not true. However, I did recently have a PMP Exam Prep workshop participant submit his payment--on a Saturday--and got audited! Once again, I'm quite sure this is just a coincidence but if it makes you feel better, wait until a Monday!

Getting audited is an inconvenience but not something to panic over. There will be an audit package you'll download from PMI. You'll need to get a handwritten signature for each project from either a sponsor or supervisor to vouch for what you documented (hours, dates, descriptions). For those people who are challenging or impossible to get in touch with, you can use team members who were close enough to the project to verify your submission.

Each person will sign a form and return it to you in a sealed envelope (with their signature on the flap of the envelope to prove it was not opened). In addition to these envelopes you will send in copies of training certificates to verify you attended and completed the classes you included on your application. All of this material is then snail-mailed to PMI.

Most people tell me they can complete this process in two weeks or less if they stay focused. Want to make it go faster? Get your training certificates gathered ahead of time. Talk to each contact person on your application before submitting it. In the unlikely event you get audited, the process will go much faster.

How Much Time Will It Take to Prepare?

There's no set time to prepare. Once your application is approved you decide how much time you want to prepare.  I chose a month, and during that time I went through my prep book about 3 times. I recently heard from a guy who I helped pass the exam. He decided to take longer, saying his preparation "was my life for the last 4 months outside of work."

The big message: be prepared to sacrifice time, most likely at least 40 hours. You don't want to "wing it."  You definitely want to show up knowing the material. A measure of readiness is consistently scoring in the 80 percentile or higher on practice exams.

Where Will I Take The CAPM or PMP Certification Exam?

The exam is administered around the world through an organization named Prometric. You can find locations in your area by visiting the Prometric website. In step 1 on that page, select "Project Management Institute" as the testing program. Then select your region in step 2. You'll be taken to a screen where you can select "Locate a Test Site." Follow that link to see where the exam is offered.

NOTE: You won't be able to find out if there's availability on a specific date until you have your eligibility ID from the PMI application process. However, you can at least find out possible options in your area.

How Do I Schedule an Appointment for the Certification Exam?

For detailed instructions on how to schedule your examination, click here to review PMI's official Examination Scheduling Instructions. It includes step-by-step instructions on how to schedule your exam. In addition, it explains the cancellation policies as well as what to do when you arrive at the testing center.

What Can I Take Into the Testing Center?

The short answer: not much!

I've heard some amazing stories of how high school and college kids have devised ways of cheating. Perhaps the most creative one was writing formulas or answers on the inside of a water bottle, in really small print, then re-applying the label. The magnification of the water made it an ideal cheat sheet! Let me be clear--I'm not trying to teach you new techniques! Don't try this! But my point is that testing centers need to avoid any chance of new and innovative ways of cheating.

With that in mind, the official rules are that you won't be bringing in anything but yourself. In fact, in some testing centers, you may be asked to remove sweaters or other layered clothing. Phones, calculators, pens, etc. are off limits. There will be a soft calculator available on the computer for any calculations. Plan on a metal detector and maybe even a physical search that goes beyond just emptying your pockets.

If you need to step out to use the restroom, to get a drink, or take medication, you'll need to sign out and back in. You might also be escorted.

If you have a medical condition that requires a special accommodation (e.g. requires you to eat, take medication, etc.), there is a Special Accommodations Form that you should fill out ahead of time. This will allow you to get access to your locker at the testing center.

If all of this sounds sort of over-kill, just remember it's designed to make sure no one has an advantage over you just because they found an innovative way to cheat. According to a discussion I had with PMI, "the reason why individuals who do not have special accommodations are unable to go into their lockers are due to exam security and to eradicate cheating. This policy should not vary by location."

You will be provided with some scratch paper (which you'll need to return before you leave). Use this for your brain dump of formulas and other notes, effectively creating your own legal version of a cheat sheet.

Prometric's official rules can be found at https://www.prometric.com/en-us/for-test-takers/prepare-for-test-day/frequently-asked-questions/pages/testing-center-regulations.aspx. PMI's specific rules can be found in this document.

When Can I Take the CAPM or PMP Certification?

Some industries have certifications that are only offered at certain times of the year. The CAPM and PMP are offered year around. Most Prometric centers have at least two 4-hour time slots: morning and afternoon. Some also have an evening slot and some even offer a weekend option.

When are you at your best? Sign up for a time slot that best aligns with your best performance. Personally, I didn't want to have to think about it all morning before taking the exam later in the day. My test motto was "Let's roll!" (also known as "let's get this over!").

Some Test Tips

It's helpful to have a strategy going into the test.  My strategy could be summarized as:

  • The best way to be confident is to be prepared. Don't focus on whether you are (or are not) a good test taker. Quiet the nerves by reminding yourself that you worked hard to get to this point and that you are prepared.

  • There's plenty of time--don't rush.

  • Answer every question.  If you don't answer a question, it's guaranteed to be wrong!

  • If you're not confident with your answer, make a note of the question number on the scratch paper that is provided.  If you're quite sure (for example) that answers B and C are not valid, note B and C with an X through them on your scratch paper. This allows you to not start the thinking from scratch when coming back to it.  Also, tell the exam system to mark the question for review, making it easier to find it later.

  • After completing the exam, go back and review the marked questions.  My recommendation is to only override your previous guess if you are strongly confident it was wrong.  Otherwise I recommend you trust your initial gut feel.

You'll need to study because the questions can be tricky. There are often at least two reasonable answers for each multiple choice question.  Your prep material can provide some pointers on what PMI is looking for.

Memorizing the formulas (e.g. earned value, communication channels, etc.) is a must. But more importantly, know what the formulas actually mean.

So, how many questions will you answer? How long will you have? Well, it depends on which test you will take.

Exam Number of Questions Time
CAPM 150 3 hours
PMP 200 4 hours

Don't under-estimate how challenging it is to stay focused for this many questions over so many hours. It can be mentally and physically exhausting so make sure you have some extended practice times to get used to the pressure. It will make it easier for you when you take the PMP or CAPM exam.

Don't panic when you come across a question that seems "out there."  Select your best guess, mark it for review later, and then move on. Don't let them intimidate you.

Be prepared to take the test in a setting that is far from ideal. There will be others on computers next to you taking certification tests as well (PMP, CAPM, or other). This means there will be background noise of keys typing and fingers tapping. The testing center will supply optional ear plugs but don't count on them working completely. Similarly, be prepared for the temperature to be either too warm or cold. Wear some layered clothing to allow you to adjust accordingly. NOTE: Some testing centers won't allow you to wear sweaters (or, if you do wear one in, you can't take it off during the exam). These are mostly annoyances that I share to help set your expectations about the environment you'll be in on the exam day.

Remember: the examination is completely passable!  To successfully pass the current PMP exam (this has changed periodically), you must correctly answer approximately 106 questions out of the 175 scored questions (Wait! Aren't there 200 questions? They include 25 non-scored evaluation questions).

Approximately 106? PMI is less specific now about the exact percentage. It's likely somewhere in the neighborhood of 61-69%%, depending on the difficulty of the questions you get. Regardless, you're not faced with getting 90% correct! The test is completely passable for those who work diligently at preparing! You can do this!

How Can I Calm My Nerves About Taking the PMP or CAPM exam?

Years ago I was invited to give a presentation to a group of over 7,000 people at a Microsoft conference. I was so nervous ahead of time! A mentor at the time gave me great advice: "Andy, as soon as you stop puking you lose your edge!"

Her point: if I didn't feel a little nervous it meant I didn't understand how big of a deal this was! It's OK to feel nervous. It's normal. Don't beat yourself up for feeling that way.

The key is to get past it. Here are some ideas based on research:

  • Practice as if you were taking the real exam. Try to simulate the actual exam day. Don't take practice questions while you are laid back on a couch. Sit at a desk. Imagine it's test day. Take questions for an extended period of time to get used to the physical and emotional toll of multiple hours. This simulation will better prepare you for exam day.

  • Write down your feelings. This is counter-intuitive to me. I would think it would be best to write down how confident you are and repeat it like a mantra. However, there's research talked about in the book Choke that suggests there is value in writing about how you feel nervous. It's OK to acknowledge it, and Sian Beilock's research suggest that getting it in writing--even just minutes before you take the exam--has value.

  • Use interrogative thinking. This is from my interview with Dan Pink about his book To Sell is Human. Instead of trying to channel your inner Tony Robbins, ask questions. For example, "What have I done to prepare myself well? Why should I feel more confident? What is my plan to calm down on exam day?" This line of thinking has shown to be more effective than just the inner pep talk.

  • Expect the exam to be difficult. In my interview with goal expert Heidi Grant Halvorson, she relates research that says it's much more effective to expect this to be a challenge than a breeze. Know in your heart that it is passable because it completely is if you have prepared. But expect it to be difficult. That combination of expecting to pass but anticipating it to be difficult can keep you focused while you prepare and on test day.

  • Take a breath. On exam day, you'll likely get questions that you don't know. You won't even recognize the terms or concepts. It can be easy to be intimidated by these, especially if you happen to string a couple of these together. Take a breath. Relax. If you've prepared enough, you'll get all the familiar questions you need. Don't let the exam start to control you. You are the one who has prepared. You are the one with experience. Take a big breath, relax your back and shoulders, flash a smile back at the computer screen and nail the next question!

What questions do you have?    E-mail us -- we would be glad to help you achieve this goal. 

Go get 'em!

"PMI, CAPM, and PMP" are trademarks, service marks or certification marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc., which is registered in the United States and other nations.

 


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