Recommended PMP® Certification Resources
Many people think the PMP® is a test of the PMBOK® Guide,
which is actually not true! The CAPM® exam is more of a test of your
knowledge of the PMBOK® Guide. The PMP® exam is based on the
Project Management Professional (PMP)® Examination Content Outline.
Certainly, the PMBOK® Guide is relevant, and worthy of using
during your study. However, it's worth taking the time to
review the outline. The exam questions are driven by this outline.
Make sure each task in the outlines makes sense.
Here are some examination preparation materials
that I recommend:
PMP Exam Prep, 8th Edition--Updated: 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.
It also has updates for the exam change in early 2016.
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
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
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
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, I recommend you use the same materials that I've included above.
You'll likely be over-prepared, but those guides will help you successfully pass
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.
Secondary diploma & 1500 hours of professional
Secondary diploma & 23 contact hours of formal project management training
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.
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
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
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
Getting Started with Your Certification Process
In my opinion, the most difficult part of the
entire process is right now:
Going 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:
|Bachelors (or equivalent)
|High school diploma
How about if you have a Master's degree? Or a
Doctorate? Unfortunately, there's no reduction in hours because of the
advanced degrees. You'll still need to report the 4,500 hours on your
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.
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
credential guide from PMI as it provides more details on how this
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
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
- 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:
Non-PMI Member: US$300
PMI Member: US$405
Non-PMI Member: US$555
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:
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
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.
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
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
PMI's specific rules can be found in
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.
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
Number of Questions
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
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
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
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.