Every Professional working in the area of Project Management aspires to become PMP certified. PMP Full form is Project Management Professional. Now that you have decided to get PMP certified, we shall walk you through how to get certified. This is a step by step definitive guide that can help you crack the PMP certification exam. In this article, we shall see the various aspects involved in the PMP certification exam such as requirements, eligibility criteria, cost, training, audit process, mock tests, salary etc. This is a rather long article, and we recommend you to go through it fully.
Step 1 – Check your PMP Eligibility or PMP Certification Requirements
To be eligible to sit for the PMP certification exam, one must meet certain educational and professional experience requirements. There are 3 parts to the PMP eligibility Criteria. 1) Educational Qualification 2) Project Management Experience 3) Formal Project Management training.
- You Should be either a High School Diploma/Associate Degree holder or a Four-year degree holder. The degree/diploma can belong to any discipline.
- If you are a Diploma holder, then you should have a minimum five years (at least 7500 hours) of experience in leading and directing projects. If you are a Four-year Degree holder, then you should have a minimum three years (at least 4500 hours) of experience in leading and directing projects.
- You have attended 35 contact hours formal project management training from a PMI Registered Education Provider (PMI-REP).
Regarding the second requirement, pertaining to the minimum professional experience, All project management experience must have been accrued within the last eight consecutive years prior to your application submission.
Step 2 – Gather Information about the PMP Certification Exam
In order to tackle an adversary effectively, it is wise to know everything about him. Go to the PMI website and explore it. Download the PMP handbook and read it from cover to cover. Speak with people who already gave the exam. See the chapters in the syllabus. Skim through the blog posts and FAQ’s on this website. This is a mindset and environment preparation stage. Most of you guys would be returning to books and study mode after a long time post-college. It is important to prepare your mind and plan your schedule for the upcoming days, where you have to invest a substantial amount of time for study.
Step 3 – Become a PMI Member
Once you have gathered the required information, its time for you take PMI Membership. There are many benefits of PMI Membership, such as discounted examination fee, free PMBOK latest edition, Networking with your chapter members etc. So, we strongly recommend you to go ahead and become a PMI member.
PMI Membership fees is US$132 for the first year, and renewal fees is US$129/year.
Step 4 – Gather the required PMP study materials
Now its time for you to seriously start your journey into PMP preparation. Start gathering all the required books, materials, blogs, slides, etc.
My Recommendations are Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep or Head First PMP. Both are good choices. If you ask me to recommend only one, then go with Rita Mulcahy.
Start reading any of the reference books first. Do not be in a hurry, take your time, understand well and imbibe the concepts carefully. If you find any problem with the terminology or a very basic concept, then refer the glossary of PMBOK, or search this website. If you are not clear, then post your question on this website. We shall surely get back on that.
Step 5 – Finish your mandatory 35 contact hours PMP Training
With the above steps you now have a solid foundation of the basic project management concepts and terminology. Now coming to the next step, PMI mandates every applicant to go through 35 contact hours of Project Management training from a PMI Registered Education Provider (REP). It is one of the 3 eligibility criteria to sit for the PMP exam.
You may think that, its better to go through the training first and later do whatever we did in the Step 4. But we strongly recommend you to stick to this sequence of doing things, and go through all the basic concepts and finish an initial reading before attending the training. If you have a basic foundation before you attend the training program, then you can effectively use that training to fortify the concepts you have already read. Further, you will easily understand the concepts in the class, actively engage in discussions, and solve questions easily, instead of struggling to understand and follow the new terms and concepts you face in the training.
You can go with a PMP Offline Class room training program or you can go with an PMP Online training program. It is your choice entirely.
We personally opine that Offline Classroom training’s are time taking, expensive, located only in cities, fixed schedule, no possibility to review entire course again if you want to do so. Moreover, there are many other possible overheads attached. However, it is entirely up to you if you strongly feel that you are more comfortable attending a physical class room environment with a teacher and a peer group to personally interact with. Many feel excited to attend a class room session for the feel of it and also for its advantage of networking. Online training’s, on the other hand are less costly, flexible with location and time, possibility to review the course any number of times as you like. Many prefer online training for its major advantages of learning at your own pace, and possibility to review the session any number of times as you like. It is easy to make a detailed notes for yourself with an online training compared to an Offline Classroom training. Unless you have a specific reason to go for a Classroom program, we personally recommend you to go for a good PMI approved 35 contact hours Online training program.
Don’t forget to take note of details of the PMI REP and other required details of the program, as you need to mention them in your PMP application form later.
Step 6 – Give a PMP Mock Exam to understand where you stand
Till now you have completed one initial reading of the reference book and PMBOK guide, and you have completed 35 hours of Project Management training. Now its time to test your understanding and check where you stand.
After completing your training, we recommend you to take a full length mock test (200 Questions). Take a have a quick skim of whatever you learned till now and give a mock test. There are many websites and books where you can find a mock test. This test should serve you as a diagnostic test about your understanding and shows you where you stand. At the end of the test, deeply analyse the areas where you performed well, and areas you did not perform well. You will definitely get an idea on your areas of strengths and weaknesses. Now plan your preparation accordingly to rectify the weaknesses and fortify your strengths.
Step 7 – Schedule your PMP exam
After the diagnostic test, you will have an idea where you stand. You can estimate the amount of effort and time needed to prepare well for the exam. Think well about the time you need to thoroughly prepare for the exam, have a realistic estimate. Now go ahead and fill you application form, complete the audit process if asked, pay the fees, and then schedule your exam date.
Once your application is approved (In case of an Audit, after the successful completion of PMI Audit), you will have one year time to complete the certification. You can pay the fees and schedule your exam and sit for the exam. You can take exam up to 3 times during this one year. You have to pay the full fees for every attempt.
In our opinion scheduling the exam is very important. You will never start studying seriously if your time is not limited. You tend to procrastinate subconsciously. You will convince yourself with lame excuses. So, Schedule your exam. Believe me, however a busy person you are, if you have an exam date ticking, you will automatically start taking out time for study.
Step 8 – Study Study Study
This is undoubtedly the most important phase of your preparation.
Complete the Reference book (Rita or Head First) and PMBOK Guide in detail from cover to cover. Make a notes of your own if you are comfortable doing so. Keep in mind that making your own notes will take some time, but it will definitely help you immensely when you want to revise. Finally, study in a particular way, which is comfortable to you.
It is actually wise to make a notes of your own on all the important concepts, and your weak areas. It will definitely improve your confidence as you will have with you a segregated group of topics that needs your utmost attention.
Keep a daily study time, and stick to the schedule. Revise the topics repeatedly. If you prepare a notes for yourself, revise it repeatedly till you overcome confusions and develop clarity on all topics.
By the end of preparation,
- you should have revised Rita book and PMBOK Guide at least twice.
- You should be able to list down all 49 processes by knowledge areas and process groups. (Check Page 25 in PMBOK Guide 6th Edition)
- You should be able to write down or at least identify all Inputs, Outputs, and Tools & Techniques for all the 49 processes. (Identifying Outputs to processes is most important in our opinion compared to inputs).
- You should have mastered all the mathematical formulae related to Cost management, and other topics.
- You should have made a notes for all the important concepts and your weak areas.
Study Study Study
Practice Practice and Practice..
Do this till you achieve what are listed above.
Once you achieve them, you are ready to dive into the next leg of preparation.
Step 9 – Take PMP Mock Tests
In our Opinion, Mock tests are as important as your core preparation in the previous step. Studying well is one thing, but performing well in that required 4 hours is entirely another thing. We have seen many brilliant and well prepared candidates failing in exam due to exam pressure. The pressure that arises due to self doubt. The pressure that arises due to lack of practice. Further, don’t under estimate the effort that is required to sit for straight 4 hours with utmost concentration. That is not as simple as it seems to be and it requires practice. That is why taking mock tests is very important. They will help you test your knowledge, they will give you a taste of what the exam is like, and they will also help you practice enduring your concentration for 4 hours.
There are many free mock tests, and there are paid ones as well. Give 7-10 PMP mock tests. That will be sufficient. If you are consistently scoring less than 60%, then step back and check where you are lagging, and try to put more efforts on those topics. If you are consistently scoring very low, and strongly feel that you need more time, then go ahead and reschedule your exam for a later date. But, we have to warn you, It always feels that we can do more if we have a little more time (Subconscious procrastination). Time is always not enough. Further, sustaining your schedule and concentration to study for many days in your busy life is also not possible. So, stick to your schedule from the start, and finish off the things as planned.
Analyzing your performance in the mock tests is very important. Keep an error log that has all the questions you went wrong, and the questions you feel tricky or good to review. If you are scoring consistently more than 80% in mock tests, then you should be ready. No one exactly knows the percentage of marks you need to score to pass the exam. So, to be on safe side its better to be more than 80%.
Now you are ready to jump into the final phase of your certification preparation i.e… sitting for the PMP exam.
Step 10 – Attempt your PMP Certification Exam
Make sure you have all the Things you need to carry for Exam. Check your email from the Pearson Vue (Prometric used to be the test vendor, but changed to Pearson Vue from 1st July 2019) about any updates from their end.
Reach the your testing center at least 30 min before your schedule exam time. Some, test centers will have parking problems, you never know.
You will be physically checked, thoroughly from top to bottom, and there are other formalities that needs to be completed before you can enter the exam hall. Test center staff will escort you to your test seat, and they will provide a pencil and paper.
The first 15 min of the test is just an awareness session, showing how to click correct answer, how to flag a question for review, how to navigate through the exam etc. This session has a time limit of 15 min. You can complete it in less time if you so wish. However, the real 4 hours exam immediately starts once you finish this exam navigation awareness session. So, it is wise to list any formulae or concepts that you are struggling to remember on the paper given to you in that first 15 min. If you are feeling overwhelmed or tensed, use this time to calm down and pull yourself together. Don’t worry. You have prepared well.
Once the exam starts, there is NO BREAK. Exam will continue for straight 4 hours. If you feel stressed out or hungry or you need to go to rest room, you can take a break in between, However, you cannot pause the exam, the exam clock will still be ticking, and you need to go through all the physical checks and formalities by the test center staff before coming back to your seat. So keep that in mind and take a quick break, provided you have affordable time.
We can tell that, with good preparation and practice, one can complete those 200 questions in about 3 hours to 3 1/2 hours. Do not get stuck thinking deeply or trying to solve a single tough question. If a question seems tough or taking time or you are not sure of the answer, flag it for later review, and move on to the next question.
Try to attempt the exams in multiple rounds. That works for most people. Complete all the easy questions in the first round. Next go through the remaining questions in another round. Take your time while answering these questions, flag the ones which you still feel doubtful. Repeat this till you complete all the 200 questions. Before clicking the final Submit, review all the questions you have flagged once again if you have time. Do not forget that there is NO PENALTY for wrong answers, so DO NOT LEAVE A QUESTION UNANSWERED. If you don’t know anything about a question just select your best guess.
Once you click the Final submit, you will be directed to complete a short survey. After you complete the survey, your PMP exam result will be displayed on the screen. If you pass you will see a Congratulations message from PMI, if you fail you will see a Condolences message. Pearson Vue will provide you a print out of the test result before you leave.
If you pass the exam, you will receive the Congratulations email from PMI within one week and your name will be updated in the PMI Certification Registry immediately. You will receive hard copy of your PMP Certificate in about a month.
We wish you all the very best in getting the PMP Certification.
Timeline of PMP Certification Process
(Courtesy PMP Handbook, Page 4)