How to Prepare for Project Management Professional (PMP®) Certification?

The web is flooded with articles about preparing for Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification. There are numerous Registered Education Providers (REP or R.E.P) to assist you prepare for the PMP® certification besides fulfilling the minimum educational hours requirements. Are you still confused about writing Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification? If yes, then this article is for you.

I got my Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification early this year in January 2020 and wanted to share my personal experience from the whole journey. Let’s start with some important questions: –

  • What is Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification?
  • Will Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification make me a better Project Manager?
  • Is Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification difficult to achieve?
  • Is Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification worth the effort?
  • How can Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification help accelerate your professional career?
  • How much does Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification cost?
  • How much time does it to take to prepare for Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification?
  • What are the common mistakes to avoid while preparing for Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification?
  • What is the best approach to prepare for Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification?
  • Are there any free resources available to prepare for Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification?

The list above is not exhaustive; there could be several other questions based on specific background and aptitude. However, I would like to bring up and important factor that will impact the outcome of the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification. I firmly believe, personal opinion, degree of seriousness will determine the final result. If you are planning to write the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification, then please make sure you are dead serious about it. If you are not serious about it then you will end up investing (rather wasting) a lot of time preparing for it. The chances are you might have to retake the certification. Although, Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is very much relevant to my current job but took much more time than actually required for preparing for it. The reason simply was my non-serious attitude.

So, please make sure you are serious about the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification before starting the application submission process. Otherwise, you will find yourself rescheduling your certification several times wasting a lot of effort and of course money. Now that you are serious about getting PMP® certified, let’s jump directly to the questions.

What is Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification?

Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is a very well sought after  and internationally recognized credential for the Project Managers offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). Having a Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification demonstrates the necessary experience and skills required to lead and direct a project. The picture below from the PMP® handbook by PMI depicts the timeline of the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification process.

PMP Certification Process

The picture below depicts the eligibility criteria to appear for Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification.

eligibility criteria Project Management Professional (PMP)

PMP has everything that you need to know what the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is about. As the main focus of this article is preparing for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification, therefore I won’t be spending more time explain the certification itself. Please free to visit the PMI website to find out more about the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification.  Let’s move on to the next question.

Will Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification make me a better Project Manager?

It’s a very important question and the answer to this question should burst the myth around the certification. A lot of us believe that getting Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification will make us a better Project Manager, but they forget the fact the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification assumes that you already are a highly skilled Project Manager and tests you at advanced level of concepts. Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is designed to test the skills and capabilities of an experienced Project Manager. So, if you do not have a real-life Project Management experience then you might find it difficult to get through the exam.

However, getting Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification does ensure that you know the concepts, have the required skill set to lead and direct a project. It does put you in a league of qualified Project Managers.

Is Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification difficult to achieve?

Nothing is easy but remember nothing is impossible as well. Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is difficult in terms of time management. It’s a lengthy exam of 4 hours and the candidate is supposed to answer 200 questions, which gives you 1.2 minutes per question. The difficult part is reading the question, which generally are 2-3 lines, analyzing it and the picking up the correct answer. All the questions are multiple choice. You will find it really difficult if you are slow at reading.

The other part that I find difficult is the fact that it’s not Science or Mathematics. The point I am trying to make is if you are weak in Science or mathematics then you know the topics that need extra effort. You can always spend some more time and master those topics for the exam. The difficult part of the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is the fact that a lot of the concepts depend on the way you interpret the situation and scenario. If you fail the exam, god forbid, in your first attempt then you can rewrite the exam. But the difficult part is identifying the topics that you need to master. The score sheet will have your strength and weaknesses in terms of where you stand and the areas that require revisiting, but again it is difficult to change how you analyze the situation.

Is Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification worth the effort?

Absolutely yes. Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is definitely worth the time and money invested to achieve it. I will list down some of the benefits but before that let me share a real-life story with you. One of our clients awarded a simulation project to us. The project had a technical team consisting of Petroleum Engineers. The contract from the clearly asked for a Project Manager to be on board to manage the project. Now, my company had so many experienced Project Managers, but we couldn’t use them, why? The client contract explicitly mentioned that the Project Manager must be Project Management Professional (PMP®) certified. You see now how the certification would have helped you in this situation. Let’s highlight some of the benefits of obtaining Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification.

  • Internationally recognized credential – Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is highly recognized international credential. It clearly proves that you have the required knowledge, understanding and demonstrated directing and leading a project.
  • Strengthens your resume – With Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification on your resume, there is a greater chance of meeting the eligibility criteria for Project Management opportunities. Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification may enhance your job prospects. It may also open up various opportunities that might not have been possible. For example: Once you have achieved the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification, you can apply for opportunities irrespective of the industry or domain.
  • Monetary incentives – There are several surveys showing that a Project Manager with Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification earns at least 15% to 20% more than a Project Manager without Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification.

How can Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification help accelerate your professional career?

We already discussed some of the benefits of Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification. Let’s quickly touch on the impact of Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification on your professional career. Can Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification accelerate your professional career? The short answer is yes, and I would like to share again a real-life example to make it clearer. A colleague of mine, unofficially, was handling various PMO (Project Management Office) tasks. He was not given the position of a PMO officially due to lack of Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification. After achieving the certification, he was immediately promoted to the designation of a PMO.

Yes, the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification can accelerate your professional career besides opening doors to new opportunities within or outside the organization.

How much does Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification cost?

The table below summarizes the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification cost.

 Center-based testing (CBT)Online testing (OPT)Reexamination CBT/OPTCCR certification renewal
PMI Member$405$405$275$60
Non-Member$555$555$375$150

I personally believe it’s a good idea to join PMI before taking the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification. As a member, you will have access to the latest PMBOK edition besides other resources available on the website. I will highly recommend visiting the link https://www.pmi.org/membership to find out additional benefits of being a PMI member. You must also consider additional cost related to study material and courses that you join to prepare for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification.

How much time does it to take to prepare for Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification?

Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification requires going through and understanding a lot of concepts. In other words, the syllabus is huge. Preparation time will depend on various factors including your Project Management experience. The only tip I can share with you at this time is not to overprepare for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification.

If you can invest 1 to 2 hours every day then 2 to 3 months should be more than sufficient to prepare for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification. As mentioned earlier, Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification requires you to go through a lot of Project Management concepts. Sometimes, it might get boring and you may start feeling demotivated and sleepy at times as well. But, remember “Be Serious” if you really want to crack the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification. No worries, I am going to share with you the methodology that I adopted to prepare the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification and got it in first attempt.

What are the common mistakes to avoid while preparing for Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification?

Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is very tempting due to various benefits associated with it. In this section, I am going to share with you some of the common mistakes that a lot of us mistake while preparing for it.

  • Beware of the Parkinson’s Law – It states that the work expands to fill the time available for its completion. Basically, set a target date to write your Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification and stick to it.
  • Watch closely the Student Syndrome – We all like procrastinating. This is especially true about something which is within our control and we have the power to reschedule it. Do not leave the preparations to the last minute. Set a target date for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification and start preparing in advance.
  • Overpreparing for Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification – Do not overprepare. I agree it’s a difficult exam, but as mentioned the most difficult part is the time management and not the content of the exam itself (provided you are an experienced Project Manager). Ideal preparation time should not exceed 3 months with 1-2 hours every day. If you plan to more time than that then, in my opinion, you are overpreparing and it may backfire. You may have already forgotten some of the concepts before the exam.
  • Using multiple preparation sources – it’s a good idea to refer multiple sources while preparing for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification, but it might get you confused and eat up a lot of your time. Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is one of the most sought-after certifications and hence plenty of study material available all over. I would recommend sticking to maximum of 2 to 3 sources for preparing with the exception of practicing or taking the mock tests.
  • Overdependence on Project Management experience – Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification tests you at the advance level of Project Management concepts, and your experience will certainly come handy while taking the test. The real problem lies in the fact that we do a lot of things on real projects that might may look perfectly sensible but may not be acceptable according to PMBOK. Make sure you answer the questions according to PMBOK even if it is contracting to what you have been doing in the real projects.
  • Unnecessarily rescheduling the exam date – We are surrounded with uncertainty and rescheduling the exam could be inevitable some time, but a lot us would reschedule it unnecessarily just to avail the option. This will not only interrupt your preparation but also impact your motivation.
  • Tempted to use only the free study material – There is plenty of free study material available on the internet to prepare for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification. There is no harm in using them, but a lot times the content may be outdated and no longer valid for the current exam.
  • Memorizing Versus Understanding – A lot of us focus on memorizing the PMBOK content especially the Inputs, Tools and Techniques, and Outputs (ITTOs).  I would strongly recommend focusing your efforts on understanding rather than memorizing them. Memorizing them may boos your confidence, but I believe you will not get time to recall them during the exam.
  • Neglecting PMBOK – Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) is the official document issued by PMI, which has everything you need to prepare for Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification. The problem is a lot us find it content intensive and fail to follow the flow. Please do not PMBOK. I will share with you the correct way to read the PMBOK in the next section of this article.

What is the best approach to prepare for Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification?

There is not one size fit all solution when it comes to preparing for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification. In this section, I will share with you the approach I followed using just the PMBOK guide and free study material available on the internet. This is how I actually prepared after making some of the mistakes mentioned above in this article:

  • Start with the video https://ricardo-vargas.com/videos/elaboration-of-the-processes-flow-of-the-pmbok-6th-edition/ . Chances are PMBOK 6th edition is no longer the latest version of the guide, but I would still recommend watching this video before you start preparing for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification. The video explains the logical flow and the interaction between the process groups and knowledge areas. You can also visit the website https://ricardo-vargas.com/ for any updates or latest videos about the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification preparation.
  • Read the PMBOK guide – Don’t read the PMBOK from cover to cover. I bet you will fall asleep 😊. Read the PMBOK as suggested in the video. It will all feel very logical and you will be able to connect the missing dots. You will understand and be able to relate how various processes within project groups interact with each other in real projects.
  • Practice, Practice and Practice – The key to successfully pass Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is to practice as many mock tests as possible. I will provide links to some of the free available mock tests to prepare for the exam.
  • Watch videos – A picture is worth a thousand words, but a video is easily with a million words (maybe more). I would highly recommend watching videos specially to understand some of the concepts related to Scope, Schedule and Quality management. Again, I will provide some very useful YouTube channels that have great videos on Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification concepts.
  • Read the PMBOK guide again – This will really help. Read the PMBOK guide at least twice to make sure that you have understood the flow and the concepts overall.
  • Form study groups – Studying in a group definitely helps. I led a group of around 23 members and 4 of them managed to successfully get Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification with their hard work and some help from the group. Organizing sessions on various concepts and listening to others would help you to grasp the topics faster. It will also help you to get your queries clarified faster.  

Are there any free resources available to prepare for Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification?

Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is internationally recognized credential, hence there is no dearth of study material available on the internet. Below is the list of sources that used to preparing for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification.

  • Registered Service Providers (R.E.P) for Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification

Good luck preparing for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification.