10 Tips for PMP Certification Exam Success
The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification by the Project Management Insititute (PMI) is a good choice for project managers in any industry. According to PMI, a PMP certifcation can increase your salary by an average of 20% and help your organiation complete more of their projects on time, on budget and meeting original goals.
As you’re gearing up for your PMP exam, here are 10 tips to help you acheive PMP certification success.
1. Don’t Start With the PMBOK Guide.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make while preparing for your PMP exam is to begin studying using the PMBOK Guide, or PMI’s Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. It’s like self-studying the Greek language without any assistance. The PMBOK contains a lot of new terminology that you may find difficult to understand. The sheer volume of challenging terminology, processes and the input, and techniques and the output (ITTO) makes it overwhelming to assimilate. While the PMBOK should be read, think of it more of a reference text than a study course.
2. Create Your Own Custom Study Plan
The PMP exam will test you on five domains covering a variety of different subject areas. You must make sure you have enough time to review all domains at least once; this includes not only studying, but also completing mock exams, visiting online forums and spending extra time reviewing areas that need improvement.
Without adequate planning, your chance of success will drop. Creating a study plan that fits your personal needs is essential; even a simple to-do list can help a lot. For your custom study plan, you should consider factors such as:
- How soon do you intend to take the examination? Check the Prometric test center website to find a time and location that works for you (you will need your eligibility number).
- How much time can you devote to your study efforts? If you are already working, or have other commitments, make sure you can dedicate sufficient time to the basics, such as covering all exam topics, taking practice tests and reviewing exam simulations.
- How much can you spend on preparation material and training courses? Look for official, certified study materials and training to make sure you have a thorough understanding of each topic covered in the exam.
- What training method best suits you? Some people prefer self-learning, while others think there is no substitute for the classroom. Use your past learning experiences to help you pick the method to help you prepare best.
- How well acquainted are you already with the exam subjects? Even very experienced professionals, with good knowledge about the certification subjects, can have a hard time during the examination. Your personal experience can save you some studying time, but you should take into consideration factors such as the exam length and question logic. Relying too much on experience alone is a poor strategy that will likely lead to bad results.
3. Do Less Memorizing & More Understanding
The PMP exam is a practical examination that tests your application of project management concepts and theories in real life scenarios. Due to the amount of terminology in the PMP domains, many try to memorize their way to success only to discover the application nature of the examination when it’s too late. Reading to understand helps you internalize the concepts and apply lessons to real life scenarios. However, basic things like process groups, knowledge areas and standard formulas should be easily recallable by any project manager. These include schedule and cost management formulas, critical path analysis and more.
4. Get to Know Your Exam
This may sound overly simple, but your first step to success is knowing the challenge you are going to face. The PMI website will help you find basic information on the PMP certification exam. It will also provide links to a lot of useful information, such as official training providers, exam topics, practice questions and study material.
The PMBOK Guide contains essential details such as an overview of the certification and the exam, including its prerequisites, how many and what type of questions you are about to face, time allotted for examination and the passing mark.
It also provides detailed information on the topics covered in the examination, including the percentage of questions dedicated to each subject. This helps a lot, especially in constructing your study plan.
5. Leverage Free Exam-Prep Resources
The PMP Handbook, PMP Exam Content Outline and PMP Sample Questions are all available as free downloads on the PMI website. Use these as a starting point to evaluate your understanding of the five PMP exam domains.
6. Get Involved In an Exam Prep Course
Deciding to use a self-study-only approach may seem like a bold decision, but it may not be the best strategy. It is important to understand achieving exam success requires in-depth knowledge of several different subjects. Even if you have real-world experience, some of it may not apply since PMI’s point of view may be quite different from the tasks you are used to doing in the field.
Going through a certification preparation course lets you spend time with an experienced instructor, with actual knowledge on how to beat the exam. It is an excellent opportunity to get all your questions answered, share experiences and strategies, and even network if it is in-person training. This results in a greater success rate on any certification exam.
7. Take Practice Exams
No PMP candidate should approach the exam without the help of practice questions. The PMP exam contains 200 questions that must be answered in four hours – that’s less than one minute per question! This means you must be at your best, not only in terms of knowledge of the five PMP domains, but also in terms of time management and stress control.
As for practice exam test results, do not be discouraged. Unless you are an experienced test taker, it is quite common for things to go sour during the first round of questions, especially if you are not done with your reading and prep course. Take your time to study and use every resource available to clarify any doubts. By the end of your study plan, you will see consistent results on practice exams.
8. Join an Online Community
A simple Google search will find several PMP forums, wikis and personal websites where both candidates and certified professionals share their certification experiences.
As usual, it is important to verify the credibility of any source you are using. For instance, if you are looking for a formal definition of a concept that is covered in the exam, the best approach is using official material, e.g., books, guidelines and other official publications. But, if you are looking for general advice, posting your question to an online forum such as reddit or TechExams can be quite helpful.
Many candidates visit online forums and search for “PMP success.” This can serve as both preparation and motivation for the upcoming exam. If you are feeling confident, searching “PMP failure” posts may also give you some important advice, as learning from the mistakes of others is way less painful than from your own.
A word of advice: Unless you have time to help others, stay away from toxic people and posts. Many unfortunate exam takers go online to vent their frustration and this can be discouraging.
9. Have an Exam-Day Preparation Plan
Address these three basic items at least a week in advance of your exam:
- Is your exam kit ready? Check the PMP Handbook to make sure you have everything you need for the day of your PMP exam. This may sound silly, but some candidates fail to even attend the test for not fulfilling basic requirements like bringing adequate identification. Call your testing center to verify you understand the requirements.
- Are you calm and well rested? Many candidates fail because of physical and mental exhaustion. Staying up late doing a final round of study may sound tempting, but last-minute reading is usually not a good thing, and may even leave you anxious. If you think it is important to do a final review, do a selective reading instead. Also, do not focus solely on weaknesses. If you have not mastered a specific topic until now, you may prefer to focus on enhancing the areas where you’re good. A great tool for selective reading is using summaries or glossaries, which have lots of important information, some of which you may have missed during your study sessions.
- Did you make the necessary arrangements to be on time at the test site? Candidates may not be admitted to the site if they are late. If you are using public transportation, double check the best routes; if you are driving to the exam site, make sure you know where to park beforehand.
10. Clear Your Mind
Use these tips to clear your mind and stay focused during the exam:
- Be aware of time. During the exam, you may reach a high level of concentration I like to call “the zone.” This means a greater focus, which is good for problem solving, but can cause you to lose track of time. What may seem like seconds can be precious minutes; hours tend to pass at a very fast rate, so make sure you have time to go through every question on the exam.
- Take your time reading the questions. Even with limited time, it is important not to rush. Take your time, pay attention to each question and answer option and make sure you understand what is being asked. Watch for distractors (options that are obviously false) in multiple-choice questions that can be quickly eliminated. It is also important to pay close attention to terms such as MOST, LEAST, NOT, ALL, NEVER and ALWAYS, since they can entirely change a sentence.
- Try to relax. Remember to stretch and relax your muscles during the exam. A relaxed mind can help you solve difficult questions.
- Remember, there is no reason to panic. Remaining calm will improve your concentration. If you followed your study plan correctly, your results will likely be great; if not, you will have a lot more experience during the next try!
In the end, the PMP certification is a great way to advance your career. However, as expected, such benefits come at a cost: only the most dedicated candidates will succeed. Plan ahead, use the aforementioned tips as a basis for your study strategy, but also consider enrolling in official training.
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