What You Need to Know When Prepping for the PMP

July 27, 2017 by Spencer Verstegen

The registration process for the PMP examination is pretty straightforward, but it is not uncommon for people wishing to take the project management examination to be confused about how to go about registering. Based on experience and frequently asked questions, this article aims to provide answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the PMP registration. While this is not an exhaustive list, it serves a generic guideline on what to look for during the registration process.

What is project management?

According to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK) “Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.” In practical terms, project management is the effective coordination of resources (human and capital) to achieve the project’s goal

Where do I start when applying to take the PMP?

The first step is to confirm your eligibility status and get familiar with the application process.

How do I know if I am eligible to take the project management examination?

Before applying for the project management examination, you must be certain you have met the eligibility criteria as defined by the project management Institute (PMI). In order to be eligible, there are certain educational and professional criteria that you meet.

The minimum educational requirement for eligibility is a diploma and, depending on your educational qualification, there are further professional requirements you have to fulfill.

If your highest degree is a high school diploma, associate’s degree, or a global equivalent you require:

  1. A minimum of 60 months (five years) unique non-overlapping project management experience with a minimum of 7,500 hours spent leading and directing projects and
  2. 35 contact hours of project management education.

If your highest degree is a bachelor’s degree or a global equivalent you require:

  1. A minimum of 36 months (three years) unique non-overlapping project management experience with a minimum of 3,600 hours spent leading and directing projects and
  2. 35 contact hours of project management education.

What are the required steps for the PMP application (application process)?

Every applicant must take the following steps when applying for the PMP examination:

  • Create an account on the Project Management Institute (PMI) website.
  • Complete and submit the online application on the PMI website (PMI does not accept paper-based applications).
  • PMI reviews and approves your completed form and sends you a mail to return with the payment for your examination.
  • If your approval is valid, PMI sends you the mail and you are given a one-year eligibility period. If you fail to pay for your exams and take your examination within this period, you have to re-register after the one-year eligibility period.
  • Once you pay for your exams, PMI either sends you scheduling details for the exam or selects your application for random auditing.
  • If you were sent scheduling details, you can book your exams with the most convenient Prometric center (approved PMI testing center).
  • If you were selected for auditing, your one-year eligibility period is paused until you have met the audit requirement
  • PMI will also send follow-up instructions on how to go about the audit process.

What kind of PM work-hours will be accepted?

PMI only accepts non-overlapping work-hours for a minimum of three years if you are a bachelor’s degree holder or five years if you are a diploma holder. The time frame for PM work that you are allowed to log should be no longer than seven years. It is very important to understand what non-overlapping work-hours means.

It is assumed that there is an average of 8 working hours a day and 5 working days a week. Therefore the maximum number of working hours you are allowed to take credit for in a week is 40. Also, PMI assumes that you everybody has at least two holiday weeks in a year, therefore there’s a maximum of 50 working weeks per year, which is equivalent to 2000 work-hours per year (40 hours per week multiplied by 50 weeks). Non-overlapping work-hours simply means:

  1. You can’t take credit for more than 40 work-hours per week or 2000 work-hours per year irrespective of how long you work in a day.
  2. If you work on more than one project simultaneously, you are not allowed to take credit for the overlapping time. For example, if project A runs from January till September, while project B runs from June till December. You are not allowed to record nine months for project A and seven months for project B, making a total of 16 months PM work experience. You are only allowed to take credit for 12 months, which is a maximum of 2000 work-hours per year. There is a four-month overlapping period from June till September where you have to record activities carried out for just one project only.

What are some common pitfalls to avoid when applying for the PMP?

  • Be honest when filling out your application – People often tend to exaggerate some or all parts of their application in order to seem over-qualified during the application process. This has sometimes backfired, as there is a chance that you might be selected for auditing during the application process. If you have not been honest, then you have to deal with providing proof that does not exist. Honesty is also expected from every project manager, so you might as well begin to practice it in the application phase.
  • Including all projects you have worked on in your Life – Do not include all the projects you have worked on in order to have excessive work-hours. You only have to log the minimum working hours to be qualified for the exam. This will save you time and effort when verifying your work experience or if selected for an audit. Also remember that projects older than seven years are not recognized by PMI.
  • Not completing the 35 contact hours required by PMI – The stipulated 35 contact hours recommended is not optional but compulsory and must have been completed by the time you are filling the application. Any contact hours after submission are not recognized by PMI.
  • Trying to escape PMI Audit – Don’t even try it, you can’t escape it. While there might be a lot of templates on the internet that give guidelines on how to avoid the PMI audit, it is important to note that the audit selection process is totally random and cannot be influenced by following any format. Following a template when completing your application only makes your application less personal and doesn’t stop you from being selected for an audit.
  • Not familiarizing yourself with the PMBOK – The PMBOK is the ultimate guideline for anybody who intends to take the project management examination. It gives clear directions on what steps to be taken and how it should be carried out. You are strongly advised to read and familiarize yourself with the PMBOK before registering for the examination.

How do I deal with the PMI audit process if I’m selected?

As mentioned earlier, the audit selection process is random, and according to statistics, everyone has a 10% probability of being selected for auditing. It is therefore always advisable to be conversant with the audit process. The audit seeks to verify that the information you have submitted in the application is correct; therefore there is nothing to worry about. PMI will send you details of what they expect from you, but generally it includes:

  • References and signature from your supervisors on projects you claimed to have worked on.
  • Certificates from institutions attended.
  • Certificate from a certified project management registered educational provider showing that you have fulfilled the 35 contact hours.

Once these documents are provided, it generally takes PMI about five working days to give you feedback. If you fail to meet PMI’s auditing requirement, PMI will notify you about areas that require clarifications through mail. However, if PMI is not satisfied with the final audit, there will be a refund of your application fees, but PMI will keep your $100 processing fee.

How do you write project descriptions?

According to PMI: “Project descriptions should be a high level summary of the tasks you led and directed on the project (e.g., Initiating: develop project charter, WBS etc.; Planning: Scope definition etc.; and so on). Project management experience is required in each of the process areas when all projects are totaled, but not on each project. Project descriptions must be provided for all projects submitted on application.”

Always use simple project management terminologies when describing the project. Terms such as “I was the team leader for a project that handled xyx,” “I was a project team member for abc,” “Project involved planning and execution of jhb,” “I worked as a subcontractor where I installed internet cables and cost was a major constraint,” etc. The idea is to communicate your project by using simple, non-ambiguous words. Always remember it is a summary and not a report.

Ready to get started?

In conclusion, if you follow these guidelines, your application process will become more interesting and less stressful because you will know that you are armed with the right information. Good luck with your applications.

Posted: July 27, 2017
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Spencer Verstegen
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