Project Management

Tips for passing the PMP certification exam

These tips and techniques will help you prepare for the Project Management Professional certification exam offered by the Project Management Institute.


The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, sponsored by the Project Management Institute (PMI), is the most recognized and respected certification credential in the field of project management.

To achieve PMP certification, each candidate must satisfy all educational and experiential requirements established by PMI, agree to adhere to a code of professional conduct, and must demonstrate an acceptable and valid level of understanding and knowledge of project management. The PMP certification examination tests this knowledge. PMP-certified professionals must also demonstrate ongoing professional commitment to the project management field by satisfying PMI continuing certification requirements program. For more information, check the certification page on the PMI Web site.

Tips on taking the PMP exam
The PMP certification examination is a computer-based exam that is offered at PMI locations in the United States, Canada, and in other countries worldwide.

The exam is based on information from the entire project management body of knowledge. The “Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge” (PMBOK), which is published by PMI, provides an outline of the topics covered.

The four-hour exam consists of 200 multiple choice questions with four possible answers (a through d). The participant needs to correctly answer 137 of the questions (68.5%) to receive a passing grade. Because the exam is computer based, participants can find out how they scored by reading the detailed report on performance that is available when the exam is completed.

The examination covers the five groups of project management processes and professional responsibility. (See Figure A).
Figure A
Breakdown of Questions by Process Group

Process Group

Approximate Number of Questions
Percentage

Initiating

17

8.50

Planning

47

23.50

Executing

47

23.50

Controlling

46

23.00

Closing

14

7.00

Professional Responsibility

29

14.50

Questions on the PMP exam are grouped by project management processes.

The basic PMP exam is not industry specific. The PMI Certificate of Added Qualification (CAQ), which tests your knowledge of a particular industry, can be added to certify your expertise in Information Technology Project Management, Establishing a Project Management Office, and Project Management in the Automotive Industry.

Tips for taking the PMP exam
Passing the PMP exam requires extensive preparation. Use the following tips and techniques as part of that preparation, which should also include developing a comprehensive understanding of the PMBOK concepts and terminology, practicing previous exam questions when possible, and attending a few project management-training courses.

Question-oriented tips
  • There are certain questions that contain extra information. This information is irrelevant and it does not relate to the correct answer. Beware of such questions and remember it isn't necessary to use all the information provided to answer the question.
  • Each question has only one correct answer. You need to select the most appropriate answer. Beware of choices that represent true statements but are not relevant. Be sure to read all the options before you select any one.
  • You need to answer the questions from a PMI perspective—not from your own perspective, which you acquired through experience. Remember that PMI is trying to present an ideal environment for project managers that might be different from your own experience.
  • Beware of answer choices that represent generalizations, which may be characterized by words such as always, never, must, or completely; these are often the incorrect choices.
  • Look out for choices that represent special cases. These choices tend to be correct and are characterized by words such as often, sometimes, may, generally, and perhaps.
  • The correct answer may not be grammatically correct.

PMI concept-oriented tips
  • The project manager takes an active approach to the job by not waiting until a risk materializes and becomes a problem. This is an extremely important concept that might affect many questions on an exam. The project manager does not escalate problems to upper management or to the customer before fully analyzing them and identifying options. When answering a question related to what the project manager should do in a specific situation, you should rephrase the question to: What is the first thing the project manager will do given such a situation and given his or her proactive nature?
  • Assume that lessons learned and historical databases are available. This might not be true in a real life situation.
  • PMI does not approve adding extra functionality without benefits or gold plating.
  • Project managers have all kinds of soft and hard skills.
  • The Work Breakdown Structures (WBSs) are wonderful tools.
  • Roles and responsibilities need to be properly defined.

General tips
  • You should memorize all formulas, especially the Earned Value and PERT.
  • Practice eliminating the completely implausible options first.
  • There is no penalty for guessing; thus, do not leave any question blank.
  • There will always be those situations where you have no idea what the question is asking. Use educated guessing to select the most appropriate option. Remember, you have only 80 seconds for each question. If you do not know the answer of a question, mark it and move on and revisit it later if you have time.
  • Answer the questions based on the PMBOK concepts first, then consider your experience. If they are in conflict, the PMBOK wins.

Who recognizes the PMP certification?
Major companies and government agencies worldwide recognize the PMP certification. Several Fortune 1000 companies demand that all of their employees or subcontractors that are engaged in project management activities should be PMPs. In other words, the PMP certification has become a market differentiator; companies that do not have PMP certification programs are at a competitive disadvantage.

Some of the major companies that support project management certification include AT&T, Bell South, Bell Core, Bell Atlantic, US West, Motorola, GSK, Novartis, Citibank, IBM, EDS, HP, ABB, Pacer International, Barclays, Microsoft, BBC, NCR, Eurotel, Shell, BP, and many others. Government agencies supporting PMP certification include the U.S. Defense Systems Management College, the U.S. Department of Energy, and Canada’s Department of National Defense.

Share your tips
Did you find these tips and techniques helpful? What other tips would you offer your peers who are preparing to sit for the PMP exam?

 

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