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Project management is a growing field with significant employment potential. Researchers estimate that 22 million new project management jobs will be created in the next six years. While the PMP certification credential isn’t required for entry-level project management positions, those professionals who want to demonstrate mastery of their craft will want this important credential.

After earning a degree in project management, a next step is to take the PMP exam to receive your PMP certification. If you’re looking to learn how to prepare for this crucial exam and pass it the first time, the guide below is for you.


What Is the PMP Exam?

Simply stated, the PMP exam is the gold standard for certification as a project management professional or PMP. People who earn the project management professional certification understand what project management is and how to do it.

For many already working in project management, this certification is the key to higher earning potential. If you want to achieve this certification, you must pass the PMP exam.

The PMP exam is owned and administrated by PMI, the Project Management Institute.

How Long Is the PMP Exam?

The PMP exam contains 200 questions, and students may spend up to three hours and 50 minutes on the exam. Students taking the exam digitally are given two 10-minute breaks, as well.

The exam may be taken in a testing center or online. Thanks to secure exam delivery technology, certification-seekers can now take the PMP exam from the comfort of home.

How to Pass the PMP Exam on Your First Try

If you’re looking for guidance on how to study for the PMP exam, use the strategies below. By implementing these steps, you should significantly increase your chances of passing on the first attempt.

Attend a PMP Exam Prep Boot Camp

If you want to become a project management professional, there’s a lot riding on your performance on this exam. While you can and should study solo, do not go at this completely alone. Attending a quality PMP exam prep workshop or boot camp gives you access to industry professionals who have already been through this certification process.

With focused time spent on all the areas relevant to the PMP exam, a quality PMP exam prep course will give you a framework for your private study and take you on a focused, in-depth journey into each area of study.

Post University offers a PMP and CAPM Exam prep course every term. This seven-week course meets once a week for four hours in the evening and covers two units per session. Post University is a PMI Global Registered Education Provider, so you can gain peace of mind knowing that the same institute that creates the test has put their stamp of approval on this course.

Learn more about Post’s PMP prep course and sign up now.

Invest in a Good PMP Prep Book

Just as it’s important to take a quality exam prep course, you’ll also want to invest in a good PMP prep book.

So far, very few PMP prep books have been updated for 2021. For now, we can only recommend Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep, 10th Edition.

PMI has also published its reference list for the updated exam. This list includes 10 titles, and it won’t be practical for most test-takers to purchase and read all 10. However, you might want to pick up a book or two, especially those that cover areas where your knowledge is weaker.

Read the PMBOK Guide

The PMBOK Guide, also known as A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, is an essential resource for anyone taking the PMP exam. It’s not so much a test guide as it is a broader resource for all of project management. But since the test itself is designed to assess project management knowledge as a whole, the PMBOK Guide is a necessary resource.

Please be aware that the PMBOK is in its sixth edition at the time of publishing this post. You’ll want to acquire the most current edition.

Create Practice Tests at Home

Another great study plan strategy is to create practice tests yourself. While there are many companies that will gladly sell you their own practice PMP exams, most of them aren’t updated yet. You’d be purchasing content made for the previous version of the PMP exam.

Of course, over time, these companies will catch up. But we still recommend creating your own practice exam. It requires knowing a bit about a discipline to create the question in the first place. As you work through PMI’s content outline, the areas where you can’t craft an effective question are the areas you need to study more closely.

The other reason to create practice tests rather than just study the material is endurance. Most people aren’t accustomed to taking exams that are nearly four hours long. It takes practice to keep your mental endurance up for that long. Creating and taking your own practice tests is a great way to do this.

Use Flashcards

Flashcards are a tried-and-true method for memorizing terms and reviewing content. They worked well for certain disciplines in college, and they can work well for PMP exam prep, too. By breaking down complex study material into bite-sized chunks, you make the learning process more manageable. You can take flashcards with you anywhere you go, and the format allows you to review important information repeatedly.

You can use flashcards in several ways. If you’ve acquired or created mock test questions, you can put these onto flashcards. One question and answer per flashcard makes your studying a little more tangible.

Flashcards are great for reviewing acronyms, terms, and formulas, too—and there are plenty of those to go around in project management.

Participate in Online Discussion Groups

You’ll devote plenty of time to studying solo, but sometimes the best studying breakthroughs come in groups. Look for local or online discussion groups full of other people who are preparing for the PMP exam. By working with others, you may begin seeing more clearly the gaps in your own knowledge.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep the Night Before the Test

Make no mistake: You will need to study for this exam—a lot. But the night before the test? That’s not the right time to cram. Schedule your final study sessions carefully over the preceding week. The night of the exam you might choose to do some final review. But get to bed at a decent hour. You need to be mentally alert in the morning.

Read the Test Questions Carefully

It can be tempting to feel the need to rush through a test like this one. 180 questions is a lot, and it can feel like a failure not to finish the test. These concerns are often stronger for professionals who haven’t taken an academic test in a few years.

The difference between a right and wrong answer can be nuanced, though. Giving the right answer to the question you thought you read (rather than the actual question) will frequently lead to errors. Make sure you take enough time to read each question and answer carefully.

Manage Your Time Well

The previous point doesn’t mean that you should spend significant time on each question, however. The truth is there isn’t a ton of time to go around. If you spend just one minute on each question and take no breaks, you’ll have only 50 minutes to spare. Add 15 seconds to each question, and you’ll barely finish in time.

While it’s important to read the questions carefully, it’s equally important to budget your time well. If once you’ve carefully read the question, you aren’t immediately sure which answer you’ll choose, it’s time to mark the question and move on.

The PMP exam allows you to mark a question for review later. We recommend using this tool generously. Don’t sit and think for minutes on end about a tricky question. Mark it and keep moving. If you have extra time at the end, you can spend it on those troublesome questions.

It’s far better to finish the exam and come back to the tough ones than to fail to finish. Chances are, you’ll know the answer to at least some of the final 25 questions. Better to answer those correctly than to never have the chance.

Calm Your Nerves

Many people deal with testing anxiety, especially when there’s money and credentialing on the line. It’s OK to be nervous, of course, but you don’t want your nerves getting in the way of your testing performance.

Realize that there will be items on the exam you don’t know the answer to. You don’t have to get a perfect score to pass. You’re also free to give your best guess on many questions because much of the exam is multiple choice.

Take practical steps as well. Avoid excessive caffeine or other stimulants before the test. A good rule of thumb is no more (or a little less) than your usual caffeine intake. Eat a banana as a natural beta-blocker or take some magnesium. (But don’t overdo the magnesium, especially the types that are rough on your stomach! You don’t need that during a four-hour exam.)

Wrapping Up

Ultimately, there’s no substitute for adequate preparation. Here at Post University, we offer a top-quality PMP exam prep course that will set you on your way to success. Read more or request more information on our course page. And happy studying!


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