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Interested in becoming a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)? If so, then you must take and pass a comprehensive CAPM exam. While this exam may be intimidating, you could increase your chances of success by taking the time to prepare and study ahead of time.

With an understanding of what the CAPM exam entails, what to expect from its formatting, and some practical preparation strategies, you could face your exam day with a greater sense of confidence.

What Is CAPM Certification and What Does It Require?

Though there are many different certifications and credentials available in the project management field, CAPM is one of the most essential. Offered as an entry-level certification through the Project Management Institute (PMI), this certification is a noteworthy designation in the industry.

Significance of CAPM Certification

More specifically, having a CAPM designation could be extremely valuable for project managers or recent graduates from project management programs who wish to expand their knowledge of project management skills, frameworks, and best practices. A CAPM certification could even prepare project managers to oversee larger and more complex projects with more moving parts.

A CAPM certification could help boost your resume, too. And if you are considering a future Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, CAPM is a logical next step to that more advanced designation.

Decoding CAPM Exam Structure and Content

So, what exactly does the CAPM exam entail, and what is its structure like? By having a better feel for the overall content and format of the exam, you could better prepare.

First, understand that to even apply for the CAPM exam, you need to have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED. You also need a minimum of 23 hours of project management education under your belt.

The exam itself comprises 150 questions, and test-takers are given three hours to complete the test. The exam itself is based on the latest edition of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), with some topics including:

  • Project environment
  • Project cost management
  • Project risk management
  • Project schedule management

You could give yourself a better idea of what to expect by reading the CAPM handbook, which describes the formatting and design of the exam in even greater detail.

In addition, you are allowed to retake the CAPM exam if you do not pass it the first time around. However, because it costs money ($225 to $300, depending on whether or not you are a PMI member) each time you take it, it is ideal to pass the first time around.

Preparing for the CAPM Exam

Now that you have a better idea of what the examination itself looks like, what it covers, and how long you have to complete the exam, you are probably wondering how to prepare for the CAPM exam in a way that works best for you. Ultimately, everyone has a different learning style; something that works well for one test-taker may not work well for you. Still, there are some basic tips and best practices that could help you study more effectively for the CAPM exam.

Tips to Create an Effective Study Plan

Start by setting aside time to study for the exam early on. Waiting until the last minute to study leads to cramming, which is typically not an effective way to retain information. Instead, make sure you are giving yourself at least a month to study (and, ideally, more like three months).

From there, create a study plan you could realistically adhere to. This means taking the time to block out studying sessions in your schedule, whether that means studying for 30 minutes each night before bed or committing a few hours throughout the week.

Because the exam is based entirely on chapters from PMBOK, many test-takers find it helpful to break their study time up into segments that align with each chapter of the book. As you review PMBOK, make note of any specific topics that you know you struggle with so you can focus more on these in your preparation.

Importance of Scheduling the Exam Carefully

Consider, too, when you plan to schedule your exam and the potential impact its timing may have on your success. The CAPM exam needs to be taken at an approved testing center or you may schedule it online via a proctored exam. Either way, your choice will still involve you managing your time properly ahead of time so you can be prepared for your exam with as little added stress as possible.

When scheduling your exam, make sure you are giving yourself ample time to study and prepare as well. Try to give yourself at least a month to execute your study plan before taking the exam—and schedule it for a day when you do not have anything else going on that could create an unwanted distraction.

The Role of Pretest Questions in the CAPM Exam

Mixed in with your 150 examination questions on the CAPM exam are 15 pretest questions, the purpose of which is to “test out” potential questions for the following year’s exam. It is critical to understand that these questions are not scored. Because they are randomly spread throughout the exam itself, however, you do not know which questions are pretest questions and which ones are being scored. All you can know for sure is that there is a 10 percent chance any given question on the exam is an unscored pretest question.

With all this in mind, it is important to treat every question on the exam as a scored question. Likewise, try to avoid putting too much thought into whether a question may be a pretest question, as this could create a distraction that may impact your overall performance on the exam.

Strategies to Answer Questions Effectively

There are a few additional strategies and best practices that could help you answer questions more effectively—even when the answer is not obvious at first glance.

First, understand that a lot of CAPM questions use qualifiers like “most correct,” “best possible,” or “except.” Pay special attention to these qualifiers to ensure you do not misread or misinterpret the questions or potential responses.

Another helpful tip is to write down formulas you have memorized at the beginning of the exam before you even start answering questions. This allows you to get those formulas you have memorized down in writing before they slip your mind. From there, you could refer to those formulas as needed throughout the exam.

Finally, be sure to use the “mark for review” feature on your CAPM exam, which allows you to mark a question and return to it later. It is a good idea to flag any question to which you are not 100 percent sure of the answer. From there, you could use any remaining time after you complete the rest of your exam to revisit these questions. This feature is an excellent way to optimize the use of your time while taking the CAPM exam.

Utilizing Strengths in the CAPM Exam

As daunting as taking the CAPM may seem, knowing your strengths and focusing on those as you take your exam could really pay off.

Relying on Strengths and Skills

One of the best ways to determine your strengths and weaknesses while preparing for the CAPM exam is to take plenty of realistic practice exams that cover real topics from the PMBOK. As you review your practice exam results, you could get a better grasp on which areas were your biggest strengths and weaknesses.

From there, let this guide your study plan as you create it. Areas where you need more practice could become a priority during your study sessions, whereas you could rely on your strengths and skills to carry you through other parts of the exam with ease. If you know, for example, that you do well with questions requiring math, you might focus on answering these questions first and flagging other questions to return to.

Importance of Reading PMBOK for CAPM Exam

In preparing for the CAPM exam, it is key to keep in mind that this test is 100 percent based on the most current version of the PMBOK. Each chapter of the book correlates to a different part of the exam, with each section being weighed slightly differently. By taking the time to obtain and read through the most current version of the PMBOK, you are setting yourself up for the best chances of success in the exam itself.

PMBOK Study Guides for the Exam

In addition to getting a copy of the latest PMBOK edition, you might also want to look for specific PMBOK study guides that help walk you through different chapters and concepts and understand them in different ways. These guides may be especially useful if you already know there are sections or chapters of the PMBOK with which you struggle. The key is to find a reputable PMBOK guide that is based on the most recent edition of the book itself. Otherwise, you could be studying outdated material.

Enhancing Confidence Levels During the Learning Phase

If you struggle with test-taking anxiety or an overall lack of confidence when it comes to test-taking, you may be wondering what you could do to give yourself a little confidence boost as you prepare for the CAPM exam.

Techniques to Boost Confidence and Excel in the CAPM Exam

There are effective ways to elevate your confidence about taking the CAPM exam. This all begins with establishing (and following) a strict study plan that ensures you cover all the chapters of PMBOK that will be addressed in the exam. When you know you have covered and studied every topic, you could go into the actual exam with a greater sense of confidence overall.

Meanwhile, take time to complete practice exams. This is one of the best ways to get a true feel for what the experience of taking the actual CAPM exam would be like. The more realistic the practice exam, the better prepared you are for the real thing.

Introduction to CAPM Exam Prep Training

There are numerous programs out there that claim to help you prepare for the CAPM exam and maximize your chances of passing after your first attempt. These programs could be extremely useful, but it is crucial to understand that they are not all created equal. Plus, because these programs cost money, you want to know what to look for in a CAPM exam prep training program and how to weed out lower-quality ones.

Choosing the Right CAPM Exam Prep Training

Start by doing your research and narrowing down your options for CAPM exam prep training. One of the most important things to look for here is the percentage of people who have used the program and passed the CAPM on the first attempt. This information should be readily available. If it is not, then you would probably want to move on to another program.

Likewise, make sure any program you are considering offers study plans based on the latest version of the PMBOK.

What to Expect From a Good CAPM Exam Prep Training

A great CAPM exam prep program should include several different resources to help you prepare for the exam regardless of your unique learning style. Additionally, an exam prep program should include at least one or two full practice exams that mimic the real test-taking experience as closely as possible. Ideally, the program you select should also come with a money-back guarantee where you could get the price of the program refunded if you do not pass the exam the first time around.

Is CAPM Certification Worth the Effort?

If you are serious about expanding your project management body of knowledge, getting your CAPM certification could certainly be worth the time, cost, and effort. Although becoming certified is not necessarily a breeze, knowing how to study for CAPM and what to expect could help set you up for success. And once you become a certified associate, you are further validating your credibility and knowledge within the competitive project management field.

Looking for other ways to grow your experience with project management? Post University offers both a Graduate Certificate in Project Management and a Master of Science in Project Management program. Reach out to learn more, or apply online today.


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