How to Prepare for PMP Certification?

By Sabyasachi Gupta

Some of the aspects of our preparation for the PMP certification exam could be:

1. Managing our time:

Most of us have a time frame for preparing for the exam. So it becomes all the more important for us to plan well so that we could utilize our time well while preparing for the exam.

We could look at the following issues to manage our time better:

Current weak areas:

We could ask ourselves questions like,

What are my current weak areas?

What are the sites, books, forums which would help me in getting help on these issues?

I received a lot of help from sites like deepfriedbrain during my preparatory days. I found answers to many difficult concepts and issues. When we are running short of time, these sites are quite useful as we don’t have to spend too much time looking for answers to difficult questions.

Prioritizing our preparation

It is important to prioritize our study to manage our time for preparation.

For instance, I always feel that, if given a second chance, I would first go through all the 42 processes and look at the questions like what is the process all about, why is it important, when is it performed, etc. This would give me a better clarity on the processes as a whole and I would be able to see the connectivity between processes. I would then focus on Input, Output, Tools and techniques for each of these processes and would probably have a better understanding of the ITTO’S.

Change of plans:

It is quite possible that we may feel the need to change our plans as we progress in our preparation. This may be quite frustrating at times as we may feel that a new plan might take up a lot of your time. But we need not be be hesitant in changing our plans when it is really required, be it solving a few more papers reading a few more books, spending some more time on important concept or reading PMBOK once more.

What is really important here is that preparation for PMP needs to be as thorough as possible so that we have a lot of areas to score in the actual exam.

2. Managing our study:

We may need to manage our study while preparing for the exam. Some of the issues that we may need to consider are:

Books/Reading material:

It is important for us to identify the books, ebooks, online articles, PMBOK guide, preparatory courses and all other reading material which could be useful for us.

There are some really good books available in the market e. g Rita Mulcahy, Andy Crowe, Headfirst Labs, etc. Initially we could stick on to a single book to avoid confusion. Later on we could read as much as possible to develop a deeper understanding of processes.

Reading PMBOK:

It is very important for us to understand the concepts covered in PMBOK. We might feel that the entire exercise of reading PMBOK might be quite boring and time consuming as the difficulty level for a lot of concepts are really high. But we could always look out for clarification in some good books by Andy Crowe, Headfirst etc where the concepts usually comes with a lot of real life scenarios and graphic illustrations which makes things easy.

But we need to understand that the actual exam is all about real life scenarios revolving around the concepts covered in PMBOK.

PMP examination specification:

It is very important to know the Objectives of the exam. we need to take some time off to think about all the information that we might have come across while handling all our projects in our professional life. This is very important for the actual exam. PMI doesn’t keep it a secret and it allows us to download the specifications for the exam( for free). These specifications allow us to determine what the exam is driving at. While preparing for the exam we could keep checking these specifications to see if we are missing out on something.

Practise tests:

This exam is all about practise. We need to practise as many practise test papers as possible. Initially we could even buy some practise tests from any one of the known vendors like pmstudy, pmprepcast, simplilearn, etc. Later on we could practise as many free tests as possible. Most of the vendors offer free tests which are also useful. Even the tests which have smaller number of questions could be practised (20, 25, 50, etc).

Practise tests help us in multiple ways

They help us in understanding what the question is really trying to convey. Once we start realizing the underlying concept behind each question, the answers are more evident. The more we practise, the more quickly we are able to understand the underlying concept behind every question. This is really important in the actual exam because it enables a person to saves a lot of his time.

During our preparation, we could use these practise tests to gauge how much are we prepared for the exam. At times they could even be morale boosters because, if we score well in a few of them, we get the necessary confidence in our preparation for the exam.

Scoring Question and answers:

You may need to focus on all those areas which which are scoring like ITTO questions, process related questions(like what comes next after this process), Formula related questions, etc. These are questions which could fetch you some sure shot marks if you are able to study and understand the underlying concepts well.

How much do you need to prepare before you take up the actual exam?

This is a question which we all might ask ourselves while preparing for the exam. None of us ever feel we are prepared enough for the exam because with each practise test, we get a lot of questions which we are not confident about. There could be a lot of arguments about how much do we need to score before we actually take up the exam. Some of us might feel a score of 60-80% might be enough, or some of us might even feel that a score of 90 % is required considering the difficulty level in the actual exam.

What we could really do is take up some practise tests once we feel that we are prepared for the exam. We could then check our first time scores for each of the tests and share these scores with our mentors Or people who have successfully take up these exams. We could even share them with our trainers at the REP’s where we had taken up our PMP training, or some experienced PMP trainers whom we know. Based on their feedback, we could schedule our exams.


It is very important for us to revise at least about 2-3 times before we actually take up the exam. Revising the contents ensures that we don’t really forget what we had so painstakingly prepared in the last few months. We need to remember here that it has taken a lot of time, efforts and expenditure on our part to prepare for the exam. So we need to revise well.

3. Managing our anxiety/concerns/fears

Most of us have our own anxieties, fears and concerns associated with this exam. We need to handle them and not ignore them. They are probably trying to convey some important facts. like

. I am weak in communication management

. I do not have the time to go through all this

. Will I be able to really pass the exam.

. How much do I need to actually pass the exam

. I am unable to understand some concepts in PMBOK

. What if I fail in the actual exam even though I score well in practise tests.

We need to make a list of all these concerns while we are preparing for the exam. We could then come up with a plan or strategy to handle each of these issues.

For instance if we feel we are weak in some areas, we could list out all those sites which could give truckloads of information on them.

4. Managing our actual exam:

We need to consider the following issues about the actual exam

. There might be questions on the exam which we aren’t comfortable about

. What if the first 10 questions are not known to us

. What if we are able to solve all the questions but they are all time consuming and we are not sure whether we would be able to solve all of those questions.

. Can we manage the entire 4 hours without breaks. If no, then how often do we need to take a break

. How many questions do i actually need to solve before every break?

. Is it important for us to answer all questions?

. While we are giving the exam, the exam centre might have a video recording of the entire procedure. How comfortable would we be in those circumstances. Will that have an impact on the overall time required for our exam

Once we consider all the above issues, we realize that we need to be well prepared for the exam and that we need to have a battle plan for the exam. so we could have our own strategy for handling the actual exam.

I had come up with my own comfortable strategy for the exam.

I had worked out a plan where I would take my first of 5 minutes after 75 questions.

My second break after 75 questions.

My third break after 50 questions and then:

Revise my answers

This way I could complete my exam in a span of 3 hours and got a complete 1 hour to revise. Having a battle plan also helped me to avoid spending too much time for a particular question and I was able to handle the uncertainties of my exam, better

This exam is all about Planning, Preparation and Practise. And we need to do that well.

All the best for your exam.

Sabyasachi Gupta

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