PMP certification is a globally recognized credential which adheres to the highest standards. Clearing the exam is no cakewalk, but neither is it as impossible to achieve as people make it out to be. It only requires a focused approach to ensure success ahead.
Individuals who have taken the PMP exam know that studying the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) sixth edition is not sufficient. While a comprehensive understanding of the PMBoK Guide and PMP exam content is essential, a realistic approach to PMP exam preparation must include practice exams if you want to be a certified PMP, in a single attempt. You also need to complete 35 hours of training from a registered education provider. In the course of this training, you will be expected to earn 35 professional development units (PDUs) to take the exam.
Review the PMP Examination Content Outline
The exam content outline gives you the blueprint of the PMP exam questions. These questions are correlated to project management domain: knowledge, skills, and tasks. The PMP exam content outline of 2015 published by PMI contains the following information:
- Fragmentation of questions according to process areas
- Knowledge, tasks, and skills required as per PMI
The above is designed to keep the exam pattern consistent with the roles and responsibilities of the project manager, and the PMI will conduct exams based on this content outline only till December 15, 2019.
Going through this document will give a clear picture of what may come up in the exam. Once you go through this, you will get a reasonable command over the PMBOK Guide, and the PMP certification exam will be smooth sailing.
Start Preparations Based on the PMBoK New Edition
The latest Guide is the PMBoK sixth edition and so will contain updated project management preparation material and other resources. Trends and new practices, as well as current learnings and business behavior, are part of the Guide; in all, aspirants should set aside 40-200 hours for study along with the required training. There is no point in getting stressed as it may hamper your preparation process. They should also scout online for training courses and register for PMP classroom or virtual training.
PMP Exam Format
The PMP exam will test you with 200 multiple-choice questions drawn from all the phases of project management methodology covered in detail in the course syllabus. They are initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and controlling, and closure.
PMP exam preparation demands total familiarization with PMP exam format and types. Expanding your reading to include online tutorials, experts’ guides, and training notes will provide an in-depth understanding, and you will realize what you know and what you do not. The Exam format comprises various styles of questions, each having its own purpose.
Here we outline the most common types of PMP questions:
- Situational Questions
These questions assess your capability to apply theoretical knowledge in real-life project management situations. These questions seem to be tricky and confusing as they contain both relevant and irrelevant information. So, you need to ascertain what is required accurately, eliminate useless data, and only then choose the correct answer.
At times, questions will provide you two choices of which both seem to be correct. So, you need to understand what the problem is and identify the most suitable option based on your understanding of project management concepts.
Example: Your client asks you for minor changes in the project which you believe will not affect the schedule baseline or cost. What will your next step be?
a) You will do it as it will not affect the project
b) You will not implement the request
c) You will discuss with team members
d) You will inform management
Solution: You will neither accept nor deny any request from the client unless you review it, and the client agrees to the impact on the project. For any change in the project, a review with the team members is advisable.
So the answer is c)
- Formula Based Questions
Formula based questions are not merely about calculating the average, earned value, and finding the median. There are approximately 49 formulas that you need to learn for the exam. Unless you have it at your fingertips, it is not easy to clear the exam.
A thorough understanding of each element will help you in deciding what is essential in the exam. You must know which formula to use and how to perform calculations to get the correct answer. The questions under this section revolve around concepts like earned value management, PERT, critical path method, etc.
Example: There are 20 stakeholders in a project. What is the total number of potential communications channels in the project?
Solution: Communication channels can be calculated using the formula n (n-1)/2.
“n” – number of stakeholders
So, the total number of communication channels= n (n-1)/2=190
- Knowledge-Based Questions
Knowledge-based questions are wide-ranging in nature and based on project management concepts, processes, skills, knowledge, process groups, inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs.
These questions prompt you to apply theoretical knowledge to a real-life scenario. It is vital to recognize the real intent of the query and ignore the confusing options, which are basically “distractors.”
Example: For which phase of the project would you recommend using an integrated change control process?
a) Throughout the project
Solution: The process is performed all through the project phase, from initiation to closure.
- Interpretational Questions
These questions will call upon you to analyze a situation based on the facts given. You have to come up with the correct answer through your ability to apply project management knowledge. It assesses your capability to decode a condition/situation from the problem statement.
Example: If the CPI is greater than 1, then how well is your project performing?
a) The project is ahead of schedule
b) The project is behind schedule
c) The project is under budget
d) The project is on budget
Solution: The cost performance index or CPI determines the cost efficiency of the project. If CPI is greater than 1, you are spending less money than planned. So, the project is below budget or Option C)
- Technique-Based Questions
These types of questions provide information about a particular situation in various forms like data chart, network diagram, and a few more. Your test query will concern an element that is intrinsic to the scenario.
Example: The project team will report after the minimal project duration to the project manager after successful completion of the project. Here is the network schedule of the project schedule.
At what period should the team report to the project manager?
a) 16 days
b) 11 days
c) 55 days
d) 63 days
A critical path is the sequence of activities that sum up to the most prolonged duration, notwithstanding project float (slack). The most extended span is the path A-B-F-H-I, and it is the critical path. It is the minimum duration of the project. So, the team should report in 63 days to the project manager.
A thorough understanding of these question types will help you understand how to prepare for the PMP exam by devising an excellent strategy to come up with correct answers.
Practice Mock Tests to Face the Exam
Do you want to know the status of your PMP exam preparation? You can assess your preparation level by taking up full duration mock tests. These tests not only evaluate your knowledge level in project management but also test your stamina over a four-hour test. It may take one or two mocks to get a hold on the PMP question paper pattern and perform well in the exam.
Taking up mock tests without proper analysis is just a waste of time. After every exam, identify the areas where you lag, else taking the test is of no use. Work on those areas before attempting again.
After attempting two-three mock tests, you will be clear about the exam format, and your preparation level will be okay. If you happen to score 85 per cent to 90 per cent in consecutive tests, you are ready to appear for the exam. Otherwise, you will have to work on the gaps. Repeat this process until you gain confidence and can face your big day with confidence.
Group Study and Participation in Discussion Forums
While preparing for the PMP certification exam, studying in a group can be quite beneficial. A group of compatible PMP aspirants will help you come up with new and effective tactics to learn, revise, and score well.
Let us take a look at the benefits:
- Group study is the best way to escape from the boredom of studying alone.
- You can overcome the problems in areas that you are lagging in and boost your confidence.
- Scenario-based questions being the most complex and tricky part of PMP exam, sharing related PMP exam tips and tricks and PMP exam formulas will help you crack such sections.
- The most significant benefit of preparing in a group is you will study regularly.
- Participation in discussion forums helps to clear doubts and gain a better grasp of the concepts.
How Long Does it Take to Prepare for the PMP Exam?
There is no standard timeline to complete your PMP exam preparation. It varies from one individual to another. PMP aspirants need to boost their knowledge and understanding of the concepts to match the exam standards.
If a PMP aspirant is a project manager and has a thorough knowledge of project management methodology, two-three hours of study a day for two weeks is sufficient preparation. If the candidate is an aspiring project manager, he will need to prepare more to make up for the lack of experience. The experience provides tacit knowledge that one cannot learn through an academic exercise.
To Wrap Up
If the term “PMP” brings to mind hard work and tough questions, do not despair, there are ways to simplify your efforts. Following the right PMP exam preparation plan counts. For example, some aspirants go through one chapter, take a break and start again. Taking up the PMP exam requires a focused approach, and following the above steps will help you to attain PMP credentials at the earliest.