How To Prepare For CAPM® Certification?

Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® Certification is one of the very good certification and internationally recognized certification in Project Management which is provided by Project Management Institute (PMI). This certification is for those who have less experience in the project management area or for those who are interested to choose their career path in the project management.

It requires you, to have very good knowledge in the inputs, outputs and tools and techniques associated with all the processes related to project management. There are no test dumps available for this exam and you need to acquire the skills in the project management process groups and knowledge area to pass this exam.

You must meet the following requirements as outlined by PMI to apply for this exam.


Here is a well-detailed infographics that illustrates the eligibility criteria for CAPM certification exam:

CAPM Eligibility - InfoGraphics

CAPM Certification Process

  1. Submit your application online or via mail to PMI. PMI’s response time is faster for electronic submission. You have 90 days to complete the application once you started it.
  2. PMI takes up to 24 hours to complete the application completeness review.
  3. You need to complete the payment of credential fees for Computer-based testing ($225 for PMI members and $300 for non-member).
  4. If your application is selected for audit process you have 90 days to send your audit materials. PMI processes the audit material in 5-7 days.
  5. You receive your authorization to schedule the exam in any prometric testing centers within one year from the date of the application approval. You can take the exam up to 3 times during this 1 year. You need to pay your re-examination fees to the second and third attempts to pass the examination. (($150 for PMI members and $200 for non-member).
  6. The certification cycle is 5 years from the date of passing the exam and re-exam is required for recertification. You must apply for recertification in the last one year of your certification cycle, failing which you need to apply again as a new candidate for the CAPM certification. If you are eligible to apply for PMP exam at that time, it is better to apply for the PMP exam.

The CAPM exam consists of 150 objective questions with four options and you have 3 hours to complete the exam. 15 out of the 150 questions are pre-release questions and not counted for scoring your exam. PMI does not disclose the pass score for the exam and the passing score is determined by sound psychometric analysis.


Why take the CAPM certification?

If you are interested to choose project management as your career option or would like to demonstrate your knowledge in project management to your supervisor for potential role in project management or wish to differentiate yourself from rest of the peers for achieving promotion or good annual hikes, you can plan for the CAPM certification. It demonstrates everyone, that you are a person with very good knowledge in the project management process groups, Knowledge areas related to project management.

It is also for those who are planning for PMP certification but not meeting the project management experience fully. Instead of waiting to complete the required experience to apply for the PMP exam, they can plan to acquire this international certification in project management as a launch pad for the PMP exam.

What are the resources available for the CAPM certification?

  1. PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) guide from PMI
  2. Project Management Education Training to acquire the 23 hours of project management education requirement online /classroom sessions for those who don’t have the project experience.
  3. CAPM exam preparation guides
  4. CAPM exam simulation software to practice mock exams
  5. Objective question bank for CAPM exam to practice test in each project management knowledge areas

SWOT Analysis for the candidates planning for the CAPM certification

You must analyse your strength and weakness in your project management knowledge, before applying for the CAPM certification. You also need to understand the opportunity you are going to get and the threat you would encounter as part of the CAPM certification processes.

Before applying for the exam, take a mock test of around 20 questions in each knowledge area and evaluate the skills and gaps you have at the beginning of the preparation. This will help you focus more on your weak areas and revisit your strength areas in less amount of time.

Knowing your weakness itself would help you to cross 50% of the hurdle you have in the exam preparation. Recognition among your peers, promotion, salary hike or a role assisting the project managers to take you to the next level in the project management are some of the opportunities you would gain by acquiring the CAPM certification.

You need to face the organization politics which each employee needs to face in any organization. But a good thing is that you are armed with an international certification CAPM in project management, which gives you various options to handle the situation.

How to prepare for the CAPM certification?

You need to have the good knowledge about the inputs, outputs, tools and techniques for all the project management processes and knowledge areas to pass this exam. Since you are relatively new to project management, you need to memorize some of the information as part of your preparation.

Even you might have project experience and don’t have the project management training, I recommend you to attend the training which would help you to understand about project management better. There are so many premium training institute which are supporting your training needs.

Then preparation of the PMBOK guide is the most important thing and needs to be studied at least three times before the actual exam. The first-time should be used to go through the book once, to get familiar with all the tools and techniques, inputs and outputs from all the processes and take short notes. The second-time reading should be used to understand the project management process groups and knowledge areas and identify where a process lies in the project management process and which knowledge area.

The third-time reading should focus more on consolidation of these concepts and understand the relationship between different processes and the usage of same tools and techniques in different processes. Many time the same inputs may also be one of the inputs to many project management processes. Focus on these challenging areas to get the relevant skills in the project management.

You can also follow a study guide of your choice and go through that. There is no need to follow multiple books which would be difficult for you to manage before the exam

Plan mock test on the project management knowledge areas which would help you to identify the weak areas and you can concentrate to work on that. You also need to have group discussion with all your peers who are appearing for the exam to understand the concepts from different perspectives.

Finally, two weeks before the CAPM exam, plan to take one mock exam from any exam stimulation software. This would give you an indication that, where you stand in your certification journey. You need to score more than 80% in this exam and this would be an indication that you are on track. Analysis the exam result to understand the areas of limited knowledge and plan to study on these areas to improve your knowledge in project management.

After one week, plan for one more mock test and complete the third test before two days of the actual exam. The last two days needs to be used to relax yourself and help your brain to process your learning. Stay in touch with some light activity related to the exam in the last two days to optimize the score in the actual exam.

Attend the exam and be a certified CAPM person successfully.

Study plan and implementation strategy

The preparation strategy is different for different candidates based on their current skill in project management and they need to plan accordingly. An average candidate with minimum knowledge in project management, needs to plan for minimum two hours per day for a span of two to three months to pass this exam.

They can plan extra time of two more hours during their weekend and holidays. Consistency is the key and don’t miss even a single day in your preparation. You need to make sure you are armed with around Rs 50,000 as an investment for purchasing the necessary materials and attending the relevant training for this exam. You need to plan for contingency fund as well as time for any unforeseen deviation in your study plan. This will help you to achieve success in the examination.

Your study plan should include the following stages:

  1. Prepare the PMBOK Guide for three times
  2. Prepare a standard guide on Certified Associate in Project Management
  3. Group discussion with your peers on each knowledge areas
  4. Practice tests based on Knowledge areas
  5. 3 Mock exams using CAPM exam simulation software

Types of questions in the CAPM exam

The following are the different types of questions you can see in the CAPM exam

  1. Questions related to tools and techniques, inputs and outputs of the project management process
  2. Questions with two or more possible right answers.
  3. Questions where understanding is important
  4. Questions with make-up terms
  5. Questions related to fundamental knowledge of maths for project management

How to prepare for the questions related to tools and techniques, inputs and outputs of the project management process?

These are straightforward questions that you can answer well with your preparation. You need to have a very good knowledge on the PMBOK guide which is constructed with the same approach. Since you have limited or no experience in real-time project management, memory also plays a role in answering these questions. Focus on memorising the concepts after understanding the same. This would help to answer well in these areas.

Sample Question:

Which of the following is not an input for preparing the project management plan?

A. Project charter
B. Organizational process assets
C. Enterprise environmental factors
D. Watch list of risks

The correct answer is option D.
Here all the options A, B and C are inputs for the preparation of project management plan expect option D which you would be creating during qualitative and quantitative analysis of risk management activities.

How to prepare for the questions for which more than two possible right answers?

There are questions which appears to have more than right answers. Understand the question well to answer those questions. A good training and knowledge in project management would help to answer these questions.

Sample Question:

When would you identify the risk in the project?

A. During the initiation phase
B. During the execution phase
C. During the monitoring and control phase
D. Throughout the entire project

The correct answer is option D.
Though it appears A, B, and C are correct, risk identification is happening in all the phases of the project from beginning to end and hence option D is the best answer.

How to prepare for questions where understanding is important?

Sometimes the questions related to the processes are given in a different way where your understanding about the process is important to answer the questions. Don’t memorize without understanding the logic behind the process.

Sample Question:

Approval to the change request on scope by the key stakeholder is based on

A. The importance of the stakeholder
B. Impact analysis on how it affects another stakeholder
C. Analysis of the change required in other parameters like cost, time, quality
D. Impact analysis of the benefits to the sponsor of the project

The correct answer is option C.
In this question, the question force you to think between the option B and D due to the word impact analysis. But the correct answer to this question is option C, since any changes in scope needs to be approved based on the changes required in other parameters like cost, time or quality. If you have the correct understanding about the concepts you can answer these questions well.

How to handle questions with make-up terms?

To confuse you, Often the questions setter added some terms not at all related to the questions. This may be because they are looking for the fourth option in the question or they want to trick you to choose the wrong option. If you are preparing well and understand all the terms from PMBOK guide, you can handle these questions easily. Any term, you don’t know in the exam is a make-up-term and you skip that option easily.

Sample Question:

Which one of the following is not the risk response strategy for the opportunities?

A. Enhance
B. Exploit
C. Accept
D. Agree

The correct answer is option D.
Risk response strategy for opportunities are enhance, exploit, accept and share. Here the option D is not at all a risk response strategy for both opportunities as well as threats (response strategies for threats are mitigate, accept, transfer and avoid) and it is a make-up term to confuse you. If any of the options related to threats are given, you can choose the option easily without the knowledge of the responses to the opportunities. To make the question difficult the make-up term is used here. Hence the correct answer is option D.

How to overcome the CAPM maths hurdle?

The CAPM maths questions are very straight and most of the time it is directly asking about the various formulas. Even application of the formulas is less frequently asked in the exam. We have many formulas which we need to know for each project management process groups and understand all of them would give a lot of learning related to the project management. This would help you to tackle these questions in the exam.

Which of the following option is correct related to cost budget?

A. Cost budget = project cost + contingency reserve
B. Cost budget = project cost + management reserve
C. Cost budget = cost baseline + management reserve
D. Cost budget = cost baseline + contingency reserve

The correct answer is option C.
It is a direct formula related to cost budget and if you know that, you can answer this question.

Common mistakes by the CAPM candidates

CAPM candidates do the following mistakes during their preparation journey.

  • PMI exams are high standard exams and don’t underestimate the quality of the exam. You would be surprised and not having any clue, if your preparation is not good.
  • Limited knowledge in some of the knowledge area results in failure in the exam. You need to have good understanding in all the knowledge areas to pass the exam. There is cut-off for each knowledge area and over all cut- off for overall exam and it is based on sound psychometric analysis.
  • Reschedule the exam date many times. Unless it is mandatory to reschedule the exam due to an emergency, don’t reschedule the exam. Stick to the exam date. You will not follow your study plan properly, if you are not sticking to a committed date.
  • Not utilizing all the important sources for the exam. I have seen most of the candidates have the desire for this certification but not interested or willing to invest in all the tools required to prepare themselves well for the exam. The resources required to prepare for the exam differ from each candidate, but whatever you are planning, needs to be used to succeed in this exam.
  • Not allocating sufficient time to prepare for the exam.
  • Lack of consistency in following your plan. If you don’t have a plan in place, then it is difficult to pass this exam.

Importance of taking tests on each Knowledge Areas

To understand the concept well, you need to practice lot of test, related to each project management knowledge areas. The process help you to eliminate the weakness you have, and prepare yourself successfully for the examination. You need to have a question bank handy to practice lot of questions and plan to acquire one or enroll for an online course on the same.

Importance of taking Mock exams before the actual exam

CAPM exam simulation software usually have questions of high quality and help you to analyse where you stand at that time. Taking an exam for 3 hours requires physical and mental strength and techniques to keep yourself focused. This experience of taking the exam in the simulation environment, help you to plan your real exam well. It is better to face the problem in the PMP mock exam rather than in the real exam. The questions are from all the knowledge areas and this would give an indication of your understanding about the project management process groups and knowledge areas.     

How to conduct yourself during the exam?

I recommend you to take leave for two days before the exam date. You need to give time for your mind to process all the learning you have till that time. Relax yourself, but do some activity related to the exam. Visit the exam site before the exam date and understand how much time it takes for you to reach your venue.

On the Exam Day

  • You must bring your authorization letter from PMI as well as ID with the same name as per your authorization letter.
  • If you struggle to remember any concepts, write those concepts in the scratch paper given to you. This will help to relax your mind before the exam.
  • You will see one question at a time and all those 150 questions are selected immediately you would started the exam and not based on your answers to a question.
  • You have the option to mark the question for review later and can move back and forth.
  • If you are reading the question multiple times, you are stressed and use breathing technique to relax yourself.
  • Focus on the question and answer. If you are thinking about the 10th question when you answering 80th question, you have not focused well for nearly 70 questions and the result should be a disaster for you.
  • Answer each question from PMI perspective.
  • Follow the elimination strategy to eliminate the options which are not correct. This will help to answer more questions correctly.
  • Utilize all your 3 hours in the exam and don’t leave the exam hall before that. Approach the exam based on your plan and control the exam. Never allow the exam to control you.


There is no substitute for experience in this world and on the job learning is the best way of learning. Some people with very good experience, question the role of certification in the work environment and most of the people should have faced these kinds of queries when they are planning for international certification like CAPM which requires your considerable effort and money.

Just focus on acquiring the certifications, which would help you to evaluate your knowledge and experience, and help you to improve on your weak areas. You also would get the opportunity to work as a project manager or support your project manager and get the experience in project management which is very difficult to get. You are creating a differentiating factor, when compared to your peers and creating your own opportunities by owning CAPM certification.

Always remember, “weak men/women wait for opportunities, strong men/women make them.”

We wish you success in your preparation for this exam and achieve the CAPM credential!!!


Please refer to the following link for the CAPM candidate handbook and exam content outline from PMI

About Dharmalingam N

Dharmalingam.N holds a master degree in Business Administration and writes on a wide range of topics ranging from technology to business analysis. He has a background in Relationship Management. Some of the topics he has written about and that have been published include; project management, business analysis and customer engagement.

4 thoughts on “How To Prepare For CAPM® Certification?”

  1. I am working for Cognizant for past 4 years and my total IT experience is 8.5 years. Right now I am working as Asst Manager. Hence should I plan for CAPM or PMP? Also if I plan for CAPM then do I need to attend any training classes or directly I can refer the required study materials and attempt few mock tests before sitting for the exam? If I refer any study materials then which book should I follow?

  2. Once again thank you for the absolute clarity on the subject of CAPM. Though my work is in Finance FP&A, I’ve increasingly found it to have parallels with Project Management (PM) and I’m increasingly seeing combined FA/PM roles – especially in the interaction with other stakeholders (PMs among them). This article paints a realistic map required to achieve CAPM certficate. Thank you!

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