project management professional

How to Prepare for Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification?

PMP (Project Management Professional) certification is one of the globally recognized certifications in Project Management. Project management certification exam is administered by Project Management Institute (PMI). The exam is conducted throughout the year via Prometric testing centers and one need to follow a specific application process to take this exam.

50 Free Practice Questions for PMP Certification Exam Try Now

The project management professional certification exam is different from other exams as it requires Project Management training. One needs to have considerable experience of working in the Project Management Knowledge Areas to apply for this exam. The concept of practicing test dump questions only can’t help you pass this exam. You need to acquire the skills in Project Management to achieve success in this exam. In this article, we are going to cover an ultimate guide on PMP certification exam from eligibility to exam overview and preparation guide to sample questions.

Eligibility to Apply for PMP Certification

You must meet the following requirements as outlined by PMI to apply for the project management professional certification exam. Here is the PMP eligibility criteria –

  • A secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or the global equivalent)
  • Minimum five years unique non- overlapping professional project management experience during which at least 7,500 hours were spent leading and directing project
  • 35 hours of project management education


  • Four-year degree or an equivalent degree
  • Minimum three years unique non-overlapping professional project management experience during which at least 4,500 hours were spent leading and directing project
  • 35 hours of project management education

You need to have experience in all the five project management process groups across all your experience submitted. However, on a single project, there is no need to have experience in all the five process groups.

Project Management Professional

MUST READ: 25 PMP Formulas to Pass the PMP Certification Exam

Application Process for Project Management Professional  (PMP) Certification

If you want to apply for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, you need to follow the application process. Here is the summary of the 6-step process to become a certified project management professional

Step 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.

Step 2: PMI takes 5 business days to complete the application completeness review. After application review, you will get PMI eligibility id.

Step 3: Then, you need to complete the payment of credential fees for Computer-based testing ($405 for PMI members and $555 for PMI non-members).

Step 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.

Step 5: Immediately after receiving the PMI eligibility id, you become authorized to schedule the exam in any Prometric Testing Centers. You can schedule exam 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 for the second and third attempts to pass the examination. (($275 for PMI members and $375 for non-member).

Step 6: You need to acquire 60 PDUs every 3 years to maintain the credential acquired failing which your credential is suspended for 1 year. If you are not acquiring the PDUs before that, your credential expires. If you wish to hold the credential again, you need to reapply.

There is a huge demand for Certified Project Management Professional. Let’s explore Top 5 Reasons Why Employers Want Certified PMP!

Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam Details

It is very important to have complete exam details to pass the exam. So, first let’s have a look at the Project Management Profesional (PMP) certification exam information-pmp certification

The blueprint of the exam is also very important. It gives the information about the percentage of exam objectives and subject areas covered in the certification exam. So, here is the exam blueprint for Project Management Professional (PMP) certification – 
project management professional certification

Why Take Project Management Professional Certification?

If you want to get a hike in your salary, promotion to the next level or keep you position during difficult situation due to economic slowdown you need to demonstrate and differentiate that you are a valuable project manager to the organization. Leaving it to your immediate supervisor alone to defend you is not a good approach.

Acquire PMP certification which adds more value to you and demonstrates to everyone that you are a skilled project manager of international standard and organization would like to retain you even during difficult times. You are giving a chance to your supervisor to defend his decision to give good salary hike or promotion to the next level to you to the top management.

More than 100 profiles are received for every open position for project management in any company. If you are looking for opportunities in a company for project management roles, project management certification will help you to cross the screening process easier and it is one of the biggest advantages you are gaining over your competitor. PMP certification helps you to get a job anywhere in the world.

Still confused about Project Management Professional (PMP) certification? Let’s clear out the confusion if PMP Certification Add Value to the IT Career!

SWOT Analysis of the Candidates Planning for PMP Certification

Before applying for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification exam, the candidates must analyze their expertise in project management. The preparation technique is different for everyone. So, an analysis of your strength, weakness, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) will help to plan the right strategy to achieve success in this examination.

To perform SWOT analysis, take a mock test of around 20 questions on each knowledge area of project management and see where you stand. This will help you to identify your strong and weak knowledge areas in project management. The strength and weakness of candidates are based on their previous project management training and their experience in project management. So, you need to plan your preparation accordingly.

Plan for the exam when you are relatively free from your official responsibilities and able to take vacations for a week to focus fully on the exam. Don’t plan your exam if you are held up with important work in your organization and there are a lot of dependencies on you. You may not get the required time to prepare and it is not possible to clear this exam.

How to Prepare for Project Management Professional Certification?

One needs to get well prepared to pass the project management professional exam. Here we are enlisting 8 steps that will help you to effectively prepare for the project management professional certification. PMP certification is not a simple one, you require extensive effort to prepare and pass the exam. So, it is highly advised to follow these steps to clear the project management professional certification exam on the first attempt.

1. Get Real-world Experience

To clear the PMP exam, candidates need to have project management knowledge, application of the concepts in the real-time environment and have the analytical skills. It is not the test of memory where you read a book thoroughly and pass the exam. It is neither the test of the application of your skill nor analytical skills only. A combination of all three is required to pass the exam.

2. Take Project Management Training

If you don’t have the project management training so far, I recommend you to attend either online training or classroom training from a reputed institute which will be the building block for your PMP certification process. Choose one of the best and popular self-study training material for the preparation of PMP exam. It will help you to learn the subject areas of the project management professional exam from the experience of experts.

3. Read PMBOK Guide Thoroughly

Read PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) guide from PMI. The reading of PMBOK is mandatory and needs to be studied at least three times before the certification exam. Go through the book once, to get familiar with all the tools and techniques, inputs and outputs from all the processes and note down the areas where it is new to you and pay more attention to these areas.

The second-time will help you understand the project management process groups and knowledge areas. It will also help you 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.

In addition to that, you can relate your real-time experience in project management and understand all the process. You may not have experience in all these processes and hence deeply analyze those processes where you don’t have experience.

5. Read PMP Books and Preparation Guides

In addition to the PMBOK guide, you can also follow a book of your choice and go through that. Don’t go for too many books and it is waste of your precious time. Just find the best books and keep reading them to understand the various concepts and aspects of project management. Some of the recommended books for the preparation of Project Management Professional certification are Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep, Head First PMP, and many others. You can choose one or more according to your choice and preference.

Want to know which books are helpful to pass the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam? Read this article – 5 Must-Read PMP Certification Books.

6. Practice Through PMP Practice Tests

Once you are done with your preparation via training and books, its time to start practicing. Now, you can evaluate yourself with practice tests based on knowledge areas. Also, you can identify the processes where you are not comfortable and revisit those processes in the PMBOK guide. Practice tests will help you find out your weak areas and you will be able to put more efforts on them.

7. Warm-up Yourself with Discussion

You need to plan for group discussion with other colleagues who are also appearing for the PMP exam at regular intervals during your preparation. This will help to understand the concepts from the different perspectives. Through discussion, you will come across new points and concepts. It will help you enhance your project management knowledge. Thus, it will bring you one step ahead on the path of passing PMP exam.

8. Try PMP Mock Exams Via Exam Simulation Software

Finally, minimum 15 days before the exam date, take one mock exam from any PMP exam simulation software. If you cross 70% in that exam, then it is an indication that you are on track. Analysis of your result of the mock exam would help to identify the gaps in your knowledge and you can work on your skill gaps before the next mock exam which you can plan after a week. You can repeat the process and take the final mock exam and complete this process before two days of the actual exam date. The last two days can be used to focus on the gap areas you have identified during the mock exams via PMP exam simulation software.

Looking for PMP mock exam simulator? Try Whizlabs PMP Exam Simulator, it will prepare you for the actual exam!

Study Plan and Implementation Strategy

Project Management Professional (PMP) exam requires a successful investment of your time and money to pass. You need to set your best possible time to take the exam. Although the PMP certification cost is high, it is an investment which is going to give back multiple times. So, plan your budget for this exam to acquire all those materials which help you to acquire this certification.

Similarly, the time you need to invest for the preparation is also critical. Based on current skill & experience in project management the preparation strategy, time, as well as the material requirement, differ for different candidates.

A normal candidate with project management training and experience in project management requires around 20 hrs per week for 3 to 4 months of time to pass this exam. In addition to the time, you also plan to invest about $1100 which includes the exam fees to pass this exam.

Consistency is the key and you need to allocate the minimum of 2 hrs per day during weekdays and around 5 hrs during the weekend for the preparation. Don’t miss even a single day of your preparation. If the continuity is missing, it would impact the preparation process and you will move away from the successful completion of the exam. Stay yourself calm and enjoy your preparation for the entire duration of your PMP journey.

Follow the above-mentioned preparation guide, plan a schedule of your choice, and make sure you have a discussion on each project management process. Constantly work on your weak areas to overcome the hurdle and pass the exam successfully. Allocate some buffer time and money, and plan for the exam date accordingly. This will help to manage for any unplanned deviation in your study plan.

Want to pass the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification exam on the first attempt? Here is the Best Strategy to Prepare and Pass the PMP Certification Exam!

Types of Questions in the Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam

The following are the different types of PMP exam questions you will come across

  1. Situation based questions. All the options are valid with one correct answer
  2. Questions with two or more possible right answers
  3. Questions related to PMP formulas
  4. Questions where understanding is important
  5. Questions about make-up terms
  6. Questions with lengthy phrases

How to prepare for the situation based questions?

These questions require you to have real-time project management experience.

Sample Question: You identified that there is a potential delay in the deliverable to the customer due to the absence of key resource. What is the best thing to do?

  1. Update the customer about the potential delay
  2. Discuss with the team and identify alternative options
  3. Discuss with your senior manager
  4. Accept it is a mistake and plan for the backup for the subsequent deliverables

The correct answer is option B.

Here all the options are valid and you do all of them based on the current situation. But the best project manager would like to discuss with the team for alternative options before thinking anything else. Hence the correct option is B.

While preparing the PMBOK guide always relate the process with your real-time experience and think about what should be the best thing a project manager can do at that time. Consider the key inputs, outputs, tools, techniques, and dependencies with other process and learn accordingly. Practicing a lot will mentally prepare your mind to find the best answers for the situation based questions.

How to prepare for the questions which have multiple possible right answers?

You need to have good project management knowledge and experience to handle these questions.

Sample Question:

The best activity of the sponsor in a project is

  1. Supporting the project manager to interact with the customer
  2. Helping to prevent unwanted changes to project objectives
  3. Identifying additional project constraints
  4. Helping team when they are in trouble

The correct answer is option B. Though it appears to have multiple right answer A, B, and C the most important activity for the sponsor is to prevent unwanted changes to project objectives.

To weed out the less experience and limited project management knowledge of the candidates, these questions appear in the exam. For them, almost two to three options, sometimes all the options appear to be right due to their limited knowledge and experience. The best and skilled project managers handle these questions effectively. Having good project management training and acquiring good experience in project management is the key to handle these questions.

How to overcome the PMP Maths hurdle?

Questions about project selections and basic accounting fundamentals appear in the initiation process groups. You need to have a solid understanding about the Cost-Benefit ratio, payback period, PV, NPV, IRR, opportunity cost, sunk cost, Return on Sales, Return on Assets, Return on Investment, make-or-buy analysis, lease-or-buy analysis.

Questions about expected monetary value, decision tree analysis, project cost estimation, critical path analysis, float, crashing, communication channels, PERT, standard deviation, variance, the point of total assumption appear in the planning process groups.

Questions about earned value analysis both assessment and forecasting appear in the execution process groups. You need to have a clear understanding of cost variance, cost performance index, schedule variance, schedule performance index, estimation to complete, estimation at completion, budget at completion and variance at completion concepts to sail through this questions.

Worried about PMP mathematical questions? This Complete Guide to PMP Formulas and Calculations will help you handle the PMP maths hurdle.

Questions about the quality control tools and probability distribution appear in the monitoring and control process groups. You need to have a clear understanding about beta distribution, triangular distribution, bell distribution, uniform distribution, control charts, bar charts, histograms, Pareto charts, fishbone diagram, run charts, scatter diagrams, flow charts and inspections to answer well in this section.

Questions about statistical concepts appear in the closing process groups. You need to have a clear understanding of mean, mode, median, standard deviation and variance to choose the right answers.

Once you prepare well on these topics you can score full marks in this section. These are straight-forward questions and you need to apply the formulas directly. Memorise the simple formulas and practice as many questions as possible to get success in these areas.

Sample Question:

A project manager is trying to choose between project A which is having an NPV of $55000 and project B which is having an NPV of $78000. All other criteria being equal which project should be selected by the project manager?

  1. Project B
  2. Neither Project A nor Project B
  3. Project A
  4. Both

The right answer is option A since project B is having higher NPV value.

How to handle questions where understanding is important?

Sometimes the options to the questions are given indirectly and based on the activities related to the process. You need to have the clear understanding of the process to answer these questions. Memorization would not help to answer these questions.

Sample Question:

Preparation of Test Strategy activities is complete when

  1. Testing approach is completed
  2. All the risk, assumption, and dependencies in the project are identified
  3. In scope and out of scope activities are clearly defined
  4. Signoff from all the stakeholders related to the project

The right answer is option D. Without signoff, the document is not having any value on its own. Hence D is the right option for this question.

How to handle questions with make-up terms?

To confuse the candidates, often the questions setter adds some term, 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:

A form of project organization where power is exclusive to the functional manager and the project manager is having very limited power is called

  1. Strong matrix
  2. Weak matrix
  3. Balanced matrix
  4. Functional matrix

The correct answer is option B. In this question the option Functional matrix is a make-up-term which you can easily eliminate.

How to handle questions with lengthy phrases?

Instead of saying that the activity in the critical path is behind schedule, you can say that the activity float was zero and has moved to negative now. Instead of saying that the team deliverables are poor quality, you can say that the team has lost sight of the quality management plan.

You need to understand what they are asking and accordingly translate the wordy phrases to answer these questions. Also, practice a lot of questions which are lengthy to focus on what is required in these questions. Most of the time the questions will have a lot of information which you don’t require to answer these questions.

Sample Question:

A project manager in the planning stages requested 10 resources to work on the project and they need to be available for three months. This is his top priority for the project management team. He also requires a budget of $250000 to complete the project successfully. But the management has approved $175000 for the project and fulfilled his resource requirement. Which of the following should the project manager do because of this situation?

  1. Handle this cost risk as part of the risk response planning
  2. Reduce the scope of the project
  3. Include this cost risk in the list of risk identification
  4. Control other risks to get sufficient budget to manage this cost risk

The correct answer is option B. In this question, the key point is instead of $250000 the management has approved only $175000 and it is a fact. It needs to be handled in the project planning rather than risk management. All other information is not required which is given to trick you.

Want to check your current level of preparation? Try Free Practice Test with 50 Questions now!

Common Mistakes by the PMP Candidates

PMP candidates do the following mistakes during their preparation journey. These mistakes are worth mention so that you can avoid them to pass the project management professional certification exam.

  1. Understand the question from their project management experience perspective and answer that. You need to think from the perspective of PMI PMBOK guide first and if not able to answer then go for your real-time experience. The reason is whatever we are practicing may not be correct always and hence go with PMI approach first.
  2. I see a number of candidates plan every year for this exam and still not complete this certification. Remember that a serious candidate can complete this exam in 3 to 6 months. Don’t put yearly plan.
  3. One of the common mistakes is candidates 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.
  4. 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 well for the exam. The resources required to prepare for the exam differ from candidate to candidate, but whatever you plan should be used to succeed in this exam.
  5. Not allocating sufficient time to prepare for the exam.
  6. Lack of consistency in following the preparation plan. If you don’t have a plan in place, then it is difficult to pass this exam.
  7. Practicing a lot of objective questions without understanding the concepts from PMBOK guide. The best approach is to understand the concepts first and practice a lot of objective questions.

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 until that time. Get relaxed before the exam 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.

Points to Remember on the Exam Day

  1. You must bring your authorization letter from PMI as well as Id with the same name as per your authorization letter.
  2. 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.
  3. You will see one question at a time and all those 200 questions are selected immediately you started the exam and not based on your answers to a question.
  4. You have the option to mark the question for review later and can move back and forth.
  5. If you are reading the question multiple times, you are stressed and use the breathing technique to relax.
  6. Focus on the particular question at a time. If you are thinking about the 10th question while you are answering the 110th question, you have not focused well on nearly 100 questions and the result should be a disaster for you.
  7. Prioritize to answer each question from PMI perspective.
  8. Follow the elimination strategy to eliminate the options which are not correct. This will help to answer more questions correctly.
  9. Utilize all your 4 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.

Final Words

Achieving the PMP credential is itself a project and make sure you plan it well to successfully complete this certification in your first attempt. You need to manage this project effectively to make sure you are rewarded with the PMP credential. Whizlabs is the Registered Education Provider of PMI and provides PMP self-study training and mock exam simulator. With the aim of helping you to pass the PMP certification exam, Whizlabs offers high-class PMP study material and practice tests.

PMP certification is an internationally recognized project management certification that has the potential to get a job anywhere in the world. It differentiates you from your peers and acts as a launch pad for your career growth. A lot of new doors open for you in your career journey with project management professional certification.

I wish you success in your exam preparation and achieve the PMP credential!!

PMP Certification References

Please refer to the following links for the Project Management Professional (PMP) candidate handbook and exam content outline from PMI.

Please refer to the following links for the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam study and practice material.

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.

5 thoughts on “How to Prepare for Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification?”

  1. I will suggest here to everyone to use PMP Questions and Answers. You can ace your paper just by memorizing questions and answers. Every concept has been discussed briefly but with full details. You will find all the questions in the final familiar to you because you will know the answers of all the questions. Online testing engine gave me confidence that improved my performance.

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