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PMP Exam Guide

  1. Difficulty level of the certification exam:

The exam is neither very tough nor very easy. Those who had really worked as project managers for more than 3 years with large and mature organization, would find it easy as they could easily co relate things to their day to day work. Those who had worked as a project manager for more than 3 years with small but mature organization needs little practice to crack this exam. But people with experience in small and immature organization really need a lot of practice to think in PMI way and finally crack the exam.

  1. What are the prerequisites?

The eligibility criteria for PMP depends on your qualification and total number of project management experience. Basis this it is divided into 2 categories:

Category 1

The candidate must have Bachelor’s/Equivalent University Degree

The candidate must have a total 4500 hours/Three (3) years/36 months of unique (non-overlapping) Project Management Experience within the past eight-year period prior to the application. To meet this PMP Eligibility Requirement, the participant needs to document his/her Work Experience of minimum 36 Months across the typical Project Management Life Cycle. Also, as per PMI’s Requirements, the experience is not supposed to Overlap.

Category 2

The candidate must have High School Diploma/Equivalent Secondary School

The candidate must have a total 7500 hours/Five (5) years/60 months of unique (non-overlapping) Project Management Experience within the past eight-year period prior to the application. The candidate must be able to show minimum 60 Months experience across the typical Project Management Life Cycle, which again as per PMI Requirements should not overlaps.

  1. How much time will it take to prepare for the exam?

The following factors can decide the time required to prepare for the exam

Individual caliber and academic record: At this stage an individual is the best judge of himself. Basis his academic record he/she can decide how much time is required to read and understand 500 pages of PMBOK, plus at-least 1-2 more books.

Strength and weak areas: If you are from a technical background or good in mathematics, you would probably love to do numerical based questions. This can be your strength and you don’t need to spend much time in this area. If you fear mathematics and calculations you require some extra hours for preparation.

The time one can devote on a daily basis and total hours on a weekly basis: For those who had taken a break to take this exam, can devote equal hours on a daily basis. If you are able to give 10 hours everyday, then 5 to 8 weeks dedicatedly, is what is required.

For those who can spend only 2-3 hours on week days from busy daily routine and can spend 5-8 hours on weekends, needs 8-10 weeks for preparation.

Total project management experience: In case you have around 8-10 years of experience as a project manager, your concept are already clear and it will take relatively lesser time for you to crack this certification.

  1. What is the exam like? How many questions are there in the exam?

The exam has 200 multiple choice questions to be answered in 4 hours. Each question has exactly one correct answer. Out of these 200 questions, 25 questions are pre-test questions. These are randomly places throughout the exam and are used for research purposes. These questions are not evaluated while computing exam results. You will only be evaluated on the basis of 175 questions. There is no negative marking. So attempt all questions. If you have doubt about any questions, mark them review and revisit it in the end if you have spare time.

  1. Topics covered in the exam and number of questions you can expect for these topics

The questions in PMP Exam are based on various process groups of project management.

Process Groups: All project Management is divided into 5 process groups are

  • Project Initiation,
  • Project planning,
  • Project executing,
  • Project monitoring & Control
  • Project Closure.

The table represent the percentage of questions from each process group.

Domain % of Questions
Initiation 13%
Planning 24%
Execution 30%
Monitoring & Controlling 25%
Closing 8%
Total 100%

As per PMBOK 5
th edition there are 10 Knowledge Areas and total 47 project management processes. A knowledge area represents a complete set of concepts, terms and activities that make up a project management field. Knowledge Areas provide a detailed description of the process inputs and outputs along with descriptive explanation of tools & Techniques.

  1. Sample and kind of questions from these topics.

PMP Questions are of 3 types Direct, Indirect or scenario based and tricky. Few Questions of all the three kinds are mentioned below

Direct questions are like-

A tool which links the project roles and responsibilities to the project scope definition is called:

a) Scope Definition Matrix b) Responsibility Assignment Matrix

c) Roles Assignment Matrix d) Project Scope and Roles Matrix

This is a straight forward question if you know the purpose of Responsibility Assignment Matrix you know the answer to this question.

Direct questions related to ITTO (Input-Tools & Techniques-Output) –

Issue Log is an input to which of the following:

a) Manage Project Team b) Acquire Project Team c) Develop Project Team d) Manage Stakeholder Engagement.

This question is a direct inputs /output question. Remember if you have not prepared thoroughly you might mark a wrong answer. As it is an output of one of the options.

Yet another example –You have produced a project schedule network diagram and have updated the activity list. Which process have you just finished?

  1. The Define Activities process, which identifies all the specific activities of the project.
  2. The Sequence Activities process, which identifies all the activity dependencies.
  3.  The Develop Schedule process, which diagrams project network time estimates
  4. The Estimate Activity Durations process, which estimates activity durations

In this question the direct sequence of activities of the knowledge area “Project Time Management” is given. If you know the concept (what are the steps to create the project time management plan) you know the answer.

In-direct questions are scenario based questions like

Your customer asks for a small change in the project, which was not budgeted in the project. It is a small effort as compared to the total project and you need the goodwill for a multi million dollar on the pipeline. You will

  1. Refuse to do the work
  2. Agree to do the work at no charge
  3. Do the work and bill him later
  4. Assess the cost and schedule impact and tell them you will decide later.

On seeing the choices you might get confused between option B and D. Although it is a million dollar project but as per PMP gold plating is not allowed so option D is the correct choice.

Yet another example – Your project is in the final test stage, the user acceptance test. It meets all the product specifications and is under planned costs. In term of schedule, this project is ahead. Your customer meets you and requested that he will not accept the product unless you make several changes. What you should do is:

  1. Get the list of the changes and estimate all of them. If the total cost is still within the baseline, you just do it.
  2.  Estimate the costs and send this to your customer requesting contract modification.
  3. Ask the customer to file a Change request.
  4. Sit with the customer to review the product specs and tell him/her that you have completed the project.

This question represents a common situation which all the project managers face. Between c and d, option c is the better option. Such questions can only be answered correctly after practicing PMP tests containing scenario based questions.

Tricky questions are like

Find the float on critical path in the below given diagram? There will be a complex network diagram with lot of task and dependency. You might start calculating the floats of various paths using forward or backward pass, but wait a minute this one is the simplest question if you know that float on a critical path is always 0. Select the choice with zero answer and proceed to next question without wasting any time.

Yet another example is –

You are the project manager for Company X, a nationwide toy store chain. Your new project involves creating a prototype display at several stores across the country. You are also involved in make-or buy decisions. The testing module is additional responsibility. You are hiring a contractor for portions of the project. The contract stipulates that you’ll pay all allowable costs and a 10 % fee over and above the allowable costs at the end of the contract.

Which of the following describes this contract type?

a) CPPF b) CPPC c) CPF d) CPIF

Don’t get carried away by the length of such questions because there can be information not relevant to answer the question.

  1. Self-Assessment: Rate yourself in one of the 3 categories (Below Proficient/ Moderate Proficient / Proficient).

Basis questions answered, PMI grades students and declare Pass or Fail based on these Process groups. PMI grades are Proficient, below proficient &Moderately proficient. Only below proficient is considered as fail rest both the grades are considered as pass. So you can start your preparation based on your self-assessment.

  1. How to prepare psychologically to appear in the exam.
  • Do not study anything new in the last 2 days before examination. Revise and relax during those 2 days. 
  • Most of the PMP aspirants often think do they need to learn all the Inputs, outputs and tools techniques to clear the exam. There is no need to learn any input or output or tools and technique. Try to understand the ITTO (Input-Tools & Techniques-Output) smartly. At times, output of previous stage could be the input for next one.
  • A day before your exam, practice a demo. Concentrate on the demo, especially on areas like how to mark a question for reviews and how to read exhibits/diagrams available in the question. In addition, watch for the timer ticking away on the right side corner of the demo examination that will be of help to you when you take your actual examination on line. 
  • Visit the examination center once before the exam date to determine how long it will take to get there and to see what the examination room appears to be. This is particularly helpful if you are a nervous test taker. Make sure you are there in the examination hall at least 45 minutes before the scheduled examination time.
  1. Some exam Taking tips :
Some important exam taking tips are listed below:
  • List down the 47 process grouping mapping and all the formulae (EVM, EMV, PERT calculations, and Procurement related) in first 8 minutes. Although you remember all of them but write it before starting the exam on the paper to avoid making mistakes under stress.
  • Before you start the actual examination, plan on some test taking strategy that you feel would be best suited to you. For example, in terms of approximately how much time would you like to spend on each question, how many breaks would you like to take during the exam?
  • Do not expect the examination center to be serene or quiet. Be prepared for some noise. Many examination centers will have earplugs or headphones available
  • Answer first 20 questions really carefully reading each question twice. Try to gauge the complexity of the exam and see if there are trying to trick you in choosing the wrong answer. Most of the questions are straightforward but few are very tricky.
  • Completed first 100 questions in 2 Hours and then took a 7 minute break. It is important to refresh yourself during the break.
  • You may find a few questions to be the distracters. Those are difficult to answer and consume a lot of time. In such cases, mark it for review and answer once you are through with rest of the questions.
  • Use the entire 4-hour duration of the exam. Many people say that the exam can be completed in 2.5-3 hours, but do not leave early. Spend sufficient time in reviews.
  • Answer the exam from PMI’s perspective. By and large, people answer questions based on their own experiences, which may not be necessarily true from PMI’s perspective. Majority of questions on professional responsibility category fall under this.
  • Mark a question for review if you find it difficult to answer at that point of time. You can come back to this question later on.
  • As you know that you have to write the test on the computer terminal, make sure that you do not mishandle it. For example, doing anything by which your computer stops working, like putting your leg on the power cord, which may result in power being disconnected and disrupt your examination.
  • When you are in doubt over which of the choices is correct then the best way is to take each choice and justify why you feel it cannot be correct. This elimination process is a good way to get the correct choice.
  • You can use practice test software packages like Whizlabs Exam Simulators to prepare for your exam. The practice exams will help you bring together the information presented in textbooks, and your experience.
  • You may want to take your winter wear to the examination hall because sometimes the air conditioning is too high, which may make you uncomfortable and hence you may lose concentration. 

  1. If you are a self-learner, how to plan your preparation?

Plan your daily and weekly schedule based on topics or chapters instead of time.

Try to understand the ITTO (Input-Tools & Techniques-Output) smartly.To make things easy one has to think of “what is the main aim of that particular area (or output) .To achieve this aim what all things are required (these are inputs) and how will we achieve this aim, what all is required to achieve it (these are tools and techniques). Once you are clear with these concepts, half the battle is won. There is no need to learn any input or output or tools and technique because you actually cannot learn as the total number is quite high. At times, output of previous stage could be the input for next one.

Find the link for Self Study Training:

PMP exam contains 20 to 30 questions which are direct formula based; these are the ones where you can score well. While attempting these questions if your answer matches with any of the 4 choices, it gives you a pleasure of victory. Also you are very sure about the correctness of these questions which increases your confidence at the exam center. For those who love mathematics and numerical, this can be a definite scoring but those who are weak in this area can also score in this area. The 3 areas they need to concentrate are “Earned Value Management”, “Critical Path and network diagram” and “Contract types in Procurement”. If you practice all the formula based questions well, there is no need to memorize them, as you already did it while practicing.

Find the link from where you can download one of the toughest set of 50 numerical based questions. I am sure this will help you further cementing your preparation.

  1. In case you want to take training, what should be your deciding factor?

Some people value quality more than budget, but all of us cannot afford a large amount especially if the individual has to bear the entire fees.If your company is sponsoring the entire fees for the certification then there is no need to look for economical and lesser price training R.E.P for gaining 35 PDUs and training. But all of us was very good quality at a reasonable price, so that one can crack the exam in first attempt.

If you are looking for a class room training, look for the R.E.P. which can conduct the training in your city so that you don’t have to spend time and money to attend the training classes.

If you are looking for online training, you can find some really good ones on LinkedIn forums. Take part in some discussions and questions, and then decide for the best.

  1. Various books available for this certification and authors review
  • PMBOK 5.0
  • Head First PMP (O’Reilly)
  • PMP Exam Study Guide by Kim Heldman
  • PMP Exam Prep by Rita Mulcahy
  • PMP Book and Exam Simulator by Whizlabs
  • PMP Certification Beginner’s Guide by George Angel
  1. Value of hands-on experience for this certification exam

PMP certification is not industry specific. It is meant for all the industries including hospitals, real estate, pharmaceuticals, Hotels, construction, manufacturing, IT, and Financial. Only project management experience can be useful while answering the scenario based questions and some direct questions related to project life cycle. If you have worked with large and mature organizations with processes in place, you may find some questions related to ITTO very easy. If you have experience in handling a large team, you will be able to answer all the question related to human resource management.

  1. List resources (Forums, Blogs, Blog Posts, Discussion Forums)


Linked In Forums for PMP Aspirants



I Want to be PMP


PMP Training




PMP Aspirants


PMP India


CAPM PMP PMI cert exam prep


PMP Exam Study Group


PMP Online


PMP certification India


PMP Certification Preparation

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