Congratulations on deciding to begin your journey toward your Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification! In this chapter, we'll explore an overview of this study guide and what to expect before you take the PMP® certification exam, as well as answer some of the most common questions about the certification process. Much of this information can be found online at the Project Management Institute's (PMI)® website (www.pmi.org), as well as numerous other sites.
This information is important to understand before diving into the content that you will be tested on so that you can avoid having to search for the correct information. This guide is based on the Project Management Institute, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – 6th Edition, Project Management Institute, Inc., 2017 and is for the current PMP® exam's content outline beginning January 2, 2021.
The Project Management Professional (PMP), the PMBOK Guide and the Project Management Institute Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM), and the Agile Practice Guide are a registered trademark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
In this chapter, you will cover the following topics:
- An overview of the PMP® exam process
- How to apply for the exam
- What to expect on exam day
- Study tips
- Assessment test
Why get a Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification?
Above and beyond the fact that the PMP® is the most prestigious non-technical certification in the world, the certification is also proof of a lot of hard work, project management experience, and passing a very difficult exam – not impossible, but difficult. Why even enter it? Having one or multiple project management certifications shows your willingness to learn, try new things, and improve your organization's projects, which in turn provides value to the organization. Congratulations on taking the first step toward career improvement! Currently, project management is in high demand globally, and that growth shows little chance of slowing down. Project managers make anywhere between $70,000 and $150,000 annually, based on their location and targeted project management categories.
There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to project management in any industry and much of the time, our organizational processes and corporate cultures influence our projects the most. But what if you had multiple tools and knowledge at your disposal to adapt and adjust as needed to meet the demands of your projects? What if you could adapt those best practices to conform to your organizational processes and industry? That would provide you with the knowledge and flexibility to determine what tools your project needs and allow you to make determinations and adjustments when certain techniques aren't working in your current environment.
You may see some things in this guide and in your exams that will not align with your organization's best practices or simply won't work in your current environment. That is totally okay! You will need that information to answer questions correctly in your exams and maybe as you progress through your career, you'll find a need for some of those best practices down the line.
Having a set of best practices that have been proven over and over again to work but that are adaptable to your environment is one of the main reasons why the PMP® certification exists. Throughout this guide, you will find that I compare perfect-world project management to real-world project management. The reason I'll be doing this is to help solidify content in a way that may resonate with your current experiences. Those experiences are potentially not a perfect world. I know, right? I've been there – actually, I'm still there! Where is this perfect world and how do I get there? I feel your pain.
There will be concepts that will need to be adapted to suit your current projects, and therein lies the importance of The PMBOK® Guide – 6th Edition. It isn't a step-by-step handbook; it is a guide to determining what will work within your own unique projects and what will not. Much like when you travel with a tourist guidebook filled with all sorts of things you could see and do, you have decisions to make along the way. Should we see this site or that site? You can't see them all, so you will need to decide what worked for your own unique travel experience. Project management is quite similar. Should we do this or that? The answer to that question depends on many different situations, industries, corporate cultures, and the like. Sometimes, you just wing it in the real world and hope it works.
What will you learn about?
Everything covered in this guide is based on the PMP® exam content outline. You may have heard that the exam changed, and that is true! The exam content outline was most recently updated in June 2019 and influences the exam that began in January 2021. The reason the exam content outline was updated is due to the diligence of the Project Management Institute (PMI)® to make sure that the most up-to-date best practices that are being utilized around the world are found in your exams. They do this by performing a Role Delineation Study after the updates to The PMBOK® Guide are made. That allows them to really survey project managers and determine what needs or doesn't need to be covered in the exams and how to better align this with the real-world aspects of best practices. These studies inevitably change the exam content outline but not the PMBOK® Guide at this time. There are rumors of the 7th edition coming to a bookstore near you. If I had to guess, I would say 2021 will be the year. I could be wrong, so always check the PMI® website for the most up-to-date information.
You'll want to review the topics that you'll be tested on and what each domain weighs as far as your score is concerned. The following is an overview of what you will learn in this guide, and all the chapters in this book contain review questions pertaining to that chapter's content to help target your exam studies. This will also provide you with an understanding of the best study tips and tricks you'll need to pass the exam the first time around.
Who is this book for?
There are some very specific requirements you'll need to have met if you wish to sit the PMP® exam and if you can go through the following questions and say to yourself, "yep, that sounds like me," then you are well on your way to a PMP® certification:
Still with me?
Take a look at the following questions. If you say "nope, that isn't me" to any of these questions, then this book is also for you:
If you answered no to the preceding questions, then we are moving in the correct direction.
By the way, if you are new to project management, there may still be a way to use this book for certification. That certification is the Certified Associate in Project Management certificate, or CAPM®. The CAPM® was designed for project coordinators who also need to be able to understand the techniques and concepts to best assist the project manager. It's a different exam but you could use this guide to help you prepare, as the content is the same, but the exam content outlines are not. Be sure to check the CAPM® section at www.pmi.org to download a copy for your exam.
The PMP® exam is based on the best practices and processes found in The PMBOK® Guide – 6th Edition and other study materials. The exam is scored on three domains – people, process, and business environment – and that is also how the study guide is presented. The PMBOK® Guide – 6th Edition is presented in the order of the different knowledge areas found in most projects and includes topics such as scope, schedule, resources, and risk.
The process chapters are a comprehensive review of all the topics that can be found for all of the scope processes, all of the schedule processes, and so on. The issue most learners have with that way of learning is that they can't see the project through the trees. They can't put all the pieces of the puzzle together because they just don't see how they all fit together. It's kind of like mixing multiple metaphors – it just doesn't make a lot of sense to learn that way.
Instead, I want you to imagine putting together a puzzle you have never seen before. Some of it looks familiar, but you don't have the puzzle box and a picture of success to begin putting everything together. It would be really difficult to do that. Is it easy to put corners with corners and color-code piles? Sure. Could you put it all together without anything to reference? I'm guessing no – unless you are a jigsaw puzzle champion. If so, carry on! For the rest of us, it's tough to see what success looks like if it is so compartmentalized. That can lead to some confusion in your understanding.
With that being said, I realize that some of you may prefer to look at all aspects of each chapter as a singular entity and prefer to learn that way. Trust me, I totally get it! Otherwise, the Project Management Institute (PMI)® would have adapted their approach over the years to present it in the order of process groups. Where is the disconnect? The PMBOK® Guide – 6th Edition is set up like a cookbook. Want to make a dessert? That can be found in Chapter 10. Want to make a salad? That can be found in Chapter 2. That way, everything is compartmentalized for a better understanding of the categories of best practices across the entire project. Want to make an entire five-course meal? It's best to start at the appetizers and work your way through. I tend to look at cooking as a project I don't actually enjoy working on but use a lot of food references to explain things. I know – weird, right?
One of the reasons that PMI® sets the content up that way is because there isn't a suggestion of the order in which to do things. If you don't use procurement, you don't need procurement best practices. If you were using it as a companion in your day-to-day work and just needed to remind yourself what a scope statement is, then it's easy to find. However, the exam questions are all mixed up. There isn't an order. The hardest part of the exam is determining where you are in the life cycle and answering the questions accordingly.
The main point is that, in some cases, you need that compartmentalization to fully understand the concepts and in others, you need to make sure you understand how everything works together. There are 5 distinct process groups and 10 knowledge areas. All of these will be reviewed in Chapter 2, Introduction to Project Management, at a high level. How they work together is presented throughout the guide.
There is so much overlap with processes throughout this project that it would impossible for anyone to say, "go exactly in this order" – step one, do this; step two, do that. This is because every single project is unique and may have a need for a different order or configuration and maybe fewer processes. Thus, The PMBOK® Guide – 6th Edition is a way to present all the best practices without designating an order they must be done in. The same thing goes for this book. As I write this guide, it is only in a logical order if that is how you run your projects. Otherwise, it is simply organizing the best practices and processes by the group they are in, rather than me saying, "this is project management and always do it in this order."
The following diagram shows all the process groups and how they are all connected as a cycle, rather than a straight line:
Before we get too involved with process groups and knowledge areas, I think it's a good time to answer some of the questions I usually get in my classes.
Frequently asked questions
There is a lot to know and understand about the entire certification process. I totally get the anxiety that occurs when presented with an opportunity to achieve a goal. Any goal. There is so much information out there and it can get confusing. I'd like to wade through some of the questions I typically get in my classes right about now, and hopefully, it will clear up some burning questions you may have as well. Later in this chapter, we'll go through the exam-specific questions I always get.
Who exactly is the PMI®?
The Project Management Institute (PMI)® is a global non-profit organization that has collected and provided the required standards and best practices based on years of study and professional standards. They adapt to the changing global market by making updates to the guide and exams. Project management became really influential in the 1960s, also known as the industrial age of building skyscrapers, railroads, and mass production facilities.
The Project Management Professional (PMP), PMBOK Guide, Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM), the Project Management Institute Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), and the Agile Practice Guide are a registered trademark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
Today, PMI® represents multiple project management certifications, including the PMP®, The Project Management Institute's Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®, the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®, and several others. PMI® also has over 800,000 PMP® certified practitioners to date in over 80 countries and they are still growing. Pretty impressive, right? That is why the PMP® is in the top five certifications to have, even above some of the high-tech certs such as Cisco and Microsoft certifications.
What is The PMBOK® Guide – 6th Edition?
I heard Agile is included – what is the deal with that?
You heard correctly! When the 6th edition was published, it came with a companion document called the Agile Practice Guide®. This was due to a collaboration between PMI® and the Agile Alliance®.
This is how PMI® adapts to the ever-changing landscape of project management and how not every project is a one-size-fits-all approach to project management. The practice guide was written for those project teams in that messy middle ground between predictive and Agile or adaptive types of project life cycles. Don't worry – we'll cover it. This new exam is approximately 50% Agile and 50% predictive best practices.
So, yes, Agile is here to stay! The Disciplined Agile influence hasn't affected the PMP® exam at the time of writing as they have their own certifications you can check out. I have two of the DA certs and I highly recommend you check them out as well – I think you'll really like them! At least, that is what my crystal ball says anyway.
Predictive and adaptive? What does that mean?
Great question! In the following section, you can see the main differences at a high level, as well as how this all unfolds throughout this guide. I can't give away all the good stuff right away, right?
Predictive project management – PMP® and CAPM®
If you know the outcome is a bridge, it's a pretty good assumption that when you are finished, you will have a bridge. That makes it a more complete scope of work from the beginning.
Knowledge of the result doesn't mean things will go exactly as planned (I see you nodding your heads). It just means that a plan is in place and if something changes, then there is a formal change control procedure taking place and updates are made to the plans as needed.
Project Management Institute, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) - Sixth Edition, Project Management Institute, Inc., 2017.
Adaptive or Agile project management – The Agile Practice Guide® and PMI-ACP®
Developing software needed a more flexible process due to the ever-changing scope of work. You may know you are developing an app for a client to help them pass their PMP® exam, but you may not know exactly how it is going to unfold – yet.
Agile isn't just for software anymore, and there is room in some projects for a variety of best practices, regardless of the scope of work. Staying flexible in planning and how the project is approached is more relevant today in the technological age. You are able to adapt faster and practice agility. Make sense? If not, I have a bunch of good Agile information for you as we proceed through this guide.
The Project Management Professional (PMP), PMBOK Guide and the Project Management Institute Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), and the Agile Practice Guide are a registered trademark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
I heard the PMP® exam is super difficult, is that true?
Yes, it is true. I say that not to scare you but to be honest with you. The PMP® exam is the most difficult non-technical certification exam in the world. Yes, you read that correctly. In the world! That is why the PMP® is also one of the most prestigious certifications in the world. Don't worry – you'll be well prepared.
Can I cram for this exam? I have like zero time to study
That is a resounding nope, no, and no. This is not an exam you can cram for. In fact, the majority of the questions are situational. "You are a PM and this happens – what do you do or what do you not do?"
Because of the structure of the exam, rote memorization will not help you in a lot of the content and questions. The experts recommend that you need about 100 hours of study to be properly prepared to pass the exam the first time around.
100 hours of study???
Yes, yep, and absolutely! I realize that sounds like a lot, but I'll be there with you to help out, give advice, and provide exam tips throughout. It is your exam, and it is your study time, so with that all being said, if you are ready in 50 hours, then go for it! I'm quoting the experts here – oh wait, that's me. I'm attempting CYA here – covering my assets, if you will.
Will your practice exams match my exam?
That is a resounding nope, no, and no as well. Here's the deal with practice exams: they are meant to help you conceptualize information and solidify it. I'll do my best to get as close as possible, though!
If you are scoring over 90% on these practice exams, it is time to move on to other practice exams. The reason I say that is because these (and all practice exam questions, everywhere) are different from the actual exam questions. If you answer these questions often enough, you will start to memorize the correct answer. Not knowing why it is the correct answer but because you have done it enough times that you recognize "3" is the correct answer spells disaster for the exam.
"Okay, I get that," you say to yourself, "but this is supposed to be an exam prep guide. Why can't you, the author/expert, get closer to the real questions?".
That is a great question as well. There is a test pool of questions for the exam that range anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 floating around out there and growing as new information is presented. When you sit down to take your exam, the computer selects 180 questions from that pool. Those questions are written by hundreds of different volunteers, with different voices, different ways to present information, and different writing styles.
You could be sitting next to everyone in your organization taking the PMP® or the CAPM® exam and chances are they would all get a different group of questions. It's a lot to ask to have one or several people try to generate everything you might see in your exams.
I've been around this content for so many years and teaching it to a variety of different fantastic people around the world for so long that I have knowledge of the concepts that you will be tested on. I know the most important topics and what people can expect to see presented in their exams, as outlined by the most current exam content outline. What I can't do is predict exactly how many scope questions you will get compared to how many formula questions you will get, how those questions will be structured, and so on. I can only provide the content you will be tested on, based on the exam content outline and the content of The PMBOK® Guide – 6th Edition.
So, if you are planning on using a variety of study guides and study aids and you read a review that states in no uncertain terms that the practice questions were nothing like they were in their exam, ignore it. Everyone's questions will be different in the exam. Some will be better than others for sure. Read the reviews for the content presented and whether the guide was understandable and cohesive or not.
The soapbox has now been firmly put away.
Am I going to pass the exam the first time?
I certainly hope so! But that depends on how you study, how many practice exams you take, and your understanding of the materials. I know my students' pass rates are in the high 90s the first time out of the gate, but some people do fail the exam the first time.
Yikes! What are the main reasons people fail the first time, so I don't fail my exam?
I'll answer that question with a question of my own. How many of you skim content when you read? If you appear to be playing video games on your Kindle when you read because you hit the next page button too quickly, you may fall under that skimmer status. If you are just trying to get the gist of the news online but not the actual details, you may be a skimmer. The number one reason why people don't pass the first time is that they don't read carefully. For the skimmers, read carefully! Trust me – I'm in the same boat and I have to force myself to study differently than I would if reading a novel.
"The sky was bright that day, the winds brushed the trees like they were butterflies flapping their wings, and creating hurricanes somewhere around the world."
Wait... what? All I saw was hurricanes and I wrote it! I'm a skimmer too, so I know the importance of reading the questions and all of the answers carefully so that I don't inadvertently choose the wrong answer. In fact, one thing I did a bit differently and still do during exams is read the answers from the bottom up. 4, 3, 2, 1. Why? Because I'm a bit neurotic... err... a skimmer and it forces my brain to stop and read all of the answers. This is important because it may appear that there are two correct answers and if the first feasible answer is answer #2 and I choose it, I may have missed the actual answer, which could be #4. It's just something that works for me, so I'm throwing it out there for the skimmers. Hopefully, you skimmers actually read that sentence.
The second reason why people don't pass the exam the first time is they add a backstory to the content. I'm a huge offender here. Let's say the question is presented this way:
Doug is a project manager who is working on a large infrastructure project. He has been notified of a conflict situation between the vendor and his foreman and is deciding how best to deal with it. The foreman is the one who is working directly with the seller and is in charge of all procurements. Whose job is it to reduce the conflict situation?
- The PM
- The foreman
- The sponsor
- The project management office (PMO)
Which did you choose? Here's how people who add a backstory respond to a question like this:
"Why is there a conflict? Maybe the foreman is angry because the vendor showed up late. Maybe it's because their scope of work isn't quality. I know that if I were a PM, I'd step right in there and work it out. Wait, maybe the PMO should do it because I don't like conflict."
See where I'm going with this? Do not add anything additional to the question because the next thing you will notice is the clock ticking and you still have no idea what the answer is. By the way, the correct answer is 2. The foreman. I'll explain more in the control procurement section, but the reason for this is that the foreman is the person dealing directly with the seller and understands the contract better than you do. The main point is to not add anything else to the question to help it conform to your day-to-day experiences, which leads me to the next reason why people don't pass the first time.
The third reason is, forcing the way you do things into the questions or the answers. Remember that not everything is going to align with your day-to-day experiences and in this case, The PMBOK® Guide – 6th Edition wins every single time. You may see two answers that are seemingly correct – one that you would do and one that could be the correct answer – and you go back and forth between them. It's going to happen more times than you may expect. The best way to avoid this is to understand the concepts covered in this guide and in The PMBOK® Guide – 6th Edition and absorb them completely. There is only one correct answer to every question on the PMP® exam and that correct answer is aligned with The PMBOK® Guide – 6th Edition and the updated exam content outline. Not how Bob in IT does things.
The CAPM® exam has been updated to include multiple answers to some questions, as well as a match feature. At the time of writing, the PMP® exam does not have those types of questions.
The fourth reason people don't pass the first time is they submit the exam too soon. You have almost 4 hours to answer 180 questions. It sounds like a lot of time, doesn't isn't? That is 230 minutes to answer 180 questions. If you are submitting after 3 or fewer hours, you didn't read the questions carefully, and no doubt will not pass.
The fifth reason is that people go back and change their answers due to second-guessing and exam anxiety. Trust your instincts as they are better than you think they are. Do not change an answer unless you know for a fact you read the question or answers incorrectly.
Finally, I would say the sixth reason is people don't study is they think they can cram for this exam. As I already mentioned, that is a solid no.
Do I need other study materials?
I would love to say, "oh no way, I'm the total and only expert you ever need," and that may well be the case (back firmly patted), but I am not the be-all and end-all. Am I an expert? Absolutely. Am I the only expert? Absolutely not.
I recommend having a copy of The PMBOK® Guide – 6th Edition on hand. You can obtain a copy from www.pmi.org or even on Amazon or other bookselling sites. Here is a way to get both the guide and the Agile Practice Guide® while saving yourself some money. If you choose to join the Project Management Institute, you will have access to many white papers, discussions, job boards, discounts on books, and conversation opportunities with PMs around the world for the international events done yearly. Yes, membership has its benefits.
The membership is for 1 year and you can renew as needed or wanted. The benefits include a free PDF download of the PMBOK® Guide – 6th Edition and the Agile Practice Guide®. It's searchable and highly recommended. You will also get a discount on your exams – all of that for basically the same price as your original exam costs. Always check www.pmi.org for membership costs and exam costs as things change pretty rapidly in project management. You do not need to be a member to secure the guide(s) or to sit the exam.
There are also numerous guides, practice exams, and other sites that can provide a different voice to the content that may resonate with you as well. That is totally okay. I would never suggest that this is all you need because I know how much content I give out to my classes at StormWind Studios and the recommendations I make to them. This is your learning experience, so treat it like you would any important experience. Do your homework, ask questions, investigate other options for focused study, and adapt and overcome as needed.
I heard the application is difficult. Are you going to cover that in this guide?
You bet! I'll walk you through the entire application process and I promise you will find some great tips and support for the application. The application was recently updated in June 2020 to make it easier than ever! You can mark the total duration of projects with start and finish dates, drop-down menus, and a 500-word explanation section. You will need at least 200 words in your description of your project work. Right now, that should be the furthest thing from your mind, as you can't submit that application until certain criteria have been met. You may want to come back to this chapter when you are ready for application submission.
What are the qualifications for the PMP® exam?
That is an excellent question and it's super important that you understand this section so that you know which exam to apply for based on your experience. You can also review this at www.pmi.org, on the Certification tab. You can select which certification you are looking for and download a handbook that walks you through everything in the process. The following list provides you with an overview of the qualifications:
PMP® exam required qualifications:
- 4,500 hours (about 3 years) of project management experience leading and directing projects if you have a college degree (BA or above) and 36 months of documented experience.
- 7,500 hours (about 5 years) if you are a high school graduate or have an associate degree or GED and 70 months of documented experience.
- 35 hours of project management education.
- Your experience can go back 8 years, meaning 3 to 5 years within the last 8 years.
CAPM® exam required qualifications:
- Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate degree, or the global equivalent). The other qualifications (education hours and experience hours) were dropped in August 2019 to help CAPM®-certified people have a clearer path to the PMP®.
The CAPM® now can be maintained much like the PMP® with professional development units every 3 years. At that point, most people take their PMP®.Note. The CAPM® and PMI-ACP® exams can now be taken at home via an online proctor.
See www.pmi.org for more information.
What does project management education mean?
This means you would need someone like me to teach you the content for a certain amount of contact hours based on your certification choice. 1 contact hour = 1 hour of training. There are numerous programs out there, including my course at StormWind Studios and PM Guru (https://www.stormwindstudios.com/project-management/pmp-6th-edition-certification-prep/), as well as the many amazing colleagues I have in the business who also teach fantastic certification classes. A little homework and a check of your budget for training can go a long way to meeting those requirements. Unfortunately, self-study doesn't count toward your contact hours, so you'll need to make sure your training provider can offer the contact hours. Look for Authorized Training Partners (ATP) who have the ability to offer contact hours to their students. Of course, self-study is the most important way to prepare for the exam outside of a class, so it's great you are reading this guide!
I took a PMP® boot camp 4 years ago, does that count?
Yes, those hours count and don't ever expire pre-certification. However, a word to the wise, the PMBOK® Guide is currently in its 6th edition. Four years ago or longer information that was provided for the earlier editions' concepts resulted in a different exam. Have things changed? Yes, they very much have changed. This edition is so much more different from the 4th or 5th editions. While you have the contact hours already, it is good you are reading this so that you have the most up-to-date information for your exams.
How to apply for the exam
The first thing you can do to apply online at www.pmi.org is to go to the Certification tab and choose your exam: PMP® or CAPM®. You will want to create a username and password on the site because that is where your application will be and where you will update your progress post-certification (more on that in Chapter 15, Next Steps and Study Tips). Once you create a username and password, you can begin your application. Here are a few need-to-know items before we begin:
- You can start and save your progress when you use the online application. The servers will store your application for up to 90 days, so don't worry too much about getting it done in one sitting.
- You will only need the names and addresses of all organizations you have worked for so that you can document the hours spent working on projects if you were to be audited, rather than on the application itself.
- You will need the names and contact information of anyone who can validate your experience in the case of an audit.
Wait… what? Audit?? One in every four applications is randomly selected for audit. Don't take it personally, it is how the applications are quality controlled. This is designed to make sure nobody is lying on their applications. That brings us to the next need-to-know item.
- Don't lie on your applications. You must have led and directed project work for all of the hours and months you submit. I highly recommend sending your application to anyone who can validate that experience in advance. Let them know what you are doing and ask whether they are willing to validate the documented experience in the case of an audit. I often suggest to my students that they do their applications in a word processing program or spreadsheet program first. Once they are organized, they can put it all into the online application. Totally up to you.
What if the organization has closed or the people I worked with are gone and I can't find them?
It happens and PMI® knows it's a possibility. You can either find another person you can contact and ask whether they would be willing to validate your work or use another project.
These days, it is easier to track people down via LinkedIn and the like. Do your due diligence and in the worst case, locate a customer, functional managers, other project managers, or really anyone who worked with you on that project and will respond to an audit request for information.
Once you submit your application, it will take about 5 business days for the review to occur. Once they have accepted your application, you will see a link to pay for your exams on your "My PMI" page and the next step is paying for and scheduling your exam.
Once you pay for your exam and get a confirmation, sit there for about another 5 minutes. If you get another email, you have been selected for an audit. If you are selected, PMI® will give you and your contacts up to 90 days to complete everything. If you are prepared, it won't take you that long to do. Once submitted, it will take another 5 business days to complete. Then you can schedule your exam. No email after payment confirmation and you are in the clear! Whew.
Now, let's focus on actually filling out the application. This is where I gently remind you to not be upset with the messenger. That would be me. The application is comprehensive and will ask you to itemize all the projects you have led and directed.
I would highly recommend you go to www.pmi.org and on the PMP® page, at the lower right, you will see a link to a handbook (https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/certifications/project-management-professional-handbook.pdf).
The reason I suggest reading through the handbook is that it gives you an overview of what to expect on the application and so on. I'll give you the information here as well but since things tend to change, it's best to always check the PMI® site for any updates.
With that being said, here we go. The number one thing to know is that you need both the hours and requisite months to align on your application and that you can't document overlapping projects across time. If you just read that and said, "uh… I work on multiple projects all the time. What do you mean I can't overlap??" I mean you can't overlap. In the following diagram, you can see an example of what I mean:
Let me explain this in more detail:
- Scenario 1: Project 1 is longer than Project 2. I would suggest you use the project with the longest duration, even if it overlaps with another project, which in this case is Project 1. You can't use Project 2 in total because it overlaps with Project 1.
- Scenario 2: Use the parts of Project 1 that don't overlap and the parts of Project 2 that don't overlap, but only if it makes sense in terms of the hours and/or months you'll be spending on this.
- Scenario 3: Use the longest in duration and then use the beginning and/or end of the other, whichever works out the best. For example, use the entire Project 1 duration and then use the end of Project 2's duration that isn't overlapping.
I know this is confusing, but the good news is that the application will let you know what counts and what does not as you go. 60 or 36 months also have to be accommodated based on your education level, along with the hours. For example, let's say you have 4,500 hours but not the 36 months covered. Your hours will need to increase to match up with the 36-month requirement. Conversely, if you have the months but not the hours, you would need to increase the hours, which will also extend the months. Both planets have to align before you can submit the application. You will see a breakdown during the online application process of what has been calculated and how many more of each or is needed to complete the application. It isn't unusual to have more months documented to accommodate all of the hours needed.
The other consideration is that you do not have to have an entire start to finish of the documented project for every single documented item on the application. There might have been times where a project has been canceled but you spent 3 months planning. Totally count that! Projects can also count if they are in progress and there is a box you can check if that is the case. In the following figure, you can see part of a demo application that I put together. The first page is your academic education and it's fairly easy to work through:
This next section is perhaps the most important as it describes your project experience. You will do this for every project you want to document to reach your hours. The application will keep track of what counts and what doesn't and there are easy drop-down menus. The description is the most important. Notice I used the word "I." I did this to help explain my role on the project:
The Project Management Professional (PMP), PMBOK Guide and the Project Management Institute Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), the Agile Practice Guide, the PMP® application are a registered trademark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
Now that you have seen the majority of the application, be aware that you will need to do the hours and add explanations for every single project until you meet the criteria, as well as where you obtained your 35 hours of project management education.
Here are some pointers to keep in mind while applying:
- Go in chronological order. This helps with the documentation and making sure nothing is missed. Either go from present to past or past to present. Whatever works for you.
- Have a robust explanation planned and point out the best practices you used that align with the best practices on the exam.
- Be sure to make each description unique. If you work on similar projects, it is sometimes difficult to document in a unique way. If you have two projects you would like to use where you are installing servers across multiple locations for totally different clients, you may want to choose what was unique about each, as in the following example:
a) Project 1: I created the project charter and engaged stakeholders.
b) Project 2: I assessed risk and created responses, as well as created the formal scope statement and gained approvals.
- Be honest. Don't fudge the hours and if you did work 50 hours a week on one project, then by all means, document that. Just do not pad your numbers to get through this quickly. If you get audited, it could be a long, painful process trying to explain that.
- Try to gather all of the information you need first. Perhaps build everything out in Excel or Word before adding it to the online application, and then email your contacts the breakdown and ask them whether everything looks legit. If so, they will be well prepared in advance for the audit and nobody will be surprised by a person they haven't seen in 3 years asking for documentation.
- Don't worry too much about this now. If you haven't attended a training class or even begun this process yet, then this should be the last step aside from paying for and scheduling your exams.
One final piece of advice. Don't worry – it sounds worse than it is. I offer application support to my students and I review their applications. Red flags for me and PMI® are overlapping projects, too many hours for the timeframe listed, the descriptions being vague and not using the language of the PMBOK® Guide, or you do not list yourself as the project manager. This is as important as the months. You must be leading and directing projects. Not a coordinator, not a contributor, but a project manager or leader. If, in fact, you were only a contributor, then you will need to look for projects that you managed instead. This does not apply for the CAPM® exam because the assumption is you are a coordinator and therefore do not need to prove you managed projects.
As I mentioned previously, this is probably not the time to fill out your application unless you are beginning the process of studying after taking a prep class. Otherwise, it may be best to circle back to this chapter once you are ready to go. In Chapter 15, Next Steps and Study Tips, I will revisit some of the items in this chapter to help you get your best start. Remember that it's a marathon, not a sprint. Don't worry, though – you've got this, I promise!
What to expect on exam day – if you take the exam at a testing center
Here's to hoping the world is back to normal (following the COVID-19 pandemic) as you read this. If not, you can take your exam from home through a proctored process. Pretty much what you would need for a Zoom meeting is the extent of how complicated it will be. But let's go back to hoping the world is back to normal and you can leave the house!
Let's assume you have submitted your application, been approved (avoided an audit), and are ready to schedule your exams. Here are a couple of items to consider:
- If you are a morning person, try to schedule your exam in the morning or in the afternoon if you wake up after lunch. You will be tired and brain strained after taking the exam and it's even worse if you schedule it during a time when you are not alert or at your best. Most hosting sites have multiple time slots and days when you can schedule your exams. Some may even have weekend or evening hours. If not, you'll need to plan accordingly with your work schedule. It's about a 6-hour round trip event if you need to travel to the testing site or a 4-hour event if you take it at home.
- Pearson VUE is the host of the exams and for those taking the PMP® exam, you will need to search your area to find the best location for you and find out whether a center is even open in your area right now. If you are in a large city, you should have several to choose from. If you are on the outskirts, you may have to travel an hour or so. Make sure when you schedule your exam, you take into consideration rush hour traffic and the like. PMI® will provide you with a link and instructions on where to go and what to do to schedule through Pearson's system.
Print out the email from PMI® that states you have been approved to sit the exam.
The exam used to be hosted by Prometric but is now hosted by Pearson VUE. The reason for changing vendors was because Pearson VUE had more locations globally and had the capacity to host more exams online. The Pearson VUE process may be different and/or change as they take on the new exams, so always make sure to read all the information carefully. PMI® will provide you with the information you need after your exam is paid for and you are ready to schedule. It's always best to have hard copies of the communications, whether Pearson VUE asks to see them or not. You're a project manager and you probably already know that being prepared is the way to go.
Make sure you have two forms of identification with you when you go to the exam location. You will need to present these to the person checking you in. I used a passport and driver's license because it had my full and correct name. For some reason, credit card companies and airlines just can't get it right. I suppose it's the J. Ashley throwing them off. J. Edgar Hoover never had these problems! You can't use social security cards as identification, but you can use your company identification badge if it has a current picture and your name, plus you will also need one additional main type of identification.
The night before your exam, double-check your route. I always advise calling the site the day before or checking their website to see whether the parking is on-site or a parking garage. Is there any construction you need to worry about? Maybe even do a drive-by of the site to make sure you know what to expect. Taking an exam is stressful enough without being late, or stuck in traffic, or parking on the 15th floor of a parking garage without an elevator. I speak from experience on that one.
I am chronically early to everything, much to the chagrin of my husband and friends, but for every exam I take and arrive early for (all of them), I am typically able to get right into the testing area. If they have an open computer, they will get you in early.
When you arrive and after your check-in, the front desk will ask you to put everything in a locker. By everything, I mean everything. I literally had two Advil in my pocket, knowing full well I would need to take them immediately post-exam. They made me put them in the locker. Not sure who thinks every possible answer could be documented on two little green gel caps, but I digress for good reason. No smartphones or smartwatches, no food or water in the testing area, nothing in your pockets, no bags or backpacks. Nothing except you and only you can enter the testing room. I know some of you read that no food or water comment and thought I was kidding. Unless you have a medical issue with a doctor's note, you may not have anything to eat or drink with you.
Once you have put your precious Red Bull, Grande Frappuccino no whip, a granola bar, plus your Advil in the locker, you will be taken to another room and swiped with a metal detector. It's a lot like going through security at an airport. You can keep your shoes on, though. You will also have your picture taken. Trust me when I say that this is the most painful part for me. I looked like I had just survived a tornado in my picture. They do this for a reason: so that when you pass, they know for sure it is you, and so you have a terrible picture to remember the experience by.
Something to note is that this was my experience and that I took my PMP® exam and my PMI-ACP® at a Prometric site. I took my CAPM® with Pearson VUE and it wasn't as traumatic... except the picture part. Be prepared either way.
Once you are seated at your computer desk, you will be given something to write on and write with. Don't even think about opening the booklet or starting to write anything down until the exam begins. The proctor will soundly reprimand you.
You will have the option of going through a tutorial before you begin the exam. This tutorial will provide information such as the next button will take you to the next question, the previous button will take you to the previous question, and more. I use the tutorial time to practice deep breathing. While I sound like I'm kidding, I'm totally serious. I had no idea the previous button would take me backward through the exam. Right, I'm kidding. I am trying to make light of a stressful situation so that you know that it can be survived.
The scratch paper is there for you to use for math questions or to jot down information you don't want to forget or to use if something needs to be worked out on paper before selecting the correct answer. Do not spend more than 1 minute of precious exam time writing things down. You may also get a dry erase board, which is a nightmare for lefties like me.
The exam is highly proctored as well. You are on camera, you are being audiotaped, and you have a proctor with heavy shoes walking behind you. You will also be in the room with other test-takers. They may not be so privileged to be able to click a mouse for next and previous, and they may actually have to type their answers. Click, click, cough, sneeze, sigh, cry, snort, and a variety of emotions and human noises will prevail. I want you to know this because if you are easily distracted by noise, this can throw you off your game. Occasionally, they will give you headphones to drown out the noise. Mine were too large and I spent much of my time looking like I was flagging planes in for a landing. I took them off after the first plane landed.
You will be given access to a calculator for math questions, and that calculator is probably embedded in the math questions. You will click the calculator button and use your mouse to navigate the math questions. (What?? Math?? Yes, I'm sorry. I mean I'm really sorry.) There isn't a ton of math, so that is the good news. The better news is you don't have to do the calculations in your head. I can hear the cheers from the mathematically challenged. Oh wait, that was me…
You will have a timer so that you can see how much time you have left. Try not to be a clock watcher as it tends to stress you out, but be sure you know how your pace is going. The good news is, you will have studied super hard and will have taken practice exams. You will know how long it takes you to answer 180 questions. Also, in case you thought you could take a break during the exam and slam your Red Bull, take two Advil, and cram a granola bar in your mouth, unfortunately, you cannot. There are two 10-minute scheduled breaks but you cannot go to your locker. If you need a bio break before then, you can raise your hand like at kindergarten and go through the preceding process in reverse and then forward again. The clock will still be ticking. I try very hard not to leave the terminal until the bitter end.
You can mark questions for later review. I marked about 25 on my PMP® exam. Some I marked because I wanted to review the question again to make sure I selected the correct answer. Some I marked because I literally had no idea what the answer was. The rest were math questions I chose to ignore until I was running out of time. I'm the type that prefers to eat ice cream before green beans. I'm weird like that! Whatever your strategy is, you can click a button to return to just the marked questions – unless, of course, you want to use the highly touted previous and next buttons, but that can be a major time-waster.
The exam will not take away credit for incorrect answers. You only get credit for correct answers. Woohoo – they don't cancel each other out! The exam is also not adaptive, meaning it doesn't know you aren't that great at math and then give you more math questions. It may feel that way to you but the 180 questions you get are the 180 you get.
Now, the big question of the day. What is the passing score? This is a more difficult question than you might think. The PMP® exam used to be scored with a percentage. You got 82%! Since 2007, things have changed a bit. Now, the exam is scored using proficiency levels in each domain. I'll let PMI® explain. Insert legalese here...
"The PMP® passing score for all PMI® credential examinations is determined by sound psychometric analysis. PMI® uses subject matter experts – project professionals from around the world and many different disciplines – to determine how many questions you must answer correctly to pass the exam. Each scored question in the exam is worth one point, and your final score is calculated by totaling the points you have earned on the exam. The number of questions you answer correctly places you within one of the performance rating categories you see in the report."
To explain that a little bit more, the questions you will get are different from someone else's questions, as mentioned earlier. If you get a ton of easy questions, they are weighted less than difficult questions, meaning the easier the questions are, the more you need to answer correctly. The more difficult, the fewer you need to get correct. Which is a good thing, I think.
The score and proficiency ratings are weighted toward the different process groups. The following table shows the current breakout for the exam based on the percentage of questions in each domain:
Here is some good news. The exam score is based on 175 questions, not 180. "So, why the heck are there 180 questions?", you may be asking yourself. Five questions don't count for your score and are considered pre-test questions, which actually is a misnomer because they aren't the first five questions you get. They are mixed in with the rest. The reason why this is done is to test newer questions in the test bank and to gain data on how people respond. It helps PMI® build out their ever-growing test bank and to test new concepts. You will need to answer all 180 questions though because you don't know what counts and what doesn't.
Even if you don't know the answers, you have a 25% chance of getting them correct, so go for it! There may also be some out-of-the-blue questions. Real head-scratchers. They may be the pre-test questions you were looking for. They also may not be the pre-test questions. Either way, you will know whether you have passed within about 30 seconds after submission, provided you choose to skip the survey.
There is a survey at the end that you can choose to take to give feedback about the exam. I would love to be a fly on the wall when those are read out loud. "This beep, beep, beepity, beep exam was too hard!" and other such proclamations of an exhausted test taker. Your choice! If you choose not to take the survey, you can submit your exam for scoring. If you are like me, you will stop breathing for about 30 seconds while the blue screen of death hits your terminal and then… Congratulations, you have passed! (That is my assumptive close.) While you burst into tears and fist pump or whatever works as your celebratory happy dance, the proctor will be printing out a piece of paper with a "you passed" statement on it, a breakdown of your target/proficiency levels, and the awesome (driver's license-like) picture of you, plus a handy-dandy notary stamp making the pass totally legit. Now, you can take your Advil, call your boss, change your email signature to include PMP (you don't need the registered trademark symbol after if it represents your PMP designation), dump the melted Frappuccino, and head out to grab a large adult beverage to celebrate your success! Congrats in advance!
What to expect on exam day if you take your PMP® exam online at home… in your pajamas…
You will need a very quiet place to take your exam. By quiet, I mean no kids running in and out of your room, and no cats on your keyboard! A dedicated quiet space. You will need everything you would need for a Zoom call. A microphone, a webcam, and a computer with internet. Best to be plugged in and not wireless.
You may be asked to take everything off the walls behind you. Anything that looks like it may help you pass is a no-no.
You will have a proctor staring at you, which can be unnerving for some. Be prepared for that.
You will have a calculator and an online whiteboard. Most people hate it, so make sure you can work with something like that. No scratch paper.
Plan about 5 hours for the entire experience. The exam is 4 hours with two 10-minute breaks, yes; however, there has been some chatter that the proctors may not show up on time. It's frustrating but you need to expect the worst and hope for the best.
Do NOT, I repeat do NOT, whip out your phone to take a picture of your passing score. They will cancel your exam and you will have to take it again. True story.
Follow ALL their rules and you should be fine. I prefer taking my exam in a center but ya know, COVID-19 and such. You can determine whether there is a center near you that is open and how safe you feel going there. You have options. Yay!
Common questions you may be thinking to yourself after all of that
Okay – at this point, you have a lot of information to process. This is about the time my students start asking questions about the actual exam and what they need to do to pass it, as well as some other common questions. I highly encourage my classes to get all the most worrisome questions out of the way as soon as possible. That way, they know what to expect and can move on through the content with those burning questions answered. Here are several of those types of questions.
Do I need to be proficient in everything? How will I know?
Not at all. You could be moderately proficient in everything and pass. That is the equivalent of about 75%. Scores are broken down into Above Target, Target, Below Target, and Needs Improvement.
Will anyone be able to see my results? As in, will PMI® post my results anywhere?
Only you know how you did. Passed is all anyone needs to know unless you decide to leave your results sheet laying around the breakroom. Otherwise, none the wiser.
If I get below target in any domain, will I fail the exam?
The easy answer is yes, and it depends. If you are below target in the business environment domain category and above or on target in the rest, the score should balance out.
What score should I be aiming for in practice exams?
My best advice is to consistently get between 75% and 85% on 180-question practice exams (remember to take out five questions to get your real score). For the first practice exam I took, I got 35%. Yes, that number is correct! I was horrified! But as I took more and more practice exams, I got better and better.
You'll have good scores and bad scores. The key is to understand why the answer you chose is incorrect and review the content. Study what you don't know, not what you do know. Take practice exams with the book open at first – that way, you can look up the information you need. That is also part of tactile learning and helps solidify your knowledge.
Don't get demotivated by a low score. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to shift your focus to those processes that aren't as clear.
I have zero time to study and that study for 100 hours bit is making me nervous. How can I still work and have a life, but also still study?
Listen, I would rather clean my garage than sit down and take a 4-hour practice exam on a Saturday, and my garage is a total disaster. I get it, I really do. I can give you a strategy – my strategy – which may or may not work for your learning style or time constraints. Toward the end of this chapter, I'll review common learning styles and give you some advice on how to utilize them for study purposes:
- I took 10 practice questions in the morning over coffee, instead of reading the news, chasing my dog around the house, trying to convince my daughter that wearing a Princess Jasmine dress to third grade probably wasn't the best idea, and other such distractions. I would take the 10 and then go back and score myself. Any question I got wrong, I would go back through those sections in the PMBOK® Guide and locate the correct answer. I would think about the concepts while dropping Princess Jasmine off at school and then attempt to incorporate the best practices mentioned in the questions in my projects.
- When I got home after work, I would take those 10 questions again, plus another 10 different questions, and perform the same process of checking answers and understanding why I got them correct/incorrect. Those evening study sessions were much easier for me since the wine opener was placed directly next to my study materials.
- This is your study time. You break it down how you need to. If I had time during the weekend, I would take a 180-question practice exam and score it. The next weekend, I would go through it and determine why I got those questions correct/incorrect.
- Some prefer to take a full-blown practice exam of 180 questions right out of the gate to get a baseline and go from there. Totally up to you. There will be practice questions after every single chapter in this guide. I would say take those practice exams after you read through each chapter the first time. See how you do. Go back through that chapter to pick up anything you may have missed conceptually and take it again until you score 100%. Then, move on to the next chapter and so on. That is a good strategy to begin with.
How will I know I am ready to schedule my exam?
For sure I recommend not scheduling your exams too far out. Much of this information is use-it-or-lose-it stuff unless you are using many of the best practices already. I wouldn't wait longer than 3 to 4 months after your prep course to sit the exam. With that being said, do not schedule your exam until you feel you are ready.
When your passing scores are consistent with different exams and questions, you are most likely ready to go. Once you schedule your exam, it is difficult to unring that bell, and there may be costs associated with rescheduling. You'll need to review the Pearson VUE policies on that. Otherwise, this process shouldn't take longer than 6 months max. Currently, PMI® isn't charging for reschedules for those of you who have scheduled your exams and need more time. Always check www.pmi.org for the most up-to-date information.
How many times can I take the exam?
You can take the PMP® exam up to three times in one year. Each time, it costs you money. It's less the second and third time, but who wants to pay for it twice, let alone go through it thrice? If you take it three times and fail, you will have to wait an entire year and then start the entire process again. By the way, I have yet to hear of or meet anyone that took the exam three times. Twice yes, but not three times.
My training company has a "first-time pass guarantee" – is that for real?
With first-time pass guarantees, I want you to read that as "we'll give you a refund if you fail." There isn't any way that any training company (mine included) can guarantee you'll pass. We have no idea how hard you worked or how much you study. We figure you are all adults and want the cert for professional reasons.
If you fail and were given all of the information you needed to pass, then that is on you. Sorry, but it's true. It could be for a variety of reasons, as mentioned in the six common reasons people fail the exam, and it isn't the end of the world either. Dust yourself off and change how you study.
Unless, of course, your training course was terrible, which happens. I'll go out on a limb here and very clearly state that boot camps do not work very well. Much to the shock and horror of those instructors doing boot camps, I'm sure. Although authorized training providers still need to present the content created by PMI® and most run it in a boot camp style. Don't say I didn't warn you. The firehose of information is forthcoming!
This information is extensive – it's a ton of information. Faster isn't always better. A PMP® boot camp is the equivalent of learning 800 statistical formulas in 1 week and then being asked to take an exam on everything you just learned at the end of the week. Those that are good at statistics will prevail. Those that are not will fail. It's that simple. This is why they offer a money-back guarantee: because they know some of you will fail. Something else to consider is that if your instructor is reading out of the PMBOK® Guide slowly and without purpose, you need a new instructor.
By the way, you will not be learning 800 statistical formulas. If that were the case, I wouldn't even have my PMP®. You'll be learning about 10 formulas and they are algebraic, so yay!
It's probably pretty obvious that taking and retaking practice exams is one of the best ways to test your knowledge. But is that really the place to begin your studying journey? Well, that depends on you and how you learn. We will get to that in a minute. The following list is certainly not exhaustive, but it does provide a good overview of some really important items to consider:
- Read The PMBOK® Guide – 6th Edition, this guide, and others as needed.
- Read The Code Of Ethics and Professional Conduct, which can currently be found at https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/ethics/pmi-code-of-ethics.pdf?sc_lang_temp=en.
You will be asked to agree to and abide by The Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. We will cover this in Chapter 6, Creating and Leading a Team. You will get questions in your exams concerning ethics. It is a good idea to download the code and read it at some point. I'll break down everything then.
- Read through other exam prep books: Yes, I said it before and I'll say it again – you will need to gain information from different authors, blogs, YouTube videos, and the like to ensure you have a well-rounded approach to your studies. Be sure that everything is from The PMBOK® Guide – 6th Edition and follows the exam content outline. Your version is in Chapter 15, Next Steps and Study Tips.
- Get used to answering questions for almost 4 hours in a row: This can only be done if you sit for 4 hours answering exam questions.
- Read the questions first, then the answers, then the questions again: I'd say this is more of an as-needed situation. You'll know when you begin to study and take practice exams whether this strategy works or doesn't work for you. Just make sure you read carefully.
- Think as PMI® thinks: The best practices PMI® has put into their standards, exams, and guides always win during an exam. It's best to buy in early; otherwise, you may be tempted to throw your laptop out the window while taking practice exams.
- Question types: It used to be that the PMP® exam required you to choose one correct answer and only one. Now, it seems, they have changed that as well. This may be good news, or it may be really bad news. It depends how you feel about exams.
The question types are as follows:
a) Drag and drop.
b) Hot spot questions where you click and interact with diagrams and digital graphics.
c) Check all that apply.
d) Check the best answer.
- Review the exam content outline for your planned exam dates: This is super important. The good news is that this was just updated and probably won't change until another iteration of The PMBOK® Guide is updated. Typically, that is about every 3 to 4 years. I'll cover the main points as well throughout this guide.
As we wrap up this section on all of the questions and answers, my hope is that it has provided you with enough information to get you started. Don't forget to circle back to these again after reading Chapter 15, Next Steps and Study Tips.
I've always been fascinated by how people learn. I guess that isn't surprising considering what I do for a living, but I also had to determine how I learn. I took my first exam since university graduation (1992... shhh – don't start trying to figure out my age and such) – that exam was the PMP® exam, by the way – in 2007, just so you know I've been exactly where you are right now. Figuratively, not literally, because that would be weird. Before that, I hadn't studied anything except work-related things and learning new systems and software, but a full-blown examination? Well, that was totally new to me.
So, I took a learning style quiz online as well as the Myers-Briggs online test to determine my learning style and the careers I would fit the best in. Unsurprisingly, the Myers-Briggs type of test lists me as an advocate. When I read through the details, it was like they were creepily sitting in my living room watching everything I was doing. It was so on point I was shocked. Then, I started using these online tests with my teams to determine their style of learning and personality. Then, we all compared what we got during a meeting. It was eye-opening, to say the least, and for some, the results were unsurprising. For others, they were shocked by the results.
There are tons of free online tests out there. I liked this one for my team if you are interested: https://www.16personalities.com/.
Then, we did the learning styles. I was curious about how I learned and am not a believer in one size fits all. I learn just as easily from something I'm watching on Netflix as I do reading a book, or listening to a podcast. So, how could I arrange my studying around the stronger factors of my way of learning?
I have a plethora of learning styles, but for big exams, inquiring minds wanted to know. So, I went out to a different site from the one listed here, due to the fact that 2007 was 100 years ago in the lifespan of technology, but this one is very similar and gave me great insight.
I just took the learning styles test right now, this moment, in 2021, and used the link provided here. I was totally blown away. I suggest that you go to the site and take your own or something like it before you read on. It's one thing to nod along while reading but if you truly don't know your style, then it will be more difficult to try to figure it out while you're studying. Streamlining your study by using your preferred methods of learning will go a very long way!
Go to the link and check it out. Don't worry, I'll wait: https://www.learning-styles-online.com/inventory/questions.php?cookieset=y.
Based on my results, it appears that I learn the best when being social and verbal. The verbal aspect didn't surprise me as I'm often caught having a discussion with myself by my husband. He calls it "self-talk." I can self-talk with the best of them and I teach for a living, so I'm talking all the time. It was the social part that surprised me the most. If you asked my students and colleagues whether I'm an introvert or an extrovert, they would absolutely say I'm an extrovert. I'm not. I'm just good at working a room. Once it's over, I desperately need a nap or quiet self-talk, so solitary learning was also not surprising to me. Aural means I like having music on when I write or study, and that is true as well. The late, great David Bowie is keeping me company as I write this – on Pandora, not actually keeping me company. By the way, nothing in this section is on the exam, it's just a way to help you through the process.
What I got from my results is that I needed a combination of classroom learning with others and study groups that I could attend and discuss concepts. Then, I needed to peace out and go study on my own with music on. It works for me and still does to this day. Although, after years of taking certification exams, writing courseware, writing three books, and teaching, the social aspect of what I do has waned, replaced with studying or deep thinking. The following are the scores I got. What did you get? Were you surprised?
The seven learning styles
- Visual (spatial): Prefers using pictures, images, and spatial understanding
- Aural (auditory-musical): Prefers using sound and music
- Verbal (linguistic): Prefers using words, both in speech and writing
- Physical (kinesthetic): Prefers using body, hands, and sense of touch
- Logical (mathematical): Prefers using logic, reasoning, and systems
- Social (interpersonal): Prefers to learn in groups or with other people
- Solitary (intrapersonal): Prefers to work alone and use self-study
Now that you know your breakdown, you can decide what will work best for you when you are studying for this or any other exam. The following are some examples of types of learning styles and ways you can use them to help you study for your exam.
Visual learners prefer to use graphics, charts, graphs, and outlines. You may also determine that using color-coding works well for you. This section is green for planning or red for closing. Using highlighters in the guide is also a good way to call out visually what you need to remember. You can also use technology such as apps with practice questions or even write out the items you want to remember and then read them back. Finally, reading guides such as this and taking practice exams is the best way to get started. I have had students that make their own flashcards and tape them up in their house so that every time they get a cup of coffee, the index card is right there with the question and the answer.
A little self-talk is never a bad thing and if you are verbal, saying things out loud or reading out loud can go a long way to locking in the content. Verbal learners tend to use mnemonics, keywords, and phrases to help lock in information, as well as taking copious notes to help create acronyms they can use to remember content. You may also benefit from an online pre-recorded class that you can play on your tablet while you make dinner or do other things – especially if you have a high score in auditory learning as well. I also appreciate a bit of motivational speech while I'm burning things in the kitchen.
If you are a logical learner, chances are you are a linear thinker. You may benefit from reading The PMBOK® Guide – 6th Edition due to the compartmentalization of the layout. You also may benefit from brain teasers and games that allow you to solve a problem and help you learn. Writing lists and using numbered categories may help you solidify the information you are learning. Determining the cause and effect of each process, tool/technique, and the like will go a long way for you. You also are not scared of math and probably thought that learning 800 formulas of statistics is something you were planning to do this weekend. That and soundly beating someone in a not-so-quick game of chess. I envy you!
Aural or auditory
It makes sense that auditory learners learn from listening. If you learn this way, my best advice is to get an audiobook or to use an online training course that has replay. This will allow you to listen to the instructor while you are doing other things or just plug in your headphones and grab a chair. This type of learner also enjoys interactions and conversations where they can listen to another's point of view and are vastly affected by music and tones. You may benefit from listening to music while you study or update your notes. By notes, I mean study notes, not musical notes. You may be someone who creates a song or tune about what you are learning and uses that to your best advantage. Perhaps some interpretive dance to go with it? You may find it difficult to review charts and graphs that have a lot of information on them unless someone verbally explains them. Much like the verbal learners, reading out loud can also go a long way to helping you study to your best advantage.
Social learners learn best in a group environment. Perhaps you could join a study group that is at a local PMI® chapter, or if someone else in your organization is gearing up for their PMP®, you can study together. This will allow you to bounce ideas off of others. You may also benefit from taking a live training class, either one that is highly interactive and virtual or one in a brick and mortar classroom. You need to have a group of like-minded people to discuss things with, but you are also open to other ways of viewing information. The other thing you will excel at and learn at the same time is teaching the material to others. Maybe you can hold a team-building meeting where you discuss risk management best practices using the techniques you learn about here or elsewhere. That provides the collaborative spirit you need and helps your organization protect itself from risk.
If you are mostly an introvert and prefer to work alone, then your studying process will be solitary but structured. You will benefit from setting learning goals and will be disciplined enough to achieve the goal you have set. You would benefit the most from your ability to self-manage and determine what is working and what is not working based on your self-reflection. The best way for you to learn is to study a concept and then think about how it can be utilized on your current projects and how it ties into your day-to-day experiences. Make sure you secure a very quiet place to study with limited disruptions (if possible). Turn off the phone, the television, and the radio and dive in. You will self-police your progress and work toward your goal.
Physical or kinesthetic learners are typically good at athletics and sports and can memorize rules and playbooks easily. With that being said, if these types of learners are stuck inside, sitting in an office trying to read, they will immediately go clean the garage and avoid the boring sedentary feeling they get from studying. Hands-on learning is great for you so that those practice exams will come in handy. You aren't reading, you are doing. You would also benefit from recorded courses that you can listen to on a run or when doing exercise of some kind. Role-playing is also beneficial to your way of learning. "This just happened, what do you do?" Basically, a day in the life of a project manager. "The project is sideways, what do we do?" You will tend to determine the best course of action quickly. Something as simple as pacing while you read or listen can help lock down the knowledge you're learning about as well. You will respond much better to graphs and charts if you copy ones from the guide and draw them out yourself. This will help with your retention, as will taking copious notes.
Hopefully, all that advice is of some benefit to you, and I will do my best to help accommodate your learning styles as we work through the content in this guide.
If you are still with me, then you have adapted to my personality a bit. That is why I started where I did: first, to get the big questions covered right out of the gate so that you are prepared to move forward with the content, and second to see whether my personality is something that will help you learn. I won't lie to you, a lot of this content could be described as dry at best, and at worst, not a beach read. So I try very hard to make things interesting and usable for your studies and for your day-to-day project work.
If you are still with me, then let's get this party started and prepare you to pass a big, expensive exam, gain glory and back pats for at least an hour, and potentially make a ton of money. Ready? Good! Let's get started, then.
In this chapter, you reviewed all of the necessary information to help you get started on your way toward certification. We reviewed the big questions and answers I get during my PMP® classes, discovered what it may be like on exam day, and also what to expect with the application. You also covered different learning styles and have hopefully discovered what may suit you best. Of course, it may take some trial and error, but I think you probably identified something that resonated with you. You can always adapt your study habits at any time to something that works a bit better.
You will find some questions in the following section, entitled Assessment exam, that cover content you haven't covered yet. This is basically because it's an assessment to see how much you know. If you want to wait and do this after you've finished the guide, feel free to do so. It may be good to get a baseline though and determine the areas that you already know and identify the ones you don't. I highly suggest you download the new exam content outline as the study guide is structured according to the tasks found on it. Here is a link to it: https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/certifications/pmp-examination-content-outline.pdf?v=149cfab8-bd04-4b7b-bacf-c4b1c5e2d164.
Good luck on the assessment and I'll see you again in Chapter 2, Introduction to Project Management, where you will review different ways to study based on your learning styles.
Question 1: The definition of a project is what?
- Progressively elaborated on and unique
- Temporary and chartered
- Temporary and unique
- Unique and has a life cycle
Question 2: Which of the following is the correct order for the process groups of project management?
- Initiation, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing the project or phase
- Planning, execution, monitoring and controlling, and closing the project or phase
- Initiation, execution, and project or phase closure
- Initiation, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing the project or phase
Question 3: Which of the following are key activities in the initiation process group?
- Creation of the risk register and development of the business case
- Creating a schedule baseline and budget
- Project charter creation and identification of stakeholders
- Development of a business case and holding a kick-off meeting
Question 4: Which of the following is the main goal of planning?
- To create a comprehensive project management plan
- To create a schedule baseline
- To create a budget that meets the business plan
- To understand the scope of work
Question 5: Which of the following process groups is where the project deliverables are produced?
- Monitoring and controlling
Question 6: In order to process a change request, which of the following departments would you most likely need to get approval from?
- The PMO
- The CCB
- The sponsor
- The customer
Question 7: You are working on a long-term project with 25 stakeholders. In the middle of the project, the customer asks for a change in scope that will impact the entire project and consequently will not align with the project charter. Which of the following is the best way to handle this?
- Process a change request with the CCB.
- Discuss everything with your sponsor.
- After approvals go through, perform formal project closure for this project.
- Explain to the customer that the change is too different from the original scope of work and can't be done.
Question 8: You have received a project charter to work on a project that involves installing data centers at multiple client sites with a very tight timeline. Based on your current team and understanding of the scope of work, the team has decided that after planning and the delivery of equipment, each team member could work in pairs at a variety of locations at approximately the same time. What type of project phase configuration would be the best?
Question 9: What are the major differences between predictive project management and adaptive project management?
- Predictive projects know the full scope of work in advance, while adaptive projects typically correlate with knowledge work.
- Predictive projects don't really know the scope of work in the beginning, while adaptive projects are only for software development.
- Adaptive projects need formal change control, while predictive projects don't.
- Predictive projects see the scope of work as flexible, while in adaptive projects, the scope of work is not flexible.
Question 10: What is the main goal or objective of the project charter from the project manager's perspective?
- To explain the scope of work to stakeholders
- To define the business case
- To formally authorize the project manager to begin project work
- To get it signed by the sponsor
Question 11: Which of the following represents a PMIS?
- The project charter
- The stakeholders involved in the project
- The project management system or framework
- The software and hardware used to manage communications, reporting, and performance
Question 12: Which of the following would be considered an assumption in the project charter?
- Who the project manager will be
- Who the sponsor is
- Who the customer is
- The business case
Question 13: An Agile charter differs from a project charter for which of the following reasons?
- Offers less flexibility for the scope of work
- Offers more flexibility for the scope of work
- Offers more information about the software design
- Doesn't document how the project will be run
Question 14: You are about to hold a kick-off meeting for a large group of stakeholders to announce a new project and get buy-in. What is the best document to present to everyone prior to the meeting?
- A schedule
- A budget
- The names of the team members
- An agenda
Question 15: What is the main goal of any kick-off meeting?
- To confirm everyone understands the goals and objectives of the project
- To get everyone's thoughts on the project
- To assign your team to work in the charter
- To begin planning
Question 16: Jillian is a new project manager and is not totally clear on the customer requirements. As her team kicks off the project, Jillian notices that some stakeholders are upset about the project plan she has put together. What would be the best reason for the stakeholders not buying into Jillian's plans?
- Jillian didn't explain the way the plan works during the kick-off meeting.
- Jillian didn't fully understand the scope of work.
- Jillian did not practice stakeholder engagement in order to know the correct requirements.
- Jillian knows that she will progressively elaborate on the plan and this is just the first draft.
Question 17: During a very difficult project, Sam, who is a team member, explains to the project manager that they have identified a risk event that may threaten the schedule. Sam explains that if he just had a few more people to work on the critical activities, he could get the project back to the original baseline. Which of the following schedule compression techniques is Sam describing?
- Risk contingency
Question 18: Karen and Bill are two of your best software developers and they have been working together for several years. Bill is suddenly transferred to another department and another project team. Karen experiences a bit of disappointment and low motivation. Which of the following team development processes best describes Karen's reaction?
Question 19: Which of the following is at the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs?
Question 20: You and your team are working together to gather requirements and create your scope baseline. Which of the following best represents the documents that make up the scope baseline?
- WBS, WBS register, and the scope management plan
- The scope statement, WBS, and WBS dictionary
- The scope management plan, schedule, and cost baselines
- The requirements management plan, the project charter, and the scope statement
Question 21: Review the following network diagram and determine the critical path:
- A C D E
- B E
- A B C D E
- A C D
Question 22: Conya is trying to determine how long an activity will take. She has two team members that have differing opinions on how long it should take. The first team member identifies a risk event and thinks it will impact the duration, so she says the activity should take about 39 days. The second team member is more optimistic and thinks the activity should take about 28 days. Conya firmly believes that because she has done a similar activity in past projects, it should take 32 days. Using the beta-PERT distribution formula, how long should the activity take?
O: 28 P: 39 ML: 32
Question 23: While monitoring and controlling your schedule and cost baselines, the project manager runs an Earned Value Analysis and discovers the schedule variance is -2,300 and that the cost performance index is 1.3. How is the project performing?
- Ahead of schedule and over budget
- Over budget and behind schedule
- Behind schedule and under budget
- Ahead of schedule and under budget
Question 24: Which of the following contract types carries the most cost risk for the project team?
- Cost reimbursable
- Firm fixed price
- Time and materials
- A fixed-price incentive fee
Question 25: Which of the following best describes an organizational process asset?
- Standard templates
- Government regulation
- Market conditions