How to Prepare for PMP Certification?

Introduction: My 5-Step PMP Certification Exam Prep Plan

The Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam is tough. Hence, you need a solid strategy and plan if you want to prepare for the PMP exam and ace it in the first attempt.

In this article, I lay down the 5-Step strategy which I followed during my PMP certification exam preparatory phase.

This PMP study plan enabled me to write the exam with amazing confidence and pass it on my first attempt. It helped me to maximize the impact of my preparation in minimum time.

I am sure that if you follow this plan, you will also be able to tackle the exam questions the right way and pass it on your very first attempt.

[If you are just starting on your PMP journey, I would recommend that you start by knowing the exam in detail first. Watch this video of mine on YouTube which answers the most important FAQ’s related to the PMP exam]

The PMP certification exam is a Gold Standard in the Project Management industry. Not only it opens up a lot of high paying career opportunities for you, but also it builds your capability as a good project manager.

After PMP Certification, you will be able to see projects from a very different perspective. You will be able to see losses in a project nobody else notices, eliminate risks in a project nobody foresees.

In summary, I can vouch that you will emerge as a ‘better’ project manager after your PMP certification journey. Salary hikes, promotions, progressions will follow….

Hence, without further ado, let’s dive into the 5-Step Study Plan which I followed during my PMP Certification Exam preparation:

Step 1: Understand the Theory and Concepts of PMBOK Ed.6

It is if utmost importance to understand the theory of the PMBOK (Ed. 6) way of project management in great detail if you want to do well in your PMP exam. In the real-world, projects are led in different ways. Different companies also have different styles of driving projects.

But, for the exam questions, you EXACTLY need to know the PMBOK way of project management. You need to memorize the 49-process chart of PMBOK Ed. 6 very well to answer a lot of situational and scenario-based questions. (watch my tutorial video below to learn exactly how to do it using logic & patterns)

Apart from that, you need to understand each & every term of PMBOK such as Requirements Management Plan, Benefits Management Plan, Assumptions Log, Business Case, Requirements Traceability Matrix, Procurement SOW, Net present Value, Critical Path etc. to their exact definitions as outlined in the PMBOK. (it will be a mistake if you interpret these terms synonymously as it may be used in your company today).

In summary, you need a good text, and the PMBOK guide to start with. I used Rita Mulcahy 9th Ed. PMP Exam Prep book as the text. And, I ensured that I read both Rita’s book and PMBOK cover to cover at least once during my PMP exam preparation time until my concepts were clear.

I already had 35 contact hours of education at my university level on project management. Hence, I did not take any online courses. However, you may explore courses of Joseph Phillips and/or other courses of Udemy & Simplilearn to complete your 35 contact hours of education if you need so.

Step 2: Practice questions for PMP Exam

Next comes practice questions. The PMP certification exam is a 4-hour long exam (no breaks) and hence you need to build the habit of answering questions at a stretch with the same level of attentiveness.

So, it is important that you practice as many mock questions as possible during your preparation. During my preparation, once I completed each chapter of Rita’s book, I completed the questions at the end of each chapter. That gave me great confidence. You can follow the same strategy using whichever text-book you are preparing from.

However, it is very important to choose the source of your practice questions wisely. Don’t practice questions from random Facebook or LinkedIn groups since:

1. These exam questions are not authentic, and they don’t represent the actual PMP style questions

2. The explanations are not proper and will make your concept base weak I propose to practice the question bank from PMI which provides you with 200 actual questions from the past PMP exams. These questions ACTUALLY represent the type of questions you will expect in the final exam both in their flavor and difficulty level. Watch this video from my YouTube channel to know how to access them. They are a must-do!

Step 3: PMP Mock Exam and Exam Simulators

It is very important that you develop the habit of writing full-length mock exams (at least 3-4 mocks in a span of 12 weeks of prep time) before you sit for the actual PMP exam.

Again, the source of the mocks is important here as well. Chose some positively reviewed mocks from renowned platforms such as Udemy, Edureka or Simplilearn. But, always treat their Q&As with a pinch of salt since these educational providers still have the opportunity to simulate the actual flavor and difficulty level of the real exam.

Treat the mock exam results, not as a representation or probability of your actual scores in the final exam, but, use them for: Analyzing your weak areas and working on them Developing the habit of sitting for 4 hours at length and solve 200 mind-boggling questions at a stretch.

Remember that it is more important to analyze a mock practice exam after writing it rather than getting worried or complacent about the score.

One important tip will be that when you analyze mocks, always keep an error log to write down your mistakes. Review them occasionally. Don’t make the same mistakes again and again!

You can check out my PMP 275 questions Practice Exams here.

Step 4: Prioritization (Pareto’s 80:20)

The syllabus of the PMP certification exam is humungous.

Hence, it is very easy to get lost in the process of preparation and become frustrated. Hence, the key is to prioritize. Now to prioritize, you need to understand the exam pattern very well. If you study the exam pattern, you will see that the maximum questions come from the Planning, Execution, and Monitoring & Controlling process groups. So, Tip#1: focus on these process groups the most.

Again, it will be my recommendation to focus on the following knowledge areas the most since I have seen the maximum number of questions being asked from them during my PMP exam: Scope Management Risk Management Stakeholder Management Cost Management (EVM calculations etc.)Resource Management

Less Important Knowledge Areas:Quality ManagementCommunication ManagementSchedule ManagementProcurement Management

Do not provide a lot of your time on topics such as Agile, Scrum etc. since in the final PMP exam you may expect max 2-3 questions from them (and mostly they will be test/unscored questions).

Step 5: Getting a Mentor for your PMP Preparation

The last and the final step (which can be a cherry on top of your PMP exam prep) is to have a mentor. Ideally, a mentor should be a person who has passed the PMP exam recently (in the last 1/2 years) and have the learnings all fresh in mind. (like me? 😉)

A mentor can be like a guiding star during your PMP preparation and can drastically reduce your learning curve and help you prioritize. Of course, it can sometimes be very difficult to get access to this person (I assume that he would have a quite busy life!) but, even if you are in touch with him once every 2 weeks updating him/her about your progress and receiving feedback on your opportunity areas, it could be a game-changer!

I believe experiential learning as the best form of learning and hence I would strongly recommend every PMP aspirant to try to get a mentor.

I was not lucky enough to get a mentor during my PMP prep but I know a couple of friends of mine who had the same. I have seen the transformation and the competitive advantage they got during their PMP prep time for having a suitable mentor to help guide & coach them in areas where they struggled. Hence, I advocate the strategy of mentorship a lot.

That’s all from my side. I hope I was able to add value to your PMP certification exam preparation through this article. I am sure that if you follow this 5-step process for your PMP certification exam preparation, you will definitely be able to write the PMP exam confidently and pass it on your first attempt.

All the best, and I soon would like to see those 3 coveted letters beside your name!

Thanking You,

Nilotpal Ray, PMP, MBA, B.Tech

Connect with me on my YouTube Channel

Engage with me on my website.

PS: Check out my practice exams (275 Questions) on ReviewNPrep Marketplace.

Have questions? Participate in PMP discussions on our Forums. Click here.


PMI, PMP Certificate, PMI-PMP Badge, PMBOK, PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CAPM, PMI-SP, PMI-RMP, PMI-ACP, and PMI-PBA all are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc. Views expressed in this article are fully personal and do not guarantee any direct correlation or causation towards increased probability of passing the PMP examination.