What is the Best Way to Prepare for the Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam?


PMP certification is regarded as highly prestigious among project management certifications, and perhaps one of the top reasons for this prestige would be the difficulty of the exam.

If you want to pass your PMP exams in the first attempt, you must understand certain facts about the exams. The first of these is that you can’t pass the exams by just cramming or reading, because the exam is based on situational questions and your concepts will be thoroughly checked.

Therefore, proper study plan and technique is very important. Remember, for PMP, quantity of study isn’t as important as quality of study. It doesn’t matter how many hours you have studied or how many books you have read. The thing which matters the most is how well you have studied.

Now, after years of experience in instructing and guiding PMP aspirants, I have gathered some brief guidelines on how you should study for PMP exam, which are as follows:

1.    First of all make your mind and commit with yourself to give full dedication to study. This may seem simple but it is very important for good preparation. Because if you don’t have focus and commitment while studying, your preparation will never be good despite spending countless hours.

2.    Choose only one or at max 2 of these prep books. Yes. You don’t have to refer multiple books. I would strongly recommend you to choose one of the best books for PMP and read it thoroughly.

  1. Rita Mulcahy’s ranks top among all the PMP books in the market. Choose it if you want to go deep and develop your concepts in project management.

  2. However, your first choice should be Rita’s book because it has the best feedback among PMP certification holders.

  3. The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try Book by Andy Crowe is for those aspirants who just want to pass the exam and are not interested in concepts and deep knowledge about project management.

  4. Choose Head First’s PMP by Andrew Stellman, if you are a visual learner and want to have some fun while learning.


3.    Read PMBOK twice, on the first go don’t try to get too deep into concepts and terminologies, just try to become familiar with the basic theme and structure. Then after reading prep Book two times, read PMBOK again. This time read thoroughly and try to cove the gaps in your knowledge. Focus on inputs, outputs and tools. Also memorize the chart on page 61 of PMBOK.

4.    If possible, invest in paid mock exams offered by different websites and training centres. Review all your incorrect answers and then try to fill the gaps in your knowledge. There are lot of good online training available for PMP exam

5.    PMP exam is not just a test of knowledge or terminologies, it is designed to test how you can apply the knowledge in different scenarios faced by project managers. Hence you should be smart during the study. Try to focus on the application of knowledge and don’t go for cramming. Try to solve as much practice questions as possible and always refer to PMBOK or your prep book whenever you find any gap in understanding or knowledge.

6.    Do less memorizing and more understanding. Many PMP aspirants believe they can memorize their way to a PMP certification. This is not true because the exam tests your understanding of concepts by presenting situational questions. Therefore, only memorization is not enough.

7.    Another very important, and often overlooked area for understanding the exam structure is “PMP vocabulary”. The PMBOK has an extensive vocabulary that is crucial to understanding Project Management Knowledge Areas and Process Groups, and passing the PMP exam. The Glossary (starting on page 523) is an invaluable source of common acronyms and definitions needed to study and pass.

8.    Be regular in your studies. The best strategy is to study daily even if it is for few minutes. Never take long gaps or you will forget everything.

9.    Last but not the least,”believe in yourself”. Self-belief and confidence is a key factor in PMP preparation because there are a lot of things to study, many are difficult and it is not possible to understand everything you study. So, never let anything discourage you and you will pass PMP with flying colors!

Summary of Tips for Passing PMP Exam

Here is the quick summary of what I have explained in the above sections.

1.    Focus and Dedication

2.    Chose any one book (Prefer Rita’s book)

3.    Read twice PMBOK guide

4.    Understand the concepts and study

5.    Buy a commercial practice questions to practice more questions

6.    Time management is very essential for the exam

Have questions? Post them in the comments section. I'll respond to them as soon as I see them. Thanks a million.