Getting your PMP® certification can give you a huge career and salary boost so it is no wonder why this is one of our most popular programs here at LeaderQuest.

The PMP® exam is a tough one and requires a ton of preparation and diligence. If can take some people months to feel properly prepared to take the exam. There are so many exam resources, forums, advice posts and you can spend longer reading about how to study for the PMP® than actually studying!

The cost to take the exam is over $500 so you will want to do whatever you can to pass the exam on their first attempt. We have a ton of experience with pre-test jitters from our students as well as seasoned and experienced PMP® instructors who all shared some invaluable tips on how to successfully study and pass PMI’s Project Management Professional, or PMP® exam the first time around.


1. Choose Study Materials that Complement Your Learning and Life Styles

For those who have had an established career for several years, you may not have had to study for anything in a long time!  The first thing you should do is assess how you learn. Learning methods that worked years ago may not work for you anymore (or maybe they never did!)

Here is a quick learning style assessment to determine your preferred learning style and also tips on what you can do to accommodate your learning style.

2. Less Memorizing, More Understanding

Memorize Less, Understand More[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]IT Certifications serve as confirmation of knowledge to potential or current employers.[/inlinetweet] The PMP® certification is the most important and valuable industry-recognized certification for project managers and demonstrates that you understand the global language of project management.

With that being said, it then makes sense that memorization alone will not get you your PMP® certification. The PMP® exam is notorious for long explanations, tricky wording, and distractor answers. You must feel the Process Groups as they move through a project and understand the Knowledge Areas so your brain can process things in the correct way. When you do this, the misdirection will easily be revealed leaving the correct answer shining brightly in the dust! There are definitely formulas you will have to memorize, such as the Schedule and Cost Management formulas, but they are only tools and won’t help unless you have the foundational understanding.

So, instead of memorizing everything in the PMBOK, try to look at real-world situations so you can really understand the concepts. It will help you make sense of the loads of ‘theory’ you are trying to learn!

3. Join a Study Group

One of the more powerful study tools is a study group. Being around people who have similar motivations and goals will help you keep your focus. You will not be able to procrastinate, you will generally learn faster, you will get new perspectives and learn new study skills. In addition, it will give you a break from the monotony of studying by yourself and it can help to fill in learning gaps.

If you are not able to find a live group, try joining an online group or forum. It may not be as effective as a live group, but you will get support from like-minded people that know firsthand what you’re feeling and going through and that alone can greatly impact your motivation and self-confidence!

4. Always Use the Latest Version of the PMBOK®Guide

This may sound pretty obvious, but it’s been asked enough that we need to mention it here! Always purchase the newest version, currently the PMBOK® Guide—Fifth Edition. The Sixth edition is planned for release in early 2017. Read about recent 2016 PMP® exam changes.

5. Take a PMP® Exam Prep Class

Students who take a Prep class or a PMP® boot camp are more likely to pass the exam on the first try. There are many sites where you will read that you don’t need a prep course. One of the most popular searches on Google about PMP® is how to pass the test without a class! However, we are here to tell you that the likelihood of passing the PMP® exam on the first try goes WAY up when you have a live, experienced instructor in a formal setting.

You will learn more efficiently since you won’t be struggling with concepts that an instructor can address and explain easily. You will gain invaluable insight from being around people who have massive experience with the exam itself. You will have other people around to form a study group with and learn from. You will also get assistance with the cumbersome PMP® application process. The support and value you will get from a classroom setting is unmatched. Read more about the benefits of attending a class for PMP® certification.


Learn about the LeaderQuest PMP® prep program!


6. Immerse yourself in Project Management

Make as much as you can in your life about project management while you are preparing for the exam.

Change your desktop and phone wallpaper to something that reminds you of project management to keep you centered on your main goal.

Get some smartphone apps to practice with or reference when you are on the go – there are a bunch of reference and exam prep apps available, many of which are free.

Create dump sheets whenever you have spare time so you can quickly review and reference information. Writing things down has the additional benefit of helping visual and tactile learners remember key pieces of information.

7. Mock Exams, Simulators, Sample Questions

Probably one of the more important things you can do to prepare for the PMP® exam is to take as many mock exams as possible. As we mentioned before, the exam questions themselves can be very tricky. Remember to read the entire (long-winded in some cases) explanation but FOCUS on the actual question. Sometimes the explanation is a type of misdirection in itself.

Don’t wait to take a mock exam. Start taking them early on so you can identify your knowledge gaps and focus your study on what you need. Make sure you review ALL your answers, correct and incorrect to cement your understanding of the concepts.

The PMI does not have a set passing percentage. “PMI uses subject matter experts from across the globe to help establish a point at which each candidate should pass the examination(s) and the examination point of difficulty.” Meaning that every candidate is evaluated individually. It is believed that you need to get, on average, around 62% but we don’t like to leave things to chance. You are going to want to try to get to the point where you can answer 85% of practice questions correctly.

8. Flashcards

While they might take you right back to your classroom days, there is a reason why teachers at all levels encourage flashcards. Flashcards engage active recall – essentially forcing your brain to remember a concept – so flashcards are great for the items you can’t go without memorizing. Flashcards also enhance long-term retention so you will actually know the material long after the exam when you have to put it to use in real life! Flashcards improve comprehension skills and have been shown to increase exam scores. If you need more convincing, here is an entire article on how flashcards improve learning!

9. Supplemental PMP® Resources

In addition to the standard PMBOK, there are several resources that students find extremely helpful. Rita Mulcahy’s PMP® Exam Prep is meant to be studied side-by-side with the PMBOK so dig in for a very rigorous session.

Another preferred book is Head First PMP® by Jennifer Greene. The Head First book is aimed more for beginners and covers the basics of project management so it is much easier to follow but won’t test you at the level of Mulcahy’s book so it might not be the right resource for experienced project managers. However, for beginners, you may want to start here and then head over to Mulcahy’s book after you master some of the initial concepts.

There are several other very well-written books out there. The best thing to do is read the reviews before purchasing so you can get the book that is best for you!

10. Be Prepared on Exam Day

avoid-crammingContrary to every movie we’ve ever seen, one of the worst things you can do before your exam is stay up all night studying. PLAN AHEAD! Make sure you have adequate study time in BEFORE the exam so you can get good rest the night before. As we mentioned before, the questions are tricky and you have the added stress of time limits, a formal exam setting, and nervous test-takers. The last thing you want to do is go in on a couple hours of sleep!

You also want to get into “exam” mode the day or evening before. Stay hydrated, go work out, take a walk, meditate – whatever you do to eliminate stress.

On the day of the exam, time management is important. Don’t let your nervousness get you off-track. Answer the easier questions first! You should plan on conquering 200 questions in the first 3 hours, leaving the last hour to review 30-40 of the questions that you had difficulty with or want to double-check.

Being well prepared and taking the right steps will make you more confident and relaxed on exam day which will make it easier to pass the PMP® exam the first time!

Learn about the LeaderQuest PMP® prep Course!

What study tips do you have? What PMP® books and resources have you used that helped you? Leave a comment below!