Authors: Michael Huber & Pocket Prep

Earning a Project Management Professional certification can be a game changer when it comes to opportunities for advancement in the business world. In this article we explain the recommended process for applying for and passing the PMP® Exam.

1. Is the PMP The Right Certification for You?

There are many different project management certifications available on the market. From the IAPM Certified Project Manager to the CompTIA Project+, it can be overwhelming to try and pick the best fit. Capella University summarized seven of the highest paying project management certifications currently available and considered the PMP® to be the most prestigious of them all, as well as being more likely to be sought out by employers.

The PMP is by far one of the most recognized and sought after project management certifications. This distinction is rooted in its challenging and rigorous curriculum. Applying, studying, and passing this exam is an undertaking that may not fit into everyone’s career path. It’s highly recommended for individuals considering the certification to conduct a serious cost and benefit analysis prior to committing to walk down this path.

If you do feel that your career is calling towards the project management field, or perhaps you want to enhance your leadership skills, then the PMP is an incredible investment into yourself that will keep you competitive in an expanding global market. If you are willing to put in the work towards moving your career forward then this certification may be right for you.

2. Determine Your Eligibility To Sit For The Exam

Sitting for the PMP exam requires certain criteria set in place by the Project Management Institute (PMI) in order to be eligible for the exam. As it is considered such a prestigious certification, an understanding of common project management practices and principles outlined in the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK®) is a baseline requirement.

There are two different eligibility pathways to meet the prerequisites for applying:

  • Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or the global equivalent)
  • 7,500 hours leading and directing projects
  • 35 hours of project management education or CAPM certification

— OR —

  • Four-year degree
  • 4,500 hours leading and directing projects
  • 35 hours of project management education or CAPM certification

3. Understand The Application Process

Once you have confirmed you meet the eligibility requirements for the exam, the next step is to submit a formal application through PMI. Once an application is submitted, it usually takes roughly 3-4 weeks to get an official answer back.

Within the application it will be important to outline your previous experience in a chronological and detailed manner. The items in the application are designed to show PMI that you have ample amount of experience in project management.

The on-the-job experience requirements request details around the projects, programs, and portfolios you have worked on and must include qualifying hours, dates of employment, role, organization details, references, and experience summaries.

The educational component of the application requires the names of courses completed, names of institution(s) attended, respective dates and details on qualifying hours.

An estimated 10% of applicants are audited to ensure accuracy and truthfulness. This typically means that references are called to verify your credentials and experience. While you wait to hear back on if you’re approved, there’s no need to switch into serious study mode until you have an official confirmation.

4. Once You’re Approved to Take The PMP Exam, Start Studying Strategically

Received approval to take the PMP? Congratulations! That’s no small feat. It’s now time to begin studying to make the most of your newfound career goal.

First and foremost, eat, sleep and drink the PMBOK® Guide and the Agile Practice Guide. You can rent or purchase the PMBOK on Amazon or purchase it directly from PMI. The Agile Practice Guide is also available for purchase on Amazon, or it comes included when purchasing the PMBOK through PMI.

Consider looking into high intensity boot camps that will prepare you to take the PMP. This type of training, however, will usually focus more on strategic testing tactics versus teaching the actual material. Depending on your study habits these may or may not work for you, but it is definitely worth taking the time to research.

Create a “Brain Dump” sheet. As the PMP is a closed book exam and means test takers cannot use any sort of reference material outside of what they memorize, a brain dump is a strategy specifically suggested for the PMP. Brain dumps are abbreviations of components and concepts that you have committed to memory, then spilled out onto sheets of paper prior to the exam for reference. They contain just enough key concepts, theories, formulas and content to jog your memory on the technical stuff so you can focus on answering questions.

Consider becoming a Project Management Institute Member. The cost to sit for the exam is $150 cheaper for PMI members, dropping to $405 with membership from $555 without membership. While optional, being a member provides the benefits of joining a local chapter that can greatly assist with study material and connect you to group study sessions to help prepare you for passing the PMP exam on the first attempt.

5. Test! Test! Test!

Taking simulation exams will be essential in passing the PMP exam. Google provides an endless amount of practice exam options, however, many websites will guide you to resources that do not use the same terminology that PMI uses and can cause confusion when it comes to real testing time.

One of the better sites that has practice PMP exam questions is Pocket Prep. They work directly off the exam blueprints that the PMI provides and their apps are more affordable than most. The mobile nature of the app also helps when you have limited time to study, getting in 10 minutes on the bus or a few minutes while you’re standing around waiting in line.

The PMP exam requires focus and an intense motivation to pass, but the positive impacts to your career in the project management field will yield many benefits. In many cases, this especially includes higher compensation. According to Forbes, “Project Management Professional (PMP®) certifications increased in value by 18.6%, jumping from a median salary of $114,473 in 2018 to $135,798 in 2019.”

Author Bio:
Michael Huber is a former 82nd Airborne Paratrooper who moved into project management in 2009. He has a career as an IT Project Manager and regularly contributes to newsletters.