Saturday, November 11, 2017

How to get PMP certified

The PMP® is recognized the world over as the gold standard in project management certification for project managers. In this post I am sharing my experience on how to prepare for the PMP exam.

Steps to get PMP certified

There are three main steps to get PMP certified viz.
Step 1 – Get 35 contact hours by attending a training conducted by PMI approved R.E.P. (Registered Education Provider).
Step 2 – Fill the application form to apply for the certification. PMI will review and approve your candidature.
Step 3 – Fix an exam date and take the test.

How to prepare for the exam

The PMP exam is not easy! You cannot pass the same without putting serious efforts. If you have are able to put effort of around 1-2 hours every day then it would take around 3 months from start to finish. Your aim should be to pass in the first attempt as it is really difficult to go over the same thing again and again. Also unlike some other certifications, the exam fees are also very high (approx. $550) so you should do it right the first time. Following is the strategy I followed to prepare for the exam

1)     Attended 5 day training by a Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.).

2)      Started reading “PMP Exam Prep” book by Rita Mulcahy.

a.      Read all the chapters in the book thoroughly. During this first reading, I did not attempt the questions given at the end of each chapter. Time taken was around 1 month (Roughly 1 hour a day & 5-6 hours on weekends). It is a really good book to understand Project Management in real life. I believe it is a great book to read for any project manager even if there is no plan to take the PMP certification exam.
b.      Read Rita's book one more time. Took notes of important points.
c.      Attempted all questions at the end of each chapter. I score more than 80% in almost all chapters.

3)     Started using travel time to go through practice questions using the free mobile apps.
a.      I liked the questions in the app PMP Exam Prep. Lot of good situational type questions.
b.      I also used the app PMP Exam Mentor. This focuses more on BoK, ITTO type questions.

4)      Skimmed through the course content given by the R.E.P.  However I felt that it didn't add much value, could have skipped it.

5)      Skimmed through the PM BoK. However I felt that it didn't add much value.

6)      In my initial preparation I did not look at the ITTO (i.e. Inputs, Tools and Techniques, Outputs) at all. I was still able to solve the questions based on the overall understanding of the process.

7)      Started giving full length mock tests provided by the R.E.P.

8)      I also started searching for good quality free mock tests on internet. During this time the main dilemma I had was at what level of scoring should I feel confident to go ahead and book the exam date. Then I came across the following article from Edward Designer where he shared his scores for commonly available mock tests. Edward’s Article on Free mock tests and benchmark scores
This really helped to get a “benchmark” to compare and feel confident to book the exam.

9)      Following are the mock tests that I gave with my scores. I completed almost all of the tests well before time. Most of the full length tests (200 Questions) I completed in the range of 2 hours 15 mins to 3 hours 15 mins.

Sr. No.
Mock Test
My score
5 mock tests of 200 questions each given by R.E.P.
Greater than 85% in each of them
Good quality questions, very similar to my actual PMP exam
120 questions at Prepcast

75 questions at Oliver Lehmann
Tough questions. The end of the test page gives links to various other exam questions. I did attempt several of them but did not record the results.
75 questions at Edwel

200 questions  at Headfirst

175 questions at Oliver Lehmann

200 questions at Simplilearn
Just before the exam
200 questions at PMStudy
Just before the exam
200 questions provided by my employers E-learning website
Just before the exam. Most boring test with some very cryptic questions.

10)   Referred to this very good article on Edward Designer’s website to clarify some easily confused terms.

11)   After feeling confident by scoring more than 80% in mock tests I booked the exam date.

Final preparation

1)      It is important that before that exam that you are not distracted by any other work/worries. Just before the exam, I took 3 days of study leave. Along with the weekend I got a total of 5 days for the final preparation.
2)      For the first 2 days I went through my notes and re-read Rita Mulcahy and resolved all questions in Rita Mulcahy. I got only marginal improvement in my scores compared to the first attempt.
3)      For the next 3 days, I solved 3 full length mock tests (already listed in the table above). Attempted these tests at the same time that my actual exam was scheduled to tune my bodyJ.

Exam Day

1)      Planned the travel to reach the exam center 1 hour before the scheduled time. I had booked the 12:30 PM slot, so I took along some lunch to eat just before entering the exam room. Wore comfortable clothes (tracks & t-shirt) with a light jacket.
2)      During the exam I took 2 breaks. 1st break after 100th question, 2nd break after 200th question.
3)      Complete the 200 questions in 3 hours. Took another 30 minutes to go through the marked questions.
4)      Pressed the ‘End Exam’ button and waited for few anxious moments before seeing the “You have passed” message on the screenJ. Also delighted to see that I scored “Above Average” in all the 5 domain areasJJ.

Lessons Learned

1)     It took me around 5 months from start to end of the whole lifecycle described above. I lost a bit of momentum in between due to personal commitments. With better planning & less distractions I feel the schedule can be compressed to 3 months.
2)    With the compressed schedule, I could have avoided 3 readings of Rita Mulcahy, it is a very big book to read. Phew!
3)   You don't need to buy any Apps or Mock tests. It is possible to get practice and certified with the free Apps and Mock tests available on the internet.

All the Best!

I hope my experience helps you in your PMP certification journey. If you have any specific questions do drop in a comment and I will try to respond at the earliest.


  1. From which R.E.P did you get your 5 day training completed?
    Is it better to have classroom training or online training?

    1. The R.E.P. was and it was a classroom session.

      Of course classroom is much better for bringing in the focus but I don't think it matters much whether it is online or classroom, in the end it is your post session preparations that will matter.

  2. HI,
    My exam on November 27th. Do I need to read PmBOK? I am reading my 2nd time Rita 8th Edition. So,do you think the PmBoK will be valuable ?

  3. I would advise skimming it once with focus on the ITTO just a day or two before the exam.

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  5. Thank you for giving this information to me.