A complete guide for PMP Certification


Most people are interested in PMP certification but don’t have proper information about the exam and its preparation. So let’s walk through the complete process from start to end for PMP.

Who can apply for PMP Certification?

Anyone fulfilling below mentioned eligibility criteria can apply for it:

The most common question people ask is whether only project managers can apply for it. Its answer is that this exam checks your practical understanding of the project management process. If you are already managing and directing projects, it would be easier for you to get through it. However, it doesn’t mean that if you are not a project manager, then you cannot go for PMP. If you are associated with projects for around 3 years and understand the processes, then you can apply for it. I am also working as a Software Developer and have cleared PMP certification.

PMP Exam Pattern

  • Duration: 4 hours
  • No negative marking
  • 200 questions (25 pilot questions)

Out of 200 questions, any 25 could be pilot questions. It means that while calculating the result, pilot questions are not considered. Therefore your result is actually calculated on the basis of 175 questions. Also, you can never guess in the exam which questions are pilot questions. So for preparation, consider that you need to solve all 200 questions.

Passing Criteria for PMP

Passing percentage and criteria are nowhere mentioned by PMI. It is a rating based system and is calculated by a combination of rating in each process group.

Once you know you are eligible and have decided to take the exam, then what next?

Look for PMP Training

Training in case of PMP is not only beneficial but also mandatory. You have to provide training details in the application form. Also, it’s very effective in preparation. Most of the training institutes provide mock tests and questions, which will give you enough practice for the exam.

So, as a first step search for a good training institute and join it.

Apply for PMP Certification

Even if you are planning to appear for the exam after 4-5 months, it is advisable to apply for it as soon as your training completes as it is a long process.

Step 1: Go to PMI’s website and apply for PMP certification. It will ask your personal and professional details. In the application form, you need to fill how many hours you have spent on each project management process from initiation to closing. You need not give all the details, but just the number of hours ex: initiation 900 hours, planning 1100 hours etc.

Step 2: Once you have submitted the application, PMI would take up to 5 working days to review the application. They would inform you through email whether your application is accepted or not. If it is not accepted, then you need to make the required changes in the application and submit again. If it is accepted, then you need to pay the fee. You would be given a window of one year to pay the amount. So you can pay anytime within this duration. It is again advisable to pay early since only then you get to know whether the application is under audit or not.

Fees for the exam

For PMI Members:  $405

For Non-Members: $555

Membership fee: $129 Membership fee + $10 Registration fees.

Step 3:  Before paying, you need to decide whether you would take membership or not. It’s beneficial if you become a member. Reasons are:

  • The exam would cost you less.
  • You will have access to “guide to PMBOK” pdf and other reference material.
  • There is no hassle involved in the process. As soon as you pay, you become a member.

Once you pay the fee, either you would get an eligibility Id or your application would go for the audit process. It’s a random audit and anyone’s application can be chosen for it. An audit doesn’t mean that there is some problem with the application; it’s just a random process. If your application goes for audit, you would get a mail explaining all the steps that you need to follow. To summarize, you need to download audit documents from the PMI website and get them signed by your supervisor/manager and send the artefacts to PMI. They will check and would provide you with an eligibility id.

Book the Exam Date

If you have eligibility Id, you can go to Prometric website and book the exam date. There is only one centre for Delhi/NCR people (Iris Infotech, Sohna road, Gurgaon). Exam centres can be searched on the website. It is good if you book the exam date in advance to get a slot easily and also you would have a target date that would help you in better preparation. You can reschedule your exam anytime. It’s free if you reschedule it before 30 days of the exam. Otherwise, you need to pay $70 for the same.

The time required for preparation

You should not delay your exam beyond two months after the training ends. This is because you would lose focus and forget the concepts. The minimum time required for preparation is one month. Total of two months is enough for preparation. It includes 3 hours of preparation daily.

How to prepare for PMP certification

Once you complete the training, you would already be having a roadmap for exam preparation. Let’s understand some important study material. You must read PMBOK and one reference book.

  • PMBOK (Mandatory)

Anyone from these two:

  • Rita Mulcahy (Reference book)
  • Headfirst (Reference book)

Now, the question is which reference book to choose:

Rita Mulcahy: It explains everything in great detail. You may find many terms and topics that are not in PMBOK , but are explained in this book. Also, when you try online mock tests you would find many questions/concepts out of PMBOK, and most of the times you can find them in this book. So, if you want to read the things in details you can refer to this.

Headfirst: It explains topics with the help of stories and pictures. You may find it childish, but it will build good concepts. Although it doesn’t explain things in extreme detail, yet will cement the concept with the help of light examples.

My suggestion is that you read any one chapter from PMBOK and then from both the reference books. After this, you would be in a better position to decide which book you should refer to.  To prepare for the exam you need to do below:

  • Study from PMBOK and reference book
  • Take mock tests (online/scordo questions/training material).

PMP Mock tests

Mock tests are very very important to clear the exam. This gives you an idea about the exam pattern and type of questions. Also, sitting continuously for four hours is also a challenge, which you can practice through mock tests. There is no dearth of questions available on the internet about PMP. Make sure you don’t go for each and every website and questions because you may end up getting wrong answers. Below is the list of mock tests that you must take:

  • Mock tests given by the training institute.
  • Question provided in the reference book. ( Rita Mulcahy /Headfirst)
  • Scordo Questions. (Once you are a member, you have access to these questions, from PMI Website).
  • Oliver Lehman (75 questions) –  http://www.oliverlehmann.com/pmp-self-test/75-free-questions.htm
  • Oliver Lehman (175 questions) – http://www.oliverlehmann.com/contents/free-downloads/175_PMP_Sample_Questions.pdf

These mock tests will give you enough practice and confidence to take the exam. Make sure you are getting above 80% marks in easier tests like Scordo and above 75% in slightly tough tests.

So now you are completely prepared to take PMP. Now, what next?

At the Exam centre

You much reach the exam centre an hour before the test because you need to complete a few formalities like the biometric test, identification and getting locker keys. Bring very fewer things with you at the centre because you won’t be allowed to take anything with you inside. Anything that you carry needs to be kept inside the lockers. Size of the locker is not too big, so avoid taking laptops or any bulky thing as you will have to keep it outside the locker. Also, eatables are not allowed inside the test centre. You will have to keep it outside, but in between test you can come outside to have it. You would be given scratch papers and pencils by the centre personnel. You can only bring those scratch papers, pencils, id proof and locker key with you.

So now you are inside the test centre, ready to give the exam. What should be your strategy to attempt questions?

Strategy to take the PMP Certification test

Duration of PMP is four hours. Before starting it, you will get 15 minutes to read the instructions. You hardly require 5 minutes to read it. You can use the rest of the time in writing down the formulas or any other thing, which you might forget, on the scratch paper or you can directly start the exam. Most of the people divide time by the number of questions like 50 questions in one hour. This strategy is not very good because you don’t know the difficulty level of subsequent questions. It may happen that you complete the first 50 questions in one hour and for the next 50, it took 1.5 hours. It will spoil your further time management. My suggestion is to take the exam in three passes:

  • First, navigate through all the questions, answer those that you are sure of and do not need more than one minute to solve. Mark for review, rest of the questions.
  • In the second pass, solve the questions that you have marked for review.
  • In a third pass, review all the questions.

You cannot identify the pilot questions in the exam, that’s why you should attempt all the questions and try to get the correct answer.

After completion of the test, you get a 15-minute online survey to complete. After completion of the survey, you get to see the result. There is no score or passing percentage mentioned in the scorecard. You would only get results as pass/mail and grading for each process group (as Proficient, Moderately Proficient and Below Proficient).

The difficulty level of PMP

If you try to search for it on the internet, you would surely get responses like it is very difficult and hard to crack. In reality, it all depends on your preparation and understanding level. If you are getting above 80% marks in mock tests, you are well prepared. Trust me, if you are well prepared you won’t find the exam too difficult to crack. So instead of worrying about the difficulty level of the test, concentrate on preparation.

You are PMP certified now, what to do next

PMP certification is valid for three years. After three years, you can either reappear for the exam or you can maintain your PMP credentials by getting 60 PDUs in three years.

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