10 Steps to Choosing Your PMP® Exam Prep Course

Step 1: Self-Paced, Boot Camp, or Live Remote?

The first question you need to ask and answer is what kind of delivery method you prefer for your training. Your main choices are:

  • Self-paced training, using online (and sometimes also downloadable) video lessons & other materials
  • Boot camps of in-person classroom training that lasts for 4-5 days
  • Live remote training, which is basically a boot camp that you “attend” by video conference

There are some variations and hybrids of these approaches, but these are the main options. Their pros and cons are briefly summarized below.


Self-Paced Pros:

  • Study when it’s convenient for you
  • Study at your pace – not too fast, not too slow
  • Some courses allow you to download the course so you can study on the go
  • No travel required
  • Least expensive option

Self-Paced Cons:

  • Instructor interaction is limited and remote

Boot Camp Pros:

  • In-person interaction with the instructor and class members
  • Dedicated time away from work to focus on the material

Boot Camp Cons:

  • You won’t be ready for the exam after just the boot camp. There’s a lot to learn. It will take a significant amount of self-study on your part after the course in order to be ready for the exam.
  • You have to dedicate 4-5 days in a row to training, plus travel
  • Most expensive option

Live Remote Pros:

  • Live interaction with the instructor and classmates (though not in-person)
  • No travel required

Live Remote Cons:

  • As with a boot camp, you won’t be ready for the exam with just the live remote training. You will need to spend a significant amount of time on self-study to learn and remember the material for the exam.
  • Expensive

My personal favorite is self-paced training because I can get quality instruction at a much lower price because it’s pre-recorded.

Step 2: Choose Your Budget

PMI Fees

First of all, there are some costs that you can’t avoid. They are the fees that you must pay to PMI to take the exam.

PMI Exam Fee$544
PMI Re-take Fee$275

Where does the $544 come from? You save money by joining PMI (for $139 for the first year) and paying the PMI member price of $405 for the exam (compared to $550 for non-members). $139 + $405 = $544.

Avoiding Extra Fees & Costs

Once your application to take the exam has been approved, you have up to a year to pass the exam. If you fail it the first time, you can re-take it up to 2 more times during that year, but you’ll have to pay PMI another $275 each time.

As you can see, it’s worth spending the time and money on a high quality course so that you pass the exam the first time.

Don’t think this is important? Did you know that nearly half the people who take the exam fail it the first time? They end up not only taking longer, but having to pay for better materials anyway, as well as the extra $275 re-take fee.

They’re trying to save money, but end up spending more than if they’d chosen a quality course in the first place.

Self-Paced v. Boot Camp v. Live Remote

A quality self-paced course will cost around $300. You can get them for less, but they may not be complete. (See below)

A quality boot camp will cost about $1000 or more. Some are over $2000. Plus travel expenses.

A quality live remote course will cost nearly as much as an in-person boot camp – about $600. Some are over $1000. But at least you don’t have travel expenses.

Self-Paced$300
Boot Camp$1000 – $2000+
Live Remote$600 – $1000+

Step 3: Make a List of Possibilities

Search the internet. Ask around. Take a look at the quality and completeness of the information and lesson samples of various training providers. Use what you learn to create a short list of possible courses. (Include my course in the list as well.) Then go through the rest of these steps to narrow down the list even further.

Step 4: Is the Course Current?

The Latest PMBOK® Guide

Make sure that the course is based on the latest version of the PMBOK® Guide – the Sixth Edition. It’s surprising how long it took even some of the most well-known training providers to update their courses. And in some cases, they claim to be current, but haven’t been fully updated. Some of the most popular courses still had outdated, incorrect material nearly a year after the Sixth Edition was published.

The Latest PMP® Exam

You also need to make sure that the course is based on the latest version of the PMP® exam. That’s right. The exam can go through major changes not only along with new editions of the PMBOK® Guide, but also between PMBOK® editions.

For example, the Sixth Edition was published in September 2017. The PMP® exam was updated to reflect the changes in the Sixth Edition in March 2018. Now the exam is going through a major change, primarily to make about half of it covering Agile approaches, in December 2019.

How long before training providers update their courses to reflect this major change coming December 2019? Perhaps you should consider choosing a course that already has a head start on providing this new material on Agile. Like one specifically designed for IT professionals. (hint)

Click here to learn about my course, built for IT Professionals.

Step 5: Is it Complete?

The PMP® exam is “not bound by the PMBOK® Guide

PMP® Examination Content Outline, PMI, June 2019

The PMP® exam covers much more than what is in the PMBOK® Guide. Questions cover a wide range of experience and resources related to project management.

How will you know where to look to learn all you need to know for the exam? A quality course will include all this other material, gathered from many different sources. In addition to what’s in the PMBOK® Guide, a complete course will also include material such as:

  • Cost Benefit Analysis (payback period, ROI, the time value of money, FV, PV, NPV, IRR)
  • Change Management
  • Configuration Management
  • The Critical Path Method (CPM)
  • Earned Value (principles, definitions, formulas, interpretation, forecasting, loopholes)
  • A History of the Quality Movement
  • The 7 Original Quality Tools
  • The 7 New Quality Tools
  • Team Management & Development
  • Communication Tools & Approaches
  • Agreements, Contracts, Calculating Contract Values, the Point of Total Assumption (PTA)
  • Standard Deviation, Six Sigma, Confidence Intervals
  • Balancing Competing Project Objectives
  • PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct
  • PMI Ethical Decision Making Framework
  • Agile (values, principles, application, hybrid approaches)
  • Scrum (principles, roles, user stories, estimating, planning, sprints, daily stand-ups, reviews, retrospectives, velocity)
  • Exam Strategies & Tips

A course that only covers the material in the PMBOK® Guide is far from complete. The content of the PMBOK® Guide is only about half of what’s on the exam. And with the exam being half about Agile starting in December 2019, PMBOK® Guide content will account for only about 1/4 of the exam content.

Step 6: Does it Include an Exam Simulator?

You need to practice with a good exam simulator that simulates the real PMP® exam. This will give you practice with questions that are similar to what you’ll find on the exam, and help you maintain the pace you need to finish all of the questions in 4 hours without running out of time.

The exam simulator you choose should:

  • Be included in the course you choose. 
  • Simulate the PMP® exam, including full-length timed exams that allow you to mark questions for review and come back to them later.
  • Provide answers with explanations and references.
  • Provide a report of areas of strength and weakness.
  • Allow you to take short, timed quizzes focused on your areas of weakness.
  • Allow you to take short, timed quizzes by process group, knowledge area, or other areas of specific interest (such as Earned Value).
  • Include at least 5 full-length practice exams.
  • Include at least 1000 practice questions.

You should take at least 2 practice exams in an exam simulator.  If you do well on them, then 2 is enough, but only if they are high-quality simulators. You should keep taking practice exams until you perform well on 2 in a row. How well you need to perform depends on the exam simulator.

Unlike other exam simulators, when you pass 2 of the full-length practice exams using my exam simulator, I guarantee that you’ll pass the PMP® exam.

Step 7: Is the Instructor PMP® Certified?

Can you imagine being taught how to pass the PMP® exam by someone who hasn’t passed it themselves? Me either.

Step 8: Certificate for 35 Hours?

PMI requires that your 35 hours of formal project management education have clear objectives, that those objectives are measured using an end-of-course assessment, and that you receive a certificate of successful completion of the course. You need to be able to provide this certificate as part of you application to PMI to take the exam.

Step 9: Read the Fine Print on the Guarantee

It’s not much of a guarantee if you have to take and fail the exam 3 times in 3 months in order to qualify for a refund. (This is not a made up example. Some well-known training providers have so-called pass guarantees that have exactly these conditions.)

What about all the time and money you would lose re-taking it twice? That’s $550 in PMI re-take fees, plus whatever you spend on getting the right materials to prepare for the exam.

The course needs to guide you and let you know when you’re ready for the exam, and then back it up with a money-back guarantee if you fail the first time that the course indicated you were ready. That’s another reason the course needs to include a good exam simulator: you won’t know you’re ready until you successfully pass a couple of full-length practice exams using a quality exam simulator.

PM Ready™ guarantees that you’ll pass the PMP® exam if you pass at least two of the practice exams in our PMP® Exam Simulator. See the fine print of our pass guarantee here.

Step 10: When Does It Expire?

How long will you have access to the course?

How long will you have access to the exam simulator?

Will you have to pay more to extend access if you need it?

Preparing for the PMP® exam will likely take longer than you think. Probably about twice as long. Make sure that your choice won’t break your budget if it takes twice as long as you expect. With this in mind, why not choose a course and exam simulator that provides access that doesn’t expire?

Click here to learn about my course, built for IT Professionals.