The Complete Guide to PMP® Certification

Table of Contents

What is the PMP® Certification?

The Project Management Professional (PMP)® is the gold standard for project management.  It’s the most popular certification issued by Project Management Institute, Inc. (PMI).

PMI was founded in 1969 and is the author of the globally-recognized standard for project management published in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition.

Today more than 1 million people in over 200 countries have their PMP certification.  (Source: PMI Today®, PMI, January 2020)

PMP certification is the gateway to more challenging and rewarding opportunities in project management.  PMP certification will benefit you in two ways. First, it will unlock the door to those jobs that require PMP certified project managers.  Second, the knowledge and skills that you develop in order to pass the PMP exam will make you a better project manager.

What’s the Difference Between PMP® and CAPM® Certification?

The CAPM certificate is what I would call “PMP Lite.”  Officially, it’s the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®.  It’s like an Associate’s Degree, whereas the PMP is like a Bachelor’s Degree.

The CAPM is not as widely recognized, and probably won’t help you much in advancing your career.  The real advantage comes with the PMP.  

The only reason to spend the time and money on CAPM certification is as a stepping-stone to the PMP if you don’t have the project management experience required by the PMP.  And even then, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are confident that CAPM certification will benefit you financially. Otherwise, you’re better off taking a bit longer, and going for the PMP.

You don’t see job postings that require CAPM®.  You see job postings that require PMP.  

When does it makes sense to get your CAPM?  When all of the following are true:

  1. You will be able to move up in your organization (either financially or in position) by earning your CAPM
  2. You don’t have the experience for the PMP
  3. Your organization will pay for your CAPM
  4. By earning your CAPM now, you won’t lose the option of having your organization pay for you PMP later when you have the required experience
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How Much Education Do I Need?

You need to have at least a high school diploma (or global equivalent).  The more education you have, the less project management experience you need.  (See below for details.)

How Much Project Management Experience Do I Need?

It depends on how much formal education you have.

If you have bachelor’s degree (or global equivalent):

  • 4,500 hours leading and directing projects
  • 36 months of unique non-overlapping professional project management experience
  • All within the last 8 years

If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, but you do have a high school diploma, associate’s degree, or global equivalent:

  • 7,500 hours leading and directing projects
  • 60 months of unique non-overlapping professional project management experience
  • All within the last 8 years

How Do I Measure Months & Hours of Project Management Experience?

Months spent on multiple projects only count once.  In the example above, March only counts as 1 month. April only counts as one month.

However, all of the hours spent leading and directing projects count.  In the example above, March’s hours are 140, and April’s hours are 160.

What Kind of Project Management Experience Do I Need?

Professional Experience

Is it enough to have participated on projects?  No.  

Do personal or school projects count?  No.

Your project management experience must be professional project management experience leading and directing projects.

Professional.  Personal projects, school projects, etc. don’t count.

Leading and Directing.  Participation in projects is not enough.

“The experience does not necessarily have to be paid work, but it does need to be in a professional setting. Activities such as school projects or planning personal events would not qualify.”

(Project Management Professional (PMP)® Handbook, PMI, 2017)

All Process Groups

Your experience must also span all 5 of the project management process groups defined by PMI:

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring & Controlling
  • Closing

You don’t have to have managed all of your projects through all of these project life cycle stages, but you do need to have at least some experience in each.

How to Pass the PMP® Exam Without Memorizing everything!  ...even if you've failed it before!
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How Much Project Management Education Do I Need?

You need 35 hours of formal project management education, and you need to be able to prove it with a certificate or transcript.

What counts?  

Training from any of the following:

  • PMI Registered Education Providers (REPs)
  • PMI chapters
  • Employer/company-sponsored programs
  • Training companies or consultants (e.g., training schools)
  • Distance-learning companies, including an end-of-course assessment
  • University/college academic and continuing education programs

Wait!  Does that mean that the training doesn’t have to be from a PMI REP?  That’s right. Don’t believe it? Here’s the screenshot right out of PMI’s own PMP® handbook:

Even university courses?  Yes. The trick is that you can only count hours spent on project management training.  So, if you take a general management course that covers organizational management, operations, and projects, then you need to count up how many hours were spent on just the project management part.  If that adds up to 35 hours, you’re set!

On the other hand, a 35-hour PMP exam prep course is the most common and effective way of preparing to pass the exam on the first try.

What Doesn’t Count?

  • PMI chapter meetings (unless at least one hour is spent on project management training)
  • Self-study (e.g., reading books, time spent with coaches or mentors, or watching instructional videos that aren’t part of a course that includes an end-of-course assessment)

Why does everyone says it needs to be from a REP?  

Because they’re a REP, and they’re selling you their training. 

Don’t limit yourself to only REPs.  Take a close look at the sample lessons different vendors provide.  You’ll see that there’s a wide range of quality among them.  

And there are some exceptional newcomers that haven’t yet met PMI’s requirement that they be teaching their course for at least a year before they can apply to be a REP.  And just because someone has been teaching for a long time, doesn’t mean they’re good at it. I’ve had some rather old, incompetent teachers. Haven’t you?

The bottom line is that you need to do your own research to be sure that it’s a quality course that will prepare you well for the PMP exam, and that fits your learning style and schedule.

How Do I Apply?

You apply online at  You’ll need to create an account on, and then follow the steps that the online application process will take you through.

However, I recommend that you first map out your project management experience.  You’ll need to identify enough projects to fulfill the requirements, and then fill in the details of how many hours were spent on each project month-by-month, and how much time was spent in different phases of the project.

You don’t need to list all of your projects – just enough to fulfill the requirement.  To keep things simple, try listing your largest projects first so that you don’t have to hunt down the details for so many projects.

You’ll also need to provide a reference to someone who can verify this information.  Try to minimize how many people you list here. For example, if you work for a consulting firm, list your consulting firm manager for all applicable projects rather than the clients.  Why? Because if your application is audited, PMI will contact each of these people to confirm the details of your application. The fewer people they have to contact, the easier it will be for everyone.

Once you submit your application, PMI will take up to 5 business days to review it before you will be able to proceed and pay for the exam so that you can schedule it.  (You have a year to take it.)

The Project Management Institute (PMI)® has announced that the exam change is moving to 01 July, 2020.

What is an Application Audit?

PMI randomly chooses applications to audit.  If you are audited, PMI will verify the details of your application, including requiring that the managers you listed on your application provide confirmation of these details.

Before you submit your application, I strongly recommend that you send the draft of your application to each of the managers you’ve listed.  Make sure that they are comfortable with the details you’ve provided. Make any adjustments as needed, so that if you are audited, they will be quick to confirm everything with PMI.

When Will I Know If I’m Being Audited?

Right after you submit your application.  You will either be notified that your application has been accepted and you can proceed to pay the exam fee, or that you will be audited.

You’ll receive an email with instructions.  You’ll be asked to submit supporting documentation such as:

  • Copies of your diploma/degree
  • Signatures from the managers you listed on the application
  • Copies of the course completion certificate(s) of your formal project management training

What If I’m Audited?

Don’t worry!  As long as you have been honest on your application, and you can provide supporting documentation, you’ll be fine.  It’s just a few days delay to maintain the integrity of the certification.

You have plenty of time to provide the requested information: 90 days.  Once you submit it, PMI will review and approve (or reject) your application within a week or two.

If you don’t provide all of the information within 90 days, you’ll fail the audit, and you’ll have to wait a year before you can re-apply.

Once your application has been accepted, you can pay the exam fee, and you have up to a year to take the exam.

How Does the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct Apply to Me?

When you become a PMI member, and as part of the PMP application process, you are required to agree to abide by the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.  You also agree to not share details of the exam questions with anyone.

Sounds boring, right?  Who reads those things anyway?  Like the endless license agreements, privacy policies, and terms of use that are required by lawyers, but that no one reads.

The PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is different.  It’s brief, clear, and practical. It’s a useful tool to help you make the right decisions.  You really do need to read it. You can download the PDF here.

And did you know that it will help you on the PMP exam?  Many people report that they didn’t see any ethics questions on the exam.  What they failed to see is that ethics questions are everywhere on the exam.

You know those infamous questions that seem to have at least two right answers?  Many of these are ethics questions. One of those two right answers is the better choice from an ethical perspective.

Become familiar with the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, and you’ll not only be able to answer these types of questions correctly on the PMP exam, you’ll also make better decisions in your real world project management.

How Difficult is the Exam?

It’s not easy.  It requires much more preparation and is more difficult than other standardized tests such as the SAT, ACT, or GMAT.

  • It’s 4 hours long.  You can take a break, but the clock keeps ticking while you do.
  • It’s hard to get through all of the 200 multiple-choice questions in the time given.
  • It tests more than just knowledge; it tests your experience.
  • Many of the questions are situational, and require both experience and judgment to answer correctly.
  • Questions are often ambiguous.
  • A common complaint is that many questions appear to have multiple right answers.
  • Many questions require you to know “the PMI answer” that uses their terminology and follows the standard outlined in the PMBOK® Guide.  Your experience may trip you up because it often is not consistent with “the PMI way”.
  • Many questions cover material beyond the PMBOK® Guide; you are expected to have learned about these in your own project management experience and/or in your formal project management training course.
  • All of this covered in the PM Ready™ PMP® Exam Prep for IT Professionals.

If it were easy, it wouldn’t have the power that it does to advance you in your career.

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Is the Exam Available in Other Languages?

Yes.  When you pay your exam fee, you can request a “language aid” at no additional cost.  The language you select will appear on the screen with each question along with the English.  

Languages supported include:

  • Arabic
  • Brazilian Portuguese
  • Chinese (Simplified)
  • Chinese (Traditional)
  • French
  • German
  • Polish
  • Hebrew
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Turkish

Note, however, that many people who speak English as a second language choose to learn the material for the PMP Exam in English as well as requesting that the exam include a translation into their native tongue. They learn the PMI vocabulary in English and use the translated questions and answers to more quickly understand situational questions on the exam.

What Score Do I Need to Pass?

PMI does not share that information.

Anyone who claims that it’s a certain percentage is using outdated information.  

Despite what some leading training providers have published, all of the questions are equally weighted, despite the fact that some questions are harder than others. Each question is worth one point (except for the 25 that aren’t included in your score).

Each scored question on the exam is worth one point; and your final score is calculated by totaling the points you have earned on the exam.

PMP Certification Handbook, PMI, April 2019, p. 30

How Many People Fail the Exam?

This information isn’t published, but it’s estimated that nearly 50% fail the exam on their first try.

Consider this carefully as you decide what resources to use to prepare for the exam.  It’s better to spend the money on quality resources that provide you with accurate and complete information, than to try to get by with free and basement-priced resources, only to fail the exam, and then have to spend more money not only to re-take the exam, but to buy those resources that you should have bought the first time.

Click here to sign up for my webinar, How to Pass the PMP® Exam Even If You've Failed Before.
Click here to sign up for my webinar, How to Pass the PMP Exam!

How Often Does the Exam Change?

It changes every few years.

First of all, it needs to be changed every few years to stay consistent with the changes to the PMBOK® Guide, which is changed every few years.

Secondly, PMI periodically reviews the content of the exam, and makes changes to keep it current and valuable.

For example, the Sixth Edition of the PMBOK© Guide was published in September of 2017.  The PMP exam was then updated in March of 2018 to reflect the changes in the PMBOK® Guide.

Now, it’s changing again in July of 2020.

When and Where Can I Take the Exam?

You take the exam at a testing facility authorized by PMI.  Starting July 2019, PMI switched from Prometric to Pearson VUE, which has some 5000 testing centers worldwide. 

The exception is China, which has not been switched over to Pearson VUE.

You will receive all the instructions you need to do this when your application is approved by PMI.  

And you won’t be able to schedule your exam until you have received this approval from PMI.  However, you can take a peek at where your nearest testing center is here:  Pearson VUE

Which is the Best Exam Prep Book?

With a good PMP Exam Prep Course that includes a good Exam Simulator, you shouldn’t need a separate exam prep book.

PM Ready™ is an Exam Prep Course created from the ground up for IT Professionals (although, anyone will benefit from this course!)  It includes the required 35 hours of formal project management education & a complete timed exam simulator with 1200+ questions!
PM Ready™ is an Exam Prep Course created from the ground up for IT Professionals (although, anyone will benefit from this course!) It includes the required 35 hours of formal project management education & a complete, timed exam simulator with 1200+ questions! 

How Do I Pass the Exam on the First Try?

See my step-by-step plan.

What If I Don’t Pass on the First Try?

If you didn’t pass, then you weren’t ready.  You either didn’t spend enough time preparing, or you thought you could get by on free and cheap resources.  It’s time to spend the money on quality resources that will provide you accurate and complete information and guidance.

See my step-by-step study plan.

What is the PMBOK® Guide?

The PMBOK® Guide is the short name for the book A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition, published by Project Management Institute, Inc. (PMI).

The “body of knowledge” is a reference to all knowledge about a subject.  It includes all of the books, articles, and knowledge (both published and unpublished) about a subject.

The PMBOK® Guide summarizes a representative portion of the project management body of knowledge that is generally recognized as good practice.  That means you’ll find reference in the PMBOK® Guide to project management practices that most people find useful on most projects.  

However, it doesn’t include all generally recognized good practices.  And it doesn’t include good practices that are less common or that are specific to certain industries.

PMI is trying to elevate the status of project management by having some standards.  They’ve introduced a standard vocabulary that’s included in the glossary and is used throughout the PMBOK® Guide.  It’s probably not the same as what you’re used to in your organization or industry. It’s meant to be a standard across all industries, and you’ll need to be familiar with the PMI terminology for the PMP exam.

The PMBOK® Guide also presents a standard set of project management processes, with standardized names and definitions.  These are organized into a standardized set of 5 process groups and 10 knowledge areas.  

Again, these aren’t the only project management processes, but they are the standard set of processes that are generally accepted as good practice on most projects most of the time.  

As with the terminology, the processes in your organization or industry will probably differ.  However, the PMI processes are what you will need to be familiar with for the PMP exam.

Where Can I Get the PMBOK® Guide for FREE?

Join PMI first!

If you decide to prepare for the PMP exam, then you should join PMI before buying the PMBOK® Guide.  PMI membership will cost you $129 per year, plus a one-time $10 fee for the first year. However, this will save you $150 on the price of the exam, so it’s a no-brainer to join PMI if you are seriously considering PMP certification.  

Download the PDF for Free

As a PMI Member ($139 for the 1st year, $129 per year after that), you can download PDFs of the PMBOK® Guide for FREE from  And in as many languages as you like. 

Buying the Paperback

If you prefer to study using a physical book that you can mark up, then I recommend you buy it at *Amazon.  However, be aware that the physical book is printed with black text on gray paper, with a watermark (to prevent copying), which makes it a bit hard to read for some. 

If you buy a used copy, make sure you get the Sixth Edition.  The exam is based on the latest edition, and there are significant differences between editions.

Don’t Buy the Kindle Version

Don’t do it. Many people have complained that the Kindle version is hard to read due to the numerous large and detailed figures and tables that don’t fit or display well.  

Is the PMBOK® Guide Enough?

Definitely not.  The exam covers much more than what is in the PMBOK® Guide.  

The PMBOK® Guide is written like a standard.  It reads more like a dictionary than a textbook.  It has important details, but it was never meant to be a book for teaching project management.  Like a dictionary, it serves a different purpose: to establish a standard.

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How Much Do I Need to Memorize?

Not as much as you think.  And not what you think. And not in the way you think.

What You Should Memorize

  • The names of the 49 processes
  • The basic purpose of each process
  • The names of the 5 process groups and 10 knowledge areas
  • Which process group and knowledge area each process is in
  • The purpose and main elements of key project management documents
  • Some math formulas

What You Shouldn’t Memorize

  • ITTOs.  All of the Inputs, Tools, Techniques, and Outputs of each of the processes.
  • The word-for-word definitions of the processes  

Each process has MANY inputs, tools, techniques, and outputs listed.  Don’t try to memorize them all. Just remember the ones that are most closely associated with the purpose of the process.  For example, the main output of the Develop Project Charter process is the project charter. If you know what a project charter is, and its main elements, it’s not hard for you to figure out what the inputs, tools, and techniques are, as well as what some other related outputs might be.

Your experience managing projects will be invaluable on the PMP exam, but you also need to learn to think in terms of PMI’s vocabulary and processes.

How to Pass the PMP® Exam Without Memorizing Everything, Even If You've Failed it Before!
How to Pass the PMP Exam Without Memorizing Everything, Even If You’ve Failed it Before!

Do I Need to Take a Class, or Can I Study at My Own Pace?

No, you don’t have to take a class.  You can get the required 35 hours of formal project management training via distance learning or a self-paced course – as long as it includes an assessment at the end of the course and a certificate of completion.

What About Study Groups?

Time spent in study groups does not count toward the required 35 hours of formal project management training.

I recommend against study groups.  There are simply too many people out there that are more than willing to answer your questions…with the wrong answer.  I even see lots of incorrect and unclear information coming from people who are PMP certified.

You need to be careful in choosing where you get your information.

What About Coaching?

Although coaching does not count toward the required 35 hours of training, it can be valuable in preparing you to pass the PMP exam – as long as you choose a coach wisely.  Not everyone who is a great project manager is a great coach. And not every great coach is a great PMP exam prep coach.  

Be sure to pick someone who is focused specifically on preparing you for the PMP exam, and who has demonstrated that they’re good at it.

What are PMP Practice Exams, Mock Exams, and Exam Simulators?

Practice exams (also known as mock exams) are meant to provide you with practice questions and answers that are similar to what you would see on the PMP exam.  Such practice questions and exams are found all over the internet and in published books.  

The quality of these practice questions varies dramatically.

I cannot state this emphatically enough.

You can waste a lot of time on very poor quality practice questions.  Worse than that, you can learn a lot of wrong answers that will hurt you on the PMP exam.

Don’t waste your time.  Don’t let poor quality practice questions create confusion for you.  You don’t need confusion. You need clarity.

Exam Simulators are practice exams that not only provide practice questions, but also simulate the experience of taking the PMP exam.  

They provide timed exams so that you can get used to taking and finishing a 4-hour exam without running out of time.  

They provide the ability to mark questions for review, and come back to them later.  

When the test is over, they provide the answers along with detailed explanations and references.  And they provide a report of where your strengths and weaknesses are.  

Finally, a good Exam Simulator will provide the ability to take shorter quizzes focused on your areas of weakness – in the same simulated exam environment.

The PM Ready™ Exam Simulator was very helpful in preparing me for the PMP® exam. I was able to pass the test the first time with above target on 4 of the 5 categories. The mock tests helped simulate the actual exam with the questions as difficult as the actual exam questions and with the pressure of being timed.

– Ronald Spencer, PMP

How Do I Choose a Course?

The first thing you should decide is which type of training is best for you.  

Classroom Training?

If you learn best in a week-long bootcamp-style environment, and you have the budget for it, then sign up for a week-long course.  It’ll cost you about $1000.

But don’t kid yourself into thinking that’s all you need.  The PMP exam is much harder than that. Very few people will be ready for it after just one week of training.  There’s a lot to learn. You need to fill in the gaps in your project management skills and knowledge. And you need to learn all of the PMI terminology and processes.  It’s no trivial task.

If you opt for a bootcamp, be sure that it provides the needed resources and support for you to continue your studies over the following weeks and months.

On-Demand Training?

For most people, I recommend on-demand training that they can take at their own pace.  This is ideal for busy professionals and for those with sometimes unpredictable schedules.

Also look for a course that will let you download the videos to your phone so that you can watch, listen, and review whenever and wherever you have a few minutes to spare.

Exam Simulator

A good Exam Simulator is an essential part of your preparations, and should be included in the course you choose.

Choose Lifetime Access

Be sure that the course you choose offers not only unlimited access to the material, but to the exam simulator as well.  You don’t want to be limited to a 90-day window, and then have to pay extra to extend access.

How Do I Choose an Exam Simulator?

The exam simulator you choose should:

  • Be included in the course you choose.  (See the section above on choosing a course.)
  • 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.

How Many Practice Exams Should I Take?

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 you choose.

How Will I Know When I’m Ready for the Exam?

You’re ready when you score well on at least 2 practice exams in a row – using a top-quality exam simulator.

Most won’t tell you how well you need to score in order to be ready.

My exam simulator does tell you when you’ve scored well enough.  And it comes with a guarantee that if you pass 2 of my practice exams, you will pass the PMP exam.

How Much Math is on the Exam?

Not too much.  It’s not a math test.  The exam is focused more on testing your ability to properly apply the concepts and simple formulas than on complex math problems.

That said, the math on the exam only requires simple arithmetic.  A good PMP exam prep course will provide with all you need to know to be prepared for questions that require some math.

What Are ITTOs?

ITTO is short for Inputs, Tools & Techniques, and Outputs.  

Each of the PMP processes identified in the PMBOK® Guide has a list of inputs, tools, techniques, and outputs for that process.

Do I Need to Memorize the ITTOs?

No!  Please don’t try to memorize them.

Many people think they need to memorize them, and they come up with all sorts of techniques and tricks to try to remember them all.

It’s too much to memorize, and it doesn’t really help you on the exam.

What Do I Need to Know About ITTOs for the Exam?

Each process will have something about it that is the main point of the process.  Focus on that.

For example, the main output of the Develop Project Charter process is the project charter.  If you know what a project charter is, and its main elements, it’s not hard for you to figure out what the inputs, tools, and techniques are, as well as what some other related outputs might be.

Also note that the ITTOs are not set in stone.  The PMBOK® Guide clearly states that these lists of ITTOs are not complete.  

The processes will sometimes require inputs that aren’t listed.  Or use tools & techniques that aren’t listed. Or have outputs that aren’t listed.  And the processes will not always use all of the ITTOs.  

The situational questions on the exam won’t limit themselves to the ITTOs listed in the PMBOK® Guide.  You will need to use your project management knowledge, experience, and judgment to determine which ITTOs are needed in any given situation.  

You need to understand the processes, not just memorize their ITTOs.

What is a Brain Dump?

A false sense of security, a waste of time, and a sign that you’re not ready yet.

More and more the exam is filled with situational questions that require you to exercise judgment in applying the skills and knowledge that you’ve learned in your experience and in your studies.  You can’t just cram for the PMP exam.

Yes, there are some things to memorize, but it won’t do you much good if you don’t understand the principles and practices and purposes behind it all.  And once you understand that, then the bits you need to memorize won’t be so hard. Learning them by writing them down, creating your own flashcards, and so on, is a great learning technique.  But do it to learn it, not to do a brain dump during the exam.

And by the way, they no longer let you do a brain dump – or write down anything – during the few minutes of learning how to use the testing system.  Now you have to wait until the exam starts to write anything down.  

Do you really want to take the exam feeling that you’re not ready without doing a brain dump, and then use precious test time to do it?  

How Long Should I Plan on Studying for the Exam?

Here are some rough estimates if you have 5-10 hours per week that you can devote to studying for the exam:

Your Project Management ExperienceMonths to Prepare for the PMP Exam
Mid-Level (3-5 years)6-12 months
Senior (5-10 years)3-8 months
Expert (more than 10 years)2-4 months

After your first month, you should assess how far you are, and adjust your schedule accordingly.  

Remember that it usually takes longer than you think it will.  Don’t be discouraged. Hang in there. When you’re done, you’ll not only have your PMP certification, you’ll also be a better project manager.

How Long is the Exam?

4 hours.  You can take breaks, but the clock keeps ticking.  

Also budget time to go through the security check again when you return from your break.  

Remember that many people don’t finish before they run out of time.

You’ll have to decide whether you will perform better on the exam with a break or not.  


How Do I Manage My Time During the Exam?

Practice taking 4-hour practice exams using a good exam simulator.  

Check your time every 10 or 20 minutes.  You should average about 9 questions every 10 minutes in order to have about 20 minutes left at the end to review or go back to difficult or skipped questions.  If you want to take a short break during the exam, then you’d better average 10 questions every 10 minutes.

Will There Be a Calculator During the Exam?

Yes.  It may be only the calculator app on the computer, or it may be a physical calculator.  

How Much Does it Cost?

$139PMI Membership.  ($139 for the first year, $129 per year thereafter)
$405PMP Exam Fee ($505 for non-members, so it saves you money to join)
$300 – $120035 Hours of Formal Project Management Training*
$0 – $100A good PMP exam prep book (or a complete PMP exam prep course) is recommended for all but those who have many years of project management experience.
$0 – $100PMBOK® Guide.  Free PDF download for PMI members.  Up to $100 for the paperback.
$1000 – $2000Total

* Classroom training will typically cost about $1000 plus expenses.  A good self-paced training course will cost around $300 or more. Sure, you can spend less, but you don’t really want to be part of the nearly 50% who fail the first time, do you?  That would be another $275 for the re-exam fee, plus whatever you need to spend on quality training & materials to be prepared the second time.

Recommended Steps to PMP Certification

  1. Check to make sure that you meet the experience requirements
  2. Study
    1. Join PMI
    2. Download your free PDF copy of the PMBOK® Guide
    3. Learn all you need to know using the PM Ready™ PMP Exam Prep Course for IT Professionals.
    4. Take practice exams & quizzes with the PM Ready™ Exam Simulator until you’re ready
  3. Schedule the Exam
    1. Apply for the PMP at
    2. If audited, provide the supporting documentation requested
    3. Pay the exam fee
    4. Schedule the exam
      1. Call the testing center to confirm your reservation
  4. Review
    1. Review the material while you wait for exam day
    2. One week before the exam, visit the testing center to confirm everything
  5. Pass the Exam
    1. Within seconds of finishing the exam, you’ll have your results.  As soon as the system says you’ve passed, you’re a PMP! You can now add “PMP” after your name.
    2. Take the paper copy of your results from the testing center.  Keep it safe. It’s rare, but sometimes results get lost, and you’ll want proof that you passed.

The Week Before the Exam

You want to make sure that you know how to get to the testing center, and that you know what the traffic will be like.  The best way to do this is to travel to the testing center exactly one week prior to your appointment. Go on the same day of the week, and at the same time of day, just one week earlier.  (You may have to go two weeks earlier if holidays or other events interfere.)

When you get there, confirm your appointment with the staff.  Also show them the identification that you’re planning to use when you check in and confirm that it’s what you need.  Ask about the security procedures. Familiarize yourself with the facility. If you’re planning to take a break during the exam, ask about the process of leaving and returning to the room.  Find out how long it will take to go through security again to re-enter the room. Ask any other questions you may have.

If the distance is too far to make a trip in advance, then call a week in advance to confirm everything and ask questions.  You might also consider arriving a day early.

After You Pass the Exam

Celebrate!  Take a break.  You’ve earned it.

Within a couple of weeks, PMI will send you an email congratulating you on passing the exam.  Your certificate from PMI will come in the mail within a few weeks.

It’s not urgent, but sometime after passing the exam, you should learn about PDUs, and start making a plan for how you’ll earn the PDUs you need to stay certified.

What Are PDUs?

PDUs are Professional Development Units.  

How Many PDUs Do I Need to Retain My PMP Certification?

You need to earn 60 PDUs every 3 years in order to keep your certification current.  Otherwise, it will expire, and you won’t be a PMP anymore.

How Do I Earn PDUs?

You earn PDUs by continuing your project management education or by giving back to the profession.  There are many options for earning PDUs.  

You can continue your education by reading books & articles, watching educational videos, attending PMI meetings & events, and so on.

Some of the ways that you can give back include working as a project manager, writing articles or books, giving presentations, mentoring, or becoming a PMI volunteer.

It’s not hard, so you don’t need to worry about it just yet.  Focus on getting your PMP certification. Earning PDUs won’t be a problem.

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

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