How I Prepared for the PMP Exam

In the world of Project Management, the Project Management Professional (PMP) certificate from the Project Management Institute (PMI) has almost become a prerequisite to growing in the field. More companies are requiring it, more people are asking for it and it’s growth has been explosive. I get a lot of questions on what it took to pass the exam. Truthfully I had been wanting to take it for years and studied off and on, but it took a solid 3 month effort to finally pass on my first try. Here are my notes on what it took so that others may benefit.

PMP Exam Preparation Tips:

  • You might get “audited” when you submit the application to take the exam through Make sure you register ahead of time so that you are not caught off guard and have to go through that auditing process while you’re getting close to take the exam.  There are requirements to take the PMP exam, 35 hrs of officially recognized PM training and a certain number of experience hours that you have to calculate on the site.
  • Aim for 800-1000 sample questions before taking the test. Download multiple apps on your phone and go through them on your spare time.  Check multiple websites: ($60 but well worth it), Oliver Lehmann (known for his difficult questions which I wanted to focus on),, etc.  Mark down questions you get wrong and see if there are any themes on your gaps.
  • Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep book was critical for me as it really gave you an IN DEPTH review of the material… it was actually bordering on too much information so prepares you really well. This is where I focused on learning the content.
  • Do at least 1 timed sample exam a week before the test. This is critical so you can understand if you are having pacing issues and so you anticipate impact of sitting down for 3-4 hours straight looking at questions.
  • I made flashcards for all the terms/concepts throughout the book until I could identify them quickly. Ultimately this meant I didn’t have to spend much time during the exam thinking about specific terms or definitions.
  • It is impossible to be 100% confident with all of the material. But when you are getting consistently above 80% on your sample tests/questions it’s an indication you should be ready to take the exam.  That was the benchmark I used.  It’s important to know that those sample questions you take should be DIFFERENT so that the 80% isn’t an artificial result.
  • Memory Map: Create and memorize a memory map to write down during the test training module. I was able to write down my memory map and go through the module in the allotted 15 min. The memory map should include as much information as possible… equations, processes, ITTO’s, etc. I personally included some outputs and motivational theories and communication information as well for quick reference. I practiced writing my memory map down daily until I had it down.
  • I encountered mostly situational type questions. “You are in this situation, what should you do next?” Most of the questions were 2-3 sentences long and only a few long multiple paragraph questions.
  • Familiarization of Inputs and Outputs is enough if you know the overall process really well. There were a couple questions about inputs and outputs, but there is NO need to memorize all of them!  That is a complete waste of time.  If you are familiar enough with the process you can deduce from the answers which one is correct.  But do memorize the Tools and Techniques for the different processes… i.e. Quality Assurance vs Quality Control tools.  What, when, and how to use them, and also understand the application of them.
  • Pace yourself. I finished in 3 hours and spent 45 min reviewing.  I marked about 20-25 questions for review, some of them just because I doubted myself.  I did put down a best guess answer for EVERY question though before moving on even if it was marked for review later.  There were only a few questions that I had to absolutely guess on.  If I didn’t know answer within a minute or so after reading the question I marked it and moved on.
  • Take a Break. At one point during the test you’re going to hit a wall and start doubting your abilities… this is a good time for a break. I went to the restroom, got some water, stretched, looked outside, sang a tune, smiled… this was all important for me.  A 5 min break is all you need to reset but don’t take too long cause the clock is still ticking!

Good luck!

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