Good news if you’re studying for the PMP exam
Did you know that literally hundreds of past test takers have posted their “lessons learned” online? These posts include their study tips, the books they read, the practice tests they took, their test day experiences, and more. Things that can save you a lot of time and improve your chances of passing the exam.
The only problem?
You don’t have time to read all — or even most — of these posts.
While you can read a few of them and hope they have the best study tips and resource recommendations, how can you know for sure?
Good news. We have addressed this problem in the post below.
- We searched the web for “lessons learned” posts.
- We saved one hundred of the highest quality posts.
- We kept a tally of all the specific resources used.
- We saved the best PMP exam tip in each post.
- We organized it all in one easy-to-digest format.
Have you discovered the PMP test prep gold mine? Read on and decide for yourself. You can study it, you can skim it, you can bookmark it and come back to different parts of the posts when they are most relevant. This post includes things like the most popular books and practice tests. It also includes tips on beginning of the process, right before the test, during the test, and everything in-between. And of course it links to all the “lessons learned” posts so you can follow the most insightful quotes to their sources.
Let’s dive in…
PMP Resources – Introduction
Deciding which PMP exam resources to use is a big deal, because you only have a finite amount of time and money. So while we’ve accumulate a lot of statistics on what’s popular, we’ve also gathered opinions so you can get a feel what might work for you. In general, we’ve tried to pull quotes that are representative of a widely-shared opinion. Although sometimes we put opposing quotes together to illustrate different schools of thought.
- “Part of personal knowledge management has to do with understanding how you, as an individual, learn best, and the kind of learning that different situations require.” – barbarafillip.blogspot.com
New! We have consolidated the resources, ratings and reviews for the major PMP test prep companies:
- simplilearn reviews
- PMstudy reviews
- Rita Mulcahy reviews
- Cheetah Learning reviews
- Whizlab resources
- edWel resources
- Project Management Institute resources
- Project Management Podcast resources
PMP Study Guide Books
Relatively few people prefer only the PMBOK, but the vast majority of people do use it. Typically, people get introduced to the topics using books they perceive as more user-friendly, then circle back to the PMBOK.
- “One thing that I did not know was that PMI members get a copy of latest PMBOK PDF.” – jez4christ.com
- “Don’t rely solely on PMBOK. it’s one of many books you need to conquer PMP – but not the only.” – projectmanagement.com
- “The PMBok lacks concrete examples thus making it difficult to understand.” – edwinchan.wordpress.com
- “The PMI volunteers who ran the training course effectively state: Forget PMBOK, read Rita”- emuu.net
- “People say (the PMBOK) is a dry book and acts as a sleeping pill, but I found it to be well written with good examples.” – pmp-study.blogspot.com
- “Went through the PMBOK in the last week after my initial failure to go through even a single chapter. This time, the book made a lot more sense.” – pmsavvy.wordpress.com
For other books, many people started with Head First before moving to Rita, Andy or Kim. Rita’s book appeared to be by far the most popular, although Andy and Kim have people who prefer their style, too.
- “Start out your preparation with a book that is easy to understand like headfirst pmp.” – pmhangout.com
- “Head First was a great starting point. It is too easy and good for a warm up, but doesn’t get close to the exam.” – iitpro.net
- “While Head First is really good in terms of presenting the PMP contents, it does not delve too deep into the topics. It might be possible to pass the exam with this book, but after taking some free questions on the internet I did not feel content that it was sufficient.” – doetsch.info
- “If a chapter/topic is very new to you, use HeadFirst, then follow it up with Rita. HeadFirst makes it easy, while Rita is very detailed to the point.” – projectmanagement.com
- “Although Head First was very entertaining and Andy Crowe’s book written very simply, but the best value I did receive was from Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep.” – testprepsupport.com
- “Late Rita Mulcahy has quite patronizing way of talking to you through her book which is quite annoying, but it gets the job done.” – fojta.wordpress.com
- “I chose Andy Crowe and it worked for me. Didn’t like headfirst as there were too many pictorial representations and the “fun” way of reading was too distracting. Rita was too painful.” – pmzilla.com
- “There are a whole lot of processes. I tried to memorize them with repeated reading, but was never successful. Finally, I tried using the audio CDs that came with Heldman’s book… it actually helped a lot.” – transcender.wordpress.com
- “Kim’s book, just (read) chapter end questions, but I wish I had time to read the whole book since I like the way it presents the knowledge in a natural process sequence instead of grouping by knowledge area” – jadefang.blogspot.com
- “Though the no. of times of books read look daunting once you get into that groove you’ll lose count.” – sambitpmpjourney.blogspot.com
Below is the percentage of people who used each book, out of a sample size of 100.
- 87% – PMBOK: A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (user reviews)
- 70% – Rita’s Course in a Book for Passing the PMP Exam: 8th Edition (user reviews)
- 36% – Head First PMP by Jennifer Greene and Andrew Stellman (user reviews)
- 17% – The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try by Andy Crowe
- 12% – Project Management Professional Exam Study Guide by Kim Heldman
- 3% – CAPM/PMP All-In-One Exam Guide by Joseph Philips
- 2% – PMP In Depth by Paul Sanghera
- 1% – PMP Project Mgt Professional Study Guide by Joseph Philips
- 1% – Achieve PMP Exam Success: A Concise Study Guide
- 1% – Edwel PMP Free Exam Textbook
- 1% – The Project Mgt Answer Book by Jeff Furman
- 1% – PMP Certification All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies
- 1% – PMP Mathematics with CD-ROM by Vidya Subramnian
- 1% – PMP Exam Flashcard Study System (flash cards)
PMP “Boot Camp” Classroom Training
Offline “boot camps” were used by 20% of people in the study. Interestingly, nearly half of the people did not mention the name of their boot camp. Compared to resources such as books and practices tests, where people went into great detail on what they used and why they did or didn’t like it, there is much less information on offline courses. Considering the importance of this decision, perhaps this will be the subject of a follow-up post.
- “Joining a class will give you three important elements… 1) access to instructors… 2) fellow students… 3) regular schedule” – 4squareviews.com
- “I took a 4-day classroom taught class and found it helpful but do think most of the boot camps are overpriced” – earthintegrate.com
- “I personally do not believe that a PMP boot camp course is necessary for passing the PMP exam… All that being said, if you’re the sort of person that learns best by taking courses in a classroom setting, you should certainly look into taking a PMP exam prep course.” – entangled.com
- “Opted for Knowledgewoods PMP training in Bangalore. After 4 days of training I did gain the required PDU’s but was not very sure of any real addition to my certification preparedness. The only silver lining was meeting some great guys who were also preparing for the test. We all kept in touch and updated each other and still do the same.” – thoughtworthy.blogspot.com
- “One of the most effective ways to study is a study group. This can help you to keep the pace of studying. If your company does not organize such groups, you can find them also on LinkedIn groups and other sites.” – corporategeek.info
Courses that were mentioned are listed below. Unlike the book and practice tests sections above, this is a very small sample size and cannot be assumed to be representative. For further proof of this point, consider this list of PMP Boot Camps just in the Washington DC area.
- (local PMI course)
- Global Knowledge
- Knowledge Woods (India)
- PM Study
- Rita / RMC
New! We are added one-stop event calendars for upcoming PMP Exam “boot camp” classes:
If your city is not listed here, check the page with all the latest additions: PMP Boot Camps
Compared to the books and practice tests, not as many people mentioned their online courses or audio/video podcasts… less than 33% for those online courses and podcasts combined. Maybe it’s because of the mixed opinions for online materials. Some people mentioned not liking their choice of online materials and not feeling like they were an important part of their actual learning. They were strictly for satisfying the PDU requirement. Perhaps some of the people who didn’t mention how they earned their PDUs felt the same way. Still, a fair amount of people viewed online materials as a relatively cheap and easy options to satisfy the PDU requirement.
- “I knew 8 hour classroom sessions on project management weren’t for me as my mind can hardly stay awake (to the relatively dry concepts of ITTOs) after 3-4 hours, so online sessions worked well for me.” – pmzilla.com
- “You are required to have 35 hours of project management education so I signed up at www.pmcampus.com. I registered for their 35 Hour Exam Prep and for 3 PMP Simulated Exams; the exam prep provided a great starting place and solid foundation.” – survey-of-one.com
- “More than the contact hours, the style of Mr. Cornelius motivated me a lot.” – pmhub.net
- “If your company has education dollars see if you can use them for your credentialing boot camps. BUT do it after the PrepCast process as it cements it in and Helps with the major ITTOs.” – pmexamacademy.com
- “I took PM PrepCast online 35 PDUs worth 130 USD approx which was good decision and cheap also as compared to class room training prices in Singapore.” – pmhangout.com
- “I really appreciate Cornelius Fichtner for providing such a informative Podcast which gives you a good understanding of PMP. His Ability to explain small things makes a huge difference.” – pmzilla.com
- “I listened to the PM Prepcast on drives to and from work, and because he gives so many examples of real-world situations it helped me “internalize” the concepts so I really understood them.” – pmstudent.com
- “Make sure to keep a copy of completed contact hours certificate(s) as you will need to provide them to PMI in case you get audited.” – pokret.org
Below is the percentage of people who used each book, out of a sample size of 100.
- 19% – PM PrepCast (podcast)
- 2% – PMP Champ (online training)
- 1% – BrainBOK (online materials)
- 1% – CBT Nuggets (video courses)
- 1% – PMStudy (40 PMI contact hours*, Guides and Chapter Tests)
- 1% – PMP Exam Primer (online materials)
- 1% – PM Podcast (podcast)
- 1% – PM Lessons Learned (podcast from conference call)
- 1% – PM Champion – calculations and formulas (iPhone app)
“I purchased (the) e-book copy for 50% discount from Oreilly using a coupon, so, I suggest before purchasing from whatever website always try to get a coupon from Internet.” – ashraffouad.blogspot.com
The quote above brings up a good point. PMP resources can be expensive, why not try to save money? So we searched for all the PMP-related coupons we could find for major test prep providers. Below are our findings. Not as many discounts as some industries, but better than nothing. And pretty darn handy if you plan to use one of these resources.
- O’Reilly – 50% discount on ebooks listed at time of publication
- Simplilearn discounts – 5% off appears typical, sometimes more.
- PMCampus – various types of discounts on various products.
- PMSimplify.com – 10% discount listed at time of publication
- Project Management Prepcast – some of the coupons might work.
- cPrime Boot Camps – $50 off registration, at time of publication.
PMP Exam Practice Tests
One thing almost everyone agreed on was the value of practice tests. People who have taken other certification tests tend to characterize the PMP exam questions as wordy and tricky, so it’s important to learn how to read these types of questions accurately and efficiently. Another common tip is to do 4-hour mock exams using real-life conditions. This builds mental endurance for the actual exam and you will know better how you will react. You can also find out if you have a tendency to start missing easy questions after a certain length of time, so you can try to come up with a solution… focus harder, take breaks every “x” minutes, etc.
- “Practice exams are a MUST!!!! Can’t stress this enough.. When you think you know something, you realize you don’t know it as well when you see it on the practice exam and are struggling with answering.” – freemock.blogspot.com
- “Keep to a minimum of 10 sample tests.” – noamansayed.com
- “For the last 10 days prior to the exam, attempt as many as possible (minimum 2000 questions)” – tigerlearning.in
- “Each practice test was equally important in the sense that more one practices, more is good for confidence. But I would like to caution that questions should not be done so many times that one starts answering them without completely reading the question.” – sridharpeddisetty.blogspot.com
Some people brag about their high test scores and say you need to be averaging at least “x” to pass the real exam. Others downplay the overall scores and only worry about using the feedback as part of their gap analysis.
- “use test results to determine knowledge areas that you are weaker in” and “get comfortable with format of questions and strategy for answering” – project-pro.us
- “One thing to motivate you regarding the mock tests is, my average score of all mock tests was less than 60%” but “I always did my gap analysis for wrong answers during mocks, this was really helpful to improve my knowledge.” – blog.inavdeep.com
- “I read many lesson learned blogs online and found all the successful PMPs score 80+ in these Tests.” – pmhangout.com
- “Maintain an excel sheet for marks obtained in each topic.” – sites.google.com
A few meticulous individuals detailed their scores and/or thoughts across a range of practice tests.
- For a detailed list of one person’s sequence of practice tests taken and scores –> ragapmpnotes.blogspot.com
- For another detailed list of one person’s practice tests taken and scores –> shruti749.wordpress.com
- For another detailed list of one person’s practice tests taken, score and perceived test difficulty –> pmzilla.com
- For another detailed lists of tests used and comments about them (but not scores) go to –> srikanthpunuru.wordpress.com
There were many comments about the varying quality of practice tests. Selected comments about specific tests are included below. Plus, in the section after this one, we have crunched the numbers on which practice tests are the most popular. While this is not an absolute guarantee of quality, it stands to reason that the tests many people were willing to mention are of above-average quality.
- “All the mock exams which are out there on the web may not have good questions, to top it – the questions are not complete, and to add to the confusion – the answers are wrong. Another interesting phenomena which I noticed was that most of these free mock exams have the same questions (incomplete, wrong and copied)” – kavitash.blogspot.com
- “There are a lot of free exam prep questions on the Internet. Some were very frustrating since they were poorly written… I felt that the two best practice exam systems were RMC and PM Final.” – pmhangout.com
- “Don’t take all the FREE mock exams in the net. Take only quality mock exams. Some of the mock exams are not up to PMI standard and confuse your preparation.” – pmhub.net
- “Pmzilla Final PMP Exam (200 tough questions) “…tougher than the actual exam” – projectmanagement.com
- “Andy’s book also features a variety of practice exam questions; however, I found them to be relatively simple, and not up to the level of difficulty that is found on the actual PMP exam.” – entangled.com
- “The questions I found on the actual exam were pretty close to what you will find in Rita book and Rita Fastrack.” – certcollection.org
- “Simplilearn new questions are very close to exam ( I have tried both old and new)” – pmzilla.com
- “Are your practice tests compliant with the current version of PMBOK? via pmstudent.com
- “One handicap I faced was there were few mocks available based on PMBOK5.” – pmzilla.com
Below is the percentage of people who used each practice test, out of a sample size of 100.
- 42% – Oliver Lehmann 75
- 28% – Oliver Lehmann 175 (PDF)
- 39% – PMStudy (Free 200)
- 35% – HeadFirst
- 31% – Rita’s Fast Track (user reviews)
- 18% – Simplilearn (user reviews)
- 18% – Exam Central
- 10% – Techfaq360 (PMBOK 5)
- 10% – Christopher Scordo book
- 8% – EdWel (Free 200)
- 6% – PMPForSure
- 4% – Bestsamplequestions.com
- 3% – pm-exam-simulator.com (PMBOK 5)
- 3% – Skillsoft
- 3% – Velociteach (PMBOK 5)
- 2% – Ajithn sample test
- 2% – BrainBok.com
- 2% – Momkimbo PMP Exam ITTO Trainer (PMBOK 5)
- 2% – Passionatepm
- 2% – PassPM 200 Simulation (down?)
- 2% – PM Exam Simulator – Free (PMBOK 5)
- 2% – PMFinal
- 2% – PMzilla 25 tough questions
- 2% – PMZilla’s 200q
- 2% – PreparePM Mock Exam
- 1% – BetterPM.com
- 1% – CertGear (PMBOK 5)
- 1% – EDMC (PMBOK 5)
- 1% – Farndale’s PMP and CAPM
- 1% – PMP Bank
- 1% – PMChamp’s free questions on Quality Management (PDF)
- 1% – PMPNotes.com
- 1% – pmperfect.com (now pmtraining.com)
- 1% – thepmp.com
- 1% – Transcender
Popular PMP Websites
These free forums, blogs and groups are frequently mentioned.
- Deep Fried Brain Project
- Yahoo Groups
- Headfirstlabs.com forums
- LinkedIn Groups
- Rita’s Process Game [UNOFFICIAL] at aamirafridi.com
Test Taking Tips
Below are the most notable tips about the PMP Exam from the 100 “lessons learned” posts.
- “There are some certified PMPs who are a bit snobby about their status; when dealing with them, having your own PMP certification takes the air right out of a windbag who is relying on their certification status, and brings the project discussion back to the nuts and bolts of getting it done.” – blog.ejly.net
About the test:
- “There is lots of theory to learn but most of it makes sense when you try to connect it to real projects, so it is not as bad as it looks. Just keep learning.” – corporategeek.info
- “Many experienced project managers believe their experience will carry them through the exam. This belief itself is wrong most of the times.” – iitpro.net
- “Memorize Formulas but no need to memorize ITTO’s. Instead of memorizing ITTO’s just think logical relationship among the process.” – bchaneelkumar.blogspot.com
- “Exam questions are asked from the perspective of a large (100+ people, 1 year+, 1 million+ EUR) international project. Having experience managing this kind of project helps.” – blog.alexandrugris.ro
- “If you have lack of experience working in large scale project, spend a significant amount of time visualizing using the tools and processes. It would help you prepare for the situation based questions on the exam.” – testprepsupport.com
- “I had been warned by several colleagues about long, wordy, obtuse questions with extraneous information but I was still surprised at HOW many and HOW vague some of the questions could be.” – info.sdlcpartners.com
- “Take your time answering “Which is not” question. I think the best way to eliminate confusion is to remove the word “NOT” in the phrase and write down your answers then convert it x –> √ & vise versa. This worked for me very well.” – mohamedhusien.blogspot.com
- “Sometimes for long questions, it is better to start reading the last part sentence to know what it require, before reading a whole paragraph as it is giving too much unneeded information.” – mohamedhusien.blogspot.com
In the beginning:
- “One of the biggest mistakes that you will do is that you get the certification in relax mode, this may take months or even years.” – mohamedhusien.blogspot.com
- “After procrastinating for many months, I finally scheduled my PMP (Project Management Professional) exam in June. I did not have much choice on the date and needed to get it done before November. Lesson learnt, schedule your exam earlier.” – deinfotech.blogspot.com
- “Get PMI membership. The cost of the exam without membership is higher than the cost of the exam with membership, including the cost of membership. And the membership will get you the electronic version of PMBoK for free.” – nauman.faridi.net
- “I strongly suggest that you do not schedule your exam too many months in advance. In fact, you might want to make sure your test date is carved in stone. – transcender.wordpress.com
- “There is also the eligibility period only 1 year, I don’t remember how many times I postponed my exam date… so I had to squeeze the time.” – scruffybear2006.wordpress.com
- “A recommended approach is to complete the application process for the PMP exam before you complete your test preparation. This way, once you have completed your test preparation, you can immediately go in and schedule to take your test.” – madronasg.com
- “If you are assured about your studying up to now, go ahead and register for the exam and fix up a date.” – pmpstudynotes.blogspot.com
- “I decided to apply for the PMP test. Now, this is also a process! You have to list out the projects that you have been part of (in any of the process area) to show that you have 4500+ hours of project experience. There is a very good template available inpassionatepm.com, its is probably the best as they say.” – thoughtworthy.blogspot.com
- “Before anything else, make sure you check the version of the PMP exam you’re taking. You may be using an outdated material, and some topics may have changed.” – testprepsupport.com
- “I have created a spreadsheet to compile PM experience data for the application. You can download the spreadsheet from http://bit.ly/pmpappcalc. It will save a lot of your time. (Note: It was created for the previous version of PMBoK but I am told that it is still valid)” – nauman.faridi.net
- “While filling your application, make sure that the supervisors you mention are still in touch and reachable.” – pmbypm.blogspot.com
- “To start preparing for PMP, do you know what is the most important thing?” (support of spouse and boss) – pmzilla.com
The long grind:
- “1.) PMP exam is not a tough battle, it only requires a structured approach as you manage your projects 2) It is really not hard to study, you only have to understand the concepts 3) There is always a second chance, at the worst in case you fail, so do not worry.” – testprepsupport.com
- “Have your own knowledge base right from day 1. I didn’t prepare my own notes. This is one of biggest mistakes I made.” – asprangers.com
- “Learn more concepts and correlate them to your daily work.” – newmanagestrat.blogspot.com
- “Make a plan in Excel” – groups.yahoo.com
- “My advice will be making a schedule for the preparation till the day of the exam including solving exams. I have prepared a study schedule using Microsoft Project 2010 shared here.” – ashraffouad.blogspot.com
- “I first created a folder on my laptop called ‘PMP Exam Preparation’. Within this folder, I created sub folders such as ‘PMP application’, ‘PMP books’, ‘PMP mock exams’, ‘PMChamp’ etc. While, this task may sound very trivial, I think a methodical and organized approach is the key to passing the exam.” – shruti749.wordpress.com
- “Be consistent on your studies. Never, ever leave a day or two without study. In my experience last time, if I have a gap between my studies, (that) knowledge (is)… suddenly gone.” simplestufz.blogspot.com
- “I followed cumulative approach (which means I skim through the previous chapters whenever I start a new chapter. Also, it helped me to relate the info in the previous chapters with the current one.” – pmexamacademy.com
- “My preparation would start around 7:40am in the train, when I would try to do 50 mock questions.” – blog.gkuruvilla.org
- “Make sure you can spare at least 3+ hours a day for next 24 days.
And 8+ hours for last 11 days before you attempt the exam.” – pmpcertify.blogspot.com
- “Don’t over study. Have a plan to complete the study process around 200 hours.” – pmhub.net
- “Do listen to several opinions, but in the end make your own. You have to think, plan and act the way that makes you confident. It’s YOUR way, YOUR exam, YOUR professional life.” – iitpro.net
Before the test:
- “Go with the mindset that you will pass – this will help you to be calm and relaxed.” – corporategeek.info
- “Having a glance at PMBOK summary and glossary a day before the exam, was handy” – pmzilla.com
- “One important thing: especially in the last 10 days, every day 2-4 times, practice writing below items as fast as possible” 1.) process areas/processes matrix 2.) organization matrix types and roles/responsibilities 3.) all formulas etc. 4.) 1,2,3,6 sigma % – blog.inavdeep.com
- “During the first 15 minutes tutorials, I quickly went through the tutorials, and started the memory dump as all past warriors suggested.” – jadefang.blogspot.com
- “I read some tips about what to bring to the exam that may have been appropriate for people taking it overseas. As a result, I brought a backpack loaded with various supplies. The truth is, here in the US you should only bring the bare minimum to the Prometric exam centers where the computer-based testing is conducted.” pmhub.net
- Other tips on how to prepare for the test taking day –> sites.google.com
During the test:
- “If you spend more than one minute on a question on the first pass, you will not only start losing valuable time but the pressure will start building up.” – certcollection.org
- “First of all, I made the mistake of not skipping the hard questions. I’m stubborn, so I just didn’t want to move on to the next question until I could at least make an educated guess.” – project-pro.us
- “It took me only 2 1/2 hours, but I could see how if you are not a native English-speaker it may take longer to interpret the questions properly.” – pmstudent.com
- “A mere interruption as small as going to drink a glass water for 5 minutes resulted in a higher probability of mistake that spanned across roughly 10-15 questions (10-15 minutes). I made this measurement over many tests by identifying clusters of wrong answers around the same time I had an interruption.” – blog.alexandrugris.ro
- “If you are not used to attempting four hour long multiple choice question style of exams, then midway through the examination will bring about some form of fatigue in you… so, keep practicing until you overcome the fatigue factor.” – noamansayed.com
- “I failed in early July 2013 and decided to keep over a month of time and focus on PMBOK 5 materials. I do not see any difference in PMP question with what it was before 31-July and as on today. Say 95% of questions still remains the same and it really doesn’t matter if you are still with books and materials of PMBOK 4.” – pmzilla.com
- Other tips on how to read different types of questions –> pmzilla.com
Additional Information. These resources included a lot of detail and were well organized.
- project-pro.us – detailed outline of what to do weeks before, days before, night before / day of.
- iitpro.net – for a suggested study plan, with sequence and practice tests percentages that indicate you are ready for the actual exam.
- noamansayed.com – another post with week-by-week study details.
- ragapmpnotes.blogspot.com – tips on study processes, things to memorize, 355 points to help with Knowledge Area questions.
- testprepsupport.com – in-depth, 10-point sequential test prep plan.
Good luck on the PMP! Hopefully, you have a better idea of what to expect and how to proceed.
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After you ace the exam, perhaps you will add your own “lessons learned” advice post here.
Comments for this post can now be made at the new PMP Exam Study Group at LinkedIn.