Project Management Professional (PMP) Certificate: Lessons Learned

In a previous post, I discussed the value of getting certified versus going for an academic degree. This post is dedicated to providing my lessons learned when I prepared for my PMP (Project Management Professional) certificate, which is provided by PMI (Project Management Institute).

Firstly, congratulations on deciding to peruse this challenge. Regardless of the criticism around the PMP certificate and the PMI in general, the certificate is still one of the most recognized certificates in the world.  According to the below statistics, there are 745,081 certified professionals in the areas of PMP as of end of November 2016 and the number is still growing.pmi-stat

Whenever I talk about this certificate with my friends and colleagues, the classical question is: Would the PMBOK® Guide be enough for passing the exam? From my experience, it was not. I had to prepare from other resources as I will highlight below.

As for the time and cost for the exam, here are some numbers from my experience:

  • Preparation time: 2-3 months. This time could be less but I sat for the exam after four years of leaving the university, so I took extra time to adapt again and put myself in the mood of study and reading books.
  • Cost: around 1,800 USD (the breakdown of this number is: Exam fees = 405 USD, PMI Membership fees = 129 USD, Preparation course = 1,100 USD but that was in 2012 and could be less if you go for an online option, Rita’s preparation book = 80 USD and finally a software for mock exams = 100 USD).

Below are my preparation steps and lessons learned:

  1. The first step is to decide if this certificate is good for you. Start by reviewing this page and downloading this handbook so you can understand the prerequisite knowledge and the details of this certificate.
  2. If this certificate is a suitable one, you need to present two things as part of your exam application; evidence for attending training that covers all the knowledge areas under PMBOK® Guide, and relevant work experience, so let us discuss the training requirements first. You need to attend 35 hours of training in project management which can be classroom training or an online course. Personally, I attended classroom training by a training provider in Jordan, and I do not recommend the online course if this is your first professional certificate, and you are not used to studying alone. The challenge of finding the right commitment to complete the certificate will be harder, given that you will miss the opportunity to network with other students who are in the same process. In both cases, the course will be the starting point only, and you need to set your personal learning plan including the time needed to solve mock exams.
  3. For the work experience part, you need to document 4,500 working hours in project management if you have a bachelor degree, and 7,500 working hours if you have only a secondary degree. The way you choose to document your work experience is up to you. I developed this pmp-experiance-tracking-sheet to help me to document my work experience.I will talk more about submitting the application shortly.
  4. Now let us talk about the hard part; the preparation process. I started my preparation by reviewing the PMBOK® Guide to familiarize myself with the PMP terminology. I did not understand the majority of it at this stage. Also, I did a mock exam to test my knowledge right after finishing the book but I failed, so I realized clearly that the PMBOK® Guide was not enough.
  5. The golden resource that helped me a lot, not only to prepare for the exam but also to understand the project management discipline, was Rita’s book. The book is a great resource that has a lot of examples and questions, and can be used when preparing for other certificates by the PMI such as RMP (Risk Management Professional) and SP (Scheduling Professional). I will talk about these two certificates in other posts. I bought Rita’s book from the local representative for Rita’s organization in Jordan which was Genome Training and Consulting because it was not available in the bookshops.
  6. As an extra step, I read ‘Head First PMP: A Learner’s Companion to Passing the Project Management Professional Exam’. The book is very attractive which gives you the feeling of reading an interesting magazine with lots of examples and preparation questions. The book is available at Amazon here.
  7. If you still find some parts are difficult, which is normal because we do not have work experience in every single part of the project management body of knowledge, you need to find other resources to close such gaps. For example, I found a couple of resources in slideshare.net and YouTube.
  8. When you feel you are ready to sit for the exam, you need to submit your application and book for the exam through https: //www.prometric.com/. You will receive enough information from PMI on how to complete this step but you should know the following. At this stage, you may select to become a member of the PMI so you will pay 405 USD instead of 555 USD for the exam, or you may select to set as a non-member. I prefer to pay for that membership the first thing you decided that this certificate is good for you. By doing so, you will get a free access to a lot of preparation materials and useful resources including the latest edition of the PMBOK® Guide. Normally, the exam is held throughout the year, and there are enough places, but just in case, do the booking step one month ahead of your desired exam date. One important point to consider is your application is used for self-reporting only, and PMI will not verify this information unless your application is selected for the auditing process. Once you pay the exam fees, it does not mean that will set automatically for the exam. PMI selects randomly some applications for auditing and verification process. If your application is selected for this step, you need to send evidence for the training and the work experience that you already claimed in your application. You will know if your application is selected for this auditing within five business days from submitting and paying the fees of your application. My PMP application was not selected for this extra verification step; however, my RMP application was selected, so I will discuss that further in another post.
  9. The other golden step in my preparation process was solving mock exams as much as I could. I solved thousands of questions which helped me to recognize the questions’ patterns and to train myself about the real exam environment. Setting for four hours is burden by itself, so you need to be prepared.
  10. Finally, as I said before, Rita’s book was the best resource that helped me a lot. Rita has also other products that you may use such as quick reference cards and preparation software. You may check these valuable Rita’s Tips for passing the PMP exam.

As you may know, once you get the certificate you need to continue your learning in the project management field. PMI website has a clear guideline and support for keeping the status of your certificate in a good condition. In my case, I did other certificates in six sigma and risk management, and I report the time that I spent while preparing for these certificates as my PDUs (Professional Development Units).

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