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Exam Profile: Project Management Institute Project Management Professional (PMP)

Pearson Certification provides a variety of exam preparation tools to help our customers in their quest for certification. As part of our service to you, we have developed this Exam Profile series. Each profile is developed based on the testing experience of one of our trainers or authors. You won’t get exact questions or answers, but you will get a real feel for the exam. Each profile describes question forms, trouble spots, hints for exam preparation, and recommendations for additional study resources.
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The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is the most respected certification for project managers. Holding this certification says an individual has real-life project management experience and understands how to apply the most widely recognized project management best practices. The Project Management Institute (PMI) project framework of best practices is called the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). The PMBOK is the result of experience from project managers working in a wide array of industries from aerospace to telecommunications. The qualification exam for the PMP is largely based on the PMBOK. Many organizations look for the PMP certification as qualifying criteria when hiring project managers.

The primary PMI goal is to advance the project management profession. One way to achieve this goal is to provide a path for project managers to demonstrate a solid mastery of industry standard skills required to manage projects of any size. The PMP certification exam tests applicants for comprehensive project management knowledge and an in-depth understanding of the PMBOK. Because the PMBOK is a result of project management best practices from many industries, the PMP certification is appropriate for project managers in any environment. The PMBOK and the PMP exam focus on the entire process of managing projects. You must understand all phases of a project and how they are related to be successful on the PMP exam.

Exam Details

  • Must be qualified to sit for the exam
    • With a 4 year degree – 3 years project management experience
    • Without a 4 year degree – 5 years project management experience
    • All candidates must attend 35 contact hours of formal education
  • 200 questions (175 scored questions and 25 unscored, pretest questions)
  • All questions are multiple-choice
  • Passing score varies
  • 4 hours
  • Register at Prometric.

Trouble Spots

Much of the trouble PMP candidates encounter comes from work experience. Because you must be an experienced project manager to sit for the exam, you will bring your experiences and methods with you. The PMP exam requires that you apply knowledge of the PMBOK to real-life situations. If your experience is different from the PMBOK, some questions can lead to confusion. Always use the PMBOK’s approach when answering questions.

Many project managers focus on specific areas of managing projects. This is often a result of specific job requirements. It is likely that you’ll be more comfortable with some project management knowledge areas and processes than others. This leads to two main trouble spots.

First, familiarity can cause you to rely on your own project management experience when studying. It is tempting to minimize studying for the areas of project management you know best. This can hurt you because the PMBOK’s approach is the correct approach for the PMP exam.

Second, it is tempting to minimize the importance of project management areas with which you are unfamiliar. PMPs are expected to demonstrate a good understanding of all aspects of project management as defined in the PMBOK. Pay particular attention to the processes with which you are not familiar.

Many project managers tend to have less experience with risk and procurement procedures. Ensure you are comfortable with the processes in these areas and how they fit into overall project management.

Finally, another common trouble spot is in applying project management ethics. Many project managers operate within organizational guidelines but may not be comfortable addressing difficult ethics situations. Pay particular attention to the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct when studying for the PMP exam.

Preparation Hints

The PMP exam requires far more than just recounting facts. You can’t just memorize the PMBOK and pass the exam. Your first step in studying for the exam is to schedule the exam. Scheduling your exam provides a specific date toward which you can work. A firm date gives you a deadline and the motivation to schedule your studying activities. Also, the act of applying for the PMP credential requires that you classify your experience and makes you think about the different project management areas.

Once you have scheduled your exam, read the PMBOK. In fact, read it twice. Because the PMP exam is largely based on the PMBOK contents, it makes sense to know what it says. Know each of the PMBOK’s processes, along with their inputs, outputs, and tools and techniques. Create note cards for each of the processes. You can use these note cards to help you remember the processes and how they relate.

Read the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. As with the PMBOK, read it at least twice. As you study the Code, devise scenarios for each topic. The scenarios you develop will be more meaningful and help you remember the concepts. Learn how each section in the Code is different and why each one is necessary for the project management profession.

Seek out a study group and meet with them as you study for the exam. Discussing project management topics with others is a great way to really learn the material. As you study for the PMP exam, try to apply the PMBOK to your own projects. The more you use the processes the better you will be able to answer questions on how they work in real projects.

Recommended Study Resources

There are several good study resources for preparing for the PMP exam. Here is a list of just a few resources:

  • PMP Exam Cram: Project Management Professional, Fourth Edition, published by Pearson IT Certification – I wrote the PMP Exam Cram as a resource for experienced project managers who just want to focus on the most critical information necessary to be successful on the PMP exam. The book includes a tear-out page you can use to review the contents of the book right before the exam.
  • PMI Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) – This is the primary resource, along with the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, for each and every PMP candidate.
  • PMP Exam Prep, Sixth Edition, published by RMC Publications, Inc. – Rita Mulcahy wrote this popular PMP exam prep guide. This guide helps project managers learn how the PMBOK applies to real projects and how to best prepare for the PMP exam. The book includes activities and suggestions for studying that appeal to candidates of all learning styles. RMC Publications also provides several other project management study guides in book form and video formats.
  • Project Management Professional 2009 Certification Prep Course, produced by LearnKey, Inc. – If you prefer a video training course over a book, LearnKey’s video course covers the entire PMBOK and the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. This course is available online or in DVDs and can satisfy PMI’s contact hour education requirement as well as being a good exam prep guide.

Where to Go from Here

The PMP certification is the premiere certification for experienced project managers. If you want to pursue the PMP but don’t quite have the work experience required, take a look at PMI’s Certified Associate Project Manager (CAPM) certification. This certification is designed for entry-level project managers and project team members. It provides a great stepping stone toward the PMP certification.

There are also additional PMI certifications that go beyond the general nature of the PMP certification. PMI specialty certifications include

  • PgMP – Program Management Professional
  • PMI-RMP – PMI Risk Management Professional
  • PMI-SP – PMI Scheduling Professional

PMI offers project management professionals a range of certifications that allow you to demonstrate your mastery of managing projects.

Have you taken the PMP exam? Share your experiences by posting to the PMP thread in our forums.

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