Developing a Customized PMP Study Plan

As an instructor who has prepared many for the PMP exam, I can offer you my best advice on how to prepare for it. Naturally, each person learns differently and has their preferences, nevertheless you will find these tips to be helpful.


Step # 1. Calculate how much time you need to study for the PMP

I advise people to take at least 8 to 10 weeks to study for the exam. Any sooner is a big risk of not passing the 1st time. The table below is a guide to how many hours and how many practice questions you would need based on your experience with project management and your ability to study.

Step # 2. Memorize, Remember, and Know by Heart

Memorizing and understanding go hand-in-hand. For some things, its best to first understand, then memorize. For others, its vice-versa. For memorizing first, I would include the 10 knowledge areas, the 5 process groups, and the names, in order, of the 47 processes. For understanding first, I would include the inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs (ITTO) for those 47 processes. For memorizing, just select 1 and sometimes 2 inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs for each of the 47 processes.


Step # 3. Use Flash Cards / Index Cards

You can buy professionally made flash cards for the PMP. My preference, however, is for you to buy blank index cards and do them yourself. The advantage being that writing it down helps you learn it better, and using your own words helps with the understanding. DO NOT make too many index cards. In fact, you should have no more than 100 to 150 for all 10 knowledge areas. That translates to 10 to 15 per knowledge area. Carry those cards with you and review them when you have time throughout the day.


Step # 4. Learn incrementally, not all at once

One common mistake done by students is to try to learn everything in each chapter the first time around. This leads to confusion and frustration. Rather, like peeling the layers of the onion, learn the very minimum from each knowledge area. Focus on the most basic, the most high-level for each knowledge area. This should lead to just having 50 index cards of information. Review this minimum amount of information, until it is second nature. Then, go over the same knowledge areas again, but this time at a mid-level of detail. Review this mid-level amount of information, until you feel comfortable with it. Then you can fill in the blanks with some low-level details, as needed. As an example, instead of memorizing all the numbers from 1 to 100. Just start memorizing by 10’s. Once you have that mastered, then you can fill in the numbers in-between.


Step # 5. Do practice questions, slowly

For 6 out of the 8 weeks, do each practice question slowly. Take all the time in the world to read the question, the answers, and the explanation for the right answer. During the last 2 weeks, do practice questions by timing yourself. Practice pacing yourself, by doing 10 questions at time, then 20, then 30, etc. Do 1 full practice exam in 1 sitting the last week before the exam. The exam is 4 hours long and 200 questions. That translates to 70 seconds per question, on average.


Step # 6. Don’t postpone the exam

Take the exam on the 9th week, even though you may not feel ready. Once you start scoring 80% correct on practice questions, then you are ready to sit for the exam. You probably will pass the 1st time. If not, then study for 4 more weeks and retake the exam.


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