13 Test Tips from PMP Pros: What You Need for Successful Studying

  • 11 March, 2022

Studying for the PMP can be a daunting task to undertake. However, effective test taking skills will significantly reduce the amount of stress you experience while taking the exam. The following test tips will help you manage your time effectively while studying for the exam, taking practice exams, and on your real live exam day.

Test Tips from PMP Pros while studying for the exam

While Studying for the Exam

  1. Create a deadline: schedule your exam. Create a deadline for yourself! I knew a colleague who put off taking the PMP for two years longer than they meant to. They never scheduled a date to take the exam, so they were not committed to completing the test. Committing to a date creates a psychological trigger for you and creates a sense of responsibility for yourself. If you are serious about taking the PMP, schedule your exam and write the date of the test somewhere visible, where you will see it every day. Create a countdown if you need to.
    1. Everyone differs in how long they will need study for the test. This depends on how long you will be able to study every day. I would recommend spending three months preparing for the exam before taking it, spending at least twenty hours studying per week.
    2. Some people complete the test after just a month of preparing. I would not recommend this, but it is possible if you keep an intensive schedule.
    3. Some people take longer to prepare, which is also possible, but the longer you wait to take the test, the higher your risk is of forgetting information you have learned.
    4. Whatever you decide to do, having a date on the calendar will help you plan your study schedule.
  2. Form a study group to review difficult practice questions with. Try to find someone - at your workplace, locally, or online - who is also studying to pass the PMP exam. Try to find a time to meet at least semi-regularly - you may find that you like studying in a group often, or you may only want to meet once every couple of weeks to review concepts you are having difficulty with. Reviewing questions and concepts with a peer solidifies your understanding of the information and allows you to talk through difficult concepts you may not understand.
  3. Take at least one full length practice exam. Simulate your exam environment as exactly as possible. You may find it helpful to take more than one practice exam. There is a free test available online from Prepcast, which is a great place to start. If you would like to take more practice exams, you will have to pay for them via a test prep company like EduMind. When taking your practice exam, simulate the test environment as much as possible.
    1. Minimize distractions - take the exam in a quiet room and put your phone away.
    2. If your real exam will be taken remotely, take the practice exam in the same room that you will take the real one.
    3. If your real exam will be taken remotely, don't use pen or paper (you will not be allowed to on the real test). You will be given a virtual whiteboard only on the real exam.
    4. Answer 60 questions at a time before taking a break. This is how you will be offered the questions on the real exam.
    5. As tempting as it may be, don't go back and check any of your answers before completing the exam.
  4. Memorize the processes. There are defined processes involved in each phase of a project. I used flashcards to memorize all the processes in each phase of the project life cycle. It helped immensely come exam day, as many of the questions specifically refer to a process. If you know where that process falls in the project life cycle, you have an instant hint as to what phase of the project you are in. Therefore, you can read a question and know immediately where you are in the project life cycle. This helps you determine what the correct answer is as you will have key clues to what should be done next.
  5. Memorize less, understand more. This may sound counterintuitive to my previous tip. It's not. There are only three things you should rote memorize for the exam:
    1. The processes in the project life cycle (as mentioned in tip #4)
    2. Critical Path formulas
    3. Earned Value Management (EVM) formulas

    That is it. Do not spend hours upon hours memorizing information from the PMBOK. It is much more important that you understand concepts - how to apply knowledge of project management - than it is to have information memorized. Focus on scenario-based questions.

  6. Stick to a consistent study schedule. You simply cannot pass the PMP without committing a significant amount of time to studying, reviewing, and taking practice exams. Commit to studying a certain number of hours per day (or per week) and carve out time to study. You are the only one who can push yourself to pass the exam!
  7. Stay positive. At times, the amount of information that you are required to know for the exam may seem overwhelming. You may have days where you feel as though you cannot answer any questions correctly. On exam day, you may find that you get multiple questions in a row that you do not know the answers to. This is normal. Stay positive and keep at it! Passing the PMP Exam is no small feat. Maintain confidence that you will improve your practice test scores and you will pass the exam. A few bad questions in a row do not necessarily mean that you did not adequately prepare for the exam. Don't let yourself fail in your own head before you've even begun the test!
  8. Accept feedback and failure. Some of the questions asked on the PMP are going to be difficult. Many questions on the PMP are designed to evaluate your knowledge, and you may find yourself frustrated by "trick questions." Accept that you will sometimes fail as you are improving your knowledge of project management practices. Unless you are a super genius, it is highly unlikely that you will get every question right on the exam!
  9. Use the PMBOK as a Reference. Do not read the PMBOK cover to cover. While comprehensive, the Project Management Body of Knowledge contains many technical terms and confusing wording that does not make it the easiest to follow. It's a key reference to have handy when you need to look up a certain concept. However, reading the PMBOK comprehensively is not the most time-efficient or effective way to prepare for the exam. Many exam preparation books and online courses simplify the PMBOK into digestible information you need to know for the exam.

When Taking the Exam

Test Tips from PMP Pros when taking the exam

  1. Flag questions if you are unsure of the answer. Make sure that you review your flagged questions at the end of each section. Once you have completed a 60-question section, you can review the questions in that section only, but you will not be able to go back to previous sections of the exam.
    1. When practicing for the exam, aim to spend about 65 minutes answering 60 questions (that's just over one minute per question). This gives you 10 minutes at the end of each section to review the questions that you may have struggled with.
  2. Use the "strikethrough" option on the test to eliminate bad answer options. If you are sure that one or two of the answers to the question don't make sense, use the test system's strikethrough option to eliminate those answers. If you must flag the question and come back to it later, you will save yourself from having to reread all the answers again.
  3. Trust your first instinct. If you have prepared for the exam, you need to be able to trust in your own knowledge. Often, questions on the PMP Exam will have multiple answers that seem as though they could be correct. This is done by design and meant to evaluate how well you know the correct processes that a project manager should follow. Unless you can justify changing your answer, your first answer is often correct. Do not change your answer to the question if you are "just guessing."
  4. Use your breaks to help manage stress. You will have ten-minute breaks at the end of each section - use them! Close your eyes, have a snack, or just stand up and stretch for a couple of minutes. Your brain needs the break so that it can effectively move on to the next question. If you move through each section as quickly as possible without using your breaks, you will not be answering questions at full mental capacity.
Preparing to take the PMP exam may seem like a monumental task but sticking to an effective study plan and managing your time is the key to success. You will get out of the exam what you put into it, only your commitment can determine your success!
About the Author: Madison Florian

Madison Florian is a content writer for EduMind, certified PMP and PMI-ACP. She received her BA in Economics from the University of Colorado and has experience as a project manager for a wide range of corporations, ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies. In her spare time, she enjoys reading novels by the fire, baking for her family and friends, and traveling to new places in her converted van.

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